The Radio Rose of Texas by Derek Burroughs, jr.

Chapter 1: Texan Radio takes to the air in Europe. Attempt of a diary of the Olga Patricia stations.

Part 1.

Updated on February 28th, 2007.

Winter and Spring 1966

 

January 1966: A meeting in the Abilene State National Bank.

 

“The Laissez Faire saga began in a meeting in the Abilene State National Bank in Texas in January 1966. Local business people believed that Britain could be shown a thing or two about running radio stations and that there was money to be made. Their enthusiasm was fired by Mr.Pierson, the bank’s persuasive, backslapping chairman, who two years earlier had helped to launch Radio London, and then been ousted in a power struggle. Mr.Bill Vick, who was in the bakery business, but had also been in oil and banking, was appointed to go to London to get things moving.[1]

 

 

Post card of Abilene, Texas in the 50s.

 

January 1966: Pearl and Dean sets up RBI.

 

The advertsing agency Pearl and Dean sets up Radiovision Broadcasts(International)Ltd(RBI) to represent 44 commercial radio stations owned by ABC International TV, Inc. in Britain and the Continent, and through Bill Vick, they add SRE/BR to their portfolio as exclusive sales representatives. Don Pierson very much disagres with this move[2].

 

Thursday, April 7th, 1966: The Olga Patricia leaves Biscayne Bay.

 

“New York, Friday.

A new pirate radio ship designed to work in the North Sea off the English coast has been fitted out in an atmosphere of almost wartime secrecy at Biscayne Bay, Miami, I learned today. She left there yesterday for Hamilton, Bermuda and is expected to leave immediately for Lisbon. The vessel, the Olga Patricia, 480 tons, a wartime landing craft later used for cargo-carrying, is owned by a syndicate of British and American businessmen. Their identities have not been revealed but it’s understood some backers are Texans. The Olga Patricia underwent an expensive refitting operation since she was moved to Miami from the Panama Canal Zone three months ago. Workers on the ship said a ”considerable” sum was spent to turn the ship into a floating radio station. The ship’s transmitting equipment is said to be able to send two programmes simultaneously. The owners are believed to be planning two separate stations, one for rock n’roll, the other for ”good” music[3].”

 

 

Dade Drydock Coporation, Biscayne Bay, Florida March 21st, 1966: A ship called the Olga Patricia is equipped with an antenna mast atop the existing mainmast. This antenna fell down in the Atlantic. ©Eric Gilder. Used with permission.

 

 

Dade Drydock Coporation, Biscayne Bay, Florida March, 1966: A large mast is lifted from the quayside onto a ship: “We had a large crane that actually lifted the studios and dropped them down into what had been a cargo hold on the ship. There were two of them, so they dropped the studios down in one hold and the transmitter down in the other, sealed the deck, put a generator on top of it, and of course, the antenna on top as well.”(Rick Randall[4]) ©Eric Gilder. Used with permission.

 

 

 

Early April, 1966. The Olga Patricia tied up at a dock just before she left Florida with the original antenna that collapsed clearly visible: It is a massive cable stretching all the way to the top of a swinging beam at the top of the mast itself. Attempt of making a sloping antenne?-Editor. ©Eric Gilder. Used with permission.

 

Thursday April 1, 1966. Miami News: "Jolly Roger Pirates to Pipe Music Ashore": The first major story about the birth of the radio ship.

 

“A "pirate" radio ship planning to start beaming programs into Britain in the next few months is being secretly fitted out in Miami. ... (then a lot of text about the reason for the station, Radio Caroline and even the UK wireless license set fee)…

 

“In Miami, the Olga Patricia's program director, a man named Ron, has been quietly hiring disc jockeys. The news came out when station WFUN announced one of its DJs, 38-year-old Jack Armstrong had quit to join the London venture.

 

(Then there is a lot more text about djs and the article continues):

 

The 480-ton Olga Patricia was built in 1944 as a landing craft. After the war, she was sold and converted to a tramp freighter, plying the Caribbean. She still flies the Panamanian flag. She was brought to Miami three months ago from the Panama Canal Zone and taken over by the syndicate. She has been converted and painted black and white.

 

Spokesman for the syndicate is a chunky, personable Texan named Don Pearson (sic, this is the spelling used by the newspaper). His only reply to inquiries about the ship is that it is being "fitted out for oceanographic research." Pearson, who is also the mayor of Eastland, Tex., (pop. 4,000), added, "We will have a statement to make in June."

 

No one is allowed on the ship, tied up at the Dodge Island seaport. But someone who met "Ron" said: "All of the initial contacts with the djs were made by phone. They weren't allowed near the ship until they signed contracts.”

 

"I get the impression the owners were trying catch Radio Caroline by surprise and were very anxious to avoid any kind of publicity. It's certainly a powerful operation. There are three huge generators aboard, one for each station plus a spare. All supplies will be brought by boat from the mainland to the ship when the station gets going."

 

Crewmen yesterday loaded huge coils of copper tubing aboard. Other equipment lay under green tarpaulin. The few crewmen…on the afterdeck refused to talk about the ship. A high-ranking US Coast Guard officer said: "We have long been aware of the ship's presence and what has been going on. But it is outside our jurisdiction."

 

The owners had hoped to have the Olga Patricia started on the 4,000-mile trip to England this week. But a salvage expert who has been doing work on the ship said: "They're going to be disappointed. The mast still needs work and the ship will have to be inspected by the American Bureau of Shipping before she sails.”

 

"I would think she''ll be stuck here for another three weeks.[5]"

 

 

Two more on the way. Daily Telegraph April 20th, 1966. From ©Hans Knot’s archive.

 

Wednesday April 20th, 1966: The Café Royal Press Conference.

 

”Our broadcasting reporter” in ”The Times”, reported of a press conference the previous day at London’s Café Royal[6], which was chaired by Mr. Jack Nixon(50), and Mr.William Vick(40)respectively Chairman and Managing Director of Peir-Vick Ltd[7].

 

One of the subjects was the coming operation’s ”dramatised news bulletins.” When Mr.Nixon was challenged on this, a PR aide suggested this meant ”more emotional than the BBC.”

 

More generally, Mr.Nixon stated that ”…as you have to know the taste of an apple before you can describe it, so you have to hear the new sound before you know what it means.[8]

 

 

”Let’s get cosy”, …in front of ”an apparently washed-out Union Jack.” a somewhat sarcastical description of the Peir-Vick Press Conference in presumably Daily Telegraph, April 21st, 1966. From ©Hans Knot’s archive.

 

NY Times International Edition, April 20th, 1966. Pierson Family archive, provided by Grey Pierson.

 

 

April 26th, 1966 press cutting from Glasgow Evening Times about a “dual channel” “pirate” radio ship. From ©Eric Gilder. Used by permission.

 

 

 

May 2nd, 1966 press cutting about a “multi-million dollar radio ship.” From ©Hans Knot’s archive.

 



[1] ”The Texan Pirates” Daily Mail, Friday, April 7th, 1966

[2] WPN&Advertsers Review April 22th, 1966. ©Eric Gilder. Used by permission.

[3] Ian Balk, Daily Telegraph, April 8th, 1966

[4] ©OFFSHORE ECHOS  #143, March, 2006.

[5] From Eric Gilder. Used with permission.

[6] This led back-benchers of Labour to express worries in Parliament that Tony Benn was refusing to take any action against the stations. The PMG published a written reply: ”There is nothing I can do at present to prevent these two stations from broadcasting. That is the problem. However, as the house knows, legislation to give us certain necessary powers will be introduced by the government as soon as the legislative timetable permits”. The MP for Meriden, Christopher Rowland, replied that the Parliament’s schedule was full until October 1967:

”I think the need is urgent in view of the fact that these two stations will represent the most serious breach yet of the internationally agreed system of wavelength alllocation. The longer action is delayed, the more difficult it will be to take it.”

On April 29th, 1966 the Sun wrote: ”Pirate radio stations transmitting off the British Coast are safe for a year at least. No legislation to prevent them broadcasting will be introduced this year-and probably not until adequate alternative local broadcasting services are available. The Cabinet’s Broadcasting Committee are to make a report on broadcasting by the end of the year.”

[7] Spelt this way on stationery and on the ”Swinging 66” tour booklet, but as ”Pier-Vick” on ”Radio England/Britain Radio Station Information”. The company was formed on March 11th, 1966 with an issued capital of £2, and liquidated exactly a year after, with over £100,000 loss on Radio England/Dolfijn and Britain Radio. See also ”The Texan Pirates” Daily Mail Friday, April 7th, 1967.

[8] “The Times.“ April 21st, 1966. See also Peter Knight in Daily Telegraph, April 20th, 1966: ”2 more pirate radios on the air soon.” An investment sum of 1,450,000 is indicated here.