The circle is unbroken: After six months of uncertainty, WAMU-FM (88.5) has found a home for Bluegrass Country, its signature bluegrass music offshoot.
The station announced Thursday it had reached an agreement with the Bluegrass Country Foundation, a nonprofit group run by familiar names in the District’s bluegrass community, to take over the service.
Randy Barrett, president of the DC Bluegrass Union and a director of the Bluegrass Country Foundation, said the foundation raised $150,000 in the months before the agreement, but the deal, which takes effect Feb. 6, ultimately was made for no cash.
“No one thought this was possible, but we pulled it off,” he said.
Bluegrass Country will continue broadcasting for at least two years on 105.5 FM, as it had under WAMU, and on a WAMU HD channel. The foundation also received much of WAMU’s digital music library and rights to the Bluegrass Country name and logo.
Dick Spottswood and Gary Henderson, who began producing bluegrass shows for WAMU 50 years ago, are among the DJs who will move with the station. Bluegrass Country will continue working out of WAMU’s offices at American University for at least a year.
“We all had the same desire, which was to have the WAMU Bluegrass legacy continue,” WAMU General Manager J.J. Yore said in a statement. “With a mutual goal in mind, we worked quickly and collaboratively so there would be no loss of service for our bluegrass community.”
Though bluegrass was first broadcast on WAMU in 1967 and gained a large following in the Washington region, the station announced in July that it was selling Bluegrass Country, citing changing demographics and a greater interest in news programming among listeners.
Bluegrass Country, which was running an annual deficit of up to $250,000 at WAMU, costs about $325,000 a year to keep on the air, Barrett said. The station will need financial contributions from supporters to keep bluegrass on Washington’s airwaves.
“The station is no longer financially backstopped by a large institution,” he said. “We are truly community radio now, and we need listeners and sponsors to continue supporting the effort.”