Friday, September 16, 2016


“This is really a labor of love and it’s not a surprise that there’s not another organization lined up for this - it’s a big challenge.”
        Randy Barrett, DC Bluegrass Union [link]

According to a report earlier thus week on the Washington, DC news site DCist [link] a new non-profit – Bluegrass Country Foundation – has been formed by bluegrass fans to save WAMU’s Bluegrass Country channel.

Bluegrass Country now resides on WAMU’s HD2 channel and is repeated on a translator at 105.5 FM, where most people hear it.  After a decade of loosing money on the channel, WAMU is trying to find Bluegrass Country [link] a new owner who will pledge to continue the format. 

In July WAMU issued an RFP that provides the terms of the sale. As we reported on July 20th [link] from a business perspective this is a tough sale.

So far, Bluegrass Country Foundation, is the only potential new owner who has stepped forward. WAMU said if they can't find a new owner by December 31, Bluegrass Country will vanish from the dial.

Bluegrass Country Foundation is now raising funds and creating a proposal to take over Bluegrass Country 105.5 FM. The foundation has until October 17th  to raise $200,000 and submit a proposal to WAMU. So far, they have raised $35,000 toward the goal. The foundation has established a website to promote their cause [link]. 

Randy Barrett

Randy Barrett, one of the prime movers of Bluegrass Country Foundation, told the DCist that the new group is not in it for the money:

“This is really a labor of love and it’s not a surprise that there’s not another organization lined up for this - it’s a big challenge.”

That is certainly an understatement.


Despite the historical and cultural significance of Bluegrass Country, from a business perspective there isn’t much of an upside.

After switching to all news, WAMU decided to save face by creating a full-time Bluegrass Country service on its then-new HD2 channel. There was great hope for HD Radio at that time but before too long everyone figured out that HD was an over-hyped boondoggle that few people ever use. 

WAMU then crafted an arrangement for Bluegrass Country on HD2 to be repeated on 105.5 FM via a translator owned by a private third party.  105.5 has pretty decent coverage of the District and first-ring suburbs. However, according to WAMU’s RFP, the 105.5 FM translator is not part of the deal. 

In reality, the only aspects of Bluegrass Country that are included are:

• Intellectual property rights to the name “Bluegrass Country” and any related branding and trademark rights

• The Bluegrass Country music library

There are no physical assets included such as a FCC license to broadcast, equipment or other “tangibles.”  WAMU is keeping thelicense for the HD channel. They are offering to lease the channel to the new owner for no charge through the end of 2017. Then the new owner is expected to pay the rent.

WAMU promises to introduce the new owner to the translator’s owner. The cost of leasing the translator is not known but it is likely in five figures annually.  Plus, the new owner will have to pay for studios and offices, staff, the cost of delivering the programming stream to WAMU and last, but not least, Sound Exchange fees. Yikes!

I know WAMU and others associated with Bluegrass Country are proceeding in good faith.  Their intentions are good but It is hard to imagine anyone, other than a well-healed bluegrass fan, making this work financially. There is no “there” there.

I wish the folks at Bluegrass Country Foundation and WAMU well but I am cautioned by the old phrase BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR because someone will have dig deep into someone’s pockets to make it sustainable.


The new KNKX (formerly KPLU) is wasting no time setting up its new Seattle station. I love their slogan: Your Connection to Jazz, Blues and NPR News. Check out their new website [link].  

The weekday schedule hasn’t changed much from KPLU days.  KNKX just announced a new Saturday schedule:

• 5am to 10am: Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon

• 10am to 11am: Sound Effect an original KNKX show

• 11am to Noon: Snap Judgment

• Noon to 1pm: This American Life

• 1pm to 2pm: Radiolab

• 2pm to 3pm: Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!

• 3pm to 5p: The New Cool with Abe Beeson

The promo blurb for the new show says The New Cool will feature:  

…artists pushing jazz to cool new places, artists such as Kamasi Washington, Snarky Puppy, and Northwest favorite Industrial Revelation. The show will feature players who have come of age in the 21st century understanding hip hop, punk rock, modern soul and electronic, and have incorporated those styles into their music. It’s new ways of hearing old instruments; it’s contemporary; it’s rhythmically eclectic — it’s The New Cool!  I can dig it.

• 5pm to 6pm: Jazz Caliente with Robin Lloyd

• 6pm to midnight: All Blues with John Kessler

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