Gerald Poulsen, a.k.a. WAMU bluegrass host Jerry Gray, dies at 78

Gerald Poulsen, known in radio as bluegrass music host Jerry Gray, died Feb. 2 in Roanoke, Va. He was 78. His son Mark Poulsen told the Washington Post that his father had health complications from a heart transplant that he received after suffering a heart attack on the air in 1989. Poulsen started in 1971 at Washington’s WAMU-FM  at American University and for 30 years hosted The Jerry Gray Show on Saturday afternoons, featuring traditional country music, featuring stars such as Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers and Patsy Montana.

Back below the hills of Tennessee

The television version of Bluegrass Underground, now distributed in high-def and Surround Sound by PBS Plus, permits the audience to appreciate more vividly the unique auditorium where it’s recorded: southeast of Nashville in Cumberland Caverns, 333 feet below ground near McMinnville, Tenn. Over the past 3.5 million years, water carved out what is now the acoustically pure Volcano Room with room for 500 seats. By 2008 the erosion was far enough along that concerts could be held there and Nashville’s famed country-music carrier, WSM-AM, could begin airing Bluegrass Underground’s original radio version. (It airs monthly on Saturdays, just before Grand Ole Opry.)

The video version is produced by a partnership of the production company Loblolly Ventures, PBS member station WCTE in Cookeville, Tenn., and Emmy-winning producer Todd Jarrell. So far, PBS stations have picked up the show in 60 markets, including Boston, Dallas, Chicago and Seattle.

For WAMU and its listeners, HD Radio means more slices of pie to go around

As a self-proclaimed evangelist for HD Radio, I am often asked why I have inculcated it so deeply in the workings of WAMU in Washington. We devote several full-time employees to produce more than 50 hours a week of live original programming for our multicast channels — bluegrass and Americana music on Channel 2, and news and information on Channel 3. We further demonstrate our commitment to multicasting on our main channel. For the first year after we started multicasting three HD Radio channels, we spent at least 15 seconds of every hour on our flagship signal cross-promoting Channels 2 and 3, and our hosts still give them at least four spots a day. Reminding listeners of the other offerings in our “radio community” requires a sizable investment in airtime, as well as the traffic department’s writing and logging.