Friday, January 6, 2017

R.I.P.: Roanoke Radio Legend Bart Prater Dies At 69

Bart Prater - 1982
Bart Prater’s first job in radio was shoveling ashes after a fire.

According to, he was a high school kid in Marion VA when the town’s radio station — good ol’ WOLD-AM — went up in flames. The station owner hired teenagers to clean up, but Prater told the man: “I could do more than that.”

From those studio ashes, Prater rose to become one the most prominent voices and personalities in Roanoke radio history, a disc jockey who brought national recognition to both Roanoke and himself.

He worked at WROV 1240 AM during the wild and crazy 1970s when rock ‘n’ roll was king and the station’s studios were located in a Quonset hut in an industrial section of Roanoke. Billboard magazine named him the mid-sized radio market Personality of the Year in 1975.

Later, Prater jumped to WXLK 92.3 FM K92 in the 1980s when it dominated the airwaves like no Roanoke station before or since.

And he ended his career away from the microphone, behind the scenes at public radio station WVTF, where he programmed satellite feeds and wrote computer codes. He retired in 2012 from doing what he always loved, working and tinkering in radio.

Prater died Wednesday night at age 69 after a couple of years of declining health, according to his son, Jay Prater.

Bart Prater was part of two of the most successful rock and pop music stations in Roanoke broadcasting history.

“Radio was king. Local personalities were the stars. We had to change our phone number a lot because people would call the house, just wanting to talk to my dad.”

Bart Prater was so good on-air, he could keep listeners riveted to funny sketches with just his voice — whether it was showing family vacation slides (on the radio, remember) or giving a tour of an imaginary WROV studio complete with DJ lounges and a chapel where the owner “could pray for money.”

He sang and played guitar on the radio, writing his own novelty songs, which included the ridiculous “Pickle Jar Lid” song, which was a local hit in 1969 (the song’s full name, according to an online history of WROV-AM, was “I Got a Pickle Jar Lid and I Carry it in My Pocket, Baby”).

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