Why you should listen to bluegrass radio

Bluegrass Country on WAMUYears ago, before the advent of the iPod, I used to listen to bluegrass radio quite a bit. Once I began using iTunes, my radio listening began to decline. Most of the music I consumed came from my existing music collection, via iTunes, or a CD when in the truck. I still did listen to the radio when in the vehicle though. Once I acquired an ipod and went mobile with my music collection, it completely changed the way I listened to music. I went for several years without really listening to radio. I found all my music online or by word of mouth.

When Pandora internet radio launched a couple years ago, I experimented with it and really enjoyed it, but it didn’t last long. However, just a few weeks ago, I tuned in to The Katy Daley Show on BluegrassCountry.org and I learned something. Listening to bluegrass radio is a good idea.

First, a professional DJ like Katy Daley, Cindy Baucom, Terry Herd, or any of the guys on satellite radio, will have access to a library of music larger than most of us will own. I noticed that Katy played things that I don’t own, both old and new. I didn’t necessarily want to own everything she played which I hadn’t heard, but it was a great way to discover new music. I heard cuts from at least one CD I don’t own, but now want.

The second reason you should listen to bluegrass radio is that the DJ will play stuff you do own, but it’s so back catalog, to you at least, that you wouldn’t have thought to pull it out. I’ve got stuff I really like, but don’t have on my hard drive, or iPod, because of space issues. Katy played some old stuff that made me grin and say to myself, “Wow! I remember that, but I haven’t listened to in years.”

As far as these playlists go, Pandora is an interesting concept, it plays music similar to the music you tell it you like. The problem with that is, there may be some music you would like that isn’t that similar to the music you already like and you’ll never find it with that kind of automated playlist. A real live person will make choices a logarithm never would. I spoke to Katy on the phone yesterday afternoon and we discussed this very issue. One interesting aspect of her show, is that it’s live not prerecorded. Listeners can call or email their requests. She told me that sometimes that takes a show down a path she never would have taken it.

Listeners will request stuff I hadn’t thought of playing. Then someone will hear something and it jogs their memory of another tune and they request it, which prompts someone else to request another, and so on. Before you know it the show has gone a completely different, and delightful, direction than I had intended at the start.

One more good reason to listen to bluegrass radio has nothing to do with listening to music. The artist interviews! How much fun are these? And you won’t get them on a CD. Yesterday katy had the guys from Darren Beachly and Legends of the Potomac. Bassist Tom Gray told a number of stories relating to DC area bluegrass musicians, specifically John Duffey. These stories themselves were worth the time it took to listen to the show. You can’t get content like that anywhere else. Katy told me she has intentions of interviewing a number of legendary DC area musicians, allowing them to tell their own story in their own words. She’s already recorded one interview with Dudley Connell which is set to air soon. She tells me Dudley talked for a full three hours about the Johnson Mountain Boys. I can’t wait to hear that!

These three reasons should serve to get you started thinking about the benefits of listening to bluegrass radio. I’m sure if you spend some time listening, you’ll come up with other reasons of your own. I will mention one last thing. WAMU, the station on which Katy Daley broadcasts, is listener supported and is currently holding their winter membership campaign. There are only two days left and I’m sure they would appreciate whatever support you might be able to offer for this free service they provide. Running a station like that, and streaming online every day, is a very expensive enterprise.

Speaking of prizes, as part of their membership campaign, the station is giving away a Gibson Acoustic J-185 guitar. They ask that you make a donation, but one is not necessary to enter the drawing.

  • TheSaint

    I might also add that you should listen to Bluegrass music on LOCAL radio stations that carry it. Local stations not only play the music, but also tend to support that music, local bands, local events, etc… in their community. A local station that plays Bluegrass can be an integral part in the local music scene. They can give airtime to local bands, sponsor and/or organize concerts & workshops, etc… And the local public stations, in particular, need your support more then national stations.

  • Katy does a fine job on her show on WAMU’s Bluegrass country. It’s no wonder that she got the IBMA award for broadcaster of the year.

    Somehow bluegrass radio continues to go on because many folks can’t afford to get the large volume of bluegrass music that WAMU’s Bluegrass Country has.

    I do a bluegrass radio show live also. It’s called Fitzgrass and it airs on cable TV in Northern Virginia as well as the internet, which then makes me the other bluegrass source in the DC area. As far as interviews go, I’ve done a fair amount also. Eric Gibson of The Gibson Brothers, The Fitzmaurice Band and BanjerDan Mazer to name a few.

    I think the main advantage of bluegrass radio is we can keep it fresh and current. While at the same time, digging some songs out from the past. Plus the included advantage of a live voice on the air and the all important bluegrass concert announcements. That’s what makes bluegrass radio worthwhile.

    Mike Fitzgerald DJ/ Producer of Fitzgrass on WEBR in Fairfax,VA