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Lee Michael Demsey


Lee Michael Demsey was born in California in 1953. He moved to suburban D.C. in 1960 and has lived his life in Maryland ever since. His college years were spent at American University in Washington, where he earned a Bachelors degree in Communications in 1975. Working at the student station as music director, he began to earn a few extra dollars as a substitute engineer at WAMU-FM, the University’s professionally run 50,000 watt public radio station shortly before graduation.

That led to a fill-in gig as host of the FM station’s popular (believe it or not) weekday afternoon drivetime heavy metal and hard rock show, the Rock and Roll Jukebox, of which Lee became the full time host in 1976. At the time, the station’s main focus was news/talk and classical music. He also hosted a progressive rock show on the station in the late 70s and early 80s, a period where the station was also adding more bluegrass programming to its mix. When the station decided to drop its mid-day Big Band/ 40s jazz program, they came to Lee, knowing of his eclectic taste in music, to see if he’d host a contemporary bluegrass show to be a companion to the popular afternoon drivetime traditional bluegrass show. The show began as Capital Bluegrass but evolved into The Lee Michael Demsey Show as singer/songwriter folk music was added to the mix. The show ran on WAMU from 1983-1993 and was cancelled to make room for another talk show, much to the chagrin of the large, vocal audience Lee had built. He did keep his presence at WAMU for the following eight years, filling in frequently on the drivetime bluegrass show, Bluegrass Country.

Though he’s worked at WAMU for the past thirty-seven years, Lee has also put in time at other stations at the same time, including a weekend shift at the area’s country station, WMZQ throughout the 1980s, as well as a Sunday morning acoustic music show on WHFS in the early 90s, and stints at WTRI in Brunswick, MD and legendary DC alt-rock station WGTB.

Lee has served on the board of directors of the International Bluegrass Music Association and the Washington Area Music Association. At one time his full-time job was with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Since 1990, he’s compiled the Bluegrass Unlimited National Bluegrass Survey for the magazine, a monthly chart of the most popular bluegrass songs according to disc jockeys all across the country. He then turns it around and produces a countdown show for WAMU’s Bluegrass Country, including interviews with some of the recording artists.

Lee Michael Demsey lives in suburban Maryland with his wife and daughter. In addition to this love of bluegrass and folk music, Lee is a 60s music collector and trivia buff, with thousands and thousands of pop, rock and soul 45s, LPs, CDs and mp3s in his library. As a hobby, he does an obscure oldies show for the internet’s TopShelfOldies.org.

Lee Michael Demsey,