Dick Cerri, folk-music radio host in D.C. area

Dick Cerri, a folk-music radio personality in the Washington area for more than 30 years, died Oct. 3 at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring. He was 77.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said his daughter, Debbi Cerri.

Mr. Cerri started out as an announcer in Utica, N.Y., during high school. He moved to Washington in 1960 and soon joined the staff of WAVA-FM, where he created the show “Music Americana, the Folk Music of America.” He moved on to host and produce at several radio stations in the area, including many years on WLTT-FM, taking his show (shortened to “Music Americana”) with him.

“I don’t have a degree in musicology or years of study on a musical instrument,” he told The Washington Post in 1986. “To me, those are the experts. I’m a little embarrassed by that label. I have never looked at this music as scholarship. I guess my mind remembers a lot of things about the people I met and the music I played. I consider myself a professional spectator.”

“Folk music,” he added, “reflects what is going on at the moment, and that is always changing. What was happening in the 1960s made it a natural period for folk music to come up and be as popular as it was. Now we don’t have ‘pop’ folk music on the charts. But what is happening in folk music today is much more exciting than in the 1960s. People in the field are more talented, and they’re in it because they want to be, not because it is a fad.”

Mr. Cerri started the World Folk Music Association with singer-songwriter Tom Paxton in 1982, and Mr. Cerri served as its president for much of its existence. In the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Cerri also sponsored monthly musical concerts that bore the same name of his radio show, “Music Americana.”

Richard Anthony Cerri was a Utica native and a 1959 graduate of Utica College. He retired from his radio career in the mid-1990s to continue working with the World Folk Music Association. He was most recently working on getting his older “Music Americana” radio shows formatted for the Internet. He was a Silver Spring resident.

His marriage to Eleanor Frates ended in divorce. Survivors include a daughter, Debbi Cerri of Glenwood Springs, Colo.; and a granddaughter.

— Victoria St. Martin

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