The Rock Professor

He rode the airways, a rock renegade with a Gunston plain voice and a warehouse full of vinyl.

The Prof

On the radio he fought the pop and synchroniser charged tunes of the late 80s he revealed there was more, oh so much more.

Chris Prior, the Rock Professor, on from ten to two in the morning.

Radio school for a generation tired of main stream broadcasters. John Hyatt, Neil Young, ZZ Top and the Band. Slide guitars, boogie woogie and the blues.

Mainstream for the Professor was The Doors.

At university I’d tune in, 10 to 2am weekdays on Radio 5.

But the Rock Professor was a man of mystery. How could he play music like that, these were the dark days of Apartheid. He was on Radio 5 the state broadcaster. Just maybe he wasn’t at the SABC, he was somewhere else, beaming his radio programme into Auckland Park. Maybe he was over the border or on an oil rig. Running a pirate radio station, perhaps he wore a patch. A sympathetic producer at Radio 5, would sneak his stuff on air, in the dead of night.

Or maybe he transmitted from a beat up kombi, always on the move, one step ahead of the security police.

The secret police must have taken notice when he played ZZ Top’s Jesus just left Chicago. Or ACDC’s Highway to Hell.

“Hy is a Komminist,” (He is a Communist) they cried. But it wasn’t the men from state security that finally got him. In 1992, someone high up at SABC realised that the Rock Professor was just to…fringe.

Rock was okay, but only if it was soft. The Professor was culled, his radio slot killed off by main stream radio. There were protests. A motorcycle gang surrounded the SABC building in Cape Town. It wasn’t enough, the Rock Professor quietly packed his stacks of vinyl and walked out and so began the wilderness years.

“Whatever happened to that Chris Prior, damn he played some good music?” Became the question.

Years past.

Then just the other day, I typed Chris Prior into Google. The Chris Prior podcast, Google revealed.

The Rock Professor was back from the desert

It turned out that The Rock Professor was at Radio Today, playing those good tunes. He had been there for years. And there were podcasts, scores of them on the website. The airways once again filled with the sounds of Little Feat, Jimmy Hendrix, Willy Dixon and John Lee Hooker.

Those podcasts can be found at

About Shaun Smillie

Journalist, with a love of bones, fossils and other things dug up. Fisherman and occasional beer maker.
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5 Responses to The Rock Professor

  1. Dave says:

    Nice Shaun… Remember his counterpart on Radio 2000 – the Lion of Orion? Who ‘Roared til four’?

  2. Mike Loewe says:

    hmm, he played a song about a motorbike and a mountain which I recorded (couldn’t get to sleep in the early 90s, couldn’t turn the damn radio off!) That song haunts me (accoustic and by an Irishman. My tape recording has Chris saying something like Motorcycle Zen recorded by Irish musician …. CLICK.
    Argh! Any help for a nostalgic Eastern Cape hack?

  3. David Visagie says:

    My experience with Chris Prior goes back to the 80’swhen he had an afternoon show on Radio 5 now 5FM. I was just amazed at the man’s musical knowledge. Wow. Chris Prior rocks.

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