Broadcast Bluegrass Returns — in Reston

Broadcast Bluegrass Returns -- in Reston

Bluegrass radio is on the air in Northern Virginia. Why is this news? The transmitter, mighty 250-watt W288BS-FM (105.5 MHz), is the “translator” or relay station for Washington’s WAMU-FM which, after 47 years, deleted Bluegrass from its programming during the Great Bluegrass Purge of 2001. The American University public broadcaster put Bluegrass out to pasture way beyond the North 40, in the sideband Siberia known as HD Radio ™.


Until October 8th, W288BS-FM carried “adult alternative” music from Towson University’s WTMD-FM, which WAMU also rebroadcast on their HD-3 sideband. American University is the licensee for the W288BS-FM transmitter, so rebroadcast of the WTMD signal may have been the quid pro quo for HD use of Towson’s broadcast stream. WAMU’s HD RadioTM  transmitters are 500 watts each, and their signals do not reach Reston (not that anybody anywhere owns HD Radio TM receivers).

WAMU HD-3 dropped WTMD and now broadcasts syndicated news and talk from the BBC and elsewhere, so this is probably why AU applied to the FCC to change the W288BS-FM program source to its own Bluegrass HD-2. Someone at the FCC loves WAMU, since it also got the unusual permission to boost the W288BS-FM transmitter from is original 38 watts to 250 watts, though this increases interference with commerical station WWRE-FM, which transmits from Berryville.

Some sources place the W288BS-FM transmitter in the Reston community (population 56,407; median household income $80,018; 73.6 percent white) but it is actually in nearby Great Falls (population 8,549; median household income $159,695; 88.8 percent white), off Georgertown Pike, near Great Falls United Methodist Church and its the cemetery ( +38° 59′ 56.00″, -77° 17′ 31.99″ ).

Hat tip: Mike Clayberg, S.P. Gass,

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

3 Responses to “Broadcast Bluegrass Returns — in Reston”

  1. John Hoffmann Says:

    I stumbled upon this some weeks ago, great joy! But confusion.
    I guess since it’s a parrallel broadcast of the hd programing there are’nt any ID spots so I did’nt know what the heck was goin on !?
    Higher wattage is going to be real nice !
    I live in the peoples republic of RESTON and still could barely pick it up; did’nt know where it was originating from.
    Put me on the mailing list!!!
    (maybe we could get our own bumper stickers)

  2. Washington City Paper: Black Plastic Bag - Bluegrass Returns–To The VA Burbs Says:

    […] is reporting that bluegrass radio has returned in the non-HD format. WAMU killed bluegrass a while back and then offered it on one of its […]

  3. Jim Locke Says:

    With very little effort one can pick up a very listen-able signal on BluegrassCountry 105.5. Purchase the 300 Ohm twin lead FM antenna at Radio Shack. Install it along the window frame in a vertical position behind the drapes on the side of the house or apartment toward Reston. I did this both upstairs and downstairs and now have Bluegrass music on my living room and bedroom stereos. Older tajble models like Panasonic and Sony or early Sony Boomboxes work also as they were made better than today’s China stuff. My locationis Quince Orchard area of Gaithersburg/Darnestown, but could get the station on; my car radio in Germantown also. Pickin’ and Grinin’ while drivin’ I like it!

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