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Gary Henderson behind a microphone.

Gary Henderson


Gary Henderson, 1999 IBMA “Broadcast Personality of the Year”, has been involved in bluegrass programming at WAMU since July, 1967.

Gary began his commercial radio work in 1962 with WFMD in Frederick, Maryland. From there, he joined the Everett Dillard family, owners of WDON-AM/WASH-FM, playing country music. The Dillards, however, fired him for playing too much bluegrass on the air, a distinction, he, today wears with pride.

He also worked at the commercial country station WKCW in Warrenton, Virginia and at WHFS in Bethesda, Maryland. He has been collecting bluegrass and country records since 1953, inspired by his radio mentor, the late Don Owens — a nationally known and respected country and bluegrass disc jockey of WARL in Arlington, Virginia.

His emcee duties began with the first Bluegrass festival at Lake Whippoorwill, Warrenton, Virginia, in 1967 and continued through the early 1980’s at many of the major bluegrass festivals on the East Coast.

Gary joined Dick Spottswood in July 1967 in producing the half-hour “Bluegrass Unlimited” radio show on WAMU-FM, in conjunction with Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine. Henderson is also one of the founding fathers of Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine in May, 1967, when it was a mimeographed 12-page newsletter.

He continued bluegrass programming at WAMU in September, 1973, with a four-hour Saturday Morning bluegrass offering. Nine months later, in June 1974, Gary inaugurated the first four-hour Sunday program of Stained Glass Bluegrass.  SGBG is now the second longest continuously running program on WAMU-FM, next to John Hickman’s, “Recollections”, which first aired in February, 1964 the predecessor to today’s “The Big Broadcast.”

In the early 1970s, Gary also became bass player with Charlie Smith and the Potomac Valley Boys of Leesburg, VA.

Gary has received a number of awards in recognition of his contributions to bluegrass programming. In 1983, he was presented with the DJ of the Year award by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America. In 1998, the International Bluegrass Music Association honored Gary with its Distinguished Achievement Award, only to be followed the next year with the Award of Broadcast Personality of the Year by the IBMA.

In 2006, Gary was a nominee to the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame.

After a 40 year career, Mr. Henderson retired from National Public Radio as a Broadcast Technician.  He engineered the first radio broadcast from the U.S. Senate Chamber during the Panama Canal debate and was the remote technician assigned to cover the Watergate hearings from the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, and many Oval Office Presidential addresses.

Gary Henderson,