He’s devoted most of his life to music, and he’s found more than one way to interact with it. Along with performing, he decided to give radio broadcasting a try at KMUN, Coast Community Radio out of Astoria.
“I’m an entertainer and a musician, so I’ve always broadcasted,” Prestegard said. “I listened to that old radio station for 20 to 30 years and I just decided to bite the bullet. I wanted to do it for decades.”
The Elochoman Valley resident found himself doing a two hour show two to three times a month, sometimes covering for other broadcasters or filling an empty time slot. After a year of hard work and loyalty, the station gave him an award for Rookie of the Year, of which he is very proud.
“The Shady Grove Show is what I did mostly at KMUN,” Prestegard said. “Old time music and music Americana. Back porch America. I did a lot of that. It soaked in, really soaked into my being.
“It’s really special to broadcast,“ he added. “You get calls, especially in this area because we’re not in the city and there are people out there that don’t even get TV. They are sitting there listening to the radio. I’d get calls from people who would be sad or depressed. You would realize they were just like you and remember when you were sad and when the radio was your only connection. How they touched you and suddenly you realize you are touching other people. It’s really special that way.”
These days, broadcasting has taken a temporary back seat to his first love, performing live music. He has decided to take the format of the Shady Grove Show and perform it on stage.
“I’m doing a lot of old time music, gospel and originals,” Prestegard said. “I have a dobro, a banjo, guitar, bass, ukelele and a mandolin all on these stands around me. And I run a looper, a recording device that you can run on stage. I can literally pick up a guitar, start a verse, sing the first verse, hit the button, pick up the banjo, add the banjo, hit the button, add a little dobro in. and then I have all these instruments coming back in real time. It sounds like a whole band coming back at you.’
“I prepare a little bit,” he added, “but mostly I like to lay it down on stage so people can see what I’m doing.”
He’s booked solid for the summer. He does most of his performing out of town but will come home to play gospel and old time music at the Wahkiakum County Fair this summer for Senior Day. For his home performances, he prefers to donate his time.
“I’m just the neighbor here. I’m nothing special,” Prestegard said. “That’s what I do for the community.”
“I’ve been lucky enough to open for Bill Monroe. I’ve played for David Grisman and his family. I do lot of touristy kind of places on the water.”
In the 80’s, he played in a band called the Coal Creek Boys. He played banjo and mandolin. The band played all over Oregon and Washington for about 10 years. And he says they even got the chance to perform their old time bluegrass on a local TV show.
“I’ve done jazz and rock and dance stuff,” he said, “so it seems like I’ve come full circle, back to where I started with my Shady Grove Show.”
“My heart is Americana music. I buy American instruments, American gear and I learn American songs.”
Back in the 80’s, he attended a Pete Seeger/Arlo Guthrie show in Portland at the Schnitzer with his daughter. They waited outside the theatre for two hours, remaining after other fans had given up, when Seeger and Guthrie walked out the door, carrying their guitars.
“It was 2 a.m.,” Prestegard said, “and they were walking the three blocks to their motel with their guitars on their back. No cab, no limo, no bus. We walked with them to their motel, singing ‘May there always be sunshine, may there always be mama, may there always be me.’”
It’s obvious he shares an ambition with Guthrie. He continues to play the old “back porch America” music as he calls it, to keep it in people’s memories.
“Arlo keeps the old traditions alive, the old music alive. You don’t even know who these people are any more their songs are so incredible. He’s keeping all this music going.”
Looking forward he hopes to continue in broadcasting in Portland or Longview, but he isn’t limiting himself to radio.
“Just like broadcast TV, radio is getting pretty old and outdated,” Prestegard said. “satellite TV and radio or internet TV or radio is where it’s at. So I’m investigating that. My ideal would be to get on satellite or internet radio. I think I would like to work for an app or a satellite radio company.
Born in Longview, Prestegard was raised in Cathlamet on Irving Street.
“At one time, every house I could see was a relative,” he said. “I’d be seven years old and grab my fishing pole and a worm and head for the Columbia River and go fishing by myself. Crazy stuff. My uncle Melvin Irving was the mayor of the town for a while and the captain of the ferry for decades.
"When I was nine, he handed me a shotgun and a fistful of shells and pointed towards the woods. I thought he was nuts. I knew he was nuts. He gave me that shotgun when he died. First gun I ever fired.”
Look for Prestegard at the fair this summer or find him on the schedule at the Astoria Sunday Market website. He will also be playing a few gigs at the Wet Dog in Astoria.