If you've not been listening to bluegrass on The Ray Davis Show, then you've not been listening to plum pitiful bluegrass. This old timer plays some of the saddest songs around. Dead mammas, prison terms, train wrecks--no tragedy is off limits during his three hour block, which airs Sundays at 10 am ET and Monday through Friday at 3 pm ET on WAMU's Bluegrass Country.
While Davis has a penchant for sorry songs, his line up ranges widely. The plum pitifuls are interspersed with clog-worthy bluegrass and capped off with old time gospel. At the end of every hour, you'll hear Davis say, "It's hymn time," and he'll play a traditional tune that will make you feel like you're in a clapboard church, sitting in sunshine that's pouring through a stained glass window.
Davis doesn't subscribe to the new model of DJing, where everything is fast and smooth. On any given day, you might hear him describing a meal prepared by his wife Nona, fighting with the CD player in his home studio, or recalling the personal quirks of mountain music legends who recorded in his West Virginia basement. The Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe, Reno & Smiley--they all set up shop at one point or another on the underside of Davis' house. They'd laugh and eat Nona's home cooking while cutting some of the most noteworthy tracks in our region's musical canon.
[caption id="attachment_4645" align="alignright" width="221"] Carter and Ralph Stanley recorded in Ray Davis' basement[/caption]
As a result, Davis has an encyclopedic knowledge of music. He has been recording artists for 49 years and spinning vinyl for 63. He secured his first DJ gig at age 15 in Dover, Delaware. "When I got the offer to leave home and take that job, my mom gave me her permission," Davis told the folks at Radio World. "After I had been on the air for a while, if the mailman or anyone else would come by, she would tell him that her son was on the radio."
After Delaware, Davis bounced around the country from station to station, even doing a bit in Mexico, but by the early 1960s, he was back on the east coast, hosting a bluegrass show from a used car lot in Baltimore and recording bluegrass artists under his own label Wango. He became a mainstay on the festival circuit and eventually migrated to WAMU, where he established a long-time following.
While Davis sits behind a mixing board rather than a banjo, he is still a living musical legend. What's more, he's one that you can listen to six days a week. If you haven't tuned in before, check out his show online or if you're close enough to DC, at 105.5 FM.
Let us know what you think. Whether it's an unearthed song from The Clinch Mountain Boys or Ray giving the ornery CD player a blistering earful, you're bound to hear something worth sharing.