Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Cincinnati Bluegrass Radio

I enjoy listening to a variety of music. Since I entered my mid-30s, though, I've been nostalgiac for music of the 1980s, especially during my high school years. Strangely, though, throughout the '90s I avoided that music and refused to even acknowledge it. Now I actually like listening to the hair bands I used to detest so much.

I also love the music of the 1930s and '40s, and own a sizable collection of 78 RPM records, mostly collected from eBay. Locally I listen to WMKV which plays mostly big band and nostalgia. It's a wonderful station that I was actually a small part of for a short time. Many nice people there. If you're in Cincinnati, they're on 89.3 FM. Otherwise, check them out online.

Also, live365 is an excellent place to hear any kind of music. Any kind imaginable. And it's free. It has thousands of online radio stations to choose from, including big band stations, comedy, phone pranks, and bluegrass.

I love bluegrass. The combination of banjos and guitars and the twangy vocals makes for enjoyable and fun music. And there's nothing like a live bluegrass show either.

If you're in Cincinnati, you must check out WAIF, 88.3 FM on the dial and online here.

My discussions about radio life will be saved for a future post, but in short, WAIF is a community radio station with a volunteer on-air staff. No commercials, just great music and a variety of unique programs.

My favorite is Cuttin' the Grass, hosted by Lee Elliot and his cohost Moonbeam, Saturday mornings, 8 a.m. to 11. I have been listening to Cuttin' the Grass for a couple of years now, and since I work Saturday mornings, I hear the entire show from start to finish.

This is like no show you've ever heard, and if you like bluegrass, you must listen. Lee Elliot is the genial host with downhome sayings and humor and is just a joy to listen to. He is a virtual bluegrass encyclopedia and plays an incredible variety of music during the three hours. Among other things, he is a "registered Kentucky Colonel" and seems to be plugged into every regional bluegrass event in the tristate area.

Moonbeam is his on-air female companion, a yin to his yang, if that makes sense. Between cuts of music they banter about bluegrass personalities and bands, and sometimes touch on Elliot's take on national news events. Moonbeam is a lot more than just a laughing sidekick, though; she contributes a great deal to the show, and together they make a wonderfully entertaining combination. While they tend to ramble at times, they don't detract from the music which is their main focus. And . . . they're volunteers. They don't get paid; they do it for the love of the music. Very commendable way to spend their Saturday mornings.

This is local, live radio at its absolute finest. If you're tired of listening to the same old stuff on commercial radio, then you must listen to Cuttin' the Grass. Check out the show's website here.

Update: Lee Elliot and Moonbeam have left WAIF due to station politics and other issues. Tim Strong now hosts Cuttin' the Grass.

And just a small plug for my book Stepping Out in Cincinnati, if you want to see the kinds of early country bands that paved the way for modern bluegrass, check out page 73 for a five-piece string band from 1930. On page 116 you can see the Happy Days in Dixie ensemble, with Dixie Dale on vocals, which played for WCKY in 1933. Turn to page 119 and you'll see the band who played for the Circle Arrow Show, which played Sunday nights on WLW in 1949.

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