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Bluegrass Diversion Returns to WMKY

John Ryster
Credit: John Flavell
John Ryster

After more than a decade, a listener favorite returns to WMKY (90.3FM). Focusing on new and classic bluegrass, old-time, and traditional music, “Bluegrass Diversion” can be heard on Saturdays at 10 a.m.

First launched in 1984, Lisa Lally was the creator and host of the original “Bluegrass Diversion” program, followed by John Skaggs, and the late Sandy Knipp, who hosted the program for 20 years.

The new host of “Bluegrass Diversion” is John Ryster, a multi-instrumentalist, luthier, teacher, and music historian. Ryster came to Morehead State University in 2008 for the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music program and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Construction Management.

“Music is a big part of my life,” said Ryster. “I currently play in a string band called Hogtown which consists of myself, Thomas Albert, and Nick Lloyd. I also host the Elliott County Fiddlers Convention in Sandy Hook, Kentucky during the second weekend in July.”

“Bluegrass Diversion” on Morehead State Public Radio is WMKY’s weekly showcase of bluegrass music, with a spotlight on music news, concerts and festivals, interviews, in-studio guests, and listener requests.

“I hope listeners enjoy my program as a continuation of the work Sandy Knipp, Tony Pence, Michelle Wallace, and Jesse Wells did before me on WMKY,” said Ryster. “I hope to highlight the wealth of local bluegrass talent in our area, as well as traditional bluegrass, national performers, and the classic traditional, old-time sounds for a true diversion in bluegrass music.”

Besides being an accomplished musician, Ryster is a luthier who builds custom Appalachian violins at his home in Hogtown Ridge in Rowan County, Kentucky. A 2023 Appy Award winner for Best Luthier, Ryster is currently a master instructor with the Kentucky Arts Council’s Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Project.

“I learned to build instruments from Tommy Case of Georgetown through the Kentucky Arts Council apprenticeship. I love it and I’ve been busy building them for folks ever since,” said Ryster. “Musicians from all over own my violins, including Tyler Childers, Sarah Pirkle, and Pete Thompson.”

Ryser says he understands that bluegrass music has a long and strong tradition in Appalachian culture.

“We’re like a family,” said Ryster. “Bluegrass and traditional music are vital parts of our culture in eastern Kentucky. It’s important to have a program on WMKY to showcase this music. The fact that it’s on a public radio station is even better because we’re free to play the real stuff!”

“Bluegrass Diversion” with John Ryster can be heard on Morehead State Public Radio (WMKY) on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

WMKY serves more than 20 counties throughout eastern Kentucky from the campus of Morehead State University. Listeners can enjoy WMKY at 90.3FM, online (www.wmky.org), by phone app, or smart speaker (“Play WMKY”).