Remembering Ray Davis, Bluegrass Radio Legend

By Ally Schweitzer

Bluegrass radio king Ray Davis died Dec. 3 at the age of 81.
Bluegrass radio king Ray Davis died Dec. 3 at the age of 81. WAMU

On this week’s edition of WAMU’s Metro Connection, reporter Jennifer Strong offers a remembrance of Ray Davis, the WAMU broadcaster who became a household name among devout bluegrass listeners in the D.C. region and beyond.

Having spent nearly 40 years at Baltimore’s WBMD, Davis came to WAMU in 1985 as the host of Saturday Bluegrass. He co-hosted the program Bluegrass Country until 2001, and became an integral part of WAMU’s Bluegrass Country when it grew into its own station. Davis retired in 2013 after more than 60 years in the business. Last week, he died of leukemia at the age of 81.

Strong spoke to ex-WAMU host Bill Redlin, who vouched for Davis’ authenticity on the air. “When you listened to Ray, you were really listening to Ray,” Redlin says. “There was nothing put on there. It was like having an old friend in the house talking to you and then introducing you to some music maybe you hadn’t heard before.”

Davis’ stories were a big part of his appeal — and they could be hazardous. “There were a couple of times when I almost left the road I was laughing so hard at Ray’s stories,” Redlin says.

WAMU show host Diane Rehm has fond memories of Davis’ kindness. “Whenever he saw me he was so kind and so polite,” Rehm says, “always with a smile on his face and always with the softest, warmest words.”

Strong’s segment on Ray Davis airs today in the 1 p.m. hour and again on Saturday morning, and you can hear it now on

Related: Read Bluegrass Country’s remembrance of Davis.