Heartless Bastards at Rockwood Music Hall (photo by Gian Vassaliko/WFUV)
It is with great sadness that we at WFUV share news that we have lost Rita Houston, our much-loved program director and iconic DJ to generations of listeners — listeners who regarded her as their radio friend.
A nationally recognized tastemaker filled with a broad knowledge and passion for music, Program Director Rita Houston shaped the musical direction of WFUV's acclaimed and unique music format. Firmly based in the greatest city in the world, Houston's music mix brought 'rock for grownups' diversity to the left end of the New York radio dial.
Well-known for her rapport with artists, Houston hosted hundreds of interview sessions and Marquee Member concerts. She also served as Executive Producer of the FUV Live concert series, booked the annual Holiday Cheer for FUV concert, and produced annual benefit CDs of performances from WFUV's Studio A.
After years as a popular midday host, Houston shifted her on-air presence to create 'The Whole Wide World with Rita Houston,' Friday nights from 6-9pm, showcasing her famously wide-ranging taste in music and often featuring live sessions with artists from around the globe.
Out of the studio, Houston was instrumental in the "Required Listening" series of shows at the Bottom Line in Manhattan's Greenwich Village (R.I.P.), showcasing new and underappreciated artists for an eager audience. She also served as host of the "In Their Own Words" series there as well, renowned interview-and-performance evenings with influential songwriters talking about their ideas and influences.
Houston was often seen out and about at clubs and festivals -- determined to turn listeners on to new artists, she went out three or four times a week to catch live shows. Houston was always on the lookout for the next Damien Rice or Norah Jones -- artists who deserve to be heard by larger audiences, first heard in New York on FUV.
This talent and tenacity was recognized by her peers: Houston was a two-time Radio & Records (R&R) Music Director of the Year, three-time designate of Gavin's Music Director of the Year, and she was also awarded the Deems Taylor Award for Broadcast Excellence. In 2001, Houston enjoyed acclaim as part of the WFUV team as they were named Album Network 2001 Major Market Adult Rock Station of the Year, Gavin's Station of the Year, and the 2001, 2002 and 2003 FMQB Progressive Noncommercial Radio Station of the Year. In 2009 Rita was the Honoree at the Emelin Theatre's Benefit Gala in Mamaroneck, NY. She is part of the permanent DJ exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and was named Program Director of the Year by FMQB for 2019.
Houston came to WFUV in 1994 from Westchester's WXPS (also known as X107, with PD Paul Cavalconte) where she hosted 'Starlight Express,' a show close in style to FUV's. After anchoring the midday there for six years, she left the station to join FUV, where her discerning and varied tastes found a welcome home. A Westchester native, Houston moved to Nyack, NY from the East Village in 2002 to plant basil and perfect her fireplace skills.
WFUV was always close to home for Rita, and working here allowed her to live "in the best music city of all."
Specials and reminiscences: