Raymond Davis, WAMU host with ‘encyclopedic’ knowledge of bluegrass, dies at 81

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Ray Davis (Photo: WAMU)

Ray Davis (Photo: WAMU)

Raymond Davis, a veteran broadcaster who influenced and nurtured the bluegrass music scene as a music host for WAMU in Washington, D.C., died Dec. 3 of leukemia. He was 81.

Davis capped his 65-year career in radio broadcasting as an afternoon host on WAMU’s all-music station Bluegrass Country. He joined the pubcaster in 1985, when the station split its weekday format between NPR News programs and bluegrass, and retired in 2013.

Davis started in radio at age 15 with a job at WDOV-AM in Dover, Del., according to a tribute page on WAMU’s website. He spent 38 years at WBMD in Baltimore, where he hosted live broadcasts from Johnny’s Used Cars.

“Throughout the course of his career, Ray built a reputation as a broadcaster with a deep, encyclopedic knowledge of the music and artists he played,” WAMU said.

Davis’s career also included a stint at Mexican border radio station XERF. Off the air, he ran his own record label and promoted and hosted concerts and events, including the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival.

Gary Henderson and Dick Spottswood, who brought the first bluegrass show to WAMU in 1967, remembered that their colleague “brought an abundance of style, status, and pure class to us when he joined us on Bluegrass Country at WAMU.”

“Ray represented a big slice of history, and for six decades was a prominent voice of country and bluegrass music across much of the mid-Atlantic region,” Henderson and Spottswood wrote.

He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Nona Davis. Survivors also include 11 children and stepchildren and 16 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.