Grover “Papa Rock” Rivers passed away last week in Pensacola, Florida where he spent most of his life establishing a career in the music industry. This was during the segregation period that produced the “Chitlin Circuit” and Black Radio as a strong viable force in the music industry and in the African-American community in general. Rivers was an Alabama Native who worked in the Black Radio industry in Mississippi; Pensacola, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; and Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Papa Rock began a 54-year long career at WMOZ in Mobile, Alabama which included his work in Pensacola at WBOP 980 AM in 1960. In an interview with Robin Reshard, Creative Director of Robert Robino Productions, Papa Rock told the story of how he first came to Pensacola on the Trailways Bus Line looking for a position at WBOP. As the story goes, when he arrived at WBOP, he found out that three of the on-air staff had the flu and he was hired immediately to fill in. Once the staff returned from their illness, Rock was let go and he returned to Mobile. Once the radio listening public found out that he was gone, there was a popular community campaign to bring him back and in March of 1960, WBOP hired him as an on the air personality in Pensacola.
In 1993, Papa Rock began his career with WRNE Radio with Robert Hill. “Papa Rock worked for me prior to him going to prison.” Said Hill. “In fact, he never really left. I remember that he was allowed to broadcast live by phone from the prison. The Warden gave instructions to let him come on the air to do the blues show. We took some slack for doing this, but we never took him off. When he served his time, he came back to us and resumed his career. We say that he is the first person to broadcast live from prison.”
Papa Rock Rivers has been recognized for his contribution to the music industry with awards which included the E. Rodney Jones Award, and the Life Time Achievement Award Southern Blues Network, Jackson Mississippi.
Papa Rock Joined the Cumulus Family 2005 with his Legendary Blues Show that could be heard every week On Magic 106.1. Terry Styles was a manager at Magic 106.1 when he recruited Rivers to come to the FM station. Styles felt that Papa Rock had strong ties in the community with his unique ear for music and relationship with his listeners.
“Papa Rock was a very good friend to me. We go way back to working together at WBOP and of course now at Magic 106.1,” said Ernestine Dunklin. “I had the opportunity to speak to him one day at work and I told him that I consider him to be a legend because he has come through the ranks; from the time of the reel to reel, to LPS to 45s, to cassette tapes, 8 tracks, CDs and mp3s. And because he mastered everything and came across all of the changes that went through the industry, I consider him to be a real legend when it comes to radio and broadcasting. He is a legend because he learned and mastered every single thing and to come through the ranks with all of the changes in the industry- when it comes to music, nothing got him down and nothing got him to the point where he could not be able to change with the times. And I consider that made him a legend in my eyes.” She said.