Wayne Bledsoe passes

Noted bluegrass publisher, radio host, and writer Wayne Bledsoe died on June 2 at 83 years of age.

Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, he achieved the status of Dr. Bledsoe by completing his Ph.D. at Michigan State University. A job at the University of Missouri brought him to the state where he lived the remainder of his days.

Bluegrass lovers in central Missouri came to know Wayne through his radio shows, Bluegrass for a Saturday Night and Sunday Morning Sounds on KUMR in Rollo. He hosted there for almost 40 years, and shared not only bluegrass music but information about its artists and personalities for fans as well as new discoverers of the music. During its hey day, Wayne would reach 200,000 listeners with the Saturday evening program. That station is now KMST, and is operated by St Louis Public Radio on behalf of the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Wayne was also the founder and editor of Bluegrass Now magazine, which launched in 1990 and operated under his guidance until the end of 2008. It was a high quality publication, delivered on a heavy, gloss paper, something we had not enjoyed in the bluegrass world until that time. Fine photography was one of their hallmarks. It served as an excellent competitor to Bluegrass Unlimited, offering a similar mix of articles, reviews, photos, and artist profiles. The magazine had subscribers in all 50 states, and 30 non-US countries.

In March of 2008 Bluegrass Now took a stab at publishing only online, in response to the rapidly rising paper and mailing costs of the day, but was unable to maintain the subscription level needed to continue. They had begun offering an online version as an option two years earlier. It was a real loss to the industry when they ceased publication.

While the magazine was available, Wayne wrote a good bit of the content in addition to his editorial duties. This was recognized by the IBMA in 1996 when he was named as their Print Media Person of the Year. That award is now known as Writer of the Year.

Like all bluegrass lovers, Bledsoe loved attending festivals, and his radio popularity led to him acting as MC at numerous events in the lower midwest.

Outside of these many contributions to bluegrass, he was also a distinguished academic, serving as a professor at the University of Missouri-Rolla for nearly 50 years. During that time he became the Chair of the Department of History and Political Science, and his specialty of ancient history led him to write a book, The Advent of Civilization, published in 1975, which is still available.

Following his retirement in 2004, Wayne dedicated his time to a number of causes dear to his heart, including animal rescue. He was honored as Kentucky Colonel in 2005

Wayne Bledsoe was as true a friend as bluegrass ever had, advocating for it in multiple media with as much time as he could devote to it. He was also a good personal friend to many of the people who played the music, and those who presented it to the public.

His work in our industry will be long remembered.

R.I.P., Wayne Bledsoe.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.