The Radio Rose of Texas by Derek Burroughs, jr.

 

Chapter 2: ”I went ahead and did it.” Olga Patricia, founder and administration.

Updated on February 26th, 2007.

 

About Don Pierson, founder of Radio London and the Olga Patricia Stations[1].

 

Beginnings in Texas

 

”...there wasn’t anything that a Texan couldn’t do, that a Texan couldn’t do better than anyone else. A Texan could do it better because Texas was known to be ”number one” in big ideas.”...

 

”Texas was the land where your word was as good as your bond if you were among the ”good ole boys...””Back in the days when (they)ruled Texas...they had...cash, lots of cash. They were ”THOSE TEXAS MILLIONAIRES” bannered on the front cover of Time magazine.”[2]

 

However, when Eric Gilder first met Don Pierson in 1981, his impression of Pierson’s Eastland home was that it was no mansion: ”His home was modest, and inside that home I found a comfortable, yet modest lifestyle. Don Pierson was a quiet, warm and friendly person, with an equally quiet, warm, and friendly wife.” This was the man that turned British broadcasting upside down from 1964, and Gilder says he wanted to know Pierson’s story:

 

EG(Eric Gilder): ”How did an investor in banks and automobiles become fascinated with offshore radio?”

DP(Don Pierson): Well, one Sunday, I was sitting here in the sitting room, and was reading the Dallas paper[3]-we had just returned from England and Europe from a holiday. And the paper said something about this guy Ronan O’Rahilly from Ireland(who)was going to put together a radio station aboard ship and call it ”Radio Caroline” after President Kennedy’s daughter[4]. And I mulled about it all afternoon, then that evening late decided I was going to England(again).So, I got he family up out of bed, went into Dallas.(and) caught the ”red-eye”(flight) into New York. Our passports were about expired so we got new passports, and that afternoon we’re on the plane into England, and got there that night.”...

”For the next few days, I(endeavored to)pay the children I think, 50 cents an hour to listen to the British Radio programs but after a day, they quit. They said they couldn’t stand an hour of a violin solo and an hour of a woman singing an operetta without the accompaniment of music.

EG:”Given that these two stations[5]what motivated you to suddenly get your family together at a moment’s notice, and fly to England to investigate this story in person?””Well, it seemed like an opportunity for true ”laissez-faire”, which is free enterprise. The few times I'd turned the radio on and listened to British radio I'd been bored up the wall. The more I thought about it, and I thought of the free enterprise radio system in the United States and what it brought to the people over here, that it would also bring pleasure to people in England. And this offered a vehicle, if it were possible to do, to bring both a pleasure to England, plus make a capitalist profit ... I knew nothing about commercial radio, nothing about shipping.[6]

 

Don Pierson was born in Abilene, Texas on October 11, 1925 of parents Rice and Hazel Pierson. He graduated from Abilene High School in 1943 and served with the US Army Air Corps as a gunnery instructor during the World War II. He took a degree at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene while working as a car salesman, and later attended the University of Texas in Austin.

  

In 1946 he acquired his first car dealership, a Dodge-Plymouth agency in Comanche.

 

 

Postcard showing Eastland, Texas in the 50s. Unknown source.

 

Moving to Eastland, a small western Texas town of 3,000 people, near Fort Worth, he opened his second dealership in 1953, Don Pierson Olds-Cadillac, with several showrooms. He went from there to establish a number of other automobile dealerships in the Lone-Star State including the brands of Volkswagen, Hillman, Renault, Triumph, Jaguar, Porsche, and BMW.

 

He tirelessly boosted his new hometown, and in 1957 reopened the long-closed Eastland airport, renaming the small grass-strip field "Eastland International Airport." Later, in the 1970s, he became the first person to land a jet aircraft in Eastland. Pierson was elected mayor of Eastland in 1960.

 

Eastland found itself in the headlines when, as president of the local Rotary Club, Mr. Pierson managed to convince the Deputy Soviet Ambassador to the USA, Vladimir Alkimov, to appear as the featured speaker of the club's weekly meeting - at the height of the Cold War[7]. 

 

In 1963, he established U.S. Telephonics, the world's first computer telemarketing company. With a number of Abilene business leaders, he founded the Abilene National Bank (now Bank One - Abilene) in 1964 and served as the bank's first board chairman. He went into Cable TV and seems to have had a stake in Eastland County Broadcasting Co owning the local AM station KERC 1590.

 

 

From Broadcasting Yearbook, 1969.

 

He attracted once again world headlines when, as mayor of Eastland in 1964[8] he convinced his fellow council members to ban all smoking in Eastland with a mandatory three-year jail sentence for offenders. This was meant as a humorous response to the Surgeon General's Commission negative stand on smoking, the Eastland anti-smoking decision proved quite prophetic, even if it at the time generated a flow of negative mail from angry citizens from tobacco-growing states.

 

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

 

Don Pierson. ©Eric Gilder. Used with permission.

 

To the North Sea

 

In 1964, Pierson was sitting at home when he read press reports about the start of Radio Caroline.

 

Sensing a business opportunity, he immediately the day after brought his wife and children on a flight from Dallas to London. From a Hilton Hotel room there he started planning the introduction of radio in the American style to British listeners.

 

When in London Pierson chartered an airplane to circle the two pirate radio ships that were anchored off the Essex Coast until July 3rd, 1964[9]. ” Both Don’s son Grey and his sister Marilyn were paid to stay at the Hilton and monitor the radio. He also tried to contact Ronan O’Rahilly of Radio Caroline without success.

 

In the interview, Don Pierson says he paid "the children" "fifty cents to listen to the radio" .... then he talks about flying over the ships to see where they were and he mentions having a camera to take pictures ..... and then he says "when I got back" ... the children were bored listening to the radio because of what was being broadcast and they refused to listen any more.

 

 

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

 

The original Radio Caroline on the ”Fredericia” anchored off East Anglia photographed by Don Pierson in June 1964. This picture and the following is of the "better" pictures. Others are barely of use on the print but you can make out the shore and the distance to the ship. ©Eric Gilder. Used by permission.

 

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

 

Radio Atlanta on the ”Mi Amigo” anchored off East Anglia photographed by Don Pierson in June 1964.

There must have been fog or low cloud the day the flight was made and if Don was flying and taking photographs with a non-professional camera it is no wonder that the shots are not of the best quality. ©Eric Gilder. Used by permission.

 

But there may have been more flights later, when the Fredericia had sailed to the Isle of Man as Grey Pierson comments: ”I was there and I took pictures. We circled the ship low a couple of times so that we could get a good shot of the antenna from the side – this allowed Don to determine the height of the antenna by comparing it with the length of the ship as listed in Lloyd’s Registry”, and I was given a transistor radio and notebook to monitor both the new illegal "pop" stations and the BBC. To my 13-year-old American ear, Caroline was pathetic, but the BBC was torture.[10]

 

In spite of a large wave of music innovation enhanced by such groups as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and many others, the BBC monopoly of the broadcasting media effectively denied much of the new music access to the airwaves and British teen-agers were missing out on much of the new rock and roll revolution.

 

Pierson was quite unimpressed by UK broadcasting to say the least and subsequently returned to Texas and talked to fellow car dealers about investing in a new offshore radio station.

 

With the aid of good co-workers Pierson bought a former US Navy minesweeper, Galaxy, (originally the Manoula (Greek for ”mother”).  Philip Birch, who was appointed to head the British side of the operation, wanted to name the station Radio Galaxy.  He was overruled, so they named the ship the Galaxy as a consolation prize[11]),  anchored it nearby the other stations, and in December 1964 Radio London, ”Big L” made its first broadcast broadcasting pop music into England. It soon became one of the most successful radio stations in history, attracting over 18 million daily listeners at its peak.

 

For the first time, millions in the UK heard the American format of top 40 radio, complete with jingles, commercials, news and weather on the hour, and even religious broadcasts.

 

Five years earlier, other Texan entrepeneurs, Gordon McLendon and Clint Murchison had gone to Sweden with a similar goal. Their visit there resulted in the establishment of the Swedish offshore station Radio Nord[12]. Now, Radio London's output was, like Radio Nord, inspired by the catchy style of Gordon McLendon’s KLIF in Dallas, and shop set up in 17 Curzon Street[13].

 

 

Postcard from the 40s? showing Radio Nord, Radio London and Olga stations roots: Cliff Towers Hotel at 329 E.Colorado Boulevard in Oak Cliff, Dallas, TX. Its basement was the home of Gordon McLendon’s KLIF 1947-1950. KLIF later moved to 2100 Jackson Street  and then 2120 Commerce Street, in downtown Dallas.(©Gilder) Unknown source.

 

 

 

 

December 12th, 1964. Radio London(Don Pierson planned it as Radio KLIF London) is test broadcasting off the Essex coast on 1127 kc and in Dallas the ”mother” station has the Beatles ”She’s a Woman” as #1 in the ”Forty Star Survey.” From Steve Eberhart’s ”History of KLIF” © with permission.

 

Two additional ship-based stations, Radio England and Britain Radio followed in the spring of 1966.

 

 

Radio greetings from Texas. Post card from the 60s. The studios of the classic stations KLIF 1190 and WRR 1310(also transmitter site) are not far away. Unknown source.

 

But in Mid-August 1967 pirate radio came to an end with the passing of the Marine (Offences) Broadcasting Act.[14]

 

Pierson remained almost totally unknown to the British public, as he was a quiet, and modest man, even if he could be exceptionally enthusiastic and friendly. But in some circles he was well-known visionary business innovator, communications pioneer and civic leader.

 

But his efforts helped to break the BBC's monopoly on broadcasting and opened the way for legal commercial radio in 1973. But already in 1967 the UK government, compelled by the huge popularity of the pirate stations subsequently demanded the BBC to put a fresh approach to its programmes and networks, Radio One being a result.

 

 

Meet Waddles...Leisure activites of the Pierson family, London, June, 1966. Daily Mirror, Tuesday June 28th, 1966. From ©Hans Knot’s archive.

 

An entrepeneur in many fields

 

The same entrepreneurial spirit was present in Mr. Pierson's other business ventures. They included oil companies, farming and ranching, construction companies, a cable television network, home banking, a department store, a bowling facility, restaurants, and a slot car raceway.

 

His greatest projects, though, were tax-free enterprise zones in the Caribbean.

 

In 1967, Mr. Pierson was contacted by the Haitian Ambassador to the United States and asked to assist Haiti in its efforts to encourage business investment in that poverty-stricken land. After years of research and negotiation, M. Pierson's idea of a privately financed, and -managed free enterprise zone became a reality in 1971 when Haitian dictator Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier and the Haitian government entered into a 99-year contract with Mr. Pierson's company, Dupont Caribbean Inc., to estabish Freeport Tortuga on the old buccaneer stronghold, Tortuga Island, located about 10 miles off the north coast of Haiti.

 

Within 18 months, Mr. Pierson succeeded in building the island's first airport, a loading dock for seagoing vessels, a rudimentary water and sewer system, an electricity generating facility, and six miles of paved road. The project created jobs for approximately 400 previously unemployed Haitians and resulted in the establishment of a small school to teach various job skills.

 

 

 

The later failed Tortuga project in the Wall Street Journal of December 21st, 1971. From ©Hans Knot’s archive.

 

 

Tragically, the project came to abrupt end in 1974 after it had been announced that Gulf Oil Corp. was contemplating investing more than $300 million to build a resort on the island. The government of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier then summarily expropriated the project, resulting in its collapse.

 

He served as Honorary Consul of the Republic of Haiti to Texas from 1969 through 1974.

 

In 1979 he planned a similar scheme in Dominica to be called New Hong Kong. He agreed terms with the Dominica government to license banks and casinos, but also this scheme collapsed.

 

He re-entered the field of broadcasting in 1981 when he founded KVMX-FM in Eastland.

 

Mr. Pierson was a longtime member of the First Presbyterian Church of Eastland.

 

 

 

Don Pierson: ”I went ahead and did it.”

©Eric Gilder. Used with permission.

 

Don Pierson became 70 years old. He died on Saturday, March 30th, 1996 after a long illness. His brother Ryce Pierson Jr. was already dead then. His survivors are Annette Pierson, born Grubbs,(married in 1948)son Grey Pierson of Arlington; daughter, Marilyn Van Zandt of Arlington; sisters, Betty Culver of Abilene and Doris Broadwell of Tampa; and two grandchildren, Lauren Van Zandt and Trevor Van Zandt, both of Arlington.

 

His funeral was from Eastland Memorial Cemetery at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday April 2nd, 1996, in the chapel of Bakker Funeral Home in Eastland. Officiant was The Rev. Henry A. Grubbs. Memorials could be sent to Eastland Memorial Hospital Volunteer Auxiliary or a charity of choice[15].

 

William(“Bill”) Vick, the first Mananging Director of the Olga Patricia operation[16].

 

 

It’s Mr.Vick, Mr.Greville. May 1966. From ©Hans Knot’s archive.

 

Larry Dean on Jack Nixon.

 

“He was involved in the initial promotion of the station. I don’t know a heck of a lot about him. If my memory is correct, he had been in insurance. He was a heck of a nice guy-a very bright man. And we got along very well, but really I don’t know that much about him.[17]

 

I never set out to be remembered. By SRE’s first program director Ron O’Quinn.[18]

 

I am still amazed that SRE/Britain Radio are still remembered after all these years.

 

I did indeed work as Jack Armstrong at WFUN 790 in 1965/1966 and again in 1968/1969. I came to WFUN from WLCY 1380 in  St. Petersburg/Tampa, Florida  where I was Jack E.Rabbitt.

 

 

WLCY 1380 flyer from 1965 featuring Ron, alias Jack E.Rabbitt. From ”Uncle Ricky’s” fabulous site at www.reelradio.com/gk/wlcy.gif

 

After Radio England I also worked at WUBE 1240 in Cincinnati, OH, WYLD 940 in New Orleans in 1967. I was National Program Director of the Rounsaville Stations and sent back to WFUN in 1968. I came to KYA 1260 in San Francisco(1970). I hosted a nationally syndicated oldies show called Rock & Roll Reunion in 1988 and 1989.

 

 

 

Ron O’Quinn as “Jack Armstrong” while at WFUN Miami in 1965. From www.teddwebb.com

 

Here are my "musings" from the past. I still stand by everything that I wrote.

 

Foreign owned businesses should indeed be managed by locals. I believe that Don Pierson was responsible for a lot of the failings of SRE and Britain Radio[19]. Don seemed to have "an axe to grind" with Big L[20]. Don knew absolutely nothing about running a radio station, but he insisted on imposing his will on my programming[21]. As he was fond of saying to me "it is MY money." Actually, as I later found out .... it was not his money. It was the money of other investors. Good people like Bill Vick.....a true gentleman[22]. Don had the ability to sell people on what he was going to do, but usually he changed his mind about halfway through the project[23].

 

For instance: The ridiculous Swingin' Radio England party at the Hilton.(which has never been paid for)  We needed equipment to be able to do what needed to be done. We needed promotional money for write in contests and we needed monies to hire British jocks. Instead we got a party![24]

 

 

Guest list at ”The party of the year”, July 28th, 1966. From ©Hans Knot’s archive.

 

And without consulting me, or anyone else (including Bill Vick) we got a group of new  American jocks that Don had hired.

 

Don was also the person who hired the Public Relations firm that claimed to be a "sales team”.[25] That group could not have sold prostitutes in a Mining Camp much less advertising[26]. Paul was absolutely correct in his assertion that we needed things to talk about. We did the best we could under the circumstance. We had the poorest "on board" facilities of any of the "pirates"[27], but we also made huge gains in listeners in a very short time. The well-known picture of the original jocks in the Radio England control room was taken only a couple of days after the ship arrived off Frinton.

 

When I first saw  the Olga Patricia in Miami I asked Don where the turntables and cart machines were. He said that we couldn't use turntables because of the rough seas. I told him that we had to have at least two even if we were going to use reel to reel tapes for our music. Obviously, we would have to have a way to record the songs onto tape. I also told him that we could not use Carousel units in the control room with a live show because of the noise the units make. He then allowed me to order cart machines and turntables. I also asked for, and got, Collins control boards because of their reputation for rejecting RF. When some of the air personnel from Big L and Caroline applied for jobs with us I then found out that of course they used turntables.

 

When the ship arrived off Frinton the new equipment arrived within a few days. Rick Randall and I installed the boards, echo, turntables, etc. Neither of us were licensed engineers, but I knew how I wanted it to perform. We encountered a lot of problems with R/F which caused us much grief. The R/F problem manifested itself in many ways. One of those ways really affected the programming sound of the station. The R/F would make the cart machines "run through" the cue tones. The R/F also made the cart machines ignore the start button sometimes. So if you called on a cart machine it may or may not start and it may or may not end. Try running an intelligent show with that anchor around your neck.

 

 

Ron O’Quinn while at SRE. Publicity photo for Swinging 66. From ©Hans Knot’s archive.

 

I really feel that UK radio progressed at an unbelievably fast pace because of offshore radio, and that includes SRE and Britain Radio.

 

I am always amazed that people all these years later still remember the names of the jocks from SRE and Britain Radio. As I have said many times. It was just a job. Other people worked in garages, dug ditches, farmed, fished, etc. while I, and others, worked on the radio. I never set out to be remembered...... I merely worked for a living doing something that I enjoyed doing. When I quit enjoying it I simply changed what I do for a living.

 

I am pleased that I helped start Johnnie Walker and Roger Day in their careers. I tried to teach them what little I knew in a short time. I hope that some of it has been of use to them in their respective careers.

 

”Don’t you know...Boss Jocks play much more music!” Ron O’Quinn interview[28].

 

”My father was an airforce pilot and my father moved us all to the airforce base near Moultrie, in south-west Georgia. I started my career in high school in Moultrie, when I was 16 at WMGA and they are still doing now what they did then.

 

 

WVLD Valdosta, GA was Ron O’Quinn’s second station. From www.angelfire.com/ga2/charlierowejr/early.html

 

I went to college and worked at WVLD, which got me into Top 40 radio. We had to listed to Top 40 popular music at night-time on the big 50kW stations that we could hear from Chicago, Nashville, etc. But our local stations were doing the same thing that was happening in England during the mid-60s. It was horrible radio and you had to know when to listen. They offered light music at breakfast time and gospel music later on because we were in the middle of the Bible belt. Then we would have a teen show late in the afternoon followed by dinnertime music again. It was basically a block format.

 

I served time in the military at Fort Smith, Ark, and travelled from there to Daytona Beach, Fl. where a station in Tampa heard me, called me and offered me a job. So I went there and was extremely lucky and had high ratings. Then WFUN in Miami called me and offered me a job and I was program director and disc-jockey there when a guy called Don Pierson appeared at the door one weekend in February, 1966. He was one of the movers and shakers. Texas Senator John Tower was involved and it was rumoured that also Mrs.Lyndon Johnson was involved.

 

 

 

Jack Armstrong, or Ron O’Quinn in a WFUN 790 contest. From www.angelfire.com/ga2/charlierowejr/early.html

 

I was a young 23-year-old guy at the time and my major-market radio experience had been limited to Tampa and Miami. But Don talked to me about going to England and put the most powerful AM rock n’roll station in the world on the air. We were going to put two 50kW transmitters on a ship off the coast of England, but when we got going we couldn’t get the power up the way we wanted to. Still we broadcast with a lot of power on AM and nighttime we covered from the southern tip of Africa and well into the Soviet Union because of the salt water.

 

I flew over to Portugal and met the ship there. It had served in the Korean War and then it was sold to a company bringing bananas from South America. It was in pretty good shape. In London I stayed at the Hilton for about six weeks before we went on the air and I had newspaper and TV reporters tracking me down from America as well as in England. I hired Larry a couple of weeks after arriving in London.

 

At the time, the British population was very young because it was only 20 years after the Second World War had ended and the majority seemed to be war babies. It was felt that because the Americans liked British music, then the British should like American radio because Britain was really hurting for radio. I thought that Top 40 radio should work there.

 

I didn’t really like what was going out from Caroline and London. Some things were quite good and a lot should be different. Record Mirror did a nationwide write-in poll and at the time Radio England had been on the air for two months it wound up with 13 million listening on the island which thrilled us immensely. That was quite an achivement to come from nowhere.

 

I couldn’t believe radio was controlled by the government.

 

I absolutely loved England, the people and I would have loved to stay there. The people were all for us as well as the record companies. But the politicans were against us. And the British postal service despised us because we got reams of letters.

 

We had a whirl of publicity because all of a sudden we are the Americans coming to England and it was probably because the British press thought that the money that we made was going out of the country which with hindsight was not a good thing. But some of the press was positive.

 

I came back from the Beatle tour in 1966, which I covered with Kenny Everett from Radio London, a wonderful guy and was stopped at immigration at Heathrow. They informed me that I could come into the country and quit my employment with Radio England or I would have to pack my bags and quit Great Britain and to commute to the ship from somewhere else. They gave me three weeks to do this. The company publicist decided that we could use this to our advantage by saying that Jerry Smithwick, Larry Dean and myself had been fired, which was ridiculous because it wasn’t the case. We knew that the end was coming because the government was insisting that the pirates would be put out of business. So the only thing we could do was to come back to the States. I had several offers, and chose WUBE in Cincinnati.

 

TV Interview, with Ron O’Quinn, May, 1966[29].

 

Interviewer Michael...(M.)”...off for one week on shore. Their Programme Director is 23-year old Mr.Ron O’Quinn. It kind of struck me you’re very young to be a Programme Director. How did this come about?”

Ron O’Quinn(ROQ): ”...ah...Quite an odd thing, Michael. I was working in Miami at a radio station in Miami and I was approached one Saturday afternoon by a gentleman I’d never met before who wishes to remain anonymous. In fact I haven’t seen him since and asked me how I’d like to come to England which struck me as being quite funny...lived quite happily in Miami with the weather etc. And after explaining to me about Radio England it seemed quite a challenge so here I am.”

M.:”Why...did you want to go to sea?”

ROQ:”...I didn’t really wanna go to sea, but he British Government wouldn’t allow us ashore so there we are again.”

M.:”Why have we got 2 stations onboard the ship?”

ROQ: ”There is a definite opening for a station of Britain Radio’s calibre because of the fact that we aren’t competing with really anybody except that we’re playing music about 20 hours a day continous live music for the housewives and people that do not want to be bothered by the dj on the air, have a listen to a dj etc. We’ve got background music ready for them.

M.:”What about the other station?

ROQ: ”Radio England will provide a definite competition to the existing offshore stations in fact we’ll be on the air 24 hours a day. We hope to have a completely different sound from what they have, we’re gonna stress personality all the way.”

M.:”Will it be pop, basically?”

ROQ: ”Pop, yes.”

M.:”This is quite an enterprise. How much does it cost to set up the station?”

ROQ: ”In excess of 1 Million Pounds”.
M.:”Where does that sort of money come from?”

ROQ: ”From British, Canadian and American Investors.”

M.:”You can’t name any of them?”

ROQ: ”No, I certainly can’t.”

M.:”Well you probably know the Postmaster General I don’t think takes a kind view of pirate ships at the moment. What’s your reaction to the fact that you may not have more than a year to live?

ROQ:”Ah..well, actually, I think it’ll be around 18 months from, I understand before any action really is put before Parliament. And Governments mean Governments no matter whose Government it is their...from..may take a little longer than 18 months....if we have to move out they’ll probably extend the limit to 12 miles out and with our power we still won’t be bothered too much.”

M.:”Will you still be able to cover the entire country from 12 miles out?”

ROQ: ”I wouldn’t know about that. I am not an engineer but I hesitate to answer that because I don’t think we would. Still be able to cover our definite area which is London.”

M.:”From what you say...stay one way or the other.”

ROQ: ”Yes, and we have an alternative plan..if England falls through we have an alternate plan.”

M.:”From another country?”

ROQ: ”Yes”.

M.:”How worthwhile is it for you to defy possible Government legislation from stop you being here?”

ROQ:”I think as you already know, the existing offshore stations made quite a lot of money. We only have in excess of 300000 Pounds committed before going on the air so we’re here to make money of course. We’d like to make friends with it, but money is the real answer and it’s definitely here to be made.”

M.:”But aren’t you reliant on British shores for provisional issues?”

ROQ: ”Ah, not really, we’re relying on Holland. Our tenders are from England, but pick up our supplies in Holland.”

M.:”Would you move to Holland if you were banned from our shores?”

ROQ: ”No, I don’t think so...I don’t know really ”Plan B.”

M.:”Pirates off other shores have been boarded before today by other governments. Will you be prepared to repel boarders?”

ROQ: ”Certainly not, I’m not a fighter.”

(Short aircheck w. ROQ:

”This is SRE”

Jingle: Positive charge

15 mins after 8’o’clock MMM time this is David Ballantyne.)

M.:”The Queen’s Speech at the beginning of the present Parliamentary session ignored the radio pirates. But the All-American feel to this the largest pirate ship yet, with these American djs and American Money is unlikely to do the pirate cause any political good. Although for the time being it certainly means fiercer competition.”

 

Over to Ben Toney, advisor in 1966:

 

 

Radio Britain. TV Mail, April 17th, 1966

 

”I missed the last year of Radio London and I left because my contract had run out which lasted for 18 months and I hadn’t been home in all that time...I’d done what I wanted to do....

Before I left England, Don Pierson approached me and he knew that I was going back to the States soon and would I help his program director for a couple of months and get him introduced to people in the business over here. He offered me a pretty good salary to do it so I took it. I didn’t do very much for them other than just introduce Ron O’Quinn around to people in London...

I think one of the reasons that they were not so successful and I told Don Pierson when he brought Radio England over was that he had too many American voices on it. At that time in the mid-Sixties I didn’t think the English would take to it. He thought that they had really become Americanised so he went on the air with it. But there were other problems that they had with it that caused them to fail and also it was coming to the end of that type of broadcasting in England. So if he had had more time or he could have competed with Radio London. When Laser came over later on they had over six million listeners and they had quite a few American voices on that. Other than that I really don’t know really.”[30]

 

 

Part of a letter from Keith Prowse Music Publishing Co.Ltd/The Peter Maurice Music Company Ltd. to Ben Toney just after he arrived back in Texas. The letter is dated June 16th, 1966. From ©Hans Knot’s archive.

 

And then it is over to Tom Danaher who set up Radio London with Don Pierson and also gave him some assistance on the Olga Patricia project.[31]

 

Well, it all started when I was an automobile dealer and got involved in the cable TV business. I had applied for the cable TV franchise for Wichita Falls in the state of Texas. Another dealer from Amarillo, a city in the same state, by the name of Don Pierson, who was also chairing the board of the Abilene National Bank, had just recently obtained the franchise for Abilene. While talking to him about my application, he told me that he wanted to join me as a partner. Combining both franchises would be very lucrative and I agreed to do so. I had already been before the city council and the council had decided to consider my proposal for the franchise. So, for their next meeting I told Don to come over — he lived about 90 miles away in Eastland.

 

On his way to Wichita Falls Don read a big article in the Wall Street Journal about Radio Caroline, describing how successful the station was. In just its first month the station netted about eighteen thousand pounds, at least according to Ronan O'Rahilly who was quoted in the paper. Don let me read the article as we were sitting in my office and he said he thought that this was interesting stuff. We started talking about it and in the end we decided it was a good deal. I had some knowledge of ships — during the war I was a Navy pilot and I flew off aircraft carriers — and Don had his connection with the banks that could help us financially. So we thought it might be worth looking some further into the thing. So that is how it came off the ground.

 

Our agreement was simple. He would take care of everything that could tear — the money and the contracts. Everything that could bend — the technical and mechanical part of the operation — would be my responsibility. He persuaded his group of friends to invest in the project and I got a group of my friends to do the same. After we talked about it, Don decided to go over to Britain, which he did. He hired a plane and flew around Caroline's ship a few times, taking pictures. He investigated about the organization and, sure enough, it was doing really well. While he was away, I decided to find out where we could buy a ship for our own....

 

I was not involved in Radio England from the very beginning. For Radio London Don and I had done all the work. I sometimes tend to downgrade how much work Don did, because he would go around and entertain the people while I was sweating on the ship. But he did his part of the job. Anyway, we were putting our money in, pro-rata, with all the other guys whenever it was necessary. So when Don and I got together we thought that we had taken the brunt of this thing and we had earned our share. But nobody had suggested that we should have a bigger interest in it. So we asked ourselves: why don't we start another ship? We had the books on Radio London and it was a fantastic success. Going out and raise more money for another ship would be easy.

 

So I approached Bud Dillard, a very wealthy oilman and one of my good friends whom I had brought into Radio London — I know that he would have probably taken the whole thing himself. I asked him, because after Don and I had talked about this other ship, Don suggested that we would do it the same way again: he would take everything that could tear and I would take the ship and all that. But I said: "Yeah, Don, but on this next ship you are going to give me some help this time. I am not going to do that whole damn thing by myself again. Either that or we are going to provide help for me and then we'll have to bring Bud into it. He will handle all the financial ends and with him it will be easier to get all the money together that we need. Then I'll have all the labor that I want."

 

So we called a meeting again in my office that lasted all afternoon. We all got the opportunity to say what the proposal would be. But Don kept saying: "Well, Tom, I feel that we should go ahead and put an easy listening station and a Top 40 station on her." I said: "You mean we are going to play thirty minutes of Top 40, then thirty minutes of good listening music, or what?" But he meant two different stations on the same ship. I asked him how he intended to do that with only one transmitter. I said: "We are going to have to house two different frequencies." He said, that was correct and that he was talking about two 50,000 watt transmitters. I countered, that this was ridiculous considering all the trouble we had with Radio London's transmitter, getting it ready to load. You could not even turn the lights off on the ship. There was so much energy that a fluorescent tube was already burning when you pulled it out of the box!

 

I told Don, that I did not think that it could be done. But he kept insisting on it. I said to him that I would go along when he could prove to me that it would work, and that I definitely would participate when the ship would have only one station and if Dillard would be in the game. That would mean that Dillard and his co-investors would own 49 percent and Don and I would split the remaining 51 percent — so that we both still would have control of the operation. Don, however, kept insisting on two stations. I tried to explained to him that a Top 40 station would be competing with our friends of Radio London, which I did not believe was truly ethical. In the end, as we were in disagreement even before we started, I told him I was not going along with it. Bud Dillard backed me up for the full 100 percent. Don slammed his briefcase shut, got in his car and went off back to Abilene. I did not hear another word from him for some months.

 

About four months later, a friend of mine down at the City National Bank called me and asked if he could bring two men to my office to talk to me. About fifteen minutes later these three guys came by. I knew one of them already, because he was the Chevrolet dealer in Archer City, Texas, which is about twenty miles south of Wichita Falls. The others were Red Livingstone, a big, rich oil driller and his business partner. Both men asked me if I was making any money on that radio ship off England. I told them that I was and that the operation really was going well. They explained that they had been contacted by a guy from Eastland, Texas, who had built a radio ship, the "Olga Patricia", in Miami.

 

The ship was now ready to sail and they wanted to know if I thought that putting any money into it would be advisable. I told them that I could not advise them on that matter and I asked what they had heard about this ship. They said LTV and Continental Electronics had done the job. So I told them the story of Don Pierson and how I had advised against putting two stations on one ship. The only way to do something like that, I told them, was to could get hold of a surplus aircraft carrier and to put a transmitter and a mast at one end of the ship and another transmitter and mast at the other end. It might just work with both mast and transmitters being about 800 feet apart, but I doubted it.

 

A few days later the phone rang and it was Don again. This was the first time we had spoken in four months. He knew I had been meeting the other two men and he told me that the ship was ready to sail from Miami in a few days. He said that it did not look like anything I had put on the Galaxy. Since the arrangement on the Galaxy worked so well and this being different, he was afraid that it would not be as good. As he had to make a $29,000 incremental payment before the ship could sail, he needed a second opinion. Would I do him a favor and come to Miami to look at the construction? Being treated by him the way he had, I was surprised at his audacity to call me up to and ask me to come down to help him. But because of my good-hearted nature, I agreed to go.

 

So I went there, took a look at the ship and, really, it looked terrible. Then Don called a meeting of the people of Continental Electronics, where I would present my findings. We went down to the Du Pont Plaza Hotel in Miami where Don always stayed. Anyway I told those guys that I was not an engineer, but that I had designed and built the antenna on the Galaxy which was still up. Looking at the way they had stayed the mast, I added, it would not last for two minutes in a North Sea gale because of the pitching and rolling. To this they replied that their computer had said that it would be all OK. They said, I just had done it by taking things at face value and probably had made the stay wires much too big. I said them that Don had asked me whether he should pay them the incremental payment and that I had told him not to do so. Boy, their faces just hit the floor. I told them that I was not involved in this thing at all and that I was only here as a friend giving an honest opinion. Before I left I warned them that the ship probably would not make it across the Gulf Stream, because the water can be very rough between Miami and Nassau.

 

They did not listen. They arranged for the ship to be put into Nassau so that they could check that everything was OK, and then set sail to Nassau. After 14 miles from Miami, however the whole construction on the deck collapsed and nearly hit one of the crew. So Don did not pay them. Then Continental Electronics called me and asked me if I would team up with their German engineer and meet the "Olga Patricia" at Ponta Delgada in the Azores. They hired me and put me on their payroll. Don and I went over there, only to find they did not have the necessary equipment. So I left for Lisbon with the ship. Don went ahead of us. When we got there, we worked on it there for about a week and then I left and I went back home. I helped the German engineer and gave the benefit of my experience of building the transmitter. Still, the idea of the antenna was all wrong. To change it for the better was going to be a major delay for them, so we re-did it as best as we could. That still did not make things right. All I heard afterwards was how bad it went from then on.

 

Don had also promoted his venture with some of the friends that I had brought into Radio London — which I did not like. He never told me about it and asked them not to say anything about it to me, because of the falling out between himself, Bud and me. After they got it over here and they could not get it to work, my friends who had invested at least five times as much as they had invested in Radio London, were losing money. After seeing the success of Radio London, they just wrote big checks.

 

Tom Danaher and Don Pierson[32]

 

“My father and Tom were very good friends.  They both were blessed with enthusiastic, friendly personalities, they both loved airplanes, and they were both automobile dealers.  To the best of my knowledge, they first met in the mid-1950s when they were both Hillman dealers (Hillman was a car manufactured by the Rootes Group).

 

My first memory of Tom is meeting him in London in 1957 in connection with a Rootes-sponsored trip for its U.S. dealers; I was 6 years old at the time, and I recall that Tom gave me a model of a Hillman automobile.

 

The friendship between Don Pierson and Tom Danaher blossomed.  By 1960, each had his own Volkswagen dealership (Don in Amarillo, Texas; Tom in Wichita  Falls, Texas), and from time to time they worked on business deals together.

 

When my father came up with the idea for Radio London (after reading a story about Radio Caroline in the Wall Street Journal), the first person he involved was Tom Danaher; in fact, he may have been with Tom when the idea was hatched.

 

After he and Tom were pushed out of the Radio London deal, Don Pierson was resentful of how they had been treated and almost immediately pressed forward with plans for a new, “bigger and better” radio ship.

 

Although there is a difference of memories, it is my understanding that he very much wanted for Tom to have a significant role in this deal.  This didn’t happen; apparently, Tom had been soured by the Radio London experience and, consequently, had a much lower level of involvement in Radio England — but he was involved and did participate.

 

As Tom himself has acknowledged, he was rather actively involved in correcting various engineering problems early in the endeavor.  Although he never received anything, it was contemplated that Tom was to be compensated for his efforts out of the profits of the venture.

 

Notwithstanding various problems, my father and Tom remained close friends throughout the Radio England project.

 

The British Government banned its citizens from advertising on the pirate stations, the station went off the air and the ship returned to Miami (in 1967).

 

Subsequently, well after the end of the Radio England venture, my father and Tom remained close friends and business associates.  I know this to be true because Tom worked with Don Pierson on his next project — a plan to create a free port in Haiti — up until at least 1969.

 

Here’s my point:  If Tom truly believed that Radio  England was a dishonest, unethical deal at the time it was happening, it doesn’t seem likely that he would remain a close friend and business partner of Don Pierson for at least 3 years afterwards.

 

So, why was Tom angry with Don Pierson in connection with the Radio England episode?  I personally know the answer, because I was there when it happened and Tom himself told me.

 

Continental Electronics of Dallas supplied the transmitters and did the engineering work for Radio England.  But the antenna promptly collapsed, the station had problems staying on the air, etc.  Ultimately, the venture failed and Continental didn’t get paid.

 

Consequently, in 1970 they filed suit against all the participants — including Tom Danaher.

 

Tom hired a Dallas attorney to defend him.

 

In 1972 or 1973, the attorney gave Tom the following advice: “If you can get Don Pierson to sign an affidavit saying that you had nothing to do with Radio England and that you would have received nothing even if the business had been successful, I can get you dropped from the case.”

 

Tom jumped at this potential good news.  The attorney drafted the affidavit, and Tom flew out to Eastland in his Beechcraft Bonanza airplane to get Don Pierson to sign it. 

 

Don Pierson refused to do so, telling Tom that, in his opinion, the statements in the affidavit simply weren’t accurate.

 

Tom was understandably furious, but the attorneys for the transmitter factory already possessed evidence showing that Tom was involved, and this alone prevented Tom’s dismissal from the lawsuit. 

 

If Don Pierson had signed the affidavit, it would have wrecked Don Pierson’s credibility at the trial. As it turned out, Continental lost the case.  I was personally there at the time, and my father and I spoke to some of the jurors.  They told us why the transmitter factory lost:  Because the jury believed Don Pierson when he testified that the failure of the venture was largely the result of poor engineering!

 

Thus, it worked out for the best that the affidavit was not signed.  But this is not how Tom perceived it at the time, and I don’t blame him.  Look at the situation from Tom’s position.  He had not been very involved in the Radio England venture; even if it had been successful, his slice of the pie would have been small; it wasn’t successful and he received nothing out of it but a lawsuit; and his own, very expensive lawyer told him that if his friend would sign a piece of paper, the lawsuit would go away.

 

No wonder Tom was furious and deeply hurt when Don Pierson refused to sign the affidavit.

 

Although not appreciated at the time, it was ultimately the correct decision.  But Tom had no way of knowing this, and he understandably was furious and deeply hurt feeling he had been seriously wronged by a person he had trusted as a close friend.

 

Let me add that the friendship did revive in the late 1980s.

 

June 26, 1988 was my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary and I held a surprise party for them.  Realizing that my father had considered Tom Danaher as his best friend, and ignoring the strained feelings between them, I called Tom and invited him to be part of the surprise party.  He accepted, and my father was delighted to see him.

 

This helped thaw out their relationship, and Tom remained close to my father until his death in 1996.

 

To this day, I consider Tom Danaher to have been my father’s best friend, and I personally consider Tom to be my friend as well.

 

Tom Danaher is a fine, good man.  I cannot and will not say anything negative about Tom Danaher.  I appreciate why he felt the way he did.  I am, however, sorry that the relationship between Tom Danaher and Don Pierson was seriously damaged by what I now recognize to have been flawed legal advice.”

 

About Chuck Blair/Jay Kay(Rick Phillips), Radio England General Manager Summer-Autumn 1966:

 

Chuck Blair[33], born Richard Earl Philbrook seems to have come to Radio England in Late July, 1966, hired directly by Don Pierson.

 

His last address in the USA was: Rick Phillips, RFD 1 Nashua, New Hampshire[34]. Chuck seems to have come from WBZ on 1030 in Boston[35], but as his CV[36] reveals, he was also on a number of other New England stations like WMEX 1510, also in Boston.

 

Editor: Could his on-air name in New England have been Jay Kay?[37]

 

Rick’s on air name on the Olga and on the Galaxy was Chuck Blair. The source of this was  a "Chuck Blair" jingle from PAMS Series #30 made for WPTR[38]. The Johnnie Walker and Boom Boom Brannigan Sonovox jingles were from the same origin, see more in the section on jingles.

 

 

Outside of WPTR 1540 QSL card from 1965. Donated by John Sgrulletta of the National Radio Club. http://www.nrcdxas.org

 

About Chuck’s last weeks on the Olga:

 

”We worked together on the ship for a brief time when he was promoted to an on-shore position in the 32 Curzon Street office. He "suited-up" for work each day and I think he was in sales. If memory serves (and it doesn't always) he may have been instrumental in nailing the Weeta-Bix contract. I can still remember that commercial as we often played it on Radio England/Britain Radio. Chuck was a likeable conniver and I always suspected he arranged a life-time supply of the stuff for himself!”[39]

 

”I came to the Olga in November, 1966 hired by Jack Curtiss as News editor and replaced Chuck Blair.”[40]

 

Editor:

 

”Chuck is heard on tape on Radio England on its last day, November 13th, 1966 on the Rock ’n Roll Revival Hour with Mark Stevens and Errol Bruce with the sponsor’s (Keele Insurance) commercial with promises of ”Peace of mind”!

 

On a preserved recording of Radio London test broadcasting on 277 metres, 1079 kc, in the evening of Dec.6th,1966(2200-). Paul Kaye ”having a go on this frequency” announces Chuck Blair doing ”London after midnight” into Dec.7th.

 

He is heard on tape on Britain Radio on December 17th, 1966 on Phil Martin’s morning show on an ”Inter-Cham” commercial. On Bill Berry’s comment above of Chuck as a salesman, on the same show, indeed, Weetabix is one of a decent number of commercials on the show.”

 

”Chuck was in his element on Big L. He made some superb trailers and jingles, and was extremely popular. The station's demise clearly hit him pretty hard, and Chuck was clearly absolutely choked-up when he presented his last breakfast show from 0600-0900 on Aug.14th, 1967.[41]

 

”A few weeks after the closure of Big L, before the start of Radio One, I heard when Chuck made his last ever appearance on British radio on the BBC Light Programme. It was on 'Monday Monday' introduced by Dave Cash live from The Playhouse. On this occasion hanging around the studio were Tony Blackburn, Ed Stewart and Chuck. At some point during the broadcast Dave had a chat with Tony and Ed... Then Dave turned to Chuck and said, "And what have you been doing?" Chuck's reply was, "Well as you heard, Tony Blackburn's been doing 'Midday Spin'. I've been doing all day nothing!" At which point Dave gave an embarrassed chuckle and moved swiftly on. This, to the best of my knowledge, is the very last time Chuck Blair was heard on the UK airwaves. One presumes he did an audition for the BBC but wasn't successful.”[42]

 

”As Radio One was launched on September 30th 1967, this last appearance must have taken place in late August or early-to-mid September....I had a letter from Chuck about being 'off to join Caroline'. This was received on Sept 21st.

 

George Hare, who was the land-based agent for Caroline North, sent a copy of a memo he sent to Terry Bate on August 11th, 1967. It reads: "Here are a few names of disc jockeys who are acceptable. They will be contacting the Amsterdam Office." The memo notes that Chuck, based in Harpenden is,, "On London at the moment. Off about 21st Aug. Salary to be discussed. To contact Amsterdam."[43]

 

I'm guessing that he might have had trouble remaining in the country after he came off the Galaxy. All the visas in Chuck's 1966 passport were for one month's duration, on condition that he did not obtain work. This was not a problem while he was on the ships. Chuck never made it to Caroline, so I wonder what happened? The last customs stamp in that passport is dated Oct '67, either the 7th or 27th, and is franked Orly in France, which presumably is when Chuck left for the States...”

 

Paul Draisey, General Manager of WAGE Radio in Leesburg, Virginia until 1987 tells that Rick/Chuck worked there as a part-time announcer: “What a talent. I knew that he had worked on the "Pirate Ships" of the 60s and had handled some of the early interviews, etc. of The Beatles. After working for us for several years, he left the station and opened a restaurant in Leesburg.” He made the best crab cakes that you have ever had!”

 

Chuck/Rick died in 1989.

 

Editor: Chuck Blair is fondly remembered by many Olga Stations listeners, as well as ”Big L fans”. What a treat it could have been to hear him on the Fredericia in Ramsay Bay with the great talent already on Caroline North fronted by ”Daffy” Don Allen!

 

Jack Curtiss now steps up to the microphone:

 

“This is Jack Curtiss.. formerly  of SRE/BR and original architect of the Radio Dolfijn sound as presented by Look Boden and the other Dutch DJs I hired in Amsterdam in the fall of 1966. I am so glad the memory of  the all-too-brief glorious days of the Laissez Faire still burns vibrant in the hearts of so many fans.

 

 

Pirate Jack Curtiss 40 years ago. Photo: Jack Curtiss.

 

Though I did preside over the closing down of SRE as station manager at the time, the actual decision to set up Radio Dolfijn was made by the owners. I simply had to go to Amsterdam and recruit a staff for the new station and keep running Britain Radio.

 

I was initially assigned the "Bruce Wayne" jingle and used it for a day or two on SRE and then declared I would rather return directly to the states than disappear  under a 'fad" name that would surely fade as quickly as the Batman TV show did. Boom-Boom (Bob Klingeman) as I recall may have also used the Wayne jingle before settling in under the Brannigan monicker. Later just before SRE's demise..someone else used the Wayne jingle package as well.

 

Before I came to the UK I was at WROV 1240 in Roanoke. Though I spent barely two months there (May to mid-July 1966), I was quite taken with the both the station and Roanoke. It was my first experience working outside California. Burt Levine, the station owner, was a true gentleman and I hated to leave so abruptly, but that letter from Pierson inviting me to send an audition tape to Radio England was simply too good to pass up.

 

I do remember telling my later SRE crewmates how very much I enjoyed working at WROV, what a splendid chap Levine was, and how highly I regarded him.

 

In Roanoke, I rented a room from Levine's mother and sister and shared several meals with them in which I was introduced to Jewish cuisine including tasty chicken-liver pate, gefiltefish and matsohball soup.

 

I found what I considered to be "Southern hospitality" alive and well in Roanoke, but then I was a blue-eyed WASP in Dixie. Had I been something else, my impressions could have been different.

 

I would have never in a million years remembered the names of those two WROV morning guys (Fred Frelantz and Jack Fisher) that followed my all-night "Enormous Jack Curtiss Show."  We did some very funny recorded comedy bits together.

 

Jack Curtiss concludes: “In the last weeks of Radio England nearly all my energies were focused on the Radio Dolfijn staff and kick-off that I barely paid attention to SRE at all. I was not on the ship for the final day and have only a dim recollection of those who were..it was sort of a confused time with all the comings and goings in the last days.

 

There were some bad storms as well that had prevented the normal rotation of staff and replentishment of supplies. I remember taking the tender out in near-hurricane force winds and being unable to board the ship..I'd never seen Graham Gill get seasick before but he was down below in the tender tossing his cookies. That day proved to me that I was simply impervious to motion sickness..and with the roiling waves pitching the tender to and fro and the relentless seaspray in my face I had the ride of my life. A treasured memory to this day.

 

Ironically, 15 years after I first stepped aboard the Laissez Faire..I arrived in Miami where I spent the next 23 years close to the waters from which she sailed for England. Now I am in Australia, and have got back the mike at Radio Adelaide.”

 

 

An interview by Tom Brouwer with Jack Curtiss from Telegraaf Friday, November 4th 1966. An English translation by Look Boden may be found at Jon Myer’s Offshore Radio Hall of Fame site at http://www.offshoreradio.co.uk/album9a.htm

 

Basil van Rensburg, from advertising and radio to the priesthood.[44]

 

Basil van Rensburg was born in Woodstock, Cape Town on the 8th of November, 1930. He was sent to a Roman Catholic School even though his parents were not Catholics. At the age of 15 young Basil became a Roman Catholic.

 

 

Basil van Rensburg as parish priest in South Africa in the 90s.

 

When he was 21 he went to a seminary in Pretoria to study for the priesthood. But he was told he needed to do more living first and sent home. He worked as a bus conductor, a sound technician at SABC(South Africa Broadcasting Corporation) and in advertising.

 

In spring of 1966, we find Basil van Rensburg in London, and he is presented in TV Mail as Sales Executive for what was to be a short-lived East Anglia local station called Radio Tower, starting there on April 16th.[45] He is “a 35-year old South African, (with) considerable experience of commercial radio and advertising. He was Radio Manager for AFAMAL, the largest advertising agency in South Africa, for seven years, as well as establishing the agency’s TV Division of Rhodesia. He was formerly a Technical Producer with the South African Broadcasting Corporation.”

 

But then he had already been employed by newly set-up radio advertising arm of Pearl and Dean, Radiovision Broadcast International Ltd. In the spring of 1966, the Managing Director of Peir-Vick ltd. William E.Vick signed an exclusive deal with this company to provide advertising sales for the two radio stations to broadcast on the radio ship ”Olga Patricia” off the Essex Coast.

 

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

 

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

 

Meet Basil van Rensburg in the RBI team. From ©Eric Gilder.

 

Tom Brouwer(above) writes in “Deze zender wordt iets groots”  (”This Station becomes something big”.)[46] about the feverish work to set up a Dutch station on the Texan owned radio ship “Olga Patricia” anchored off the Essex Coast:

 

 “…temporary headquarters has been set up in an Amsterdam hotel. Two Americans and a South African, Bill Vick, Robert Thornton and Basil van Rensburg, are in residence. And it is here that Jack Curtiss plans his auditions, getting ready to recruit Dutch disc-jockeys….”

 

Dick Offringa in a recent posting on Hans Knot’s page has stated he was on audition for Radio Holland in Amsterdam in late October, 1966:

 

“Zaterdag 29 oktober 1966 vanaf 18.00 uur was in Amsterdam ergens in een pand aan een gracht de auditie test voor toekomstige diskjockeys van Radio Holland. Ik was daar toen bij…Met ondermeer Jack Curtis en Basil van Rensburg.”

 

Tom Brouwer continues: “The leaders of the pirates are moving out of their temporary Amsterdam headquarters and are keeping busy leasing an office and looking for staff members. Basil van Rensburg is responsible for the advertising sales and has a truly big job ahead of him.”

 

But Radio Holland was not to be. Instead another Dutch station started on Monday, November 14th: Radio Dolfijn. And Basil van Rensburg seems to have had important roles both onboard this short-lived venture and its successor, Radio 227:

 

 

November 13th, 1966: Radio Dolfijn Perskonferentie in Hotel Gooiland, Hilversum, almost 7 months after a similar venue at London’s Café Royal.  Jack Curtiss is speaking, while Dutch press people are listening. William E. Vick is no.2 from right. Basil Van Rensburg, the marketing director, is on the far right. Photo: Jack Curtiss.

 

 

In the radio broadcast of the Press Conference heralding the arrival of Radio Dolfijn, Basil van Rensburg is introduced as “zakelijk leider” of the station. In the press at the time he is billed as a "zakelijk regelaar" in a picture text in one paper, “bureauchef” in another and "comercieell leider" of Dolfijn in a third.

 

In March, 1967, when Pierce Langford III had gained control of the two radio stations on the Olga Patricia, at Dolfijn’s successor Radio 227 Basil is “Benelux agent” and "Benelux-vertegenwoordiger". Also called a "Dutch representative" and "personal assistant" to John Withers who was Ted Allbeury's man and half-brother of Windsor.

 

 

 

“Radioschip Dolfijn in Zaandam. Geheimzinnige financier(Pierce Langford III) nu bekend.”(Dutch press March 9th 1967, From ©Hans Knot’s archive)

 

Twice Basil was engaged to be married. In his 40s he went to the St John’s Vianney seminary in Pretoria. This time he was accepted, and at the age of 45, in 1975 he was ordained as a Catholic priest.

 

He became the priest for Cape Town’s District Six in 1976. Father Basil became a veteran anti-apartheid activist and was an outspoken critic of the apartheid period's Group Areas Act, which legalized the removal of black people from areas designated for ”whites”. Forced removals of families had commenced in 1970 and the bulldozers were destroying the houses. When Fr.Basil van Rensburg became priest at the Holy Cross Catholic church, the population of District Six had shrunk to 35,000 from a previous population of 60 000.

 

Already in 1966, mr.P W Botha, as the Minister of Community Development had proclaimed District Six as a “whites” area, until then with a vibrant multiracial part of the city with a thriving jazz and street culture. The forced removals and destruction of property were carried out nationwide, but the District Six clearances became a symbol of the barbarism and inhumanity of apartheid.

 

Fr. Basil van Rensburg was there for the community and to be seen wherever the police and the bulldozer were. Of the little that remained of District Six was the church at which van Rensburg was ministering. At Holy Cross he continued to celebrate Mass with his congregation even though they had to travel far to come to their church.

 

In the mid-1980s, The Archbishop of Cape Town, Stephen Naidoo, appointed him to one of the worst parishes, St Gabriel's in the black township of Guguletu where crime and poverty was rampant.

 

Van Rensburg undeterred by the circumstances used his advertising background to make the most out of a bad situation. He made his church a tourist attraction.

 

Many people visited Fr.Basil here, including Nelson Mandela, the presidents of France and Ireland, and Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany. He became a much loved priest by the high and the low. His high profile ensured plenty of financial support for his local church. He used these resources to assists students and he provided a library, research and study center.

 

He worked on a range of programs, including AIDS education. Although he never mastered the language, Father van Rensburg encouraged the development of a full Xhosa liturgy at St. Gabriel's, with music from indigenous African instruments.

 

He spent a sabbatical semester at the Institute for Clergy Education at Notre Dame University in Indiana in 1984. Prior to arriving in the United States, he led a movement in 1983 protesting the presence of uniformed and salaried Roman Catholic chaplains in the South African Defense Force. The protest culminated in Fr. Basil fasting for thirty days and a change in the South African Catholic Bishops' policy. The chaplains were withdrawn from the army.

 

Later at Notre Dame, Fr. van Rensburg again drew international attention when he went on a hunger strike in protest against apartheid.

 

Fr. van Rensburg developed close ties with the parents of a 26-year-old U.S. Fulbright scholar who was stabbed to death in a racist attack in Guguletu in 1993.

 

Fr. Basil van Rensburg died March 28, 2002 in a Cape Town hospital at the age of 71, from complications related to diabetes.

 

The ANC in their obituary said:

 

“It was people like Basil van Rensburg who prevented our struggle against apartheid from becoming a struggle against a particular skin colour, and he prevented religion from ever becoming irrelevant in the search for freedom and democracy.[47]

 

“An old colonel steps aboard.” About the late Ted Allbeury, the last managing director[48].

 

“The intended transformation of(Britain Radio)’s slick “hallmark of quality” style into 390’s cosy fireside chat and carpet slippers image didn’t work.”[49]

 

After re-financing Ted Allbeury and Carstead Advertising were head-hunted to operate the new stations broadcasting since March 16th, 1967, Radio 227 and 355. Allbeury had advised the owners to ”not throw good money out”, and a sum was stipulated by Allbeury as to what was needed to hang out until the end. The conclusion of the Texans was to indeed put up the sum if he would run the station.

 

The Texans had said to him: ” The people that owned the Laissez Faire had been in touch with me on several occasions. Is there something we could do to merge or have you run our operation for us. I liked their attitude. The people that owned that operation really cared about radio. They were Texans mainly. I rather liked them and once I stared working for then I liked them even more.

.”[50]

 

 

Daily Telegraph March 1967. From ©Hans Knot’s archive.

 

 

Ted Allbeury goes from Red Sands to the Olga Patricia. Radio News(in London Weekly Advertiser and National Advertiser) of February 21st, 1967. ”I do hope that(TA)...will still spend Sunday evenings with us as usual over the air-waves at 9pm...”(Mrs.I.Prosser of Luton in Radio News(in London Weekly Advertiser and National Advertiser) of February 28th, 1967.)

 

 

Bill Vick is ousted by the Texas owners and in comes a former Secret Service colonel. Dutch Press from March 15th, 1967. From ©Hans Knot’s archive.

 

The “Captain(s) of your ship.”

 

 

Tender alongside. Rick Randall to the left plus seamen receiving the Offshore 1. Olga Patricia May, 1966. Photo from the Pierson family collection, kindly provided by ©Grey Pierson.

 

 

…and Colin B.Lukehurst, who stayed onboard until the August 1967 close down. From Radio News(in London Weekly Advertiser and National Advertiser), February 21st, 1967.

 

Capt. Lukehurst in the final broadcast of Radio 355 said he had more than 6 months onboard in command of a floating radio station and found it hard to say goodbye. He mentioned these crew members: Chief Engineer Tony Fisher, Jack Wayne, Gerard Nievenhuys, Jan Zaan, Jan de Kersey, Jaap Kokker for all their good work onboard this vessel, also his past crews, especially his agent on shore, Mr. Niles Martin of Harwich. ”We shall all miss the radio personnell on board and I should all like to wish them all the best for the future. With the closing of this station we have all lost the pleasure of listening to 355 and with it just another little bit of freedom and life. To all our listeners goodluck and goodbye.” Later regards to Coast Guard and Walton Lifeboat.

 

 



[1] Sources: Grey Pierson, son of Don Pierson, press release, funeral notice

Fort Worth Star Telegram April 1st, 1996 page 16.

Daily Telegraph – London April 9th, 1996

And these internet references:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Pierson

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swinging_Radio_England

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Agora/5497/X23B-b-piers.html

(©Eric Gilder)

[2] Time Magazine May 24th, 1954: ”Clint Murchison, jr. A big wheeler-dealer.” ©Eric Gilder.

[3] When asked specifically what he was reading, Pierson referred to the Wall Street Journal which he also had available. ©Eric Gilder. Tom Danaher might also have been present. ©Grey Pierson.

[4] Don Pierson and many other people was led to the impression that the name of Radio Caroline was inspired by a photograph of Caroline Kennedy playing in the Oval Office. The actual fact is that the picture was of John Kennedy jr. The Caroline name must have another source.(©Eric Gilder)

[5] Editor: Radio Caroline South and Radio Caroline North were the names at this stage after the Caroline/Atlanta merger in June 1964.

[6] From reconstructed interview(2001/2006) with Don Pierson(Sound recorded in 1984.)( ©Eric Gilder)

[7] Grey Pierson comments: I believe this took place in 1961 or 1962.

[8] On Jan.14th, 1964 per Year diary in Swedish Naer Var Hur 1965.

[9]  Of course, as is well known, on the day before Radio Caroline on the ”Fredercia” and Radio Atlanta on the ”Mi Amigo” had merged and the ”Fredercia” sailed to Ramsay Bay to become Caroline North.

[10] Our source comments: ”It is possible that better shots than the initial ones were also taken by Don Pierson and given by him to either Tom Danaher or Bud Dillard or one of the other original Radio London investors in an attempt to explain what he had observed during his initial investigation.(Gilder.)

[11] Comment by Grey Pierson.

[12] For Sewe Ungermark’s ”Radio Nord-the true pirate story”, go to http://www.ungermark.se/mediaradionordeng.html

See also http://www.samlaren.org/radionord/

[13] For more about KLIF, go to http://www.northernstar.no/klif.html

Also look up Steve Eberhart fantastic History of KLIF site at

http://www.historyofklif.com/

Don Pierson:

”...the top station I was aware of was KLIF in Dallas. And I was simply going to copy their format, since it was so terrifically successful. And that would be simply a ”Top 40” format of the most popular music, and brief news and brief weather.”

”...”I found out that(Gordon McLendon)had in years past put together a similar radio ship off the coast of Scandinavia, I believe it was Sweden, but he was very helpful in the suggestions that he gave me.”

...”I’d never met Gordon McLendon, but he was very helpful in the suggestions he gave me...(on)engineering, and...programming and (on) the highly successful ”jingles” that KLIF was using. He told me...there was this company called PAMS, and a Mr.Bill Meeks. So I simply went to PAMS...there in Dallas, and I told him I wanted to order the same ”jingle” packages they had sold KLIF, that were so very successful.”(©Eric Gilder, p.83)

Bill Meeks was PAMS’ founder. The story of how he became associated with Gordon McLendon and then formed the world famous PAMS jingle company(The four letters in the company name stand for Promotions, Advertising and Merchandising Services)may be found at Steve Eberhart’s History of KLIF at

http://www.historyofklif.com/

[14] Gilder asked Pierson on his feelings in that respect, and if he saw a way to save the stations he had founded from extinction: ”being an American, I felt like it was ill considered, but it was kind of interesting (too).I contacted...the Head of the Post Office department and the telecommunications department, and suggested that, in lieu of that Bill being passed, that they simply grant us a temporary license of twelve months, and we’d bring the ship into British jurisdiction. In fact, I suggested the Thames Estuary, whereas we would tie it to a dock, use local power and pay for it. At the end of twelve months..., both the ship and all the equipment on it would become the property of the British Government. But he response we got back was simply that the British Government was opposed to free enterprise radio as we were offering it, even though they recognized that it was what the British public wanted. And they felt like it would compromise their stated position of being opposed to uncontrolled, American style radio to accept the offer. It did kind of surprise me that they turned it down.” (©Eric Gilder, p.85-86)

[15] Sources: Grey Pierson, son of Don Pierson, press release, funeral notice

Fort Worth Star Telegram April 1st, 1996 page 16.

Daily Telegraph – London April 9th, 1996

And these internet references:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Pierson

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swinging_Radio_England

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Agora/5497/X23B-b-piers.html

(Eric Gilder,©)

[16] Does anyone remember if Bill Vick ever did broadcast?

[17] From an interview with Larry Dean in ©OFFSHORE ECHOS #126, May 2002.

[18] A new version for this essay originally published on Paul De Haan's website http://www.marinebroadcasters.tk/

[19] Grey Pierson comments: ”As the person who put it together, Don Pierson was obviously the person most responsible for the station’s successes and failings.  However, the most serious problem, in my opinion, was the station’s inability to stay on the air for any consistent length of time, and this problem was caused by poor engineering. As a consequence, Continental was never fully paid for the equipment and subsequently filed suit against the Radio England principals in Dallas. Continental lost the suit because the jury was convinced that faulty engineering was a key factor in the failure of the station.”

[20] Grey Pierson comments: ”This is true. He was the creator of Radio London, and he resented being cut out at the very point the station began making serious money.”

[21] Grey Pierson comments: ”He clearly knew something about it, since he created Radio London, hired the program director, personally selected the jingles, etc.”

[22] Grey Pierson comments: ”Unfortunately (since the station was not a financial success), a significant portion was his money, although most of the money came from others.  Regarding Bill Vick:  I personally liked Bill Vick, as did most people who met him.  He was vibrant, robust and charming. However, he was not a businessman.  Prior to Radio England, Don Pierson had personally enjoyed a number of major business successes.  Had he not established a track record of business success, he could not have attracted investors to the Radio England venture. The investment that Bill Vick made in Radio England came from his wife, Dorothy Mead Vick, who was a childhood friend of my mother.  Dorothy’s money was inherited from her father who had owned Mead’s Bakery, a company headquartered in Abilene, Texas.”

[23] Grey Pierson comments: ”My experience was otherwise.  I found him to sometimes stubbornly stick to a plan even after it became clear that the plan should be changed.”

[24] Grey Pierson comments: ”The purpose of the party was to ”jump start” Radio England and generate attention by having a large number of celebrities attend.  In retrospect, it was a bad idea.”

[25] Grey Pierson comments: ”No, he didn’t.  The firm of Pearl & Dean was hired by Bill Vick without the knowledge or approval of Don Pierson. Ron O’Quinn is correct about their incompetence, and my father was furious with Bill for signing a contract with them. Bill was impressed by their pedigree as a fine British firm.  My father was disgusted by their laziness and incompetence.  This was a major source of friction between Don Pierson and Bill Vick.”

[26] Grey Pierson comments: ”Don Pierson would have surely agreed with Ron on this.”

[27] Grey Pierson comments: ”In terms of living accommodations, Ron is probably right.  The Olga Patricia had been a freighter with few staterooms, and the carpenter was kept busy trying to build bedrooms in the hold.  Regarding equipment, I think Ron is incorrect.  The studio facilities were fully assembled modular structures that were dropped into place.  As I recall, they were much nicer than the facililties that were installed in Radio London.”

[28] Parts of Steve England interview in ©OFFSHORE ECHOS #117, April 2000.

[29] From ITV/Anglia TV, May, 1966? Supplied by Martyn Webster.

[30] ©OFFSHORE ECHOS #112, November,1998.

[31] From an interview with Tom Danaher by Franćois Lhote

http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/VOLUME04/Tom_Danaher.html

Also published in ©OFFSHORE ECHOS #114, May 1999. See also ”The day I attended the funeral of Don Pierson”. A postscript to Tom Danahers's memories of Don Pierson by ©John England.

http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/VOLUME05/Postscript_Pierson.html

[32] By ©Grey Pierson, son of the late Don Pierson, March, 2006.

[33] Most of the Chuck Blair information in this essay comes from the Radio London website http://www.radiolondon.co.uk where you can read the full Chuck Blair story by Mary Payne. Used by permission.

[34] ©Eric Gilder.

[35] From Steve Young, who did 12 midnight to 6 on Radio Caroline South in those days.

[36] The following detailed CV was received by Mary Payne in 1967 from Chuck's Fan Club Secretary.)

CHUCK BLAIR 1967

BIRTHPLACE: Boras, Sweden. Chuck's family moved to Swampscott, Mass., when he was three years old.

AGE: 31

RELIGION: Methodist

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS:

Caucasian, light brown hair, hazel eyes

Weight: 14 stone. Height: 5ft 10ins Build: Stocky. No physical handicaps.

Present address: Harpenden, Hertfordshire, UK.

EDUCATION: Tracy Grammar School (diploma), Lynn Classical High School (diploma), University of Maryland (BSc. degree), Northeast School of Broadcasting (cert.), NY School of Theatrical Arts (cert.), Emerson College of Drama and Broadcasting (post-grad degree).

MEDIA EXPERIENCE: Began broadcasting aged 17, for Armed Forces radio.

Announcer: WKVT, WKIX, WHAV(Mass), WBZ, WMEX.

WSJR, (anncr, PD, Gen. man), CKBC (Canada)(anncr, Ad man, Prod. man).

CBS Network NY (advertising, production).

WBZ radio and TV (TV compere, anncr, sales and advertising).

Radio England (anncr, Gen. man), Radio London (staff anncr).

OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS

Appeared in several off-Broadway productions, including 'Stalag 17', 'The Caine Mutiny' and a self-penned three-act play; was on TV coast-to-coast hosting teen pop show 'Where the Action Is'; awarded '8th best announcer East' by Billboard mag; award by BSA for voluntary youth service work, Johnson & Johnson Advertising Award 1964; Gillette Advertising Award UK 1967.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS & PERSONAL

Plays piano (professionally), bass, vibes and drums. Speaks Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Italian. Has had several short stories published and has written many articles for British magazines. On the Youth Service Committee of Harpenden Youth Club. Member of Harpenden Conservative Club. Friends have nicknamed him 'Chuckles', because of his consistent smiling and friendliness.

HOBBIES

Dogs, bridge and cooking exotic foods.

MUSICAL TASTES

Beatles, Beach Boys, Four Seasons.”

[37] If you look carefully in TV Mail for Augsut, 1966 reprroduced in the essay, Jay/Chuck is mentioned as the actual compree at the Hilton ”Party of the Year” on Thursday, July 28th, 1966.

Jerry Smithwick: “Jay Kay was probably the name that he was using in the U.S. just prior to coming to England. That would not have been unusual since O'Quinn was working in Miami as Jack Armstrong; Frank Laseter was in New York State working as Larry Dean; and I was in Gainesville, Georgia working as Jerry James. Often times in the US a DJ got a new name when moving from one radio station to another. O'Quinn and I simply decided to use our real names…” “I do have faint memories of Chuck. I remember that he was a very likeable guy and…artist extraordinaire…I remember that while on the ship, spirited conversations occurred concerning some of the claims that Chuck made regarding what he had or had not done while in radio in the States!” (Information on http://www.radiolondon.co.uk )

[38] For reference, check out http://www.560.com/html/pams_numbered_series.html

[39] Bill Berry. (Information on http://www.radiolondon.co.uk )

[40] Dave Gilbee. (Information on http://www.radiolondon.co.uk )

[41] Mary Payne. (Information on http://www.radiolondon.co.uk )

[42] Peter Young. (Information on http://www.radiolondon.co.uk )

[43] Mary Payne. (Information on http://www.radiolondon.co.uk )

[44] From the website of Andre Rensburg

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Rhodes/1266/historical-District6.htm

and the Catholic News Service

http://www.nd.edu/~com_sens/issues/old/v16/v16_n6.html#obituary

[45] TV Mail, April 15th, 1966.

[46] “Telegraaf” Friday, November 4th 1966. Translated by Look Boden.

[47] http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/pr/2002/pr0403.html

 

[48] http://www.offshoreechos.com/Ted%20Allbeury.htm

[49]  ©Robert Chapman, p.152.

[50]  ©Steve England.