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Tom “Cat” Reeder, veteran country music broadcaster, dead at 77

Tom “Cat” Reeder, longtime country music broadcaster and host of The Tom “Cat” Reeder Show on WAMU’s Bluegrass Country, died June 30. He was 77.

In 2001, Reeder joined WAMU as one of several rotating hosts of Bluegrass Overnight, which eventually led to the development of The Tom “Cat” Reeder Show. His final broadcast on WAMU’s Bluegrass Country was June 19.

“We are saddened to learn of the loss of our friend and colleague, Tom. His voice and inimitable style on the airwaves will be sorely missed by his loyal fans both locally and throughout the global bluegrass community,” said Caryn G. Mathes, general manager of WAMU 88.5 and WAMU’s Bluegrass Country.

A native of Blue Springs, Ala., Reeder began his career in radio in 1956 at WARL in Arlington, Va., as an announcer and gofer for country music broadcaster Don Owens. In 1958, he returned to Alabama, landing his first paid job in radio at WABB in Mobile. Early in his career, he also held ownership of two stations, WYAL in Scotland Neck, N.C., and WARI in Abbeville, Ala.

“He was a simple country guy, not hard to understand, and when you heard him on the air, he was your friend,” said Gary Henderson, host of The Gary Henderson Show on WAMU’s Bluegrass Country. “That was his real forte.”

Reeder moved to WDON in Wheaton, Md., in 1964, where he took over the morning drive-time slot with The Tom Reeder Show. Reeder signed off each show to the tune of “Tom Cattin’,” written for him by Tom Brumley and recorded by Buck Owens. He delivered the same daily farewell: “I hope you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live. Bye bye, darlin’.”

Reeder arrived at WKCW in Warrenton, Va., in 1977, where he served as an on-air personality and program director in his 20 years at that station. Throughout his lengthy career, he built a reputation as a broadcaster who preferred traditional country music to modern sounds. He not only connected with listeners, but also earned the respect of musicians and record labels, as well as sponsors, who clamored to have him read their messages on-air during his popular programs. In 1990, Reeder was inducted to the Country Music Broadcasters Hall of Fame in Nashville.

“He didn’t play the modern country music. It had to have roots. If it was traditional country, he would play it,” said Henderson, who remembered Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, and Jimmy Dean as musicians Reeder liked to play on-air. Reeder met Dean while in the Air Force.

Along with artist Clyde Beavers, Reeder co-founded Kash Records. He operated his own publishing company, Tom-Cat Publishing Company, and emceed shows around the country, including the National Championship Country Music Contest for more than 20 years. 

A tribute to Tom “Cat” Reeder will air on WAMU's Bluegrass Country at noon, ET, on Tuesday, July 3, and on WAMU 88.5 at 9 p.m., ET.

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