WAMU’s Bluegrass Country History and Origins
From 1967 through today, WAMU has been a proud supporter of bluegrass music and its culture, which has been part of the Washington region for many years. A large migration from Appalachia occurred during the 1940s, making Washington the capital of a blossoming bluegrass music scene. Bluegrass became a defining sound for many in the area and, by the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, was a hotbed for musicians such as Buzz Busby, Leon Morris, The Country Gentlemen, and later, the Seldom Scene and Johnson Mountain Boys.
Bluegrass music had a limited presence on commercial radio so hosts and ethnomusicologists Gary Henderson and Dick Spottswood approached WAMU with a proposal for a half-hour educational bluegrass show. Bluegrass Unlimited debuted on July 3, 1967.
In addition to Spottswood and Henderson, WAMU’s bluegrass hosts and producers over the years have included well-respected broadcasters, musicians, authors, and ethnomusicologists who specialize in bluegrass and roots music: Eddie Stubbs, Jerry Gray, Ray Davis, Katy Daley, and Lee Michael Demsey.
From 1967 through the 70s and 80s, generous support from the bluegrass community allowed WAMU to expand. Today, WAMU’s Bluegrass Country is a 24/7 bluegrass music service broadcasting at 105.5 FM, HD on 88.5-2, and streaming on bluegrasscountry.org. Bluegrass Country’s social media includes a YouTube channel with over 4.4 million views.
What’s Happening and Why?
During the last 20 years, the Washington area has once again undergone tremendous demographic shifts attracting millions of new residents. WAMU has seen listenership to the main news station steadily increase, making it one of the most-listened-to radio stations in the Washington, D.C. market.
To clarify and further understand this shift in demographics, WAMU commissioned a study from an independent media strategic consulting company to develop a five-year strategic plan. This process made it clear that news and information is what the majority of listeners want and expect from WAMU. A similar independent public media consulting company analyzed WAMU’s Bluegrass Country, and concluded that we could not expect similar growth in listenership and financial support for this service over the next five years.
As a result of these two studies, we’ve had to make a difficult business decision. In order to focus our financial resources and creative energy on news and information, we will have to part ways with our bluegrass service.
We’re proud of the bluegrass legacy WAMU helped build over the past 49 years and our first choice is to find a new owner for the service. We are consulting with WAMU’s Bluegrass Country morning host and managing producer Katy Daley, the Bluegrass Country team, key supporters, and other interested parties. A public search has been launched for a new group or individual willing and able to take over the service.
If we are unable to find a new owner, however, we will end the service December 31, 2016.
In the meantime, WAMU will celebrate the bluegrass legacy and continue our support for WAMU’s Bluegrass Country.
As we move forward, we are committed to an open and transparent process for our listeners and members. Please visit this page for occasional updates. If you would like to share your thoughts and opinions with us, please email email@example.com.
WAMU’s Bluegrass Country is no longer accepting new donations as it is seeking a new owner and plans to transfer the service or cease broadcast on December 31, 2016. Contributions previously made to Bluegrass Country will continue to support the service in the coming months. If you have a question about a donation, please contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To donate to WAMU, please visit wamu.org/support.
For Interested Owners
If you are interested in becoming a new owner, please review the Request for Proposal (RFP).