Chris Prior – The Rock Professor

Chris Prior – The Rock Professor
Birth name
Chris Prior

I was born in Durban, grew up in Joburg at various boarding schools. I was in my late teens when the rock revolution took place, when bands like the Rolling Stones, the Doors, Led Zeppelin, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Grateful Dead and a thousand others started making serious waves. The Beatles had just released “Sgt. Pepper’s”. It was a whole new world, and it captivated myself and all my friends. I started collecting as much as my limited funds allowed (a cub reporter in the SABC newsroom earned a massive R80-00 a month!), and I still have some of the vinyl I bought in those days.

The travel bug bit me round about then – I was fortunate enough to miss the ballot, which was the way they conscripted kids for the army in those days, so I was free to go. I boarded a ship in Durban and over the next seven years I starved in Australia, body-surfed in Bali, meditated in India, worked deckhand on a charter yacht in the Mediterranean, and wasted time in Canada. When I was actually earning money, it was generally as a freelance journalist. I remember not eating very much during those days, things being somewhat tight.

I returned to South Africa and rejoined SABC radio, working for the English Service as a producer/reporter. I had my first music show, called “Where I’m At”, round about 1977, on the English Service (now SAFM). I was the first DJ to play ZZ Top on local radio. I remember getting a note from the station’s Programme Manager the following day, telling me that he strongly disapproved, and that I really shouldn’t play that kind of music on his station. Needless to say, I carried on playing “that kind of music”, and joined the fledgling rock station, Capitol 604, in 1978.

I was with Capitol for their first two years. It was bliss. We were based in Port St. Johns, on the Transkei coast. I body-surfed every day, and played rock & roll on the radio every night. It was the berries. The studio was situated in the old Port Captain’s house, overlooking the town. It was the vibiest studio I’ve ever worked in. Towards the end I came into conflict with Management regarding the content of their playlist in my show (they wanted me to play some of their ‘Top 20’, and I wasn’t too happy about it), and we parted ways in 1981.

I immediately joined Radio 5, and shortly thereafter I was provided with four hours of late-night airtime, five nights a week, and permission to play whatever music I liked. I doubt whether any rock DJ in the world at that time had that kind of freedom, and I made the most of it. It was during those days that the “Rock Professor” name came about – an advertising gimmick that somehow stuck.

Round about 1992 the old story of Management wanting me to play more of their playlist raised its ugly head again, and once again I was given my marching papers. I marched down to 702, who were happy to give me my own music show on what was essentially a talk station. Eventually, music was phased out, and I found myself, having gone full circle, back at my very first station, the English Service, which had since become known as SAFM. I did late night shows of my own music for them until 1999, when (guess what?), I was told that I needed to play more of their playlist if I wanted to keep the job! My last show on South African radio was in March, 1999. So that’s my 25-year broadcasting career, in a coconut shell.

I presently run a small firm which assists companies with Credit Control problems – a different field, I’ll admit, but it keeps me off street corners holding a large sign saying “Enormous vinyl and CD collection to support – pliz help”. I have a beautiful wife, Nadine, and two Staffies, Monty and Lulu. I’ve been a motorbike rider all my life, and for the past eight years I’ve ridden a Harley with the Gutter Gremlins MC (we’re not as scary as we sound). I also have official duties with the Harley Owner’s Group (HOG), based at the dealership in Rivonia.

I’m extremely pleased, and grateful, to have been given this opportunity on Radio Today to play my music again. I have a room full of it, just itching to be heard. The patter of Little Feat will once again be heard on South African airwaves! I’m especially pleased to be working, once again, with those great broadcasting professionals, Phil Wright, Rafe Lavine, and Leon Economides. Long live rock!

— Chris Prior