About Dick Spottswood
Scholar, writer and producer Dick Spottswood hosted WAMU’s first bluegrass show with producer Gary Henderson. It began as a pre-recorded half-hour experiment that launched on July 2, 1967 and continued for over five years. The Dick Spottswood Show first aired on July 6, 1985, following the Jerry Gray Show on Saturday afternoons. It bounced around the weekend schedule, first following Rob Bamberger on Saturday nights and then to Sunday mornings following the late Red Shipley and Stained Glass Bluegrass. The Dick Spottswood Show was created to highlight older music that fed the bluegrass stream, including blues, gospel, country and other vernacular music traditions. Spottswood moved to Naples, Florida in 2004, where he continues to produce programs in one corner of his living room. Over the years the show has acquired an additional tag, ‘”The Obsolete Music Hour,” to honor the advanced age of much of the music.
A Washington native, Spottswood earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a Master’s degree in Library Science from Catholic University. He left library work from 1962-67 to produce records by folk, bluegrass jazz and blues artists, including Mississippi John Hurt, Rev. Robert Wilkins, Red Allen and Bill Emerson’s Kentuckians, Skip James, Benny Goodman and the Poplin Family.
Spottswood was a founder of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine in 1966, and is currently Contributing Editor. He has written for BU and other journals and produced numerous recordings, including the American Bicentennial fifteen-disc set Folk Music in America for the Library of Congress.
Spottswood also compiled the seven-volume Ethnic Music on Records: A Discography of Ethnic Recordings Produced in the United States, 1893 to 1942. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, this was the first major discography produced in America that systematically examined the vast body of recordings made by immigrant groups, and the first to make extensive use of computer technology. The set was published in 1990 by the University of Illinois Press, which is currently preparing a second edition of the work.
Country Music Sources (University of North Carolina, 2002), is a combined bibliography-discography that was completed by Spottswood after the death of original compiler Gus Meade in 1991. Spottswood has produced compact discs for companies in the United States and England, as well.
Spottswood’s lifelong interest in vernacular music is evident to all who hear his program, which explores the aesthetic convergence of music from many traditions. “Since I have yet to develop a potent radio personality, I’m fortunate to have some great music to help me do the job,” Spottswood says. “The Dick Spottswood Show focuses on the era between the World Wars, when a lot of music was still relatively unindustrialized, and sounded on record much like it did in homes, churches, dance halls and village squares.”
Spottswood’s picture biography Banjo on the Mountain: Wade Mainer’s First Hundred Years was published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2010. He has recently finished an essay on the Bailes Brothers for a Bear Family release and he is completing a biography of the Blue Sky Boys.
Dick Spottswood received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Recorded Sound Collections in 1993, and the Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Bluegrass Music Association in 2009.