Bill Knowlton, the longtime host of Sunday's "Bluegrass Ramble'' radio show on WCNY Classic FM, will receive a distinguished achievement award from the international bluegrass music association at its annual awards ceremony Sept. 29 at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium.
The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) has presented its distinguished achievement awards since 1986 to acclaimed people from throughout the industry who are pioneers in their particular field and have spent their careers promoting bluegrass music. Knowlton is the 2011 distinguished achievement award winner in the media category.
Knowlton, 72, of Liverpool, was selected by the IBMA's distinguished achievement award nominating committee after it received several letters of recommendation from Knowlton's peers and bluegrass event organizers from across the northeast. The announcement of his selection was made Wednesday night, Aug. 17.
"This great acknowledgement by my colleagues in the world of bluegrass music is extra special to me,'' Knowlton said. "I've been around this musical niche of Americana since 1954, first as a fan, later as a disc jockey and emcee, and - most fun of all - as a historian and writer on bluegrass, its music, and its people. Receiving this wonderful recognition makes me firmly committed to continuing on this wonderful bluegrass journey."
In January, Knowlton will start his 39th year as host of WCNY's "Bluegrass Ramble.'' He recently hosted his 39th bluegrass ramble picnic, the oldest bluegrass festival in New York, Pennsylvania and New England.
Since joining WCNY in 1973, Knowlton has emceed hundreds of bluegrass festivals throughout the northeast. In the mid-1980s, he produced and emceed 52 "Bluegrass Ramble'' television shows for the Eastern Educational Television Network. The 30-minute shows, which were taped at WCNY, were broadcast all over the country.
"This (award) would not have happened had it not been for over 38 years of support and encouragement by the staff and management of WCNY-FM and TV,'' Knowlton said. "I have always been given the freedom to put together 'Bluegrass Ramble' broadcasts that I personally create and broadcast for three hours each week.''
A New York City native, Knowlton graduated from Fordham University, where he hosted the first all-bluegrass radio show in New York City - also called "Bluegrass Ramble'' - at Fordham's WFUV-FM. An active member of the Air Force from 1962-74, he moved to Syracuse in the early 1970s to become the advertising and public affairs officer for the United States Army Recruiting Battalion in Syracuse.
Knowlton has received many honors and awards during his bluegrass career, including: co-founder and honorary life member of the Central New York Bluegrass Association; lifetime achievement award from the Syracuse Press Club in 1994; IBMA broadcaster of the year in 1997; and 2006 inductee into the Syracuse area music awards hall of fame.
"Sometimes a news writer will ask me, 'Is bluegrass as popular as it once was, and what does its future hold?' '' Knowlton said. "I usually reply that bluegrass was born and it's been 'dying' ever since.''
Knowlton's "Bluegrass Ramble'' show airs from 9 p.m.-midnight Sunday on WCNY FM 91.3 (Syracuse), 89.5 (Utica) and 90.9 (Watertown). Knowlton will also bring "Bluegrass Ramble'' to the New York State Fair from 4- 6 p.m. Aug. 27 with Albany's Cabin Fever performing at the WCNY stage next to the center of progress building.