About Ray Davis
Ray Davis joined WAMU 88.5 in 1985 to host Saturday Bluegrass, and shared hosting duties for the weekday afternoon program, Bluegrass Country, until 2001. He currently hosts three hours of traditional bluegrass music on The Ray Davis Show, at 3 p.m., weekdays, and 10 a.m., Sundays, on WAMU’s Bluegrass Country. Davis provides area bluegrass fans with a daily dose of the traditional American art form, from prison songs and “plum pitiful” tunes to the great train rides – and train wrecks – of bluegrass music, all delivered with doses of Davis’ encyclopedic knowledge of the artists and the music. More than a DJ, Ray Davis is a great musicologist and archivist who take listeners on a stroll down bluegrass music’s memory lane. His specialties, the plum pitiful tunes, are tearjerkers that explore universal themes of death, betrayal, and jealousy.
Davis began his radio career at the age of 15, when he left his boyhood home in Wango, Md., for a job at WDOV-AM in Dover, Delaware. He had jobs at other small town stations around the country, as well as a stint south of the border at XERF, a Mexican mail-order station, where he learned to be a radio pitchman. Davis returned to the east coast and spent 38 years hosting a popular bluegrass program from Johnny’s Used Cars for WBMD in Baltimore, Md. In 1962, he began recording some of the nation’s finest bluegrass musicians and selling these recordings under his own label, Wango.
Davis hosts bluegrass festivals and concerts around the country, including the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival, and the Arcadia Music Festival. He also produces 15 hours of bluegrass music each week for WAMU’s BluegrassCountry. When he’s not acting as program host or concert emcee, chances are Davis is holed up in his basement studio producing CDs from hundreds of bluegrass tapes he’s recorded over the years. Since the 1960s, Davis has been enlisting friends like Carter and Ralph Stanley, Don Reno, Bill Harrell, the Warrior River Boys, the Gillis Brothers, Owen Saunders, and a host of others to make his so-called “basement tapes.” The basement tapes include previously unreleased jam sessions with many of these legendary bluegrass artists, available only as thank-you gifts for members of WAMU’s Bluegrass Country who pledge their support during membership drives.