While growing up in Pontiac, Michigan, John Habel was an avid listener to R&B, soul, rock and jazz on local radio. In 1980, when he and his wife, Dottie, moved to Knoxville, he continued his career as a special education teacher and therapist, working with emotionally disturbed children. In 1998, while completing his doctoral studies at UTK, and still a lover of music and of local radio, John leapt at the opportunity to become a jazz host at WUOT. In 1993, after four years at Pellissippi State Technical Community College in Knoxville, John joined the faculty of the Department of Psychology at Western Carolina University (WCU) in Cullowhee, NC, a position from which he retired in 2016. While at WCU, John lived and worked in Cullowhee during the week and spent weekends, holidays, and semester breaks with his family in Knoxville.
After 30 years as a jazz host, John retired from WUOT in March 2018. The following year he returned to WUOT as a member of the Board of 91.9 Inc., a 501(c)3 group that serves as an advocacy and support organization for WUOT.
With the debut of The Sounds Global Show, John has a new opportunity to share with WUOT’s listeners his love of music and the knowledge of world music he has acquired from decades of record collecting and from his travels. During the 1970s John studied languages in Germany, France and Italy and travelled throughout Western Europe and in parts of Eastern Europe. Since the late 1970s his travels have taken him to Africa, Canada, South America, the Caribbean, China, Madagascar, and India. In 2013 he co-founded and became co-director of Avant Academy of Music in Kingston, Jamaica.