WAMU’s Bluegrass Country keeps bluegrass and American roots music alive and vital in the eyes and ears of a worldwide online audience and the Washington, D.C., regional bluegrass community. Our public-supported programs entertain and deepen knowledge of bluegrass music’s past, while pointing the way toward its future.
October 23, 1961 at 4 p.m.
Moving from AM to FM, WAMU 88.5 signs on from the campus of American University.
WAMU 88.5 bluegrass pioneers Dick Spottswood and Gary Henderson co-found Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, along with Pete Kuykendall, Wynwood Music and Publishing Company, Charles R. Freeland, Rebel Records, and listener Diane Simms.
At 6:30 p.m., Sunday, July 2, WAMU 88.5 introduces its first bluegrass radio show, the half-hour “Bluegrass Unlimited,” with Dick Spottswood as host and Gary Henderson as engineer/associate producer. The show airs once per week.
The station expands from 13,500 to 31,500 watts.
Gary Henderson becomes host of “Bluegrass Unlimited.”
Jerry Gray joins WAMU 88.5 as host of “The Jerry Gray Show.”
Gary Henderson introduces the three-hour “Saturday Morning Bluegrass” from 9 a.m. to noon on WAMU 88.5.
Katy Daley starts working as a volunteer with Gary Henderson on “Saturday Morning Bluegrass.”
WAMU 88.5 increases power to 50,000 watts. More than 86 percent of the station’s programs are now being produced at the station.
“Stained Glass Bluegrass,” with host Gary Henderson, premieres on WAMU 88.5 in June. Its title is coined by Program Director Craig Oliver.
Lee Michael Demsey joins WAMU 88.5 as the host of “Rock n’ Roll Jukebox,” a heavy metal and progressive rock show. “Rock n’ Roll Jukebox” was the second most listened to show on the station at the time, behind “Saturday Morning Bluegrass.”
Saturday, January 25: During bluegrass programming with Katy Daley and Gary Henderson, a twin engine plane hit WAMU’s tower on American University’s campus and crashes in the backyard of the AU President’s home. Five people on board were killed. No one on campus was hurt.
In April, the station celebrates record ratings, up 54 percent from 1975-1976 to 70,200 listeners a week, with a “Music Bonanza,” a three-day bash of non-stop bluegrass music.
Sept. 22 – WAMU 88.5 holds its first Bluegrass Concert in American University’s New Lecture Hall. The concert was headlined by the Seldom Scene and Grass Menagerie and tickets were $4 in advance. Countless volunteers make the concert a success.
After the concert, WAMU 88.5, expands bluegrass programming to 20.5 hours per week, with Katy Daley and Gary Henderson hosting bluegrass programming Monday through Thursday nights, and Jerry Gray hosting country and western music Friday evenings.
WAMU 88.5 celebrates ten years of bluegrass on its airwaves with a Bluegrass Family Picnic at WolfTrap Farm Park in September.
Jerry Gray becomes co-host of “Bluegrass Country” in September, sharing duties with Katy Daley.
Jerry Gray becomes the station’s first full-time bluegrass producer/host. Jerry hosts “Bluegrass Country,” on WAMU 88.5 weekday afternoons, produces bluegrass specials and features, and represents the station at festivals. He continues to host “The Jerry Gray Show,” featuring country music, songs of the Old West, and Western Swing.
WAMU 88.5 is named Bluegrass Radio Station of the Year by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA). Gary Henderson is named Bluegrass Disc Jockey of the Year by SPBGMA, and Jerry Gray is also nominated for the award.
Lee Michael Demsey begins hosting the early afternoon show “Capital Bluegrass,” which is later renamed, “The Lee Michael Demsey Show.”
Celtic music joins the station’s Sunday line-up with the debut of “The Thistle and Shamrock.” Host Fiona Ritchie enlivens the hour-long program of spirited reels and jigs, haunting traditional ballads, and innovative combinations of ancient and modern instruments with interviews, performances, and exclusive festival recordings.
“The Dick Spottswood Show,” debuts Saturday, July 6, featuring a variety of early country, gospel, blues, jazz, western swing and other traditional American music genres, mostly from the 1920s through the 1950s.
Ray Davis joins WAMU 88.5 as one of the hosts of “Bluegrass Country,” and hosts Saturday morning bluegrass programming. Ray also hosts the station’s annual Bluegrass Concert at Fairfax High School in Virginia and “Pickin’ in the Glen” at Glen Echo Park in Maryland.
“Bluegrass Overnight” begins airing Sundays from 12-6 a.m., with Les McIntyre, Bill Foster and Carol Pittard (replaced by Al Steiner in 1989). They are later joined by Gary Henderson, Lee Michael Demsey, Lisa Kay Howard, Tom Reeder, and Bob Webster.
“Classic Country and Bluegrass” debuts with host Eddie Stubbs. Later in the year, the show moves to Sundays and is renamed, “The Eddie Stubbs Show.”
Lee Michael Demsey is named Broadcaster of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association.
WAMU 88.5 is a sponsor of the American Routes 4th of July Celebration on the National Mall. In honor of traditional American roots music reflecting our nation’s cultural diversity, the station broadcasts the afternoon concert, emceed by “Hot Jazz Saturday Night” host Rob Bamberger, as well as the NPR-distributed evening event with Fiona Ritchie of “Thistle and Shamrock.”
WAMU 88.5 continues to broadcast its popular Sunday morning mainstay, “Stained Glass Bluegrass,” as Red Shipley, the show’s host for 13 years, moves back to his hometown of Orange, Virginia. The station installs special equipment at WJMA — the local commercial station in Orange, where Shipley’s radio career started years ago — so the program can be sent to WAMU 88.5 for broadcast.
Eddie Stubbs, of “The Eddie Stubbs Show,” moves to Nashville, where he joins the Kitty Wells Band and takes up announcing at the Grand Ole Opry and WSM radio. In October, Eddie Stubbs is named Broadcaster of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association.
Gary Henderson receives a Distinguished Achievement award from The International Bluegrass Music Association.
Gary Henderson is named Broadcaster of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association.
The Lynn Morris Band, together with Cliff Waldron and the New Shades of Grass, entertains at the 15th annual “Pickin’ in the Glen” bluegrass concert, emceed by WAMU 88.5 host Ray Davis.
The 22nd annual WAMU 88.5 Bluegrass Concert is held in Fairfax, Virginia at the Fairfax High School, featuring The Lynn Morris Band, The James King Band, and Bob Paisley and the Southern Grass, with a special appearance by The Basement Band.
With support from the National Endowment for the Arts, WAMU 88.5 launches BluegrassCountry.org, a 24-hour bluegrass Internet radio station.
Weekday bluegrass host Ray Davis begins a new weekend show and becomes a regular contributor to the new BluegrassCountry.org. Lee Michael Demsey, Gary Henderson, and Mike Kear, from Hawksbury Radio in Australia, join Ray as regular contributors to the online radio service.
Gary Henderson represents BluegrassCountry.org as a reporter for Bluegrass Unlimited magazine’s “Top 30 Bluegrass Music Survey.”
Eddie Stubbs is named Broadcaster of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association.
Fred Bartenstein originates “Banks of the Ohio: Music From the Homeplace of Bluegrass” for BluegrassCountry.org on behalf of the International Bluegrass Music Museum. Later it is added to the roster of Worldspace Satellite Radio and select terrestrial radio stations.
BluegrassCountry.org receives a Fast 50 award from Fast Company magazine.
“Stained Glass Bluegrass” celebrates 30 years on WAMU 88.5 with an open house at the National Cathedral, September 25. Longtime host Red Shipley serves as Master of Ceremonies.
February – Peter Thompson brings West Coast flavor to Bluegrass Country with the addition of his program, “Bluegrass Signal.”
“The Dick Spottswood Show” celebrates 20 years on WAMU 88.5.
December – Production Director Jen Hitt joins the Bluegrass Country fold.
January – Bluegrass Country releases its first CD, “The 2004 Artist of the Month Compilation.” This limited edition CD is made available to members only and features previously unreleased recordings from J.D. Crowe, Missy Raines, Blue Highway and others.
Katy Daley returns to WAMU with her 2-hour program, “The Katy Daley Show” on Bluegrass Country.
Dave Higg’s program, “Bluegrass Breakdown” is added to Bluegrass Country.
July – BluegrassCountry.org celebrates its fifth anniversary.
Red Shipley, host of “Stained Glass Bluegrass” on WAMU 88.5 and BluegrassCountry.org, is named Broadcaster of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association.
Fred Bartenstein receives a Distinguished Service Award from the International Bluegrass Music Association.
Gary Henderson is nominated for a Hall of Honor Award from the International Bluegrass Music Association.
WAMU’s Bluegrass Country begins broadcasting in HD Radio on WAMU 88.5, Channel 3.
October – Bill Foster returns to the host rotation for “Bluegrass Overnight”
April – Eddie Stubbs and WAMU 88.5 retire “The Eddie Stubbs Show” after a successful 17 year run.
May – Phil Nusbaum’s “Gems of Bluegrass” is added as a show to Bluegrass Country.
September – Red Shipley retires from WAMU after hosting Stained Glass Bluegrass for 25 years. Bob Webster is named the host Stained Glass Bluegrass.
Bluegrass programming moves from the WAMU 88.5 to air on HD Radio, WAMU 88.5 Channel 2. Original programming is increased by 75% by adding Mornings with Katy Daley (weekdays 7-10a), The Lee Michael Demsey Show (weekdays 10a-Noon), the Ray Davis Show (weekdays 3-6p) and the Friday Night Free for All with Amy and Echo (8p-Midnight). Live programming on weekends include Traditions with Mary Cliff (Saturdays 2-6p), Stained Glass Bluegrass with Bob Webster (Sundays 6-10a) The Ray Davis Show on Sundays (10a-1p).
A new Roots and Branches block was added on Saturdays from 2pm to 2am, which includes shows like Traditions, etown, American Routes and Mountain Stage. Old Time Jam, Bluegrass Review, and Lonesome Pine RFD weres added to the weekday schedule.
Hosts of Bluegrass Overnight — Bill Foster, Lisa Kay Howard and Tom Cat Reeder — now see the light of day in their new time slot Tuesdays noon to 3pm. Joining them as rotating hosts is Bill Miller.
October – Live from Nashville! WAMU’s Bluegrass Country did its first ever remote broadcast covering the IBMA’s World of Bluegrass Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.
WAMU staff and listeners mourn the loss of Red Shipley, who died of cancer on October 6, 2007 in Charlottesville, Virginia — just three weeks after his retirement.
October – Live from Nashville! For the 2nd year BGC broadcasts LIVE from the IBMA World of Bluegrass. Katy Daley hosts the Red Carpet for the IBMA Awards with the Bluegrass Blog. Stained Glass Bluegrass does it’s first ever remote broadcast. Photos.
November – Fred Bartenstein retires as the host of Banks of the Ohio and George McKnight begins his tenure.
December – WAMU’s Bluegrass Country is now heard on a translator, 105.5 FM in Reston, Va.
March- WAMU launches its first ever iPhone application. Hear WAMU’s Bluegrass Country on your iPhone and support the programming at the same time. A portion of the one-time $1.99 fee goes to Bluegrass Country.
September- WAMU 88.5 Bluegrass Country earns National Association of Broadcasters honor! The award, which recognizes stations for their ability to create innovative or groundbreaking programming on their multicast channels, was presented Sept. 25 during the National Associations of Broadcasters’ luncheon in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
October- Dick Spottswood receives the Distinguished Achievement Award and Katy Daley wins the 2009 IBMA Bluegrass Broadcaster of the Year Award at the World of Bluegrass in Nashville.