Tom "Cat" Reeder, longtime country music broadcaster and host of The Tom "Cat" Reeder Show on WAMU’s Bluegrass Country, died Saturday in Virginia. He was 77.
Reeder joined the WAMU lineup in 2001, becoming one of the hosts of Bluegrass Overnight and, later, the host of his own program. He hosted his final show on WAMU’s Bluegrass Country on June 19 of this year.
"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 Abbeville, Ala., Reeder began his career in radio in 1956 at WARL in Arlington, Va., and moved to WDON in the 1960s in Wheaton, Md., to take over the morning drive-time slot with The Tom Reeder Show.
"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 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.
Reeder signed off each show with the tune of "Tom Cattin'," written for him by Tom Brunley 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'."
A private family service will be held in Alabama.
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