The banjos and fiddles will continue to ring out online and on HD Radio. But Washington, DC radio’s 50-year bluegrass tradition has lost its analog FM home. The Reston, VA-licensed translator W288BS at 105.5 FM that has supplemented Bluegrass Country’s WAMU-HD2 and online distribution will cease simulcasting on June 21.
In a blog post, the Bluegrass Country Foundation says it was unable to strike a deal with the owner of the 105.5 signal “despite our best efforts.” Putting a positive spin on the news, the organization says that the 88.5 HD-2 signal delivers “better sound quality with a much larger broadcast range.” It also notes how HD radios for the home and car are “reasonably priced and easy to install” and that many newer cars come with HD Radio as standard equipment.
Besides, the Foundation says that two-thirds of Bluegrass Country listening was occurring via HD and the internet. “While the loss of 105.5 FM is frustrating, we remain in business and are committed to bringing you the bluegrass and roots music you love to hear,” the web post says.
Although the nation’s capital seems an unlikely haven for bluegrass, Washington radio has been home to the genre since 1967. Public broadcaster WAMU began playing bluegrass music in 1967 but as demographics changed in the DC area, the station shifted to its current news/talk format and moved Bluegrass Country online in 2001 and added an HD signal in 2007. As part of its agreement with the station, the foundation has access to the nearly 50 years of bluegrass programming heard on WAMU.