It’s been just over 40 years since Lee Michael Demsey began playing bluegrass on WAMU Bluegrass Country. We recently found this article, titled “3 More Hours with Lee Michael,” that appeared in August 1982 in a Washington, DC monthly bluegrass tabloid called “Blueprint.” It was written by Bill Foster, who later was an on-air bluegrass host at WAMU and the early days of Bluegrass Country. Enjoy!
At five minutes past high noon on July 1st , with the fiery strains of “Montgomery County Breakdown” as his opening theme song, Lee Michael Demsey kicked off three more hours of daily bluegrass music on WAMU-FM. Entitled “Capital Bluegrass,” Lee’s show can be heard from noon to three p.m. five days a week followed by Jerry Gray’s “Bluegrass Country” show at 3:05. The new show and times stem from a shift in programming at WAMU-FM in order to streamline the station’s format and concentrate on news, talk shows, jazz and (of course) bluegrass.
The soft spoken Demsey brings to the show a solid background in both the technical and musical aspects of radio and is highly respected by his associates at the station for his mild manner, easy going style, and his exceptional taste in all types of music, be it jazz, show tunes, classical or rock.
Born in San Bernadino California in 1953, he moved to the Montgomery County [Maryland] area in 1960 with his family and currently resides in Gaithersburg. In 1973, after two years at Montgomery College, Lee spent three months in Israel living in a kibbutz (a collective farm). Returning to the U.S. that same year, he enrolled at the American University as a Broadcasting and Journalism major and started working at the campus radio station where he subsequently became Music Director and hosted his own programs. :
In 1975, as a Senior, he started hanging around Howard Page who had his own rock show at the FM station upstairs. Eventually replacing Page, Lee was hired full-time in 1977 as Night Operations Manager, Associate Producer to [long-time Washington radio talk show host] Fred Fiske, and as host of his own show “Overnight Express,” a late-night rock program. During 1977 and 1978, as Night Operations Manager, Lee was usually around the station during the ten to midnight bluegrass shows. It was then that he began acquiring an interest in this form of music. Lee credits [WAMU bluegrass radio host] Katy Daley with giving him his education in bluegrass and was always asking questions about the music and the artists. He had been listening to Mary Cliff’s folk programs on WETA-FM, so it was natural for him to make the transition to bluegrass. Lee filled in for Katy on a number of, occasions and more recently has filled in for Jerry Gray. Incidentally, he also is the record librarian for the station, so he usually gets to hear most of the new records before anyone else!
Lee will attempt to provide an entertaining mix of the old and the new and will be presenting some special programs such as interviews, request hours, and a continuing Wednesday feature culled from live recordings. He also will occasionally invite a guest cohost from the many personalities and musicians who often visit the station. And at 1:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, he will present the Bluegrass Bulletin Board.
Lee thrives on listener input and support and welcomes calls and letters from anyone with comments, requests, suggestions, or criticisms. So if you are able to tune, do so at noon, on WAMU FM, 88.5. You’re going to like Lee Michael Demsey.