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A "Red" Shipley Remembrance

Adam Bernstein

Robert "Red Shipley, who died Oct. 6, was a fixture of the Washington area's airwaves for four decades. He spent the last 25 years emceeing WAMU-FM's "Stained Glass Bluegrass" Sunday program.

Rob Bamberger, whose "Hot Jazz Saturday Night" radio show is always full of wry insight into terrific music, offered this passage about his WAMU colleague:

I never saw as much of Red as I would have wished, but in recent years, the occasions were always special. Because of the early start time for "Stained Glass Bluegrass," Red would drive in from Orange the night before a membership campaign and catch some sleep on a station couch. The Bluegrass Overnight hosts rotated, but when my shift ended for the night, we'd hang out talking. Red would talk about radio as he once knew it, and it was just a delight to be in his company, and to hear him talk about music with the overnight host. I do recall seeing him on the air a couple of times over the years. He knew all the songs he played and would be singing along with most of them, but his affect was almost as if he was not really conscious that he was singing, that these songs were in his very fiber.

One of WAMU's previous general managers, Kim Hodgson, used to come in to pitch with Red during the campaigns. Listening to Kim on those mornings, it was apparent that something of the spirit of that music, and Red's presentation and on-air demeanor, got to Kim's very core as well. I've been disheartened over the years reading some of the listener comments to WAMU and the derision that some listeners have had for bluegrass. I'm not a devotee of bluegrass, but it's people like Red, Ray Davis, Gary Henderson and others who frame and reveal the dignity, integrity and technical skill to be found in bluegrass, secular as well as spiritual. Many, many listeners to bluegrass are accomplished, literate and classy people (and show a remarkable tolerance of those who poke them in the eye over their musical taste). Red was all that and more; he was truly "salt-of-the-earth." I've always felt it to be a privilege to be part of a fraternity of music hosts that included Red Shipley.

Rob Bamberger, Host
Hot Jazz Saturday Night
WAMU (88.5 FM)

By Adam Bernstein  |  October 9, 2007; 11:36 AM ET
Categories:  Adam Bernstein  
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