The 1970s - The Rock of Roanoke - Part 2

Rob O'Brady, a second-generation Irishman, is from Springfield, Massachusetts. After high school he spent nine months at a radio school then WBRL in Berlin, NH then worked at his home town's WHYN. His real name is the same as a once well-known politician so he changed it, originally to "Parrish Hall."

Rob was known for his beard, which he "wasn't going to shave off until Nixon went to prison" and his voice. It's high and shrill, but also warm and kind—perfectly consistent with his personality.

Rob O'Brady showed us the danger of drinking and driving by getting drunk on the air, Memorial Day Weekend, 1976.

He began doing the all-night show at WROV on May 1, 1974. This was the first time he'd ever used the name "Rob O'Brady" which was a combination of his real first name, an "O" to honor his Irish heritage, and "Brady" after he had a dream about Pat Brady (the guy who drove "Nellybelle" the Willys jeep on the Roy Rogers show).

Rob was hired "in spite of his voice" according to Burt Levine. "We told him that working here would not be a matter of us liking him or him liking us, it was a matter of whether the audience liked him" and they loved him!

Bart Prater, Fall 1974. A cropped version of the one on the left has been used by The Roanoke Times & World News as his official file photo for years. Both were shot during by Pat Garrett as he and Cliff Beach interviewed BP for Cave Spring High School's paper The Knight Letter. (more...)

After Rob moved to the morning show, he began many of the things he became famous for including "Lunch With Rob" where workers entered business cards, each Monday a drawing was held, and he took the winner's office bunch to lunch. He also had a unique way of reading the school lunch menus which always began with him yelling "DA DA Lum...DA DA LAAA! LUNCH TODAY!" and ending with "...and ice cold milk to wash it down!"

Rob had his own nicknames for some of the artists he played including "Edward O'Rabbit" and "Neilster Diamond." But he's probably best remembered for his tireless work for charities including "Jerry's Kids" and the Knights of Columbus, and for the times in the mid 1970s that he dramatized the dangers of drinking and driving by getting drunk on the air the Friday morning before Memorial Day.

Chuck Holloway shows Cave Spring High School Correspondent Pat Garrett the board, Fall 1974.

When Shane Randall left in late summer 1974, Rob moved into the night shift but it was soon decided that his up-tempo delivery would work better in the mornings and Chuck's popularity with teenagers would be a good fit for nights.

So Chuck was moved to the 7-midnight shift where he started having a student from each local high school come to the station to do a short news report each week. One very popular "high school correspondent" was "Davo" Nofsinger from North Cross. And the one from Cave Spring was a guy who would later work for the station in the early 1980s named Pat Garrett.

1974 saw a few new faces around the station. Dave Hunter did mid-days in 1974-1975. Vince Miller, another Bedford WROV jock, started in December, 1974 and worked through April 1976 when he left for a short gig at 13 Big WISE in Asheville, NC. Upon arriving he was told that the staff had another Vince, Vince Rutherford, and he'd have to change his name. This and other things led to it being a bad experience so he returned to Virginia and to WROV a few years later.

A few shots of Rich Randall who joined the staff in 1974. That's BP's guitar case standing up in the corner.

Another personality to come on board in late 1974 was Rich Randall. Rich came out of WCBX in Eden, North Carolina where he was PD and did mornings (replacing a then-unknown Art Bell) and took over the all-night shift (12a-6a) where he shined.

Rich recalls "WROV was home to me and still has a very special place in my heart. Despite the 10 years I had spent in the business prior, WROV is where I really learned what rock-n-roll radio was all about. It was scary at first! I actually hadn't heard the station very much, just the midday guy, and Chuck Holloway offered me his couch until I could move my family up.

Rich on remote at Lakeside, Summer 1975. That particular night, Rick Nelson performed there.

"He took me there and left to go to do the night shift. I turned on a radio, listened to about a half hour of Bart Prater doing afternoon drive, and thought about reloading my car and heading back to the woods of NC. He was GOOOOOOOD! How the Hell did I wind up here?"

"But with Holloway's friendship and Prater's tutelage I developed into a pretty fair rock jock and went on to win a Billboard Broadcaster of the Year Award in 1977 with 'Rich-n-Al in the Morning' on WLVA in Lynchburg, VA. If anyone listened closely they would have noticed I was doing Prater, just earlier in the day and without the booming, whiskey voice."

Bart, Wolfman Jack, and Chuck pose as Larry pulls commercials for the next break. A cropped version of this photo appeared on the cover of Radio & Records magazine.

In April, 1975, WROV had a special guest DJ for a night. Wolfman Jack, host of TV's "The Midnight Special" and star of many movies including 1973's "American Graffiti" was touring with the band The Guess Who. The group had recently charted a record called "Clap For The Wolfman" which featured Wolfman's voice and he joined them so he could perform it live.

To hype the show, the Wolfman was flying into tour cities ahead of the band and doing live shows on local rock radio stations. So naturally when they came to Roanoke it was announced that Wolfman would be doing a two-hour show on WROV.

Larry and David Levine during the Wolfman's visit in April, 1975.

The station began promoting the event that afternoon and by 8pm the building was packed with invited guests including past and present WROV personalities and advertising clients. To the best of our knowledge, there was never a bigger party at 15th and Cleveland than the night Wolfman was there.

Wolfman arrived, posed for pictures, then entered the studio through the door which bore a sign that said "Caution: Live Wolfman Inside!" and proceeded to rock the Roanoke Valley for two hours. Bart Prater, Chuck Holloway and Larry Bly took turns standing behind him ensuring that all commercials were aired and the music rotation was followed. Once Wolfman took to the air, listeners began showing up and joining the party. The building was packed and a good time was had by all ( more... ).

"Hurry up and take the $@!*@#!% picture, would ya?" BP gets a coffee refill, 1975.

In 1975 WROV gained some national recognition in the radio world when Bart Prater won the Billboard Magazine Medium-Market Radio Personality of the Year award. As the story goes, Bart received a call in July telling him he had been nominated and had placed in the top three finalists. Bart, never one to give a damn about national recognition, is said to have told them "I'm not interested!" and they had to tell him that he'd actually won the contest to get him to agree to come to the awards ceremony.

So he went, but came back on the first available flight the next day (though he'd won a paid weekend in Los Angeles) carrying a large trophy with a golden microphone on top. To the best of our knowledge, nobody ever figured out who entered him in the competition (but we think it was Chuck Holloway).

Dave Hunter did mid-days in late 1974 - early 1975.

1975 saw a lot of changes on the WROV air staff. In May, Dave Hunter was let go, supposedly for something he said on the air (we don't know what). Dave was known for occasionally making the occasional "politically incorrect" remark. When Suzi Quatro was in town in early 1975 with the Alice Cooper show and was being interviewed at the station, she got up and walked out when Dave told her "Gee, you play the guitar pretty good for a girl!" Bill Jordan was hired for all-nights and Rich Randall replaced Dave in the midday position, a job he held through Fall 1975.

Toward the end of Summer, 1975, Chuck Holloway left in what was said to be a difference of opinion over the musical direction of the station. Chuck was replaced on the night shift by Starr Stevens. And a few months later in the fall of 1975, Rich Randall left WROV and was replaced on the midday show by Bill Jordan.

Rich at the studio side mike. This shot shows some of the view you saw from the air chair.

Bill was replaced on the all-night show by Doug McCloud. Vince Miller continued working nights and weekends and the station added another part-timer, a former Andrew Lewis High School student who had been a radio-junkie and hung out at WROV for years, Bucky Stover.

When Rich left WROV he spent some time with his wife trying to set up a noncommercial, nonprofit low-powered community FM station, a project that didn't work out because he was unable to raise enough money. Through early 1976, he did a short stint on WPVR, then ended up in Lynchburg with Al Augustine on the award-winning "Rich & Al" show.

Starr Stevens in the WROV record library, 1976.

Starr Stevens had just left WRVQ, Richmond, and brought an "FM" presence to WROV. Starr, reminiscent of WKRP's 'Dr. Johnny Fever' was one of those sorts who had had so many different radio names in his career that they'd fill up the side of a coffee mug. He was known as "Boomer" and "Steve Shannon" in Charlottesville, "Steve Wedd" in Petersburg, and "Steve Hendrix" in Richmond at Q94 where he was infamous for his attempt to jump the James River inside of a "Port-O-John."

Starr recalls "They put WINGS on this thing and aired fake spots claiming to have air tested the gas-powered vehicle over the skies of Richmond. Heres how it went...I almost drowned when it rolled off the ramp into the James River in Hopewell before almost 3000 people lined up on the Benjamin Harrison Bridge, flipped over and landed on it door, taking a chunk out of my safety helmet almost knocking me out!"

The WROV Staff, Fall, 1975: Rob O'Brady, Bucky Stover, Doug McCloud, Larry Bly, Bart Prater, Bill Jordan, Vince Miller, Starr Stevens.

Starr brought his up-tempo, big-market sounding FM-style and knowledge of the AOR format to WROV and remembers that he came up with his air name because "I was inspired by my original arrival in Roanoke to interview with Bart Prater. Nearly EVERYTHING there was named after the Mill Mountain star!"

Starr's arrival saw the station adapt a more "AOR" sound at night. A show called "Fresh Air" hosted by a local musician, Steve Body, and produced by Starr, showcased album cuts on Saturday nights. And Starr was also the originator of a Sunday night show called "The Magic Concert" which consisted of his using live album cuts and applause sound effects to create the aura of a live show.

Starr in the WROV production room.

Bill Jordan, younger brother of Tidewater radio legend Terry Jordan, came to WROV after working in Petersburg at WSSV. Bill also possessed a great sense of humor and the ability to do character voices on the fly and often would ad-lib hilarious off-the-cuff routines with Starr Stevens. He recalls "After gettin' my first gig at WSSV, I kept hearing about how great WROV in Roanoke was...Figured it would be a good 'next step' for me..."

"Sent Prater an aircheck for an overnight position...He sent back a standard reject letter (which I kept)...Sent another tape sometime later...He responded that he felt that upon the next opening, it was mine! Drove to Roanoke that weekend just to hear them...Met Bart at a car show at the civic center...somehow found the studio and Rob gave me the nickel tour...I was smitten!"

Bill Jordan a.k.a. "BJ the DJ" joined the staff in the summer of 1975.

Bill is an accomplished radio veteran in Raleigh, NC these days but when he was at WROV he was only 21 and subject of a few jokes. He recalls "Prater used to love to come in while I'd be playin' 'Cracklin'Rosie' or something, and take the turntable OUT OF GEAR, not turn it off, but let it gently slow down...Flipped me out."

In 1976, WROV hired its first female DJ, Misty Dawn. She was from Christiansburg and became interested in radio when station WQBX "7Q" was built near her home. After working at 7Q as "Linda Loveless" she was hired full time at WPVR as "Linda Marie" (the first part of her real name). She then joined WROV and split the weekend night shifts with Steve Shannon. Her WROV air name was a Prater creation and was likely cobbled together from the title of the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie "Play Misty For Me" and from her finishing her shift when the sun was coming up.

Misty Dawn was Linda Marie on WPVR and later Linda Silver on K92.

Linda would later spend most of the 1980s at K92 as Linda Silver and call herself Roanoke's "First Lady of Rock & Roll" but technically, she wasn't: the first female DJ in Roanoke—not counting WROV's Barbara Felton who did talk shows—was WBLU's Chris Shannon who was hired in 1968 and ended up doing production at Channel 7. Linda was, by far, the most talented and ended up working at WHTZ, New York City as a result of PD Scott Shannon (no relation to Chris) flying over Roanoke one day, hearing her on K92, and offering her a job. After several other gigs in New York and Washington, DC she ended up in Charlotte, NC.

Doug McCloud, real name Doug Rorrer, is an accomplished bluegrass guitar player from Eden, NC who grew up listening to his grandfather and uncles picking. He had worked at WCBX in Eden prior to coming to WROV. Doug had a warm, personable voice and a dry wit and sounded great on the WROV overnight show, sponsored by "the Sheraton, home of the beautiful breakfast" until his bad eyesight led to him having a serious car wreck on the way to work one night. After recovering, he returned to Eden, taught school for a while, and now runs Flyin' Cloud Records .

Doug (Rorrer) McCloud reads the news, 1976.

Bucky Stover was a Salem teenage radio wanna-be who had the gift and the skills and rode that desire to a lifetime of broadcasting. As a kid, he built a radio studio in his basement and did practice shows there for years. In the late sixties, his sister Barbara was the WROV receptionist and he spent a lot of time hanging out at the station.

Phil Beckman remembers "When I was at ROV in 1972 Bucky was one of those kids that hung around the radio station or would show up at a remote, or bug us on the phone. What a pest, we used to say." At the time, nobody would have guessed that four years later Bucky would be a WROV personality. He later worked at WSLQ and K92 before becoming an engineer WDBJ TV, a job he held for over 20 years.

Lynn Wright was the receptionist during the mid 1970s and was known to Bart's listeners as "Gum" because she was usually chewing some.

During the 1970s it seemed that EVERY radio personality wanted to work for WROV. Why? Rich Randall suggests "It was what we in the industry call a lightning strike. A once-in-a-lifetime happening. A confluence of the best jocks, the best music, the best management, and the best listeners in America all coming together. And during that period in time, for hundreds of thousands of Roanokers who lived by the radio WROV became, as Phil Beckman said, The soundtrack for Roanoke.

"The proof of the greatness and the staffs that went through WROV is in the fact that the station attracted jocks in every stage of their careers. On the way up, on the way through, on the way down, and on the way in. Every one of them counts WROV among the highlights, if not THE highlight, of their career. That's why WROV was great."

David Levine did a Sunday night call in show in the 1970s and for a while was also the music director.

"It took jocks and made them great, by giving them honest, heart-felt, direction, critique, learning opportunities, even the opportunity to stretch our talents from time to time. I was ten years into the business. Guys like Steve Finnegan, Stover & Garrett were none."

"Yet we both share exact emotions when remembering WROV or any of the staff. Some with awe, some with fear, some with tears, some with laughter, and some we just tolerate. But we love 'em all. They share with us the experience of WROV. And like Vietnam, if you weren't there, you can't know."

"Every time I begin reflecting on my career of over 39 years, my first thought isn't a 33 share show, or broadcasting from a World's Fair, or running the world board overnights at Mutual Broadcasting System, or any of a dozen other jobs that were special. No. My first thought is always WROV. The little station that boomed a million watt voice over a little bitty AM transmitter...and OWNED an entire generation of an entire city."