The Radio Rose of Texas by Derek Burroughs, jr.

 

Chapter 4: Inputs from and on Olga Patricia broadcasters.

 

”This is Rick Randall.[1]

 

 

”WLCY Tampa-St.Petersburg ‘Swinging Gentleman’ Rick Randall in front of the Newsroom board (He says it was a "Yard") and mike with an Ampex reel-to-reel in the background - Photo taken in either 1966 or 1967.

 

My first time to work with actual studio equipment was in a closed circuit AFRTS facility in a military hospital in North Dakota while I was recovering from surgery there. My commercial broadcast career began while I was still wearing an USAF uniform at a radar site in central Montana.  When I was discharged, I accepted my first full time civilian radio gig at a great, but unstable station, KUDI, in Great Falls, Montana.

 

After a year, I placed a classified ad in ”Broadcasting”, not knowing Don Pierson had contacted this magazine for talent to broadcast from the Olga Patricia, while the ship was still anchored in a harbor in Miami, Florida.  He told me he came across my name in the ads. He called me and asked if I was interested in going to England. The same day I got on a plane and went down to Miami.

 

Though admittedly terribly "green" at the time – I was the first presenter as you call it to be recruited to join Swingin’ Radio England and Britain Radio.

 

I was in Miami with Don, helping to put together the studios and transmitter facilities for the ship for about 3 weeks before we set sail on the Olga Patricia.

 

When Ron O’Quinn came along it was clear that he knew radio a whole lot better than I, so he was the natural leader. It was great working with him and he was a wonderful friend as well.

 

Don had originally planned basically an automated operation, but when Ron joined, he didn’t fancy that, wanting to play records as a dj. Therefore plans were changed, and we put in turntables and a Collins mixing board with large round knobs. We had a rack manufactured where we put our commercials, IDs and jingles on tape carts.

 

We left Miami in a hurry because a Miami Herald Reporter was nosing around the dock, and as Don didn’t want to get tied up in any legal problems, we ”got the heck out of Dodge.”

 

Jerry Smithwick and myself were on board, while Ron flew to London to make arrangements ahead of our arrival.  

 

We ran into a storm our first night at sea, causing our antenna to come crashing to the deck with an eerie, reverberating sound that echoed throughout the steel hull of our vessel.  The seas were pretty rough, and I found myself thinking that I might not make it through the night without giving up my supper.  But that did not happen, and the next day the weather calmed down considerably, and most of the rest of our journey was quite pleasant, with some ”rock and roll”.  It took, I believe, 11 days before we saw land again, stopping in the Azores, where Don had arrived by air and rented a taxi to give us a tour of that beautiful paradise.  Then, because of the damage to our antenna, we diverted to Lisbon where we enjoyed an unscheduled holiday, while engineers crafted a new mount and design for the antenna and secured it in place before our voyage north to our final destination. I remember it was cool and wet.

 

The finishing touches were also put on the studios and transmitters. As I had been a radar technician in the USAF, I knew a little bit of wiring simple equipment. There is some movie footage of me wiring the control panel, which was what I was doing when we sailed over.

 

All the while at sea, I noticed the ship listing to the port side by what I would guess was at least 3 or 4 degrees, which seemed odd at first.  But then I realized it must surely have been because of a huge, bell shaped anchor Don had acquired in Miami and strapped to the deck along the port railing. I thought at the time, it was big enough for the Queen Mary. Don explained to me that the Radio Caroline ship had suffered the fate of a bad storm in England in January and consequently had broken free of its anchor and washed up on shore.  He was determined to make sure that would not happen to us.  Finally I concluded that once we reached our destination and dropped it, it would probably never be raised again.  I bet it is still there, a sort of silent monument to the American Pirate Radio invasion that shook the British and European airwaves.

 

On shore leave there was hustle bustle and a lot of activities going. I stayed in an apartment in Berkeley Square with four flat-mates. I went to ”The Party of the Year”, and remember going to the Hilton and being surrounded by a huge crowd clamouring for autographs. It was kind of fun to feel like a star for a little while.

 

I also did a lot of touring around the Continent, to France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland.

 

But I was a long way from my family and decided I wanted to go back to the USA. I was the first presenter on board, but also the first to leave. I was getting kind of burnt out from what we were doing.

 

I remember getting a letter from my mom reminding me that school would start up in the fall, so I got on thinking maybe I should return to the States and get into college. Later, I went to the University of Florida.

 

Ron helped me into work with a legendary station in the 60s, WLCY Tampa-St.Petersburg 1380. I was working at first for a buck and a quarter an hour, until I was put on the full time payroll at $80 a week.

 

I did news in the evening shift opposite one of the several Jack E. Rabbitts (Gene Pope) who worked there (one other of them you well know - Ron O'Quinn!), followed by Swingin' Sweeney (Rick Morgan), and put on my "Swingin' Gentleman" hat on the weekends.

 

After my time at WLCY, I came to WFLA 970 also in Tampa, where I was the mid-day personality between 1969 and 1972.

 

Other Florida stations I worked at: I spent a couple of years at WGUL when it was a New Port Richey AM/FM combo and 5 years at WTAN in Clearwater (also 96 Fever and Magic 96 FM) with Rick Bruce as my on-air name. I also was on 1470 when it was WWQT ”Newsradio 1470” in the 80's with my current employer Bud Paxson – (when the Home Shopping Network was conceived), and News Director when it was operated out of West Pasco as WFNN.

 

I also got first taste as a country jock at its sister station called "Your Country 106", WVTY-FM.

 

My last on-air assignment ended in 1992 on 570 WHNZ in Tampa where I was again in the newsroom.

 

Besides around Florida (including Gainesville, St Augustine and Panama City), I also worked in Thomasville, Georgia(with Larry Dean); Allentown, Pennsylvania; Toledo, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; KGA in Spokane, Washington; and of course Montana, where it all began in 1964.

 

I've been working off-air with Paxson Communications (newly renamed ION Media Networks in 2006) since the early ’90’s, though no longer on-the-air as what you call a ‘presenter’.  Instead I am now in network operations at our satellite uplink for PaxTV (also renamed the ”i” network (meaning ”Independent”), in Clearwater”.

 

I’ve got some programmes on the air called Worship for Kids. Those are the only programmes on the air that I am aware of are on the air anywhere where my voice is still heard, and I am the ”Voice of God”. I feel like you can’t do much better than that.

 

From an American point of view, and as one who was involved in the pirate radio events of the mid-60s, it is quite unexpected indeed to find there is still interest in our adventures back then, and to learn how radio and broadcasting has evolved since. Nothing like the pirate era has ever occurred in the US, and few Americans are even aware such a thing ever happened. 

 

I have always regarded my few months in the North Sea being part of the staff of "Boss Jocks" as unique and unforgettable.  It was a privilege to have been a part of it.

 

”The Larry Dean show”[2]:

”I’d known Ron O’Quinn since 3rd grade, in the small town of Hazlehurst, Georgia, where we had the same elementary school teacher. My family then moved to Moultrie. Then, about the 9th grade, Ron’s family also moved there, so we caught up with each other again. But Ron got into radio first, at WMGA Moultrie. When Ron left and they had an opening, he said: ”You’ve got to go for this”. I got a part-time job working at night-it was my senior year at high school.

 

Later Ron and I were both working in Tampa. I was at WALT 1110, ”Tiger Radio”. We had a real live Bengal tiger kept in a cage. The station would send it round to Esso stations-”put a Tiger in your tank”. But the tiger keeper got himself jailed, and the general manager of the station called me in, and wanted me to go to Orlando to take care of the tiger. I told him, ”No Way”. I got fired. But they gave me a great reference.

 

I’d been up at WPTR Albany for about a year when Ron called me and said: ”What do you think about being a pirate”. I’d read about pirate radio, and it fascinated me. So I said, sure. I think that prior to Ron, only Rick Randall had been hired. Then Jerry Smithwick was hired.

 

Ron had flown to London to get things set up. I flew to London about a month before the ship got there. We spent a lot of time talking to promotion and record people, just trying to get the contacts within the industry. Before the ship arrived, Ron and I did most of the sights in London. We would do our promotion rounds, and then we go and take the tube and see what we could see. So we saw a lot of London and I really enjoyed it. I had a great time. The food was marvellous-the restaurants in London can’t be beaten. They had such a variety, it was superb. On land we had an apartment in Wimbledon not far from Ron.

 

In the centre cargo hold of the ship were dropped the 50 kW transmitters and big diesel generators for AC power. And in the forward hold, a prefab studio set-up was just dropped in. No crew facilities or living facilities were put in. So we have a full crew of announcers, go out to the ship and there’s no place for us to sleep. They brought in some little canvas cots, which we had to put together. Jerry and Rick were lucky, they went over with the ship and had a stateroom together. The rest of the ship was occupied by crew. They eventually built decent facilities later on. But it was pretty bad to begin with[3].

 

When the ship arrived none of the equipment had been tested. We had steel cable stays on the mast and insulators on the cables. We put the transmitters on the air, and within a week all the stays had been burned-they would arc around and just burn the insulators and just burn the cable in two. At the point I left, the mast was just sticking up-there was nothing holding it up, other than the base.

 

I was not used to living on a ship and being at sea. The first month or so, I ate very little, and what I did, usually went over the side. It was a strange situation because you had all the beer you could drink, and all the cigarettes you could smoke. But you were so seasick all the time.

 

The reaction to the radio station was very good. I think I saw some figures that within the first month or two, it was up to 3 million a week.

 

But ”The Swinging66 Tour” was a disaster. Nobody seemed to know what was going on. In Birmingham we were using wireless mikes on stage. But the local police were apparently using the same or adjacent frequency. Our mikes would pick up some of this stuff, and about halfway through the show, they made us stop using them. Apparently we were coming through on their radios as well. After the show, we went out to a local club, and a woman comedienne came on and began doing a parody of what we had done on stage earlier that evening. It was really, really funny. Jerry and I stood up and bowed. They invited us to a party after hours. We partied about half the night and had a great time.

 

The organisation became worse. Decisions were made without full coordination. Management were brilliant at making money, but had their limitations in running a radio station.

 

We began to get the idea that we might go back when Ron got his immigration problems. But after thinking about it for a while, it was another month before we actually left. Bale out before any problems.

 

I went back to Tampa and ended up working at a radio station in Thomasville, GA. Within a few months Ron and Jerry also started working for the stations in same area. We stayed there for a couple of years. Later I was at WQTR in Whiteville, North Carolina where we did an AOR format.”

 

 

This is the radio station of News Director Frank Laseter(since 1993), aka Larry Dean ex Radio England, Country Station WSOC Charlotte, NC. 103,7 FM. Illustration from http://www.wsocfm.com

"They wanted us to sound slick, pacy and fast"[4]

 

Roger Day started his career in 1966 on the MV Olga Patricia as a deejay with Swinging Radio England — a.k.a. BOSS Radio — and stuck it out to the end with that station.

 

How did you become interested in radio?

 

What got me going was listening to Radio Veronica. I didn't know what it was and I didn't even know it was on a boat. I used to live in south-east England and Radio Veronica used to bounce in. There were no English stations apart from Radio Luxembourg, and Radio Veronica was playing music and it was great. I only found out later that it was on a boat when I started working for the stations themselves. At school I was known as Juke Box Joe because I was so besotted with the radio.

 

Radio Luxembourg and Radio Veronica did deviate from what you heard on British radio in those days?

 

Well, in England it was two record shows a week and when I listened to Radio Luxembourg I thought that I'd like that job because I love music and I really did want to play it. I guess I was about 13 and I had no idea of how you went about it. I practised with a tape recorder in my bedroom.

 

In 1966 a group of American businessmen started two radio stations on the MV Laissez Faire: Swinging Radio England and Britain Radio. How did you get involved with them?

 

I had sent some audition tapes to Radio Caroline and Radio London and, like everyone else, I was rejected. I met Dave Cash, who worked for Radio London and I asked him whether there was any chance of a job on the boat. He said that it was unlikely because I had no experience but there was a new station starting up run by Americans who'd just flown in that day and were staying at the Hilton Hotel in Mayfair and why didn't I go and see them. So with my girlfriend, we went to see them and they asked me what I wanted. I told them that I wanted a job and because I was the first English person they'd had, they said I could have one[5]. They didn't know whether I was good, bad or indifferent!

 

Some of the other guys on Britain Radio were Brian Tilney and Colin Nicol. I heard, that Brian Tilney also hadn't done any radio before ...

 

No, Brian was a bingo caller! Good qualification! I used to be an accountant and Johnny Walker was a car salesman and, apparently, that's why they picked us because they didn't want us sounding like the other English deejays who they thought were bad. They wanted us to sound slick, pacy and fast like the Americans and they wanted to teach us how to sell like they do and I'm very grateful because I never got into the bad British habits.

 

American style radio was introduced to Britain by Radio London. Swinging Radio England was meant to go even beyond that. Did you have to listen to tapes just like the Radio London jocks did to learn the trade the American way?

 

Yes, we listened to tapes from WFUN in Miami and I'd never heard American radio until then and I thought it was superb and they wanted to sound like that. Swinging Radio England is still one of the best stations there's ever been.

 

 

 

WFUN survey from October 25th, 1964, from http://www.las-solanas.com/gallery.php The coming radio ship Galaxy has just left Dade Drydock in Miami, bound for San Juan, Madeira and the UK. Almost 1 1/2 years later WFUN disc jockey Jack Armstrong hears a knock on the door by Rick Randall representing a man called Don Pierson who soon will have another radio ship ready. He also started the first...[6]

 

Swinging Radio England and Britain Radio were created by some of the Texan backers who had broken away from Radio London. Among them was Don Pierson. So Pierson had also been involved with Radio London. Was that fact known to the staff of the station?

 

Well, I didn't know and it was only later on that I found out that he'd set it up and they'd done the dirty on him.

 

Did Don Pierson or Bill Vick often visit the ship?

Bill Vick not so much, but Don Pierson was always on. He'd come on with his wife and every time he came on, he'd ask to play "The Yellow Rose Of Texas" which was hardly the sort of music we played. Well, Britain Radio did! They were fabulous characters, just like you see in Dallas, if they wanted it, they bought it.

 

How big was the cultural gap between the British and the American deejays?

They didn't understand us, but I don't think we understood them either. It used to really annoy the American deejays, who used to work for really professional Top Forty radio for years. They were better deejays than Johnny, Brian and all the other guys, including myself. But who was getting all the mail? We were! Simply because we were English and the English are always strange about foreigners.

 

How were the conditions on the MV Olga Patricia when you first went on board?

It wasn't really ready when they came over and the first place I slept was in the mess room. There used to be a big refrigerator and we thought it had been a body boat from the Vietnam war. We were convinced there were ghosts on board. Friendly ones, though. I slept in the toilet, the bathroom and I think just before I left, they built the cabins.

 

You made your programmes for Swinging Radio England. Did you also do any programmes on Britain Radio, as the station was airing from the same ship?

 

Yes, I did. But I don't think any tapes exist, thank God! I was a rock 'n' roll fan and I didn't like doing the "Hello, This is Britain Radio" in a posh voice.

 

Much has been said about the concept of BOSS Radio. They didn't understand Europe very well, though, did they?

 

Not really. They heard Radio Caroline and Radio London and they thought those were crap and that they could do it better. I have to agree. Compared to what we were doing, these other stations were boring. We moved, we were pacy. I think, we were too early. The station was at least ten years before Britain was ready for it, and that's why we didn't pull in a great audience. They made some wrong decisions with frequencies but, even to this day, it was still a great radio station,

 

The ship was equipped with a Carousel unit. Was it difficult to use?

 

Well, this was one of the first stations to have automation. I mean, you have it now, but we had it in 1966! I used to sit in the studio, at night and watch this thing go round with announcements that "This Is Britain Radio", etcetera.

 

Apparently the Swinging Radio England organisation hired an advertising agency that, before that time, had only sold advertising in cinemas?

 

And they weren't very successful for us. That was another bad decision. They made a lot of bad decisions. They had new ideas but they didn't come off.

 

The Radio England broadcasters were expected to read the news on their sister station Britain Radio and vice versa. Was it difficult for you to read the news?

 

Yes, we had to read the news over this jingle backing and trying to read as fast as the music. The weather one was the fun because it used to have a countdown in it so by the time it got to 1, there was a big explosion and off into some music. I used to be so nervous doing it that I read it that fast that I'd finished by 8!

 

The types of music aired by the offshore stations were different. What can you tell about the music of Swinging Radio England?

 

We used to play things a lot earlier. A lot of stuff was American and we were always the first with Motown Records. A lot of the young people liked us for that. We played a lot of Beach Boys too, which was great, and we were way in front of everyone else. The trouble was, we used to drop things before they were released in England. Musically, we used to be very quick and had a prediction chart like Radio London, but we were way ahead of them.

 

How was the BOSS Fun 50 compiled?

 

Sometimes by me! I thought that a record was good so I put it in. Never mind research. Research is the biggest enemy of radio.

 

You all shared the same tender with Radio London? How did you all get on with each other?

 

Well, on-air we were rivals but off-air we were all friends. We would get stuck in Harwich so we'd have a few beers. The first time I met Tony Blackburn was when we went out on the tender. Now this is a man I listened to and he was a god to me.

 

There was some rivalry , though, as the jingles of Radio Swinging England were stolen by Radio Caroline and Radio London?

 

We were the first radio station to have our jingles custom made whereas Radio London had their jingles doctored so that sounded like they were Radio London's but they weren't. They put Radio London over the top of them. We had two great packages, which for a radio station that was only on the air for six months was amazing. When we used the first package we were so naive that we played the jingles on air without talking over them and Radio Caroline and Radio London recorded them and they were on-air before we used them. Stupid, or what?[7]

 

Gary Stevens, who worked for one of the top stations in New York City (WMCA), was sending taped shows across the Atlantic to go out on Swinging Radio England. Was there any contact between him and the guys on the ship?

 

No, I never met him. We used to run a tape which he used to start with "Hi everybody, it's whatever day it was" except one day we put the wrong tape on the wrong day so it might have be a Sunday but it was Tuesday.

 

One of the guys on board was Graham Gill, who came from Australia?

 

Yes, he was a great guy. He was a little bit more reserved than the rest of us and he didn't take part into many of the jokes that we played on each other.

 

At the end of the year the owners decided that Swinging Radio England was to become a Dutch station. On 13 November 1966 Radio England closed down and some days later, on 14 November the new station Radio Dolfijn went on air, aimed at the Dutch public. How did you react on that?

 

The way we found out was absolutely awful. The tender came along and we were on the deck and Johnny Walker was reading the paper and he said that we were going to be a Dutch station. And that's how we found out. Literally Johnny said that he was off and he jumped on the tender there and then and went back. I wished I had joined him at the time. He got on Caroline before I did, the swine!

 

Your next station was Radio Caroline South. Did you apply for a job there or did they ask you?

 

No, I didn't apply. I stuck it out to the end with Radio England and then I went back to work in the clubs. About June, 1967, a lot of so-called superstars got cold feet and I knew the guys at Radio Caroline and they knew me. I got home one day and my Dad told me that Terry Bate from Caroline had rang and wanted me to call him. They were desperate for anyone who'd had radio experience and he asked me when I could start and I said tomorrow. So I told my disco "Bye, I'm off to the boat."

 

Johnnie Walker remembers Radio England whilst at Radio Caroline South

 

“Let me tell you something about the work on Radio England….(from?)11 o’clock. Radio England(news) at 7.15, Britain Radio at 8. Radio England at 8.15, Britain Radio at 9. And Radio England at 9.15, and then at about 9.40 I used to go to bed. I couldn’t sleep very long because one of the big snags that’s always been with the radio ships has always been that the crew onboard tend to forget it is housing a radio station….make lot of noise and banging thru the day…I used to find it very difficult to sleep…did not get any meals thru the night…if you wanted to eat…3 hours get up and eat and then have 3 hours sleep…pretty hard scene…crew on Radio England…some Spanish, some Dutch…pretty hard on that ship…Roger Day would verify that.(Play)Radio England aircheck from about let me think September of last year(played recording we have placed here on October 8th, 1966 see diary.) Played Remember this Golden Classic Jingle without Swinging Radio England at the end, and remarked Naughty Caroline pinched the jingles...Radio England pinched jingles too.[8]

 

“You are listening to the Jerry Smithwick program!”

 

“I sailed from Miami on the Olga Patricia once the outfitting for the two radio stations was completed. The trip turned into an extended sailing venture when the mast collapsed at sea between New York and Bermuda.”

 

“The mast was bolted on a plate to the deck and the top heaviness of the mast with the antenna added probably created enough force that it just snapped the bolts and it fell over the side. Once that happened I think our top speed was about six knots so it took us forever!”

 

“We had to put in at the Azores Islands for several days and then limped on to Lisbon for 2, maybe 3, weeks of repairs before sailing on to our site in the North Sea off Harwich[9].”

 

“Ron O’Quinn, Larry Dean and myself all came from a little town in Georgia called Moultrie, and all of us were involved in the radio business. At that time I was working in Gainesville, GA. Ron was down at WFUN in Miami and was approached by the leader of the project team putting the ship together in Miami, to become programme director and one of Ron’s responsibilities was hiring disc-jockey staff. So he called myself and Larry and I thought it sounded really great. I left my job the next day and flew to Miami and that was the first time that I had ever been on the ocean!”…

 

“The studios were completely built and operational, except that the actual frequencies for Britain Radio and Radio England hadn’t been selected, so Ron and I got on top of the London Hilton with a transistor radio and we just sort of dialed through until we hit a silent spot, and that’s how the frequencies were decided! We got on top of Radio Moscow and we had to re-adjust one of the frequencies but that was the only thing that had to be done once we(made)the stations operational.

 

 

Jerry Smithwick on the tender in May 1966(r) with Dick Sharp, a staffer of 32 Curzon Street.(l). Photo from the Pierson family collection, kindly provided by ©Grey Pierson.

 

Ron and his wife had a little flat in Wimbledon and allowed me to rent a bedroom from them. We’d work a couple of weeks on the ship then we had a week off to visit and meet folks and it was absolutely wonderful. It was the first time I had been to England and I loved it.

 

32 Curzon Street was the office for the radio operation on the ship and Don Pierson and Bill Vick set up their offices there. The sales operation was actually based there as well. It was also where we got our pay cheques! For those times, we were making fairly decent money, about 150-200 dollars a week.

 

There was some internal strife with the management between Don Pierson and Bill Vick, which made things a bit uncomfortable for some of the Americans. Rick Randall actually left before the three of us did. Ron and I were on the same flight coming back and Larry a week later.

 

I thought the response was phenomenal. We came out of small-market radio and it was almost inconceivable when we put Radio England on the air and after people found us, to have the tender draw alongside the ship and have sometimes thousands of letters each day. It was just unbelievable. The DJ’s were as popular as the musicians of the music we were playing. When we came off the ship in Harwich, there would be two or three hundred people there wanting to see us. We all liked it and I don’t think any of us were stars but personally I didn’t know how to deal with it because I had never been faced with it before.

 

The thing that really sealed it for me was there was a lot of effort to put the ships out of business. One of the things we heard was that the FCC indicated it would revoke the US licence of any Americans associated with the pirates. This meant it’d be difficult to get a job in radio when we got back to the States. But I didn’t really want to leave. The ship was beginning to come into its own. We had built a faily loyal listener base, which was increasing from month to month and the DJs were becoming known. We would probably have become more accepted if we had stayed around longer.

 

Following Radio England I worked at WFUN for a few months and then moved around various stations and in late 1968 I went back into the Army. After that I went back into radio until 1974 and then went into TV in sales, programming and later on, General Manager. In 1987 I came to Panama City, FL as President and GM of the NBC-affiliated TV stations. But in 1996 I went into politics.”[10]

 

Phil Martin reporting.

 

Phil Martin is from London, but was a student in Bristol. Back in London he worked for Lintas, an ad agency which was a division of multi-national Unilever. He lived in a flat at Bruton Place off Berkeley Square with some mates working in the PR trade.

 

Through these, Phil was introduced to Rick Randall, working for SRE and BR. He was given a script to read, Randall said: ”Sounds fine to me, come along and join us”[11], and took a three week holiday and went out to the Olga. He stayed on, and broadcast on both stations, being newsreader on ”227” and also making it to Programme Controller on Britain Radio , where he stayed on after SRE went away.  When Radio 355 appeared Phil went back to the ship for a couple of months, but did not stay for the close down.

 

Later Phil worked as a journalist of the Daily Express, after which he went back to broadcasting in the form of morning presenter of BBC Radio Newcastle and then to producing TV at Tyne Tees.

 

In an interview in 2004, Phil said about his time on the Olga: ”It was an exciting, hectic, amazing, fun era, that gave us familiarity with the microphone.”

 

 

Phil Martin at the Carousel[12].

 

Summer 1966 brings “the Second US Wave”[13] to the “227” microphone.

 

In Don Pierson's files[14], there is a note written by Don dated July 8th, 1966. This mentions the following new personnel for the station:

 

Klingeman-25 Claremont Dr. Harrisburg, PA

Phillips-RFD 1 Nashua, New Hampshire

Curtiss-1139 Second St.,No.4, NW Roanoke, VA

Henry-713 W 4th St., St.Louis Town, PA[15]

Berry-77-28 Manor Dr., Harrisburg, PA

 

From now existing information it is evident that

 

Klingeman-was Robert(Bob) Klingeman, the late Boom Boom Brannigan.

Phillips-was Rick Phillips, the late Chuck Blair(appeared on promos and ads on SRE/Britain Radio(like the 3 "Music, in the air everywhere" ones on Britain Radio) even after he went to Radio London)

Curtiss-is Jack Curtiss

Henry-unidentified. Who could he be? Some sources mention a Jim Henry briefly on the Laissez Faire,we have  never heard him.

Berry-Bill Berry(Now WKPQ Hornell, NY 1320)

 

This July 8th note does not say anything about the third US wave of Boss Jocks:

 

The late Tom Hatala, broadcasting as Tom Cooper-and Greg Warren? A recording from July 29th, 1966 from Britain Radio seems to indicate they are the same person. However, he reads the news on Britain Radio on November 8th, 1966 as Tom Cooper.

Ron Rose?, broadcasting as Mark Stevens and Ted Delaney. Replaced Johnnie Walker? Mark Stevens was in the lead in the final show on SRE Nov.13th, 1967 from 2300-2330. He then interviewed Bill Berry and said he had come from PA while he(Mark)came from CA. Heard doing 2300-0600 in October, 1966, and reading the 8.15 news on October 28th. Continued on Britain Radio which left in January, 1967, and returned to California where he came from.(San Francisco)

 

Other additions to the staff were

 

John Ross-Barnard, see separate chapter. Read news on SRE at least until October 22nd.

Gordon Bennett was earlier on Radio Caroline as Gary Kemp, and worked also for the BBC at the same time under another name![16] Now seems to live in Tulsa, OK as Gary Kemp. He has worked there on KVOO 1170.

Alan Black, the cartoonist of the Olga, see separate chapter. Alan Black joined the Olga in September, 1966, and appeared on SRE at least until mid-October 1966. Then Britain Radio. On the final day of Radio 355, Alan was Senior dj and was the longest-serving dj on the ship, his voice had been on both channels and on all 5 stations.

Canadian Errol Bruce was earlier on Radio Caroline, went to Britain Radio, later on AM1430(then CKFH call letters) in Toronto. On air on SRE on November 13th until 1515. Might have gone ashore? Later re-appeared on Britain Radio.

Johnny Dark(Harry Putnam) , see separate illustration. Of Britain Radio's R&B Nite Ride he was also a salesman and is the voice on the Oscar's Groovy Grotto ad on SRE, as well as on a BOH ID.

Graham Gill, see separate illustration. He joined SRE in June 1966 from Radio London, later only on Britain Radio? Summer 1967 on Radio 390. Later on Radio Caroline and Radio Noordzee Int. off Holland. Then Radio Nederland Wereldomroep. Now retired, lives in Holland.

Phil Martin, see separate chapter. He read news on SRE and was dj on Britain Radio until its end on Feb.28th, 1967. Later back on Radio 355.

Bruce Wayne(David J Bennett).

SRE Boss Jocks Roger Day, Bill Berry and Bruce Wayne were called Britain Radio djs in a newspaper AD for The Uppercut Club as of December, 1967.

Willy Walker of Radio London gave Jerry King(Fred Riley)(ex ZBM Hamilton, Bermuda just like Big L djs WW, Duncan Johnson, and Mike Lennox) an Olga role[17]. Jerry went at any rate to Radio Caroline North.

 

"Boom Boom Brannigan" or Bob Klingeman

 

“Boomer” broadcast on "Swinging Radio England" from sometime in August 1966 to 12th of November 1966. He was a very good presenter, much loved by his listeners[18].

 

 

1966-1967 scribbling at a school in Norway…

 

The person we are dealing with here is not the “Boom Boom” who was on WPTR 1540 in Albany, NY, but his identity came from a jingle tape copied by Larry Dean who came to Radio England in the spring of 1966.

 

On Sunday, November 13th, 1966, in the final programme on Swinging Radio England, which started at 2300, Phil Martin went through a list of all the “Boss Jocks” having worked on the station. Martyn Webster adds: ” Well listening to the last half hour I think that Phil Martin mentions that Boom Boom Brannigan "of the B B Spree" left the ship yesterday I think.” This would point to him leaving November 12th, 1966 the day before closedown.

 

Phil Martin has described Boom Boom in this way: “…very much a dj before his time…” who “…had a lot of personality.[19]

 

In this chapter we will try to take a closer look on the fascinating “Boom Boom” character, along with a peek at what might be called the second US wave of Boss Jocks for Radio England.

 

Suggested real names for Boom Boom, or “Boomer” were from 1966 Bob Wayne, and "Steve Mathews" or "Mathers".  The note in Don Pierson's files[20] mentions Klingeman’s address as 25 Claremont Dr. Harrisburg, PA.

 

But the late Boom Boom Brannigan was Robert(Bob) Klingeman. The address above is hopefully a lead to find Boomers' family. We hope to track his relatives down if that is all possible, and let them know how much he and his station is still remembered fondly by those who heard him so long ago. If we could uncover his Social Security Number (SSN) then we might be able to match it with any remaining payroll records on file. Surely thre must be many that would like to tell them we remember him and his station with fondness.

 

 

Boomer’s short life is summarized in this copy from Peter Alex’ book “Who’s Who in Pop Radio”(1966), out of print long ago, but a copy is on the web at

http://www.paulplu.demon.co.uk/whos_who/england.htm

 

 

Picture: SRE publicity photo headshot taken in London. Boom Boom Brannigan(Bob Klingeman) from Peter Alex’ book “Who’s Who in Pop Radio”(1966), out of print long ago. Unknown photographer. As far as we know, the only picture of Boomer anyone has besides the picture from a Roanoke gig in early 1967.(below)

 

April 4th, 1967: Boomer's accident, by Jack Curtiss.

 

Jack, formerly General Manager operating the twin stations Radio England/Dolfijn-Britain Radio) trading in the UK/Holland in 1966/67 and now living in Australia has given a very valuable input on Boomer:

 

“Boom-Boom (Bob Klingeman) as I recall may have also used the Wayne jingle before settling in under the Brannigan monicker.

 

Boomer and I toiled on the pirate radio ship Laissez Faire off the English coast in the summer and fall of 1966.

 

I do remember telling my later SRE crewmates (including Boom Boom) how very much I enjoyed working at WROV in Roanoke, what a splendid chap Burton Levine was, and how highly I regarded him.

 

How ironic that Boom Boom, who as far as I could tell had never heard of Roanoke till I started talking about it, headed there after returning home.  He was still in England until mid-November 1966, not a whole lot of time to get back to, maybe spend the holidays with family in Pennsylvania and then work at two different stations WROV and then WPXI. Here at “Channel 91”, or “Pixie”, he would play the same jingles as he did in the North Sea:

 

http://www.roanokeradio.com/WPXI/

 

If my hunch is correct that Boomer didn't arrive in Roanoke until January, then he would have spent scarcely three months between the two stations. Sadly, Boomer did not remain at WROV but joined another new station across town, WPXI at 910 on the dial. While working there, he was killed in an accident.

 

 

The last known picture of Boomer making a publicity appearance for WPXI just before he died on April 4th,1967. Marty Shayne(Boomer's roommate at the time) ,"Pixie Girls" Valeria Cook & Michele Lowe, Boom Boom Branegan, along with fans. (Boomer changed the spelling when he got to Virginia). Marty Shayne supplied the photo. Marty has told that he Boomer were dating these girls at the time and he drove them both to his funeral in Harrisburg. Valeria later became Marty's wife and is now a successful attorney. Michelle died apparently in 2003 from health problems.

 

Jack Curtiss concludes:

 

“In a way, I think Boomer's life was truly emblematic of sixties pirate radio itself... brash, cocky, bursting with adolescent energy, full of promise.. and cut short way too soon before its time. If you get a chance, raise a glass in fond recollection of the "B-B Spree" and its host.”

 

And then it’s over to Perry Woods, former Operations Manager at WPXI:

 

“Bob was brash, but I always attributed that to youth.” I had only been on WPXI a few weeks(I think I arrived sometime in March with the title Operations Manager) when the accident happened.

 

I was supposed to program WPXI-“Pixie” and WCFV in Clifton Forge. With Buford Epperson, everybody had a title. You could take it and 10 cents and go to a restaurant and get a cup of coffee with it. I believe Bob did have the title of PD. He did a regular weekday show from 2pm until sign-off. I know I spent most of my time in those days explaining to Buford’s creditors that they would have to see him about the money he owed them. We made do with what we had and Boomer’s death was the beginning of WPXI having less and less of everything. By the time I left WPXI they owed me a couple thousand dollars (which I never got). The good news was, we ran the radio station the way we wanted to because Epperson was too busy hiding from his creditors to put in much time at the station. WE had a great sound, and nobody to go out and sell it. I only knew Bob for about a month or 6 weeks. He was easily the most talented member of the staff and with him doing afternoons, I felt we had an honest chance to hold our own in the market. After Boomer’s accident, things really started to go down hill even more rapidly. People kept wondering when they were going to get paid, since there was no sales staff, there just wasn’t much happening to give anyone much to be optimistic about. Because I had two small children to take care of, I ended up going to WROV, at least there I got a check on a regular basis. That’s really the story, by the time I arrive, WPXI had become sort of the skid row of radio station. We could have done very well in Roanoke had Buford stayed out of whatever he was into. The sound was fresh, it was clean and we were holding our own against WROV. I wish I could paint a better picture for you, but that is the way it was.  Marty and the rest of them were kids, they would have worked for free (come to think of it, they were working for free). From a standpoint of the work, Pixie was a great place to work because there was no interference from management. But from the standpoint of a father trying to raise a family, it left something be desired. 

 

But from an operations standpoint, Pixie was terrific. From a management standpoint, well, let’s just say I got there a little late. I do remember coming in one morning to do the show and Bob and Marty had spent the entire night moving everything around (including the console) to make the control room more efficient. I remember the panic I felt when I saw what they’d done and thought to myself, well we’ll never get on the air today. But to my surprise, everything worked like it was supposed to. I guess what I am really trying to say here is that we had really wonderful people on the air staff. They were truly the most inventive and resourceful group of people I ever had the privilege of working with.

 

To be honest, April 4th, 1967  wasn’t one of my better days. I was still in the process of getting to know everyone when the accident happened. I remember it was in the afternoon. Bob Klingeman was killed in a motorcycle accident just two blocks from the station. He did not own a motorbike but had borrowed the motorcycle from another jock, David Warf, working at sister Station WCFV. Warf apparently had brought it to WPXI(probably from a dealer)where some of the staffers each took turns riding it. Everybody wanted to. I was scheduled to go next after Boomer. The result was, I’ve never been on a motorcycle since.

 

Bob was sitting on it at a stop sign at an intersection when a lady did not see him. Her vehicle drug him about a block. I remember going to the accident scene and I remember holding Bob before the medics arrived.  As I’d left my medical degree in my other pants that day, I can’t honestly say if he died in my arms or not. I knew Bob wasn’t going to make it, for all intents and purposes, he was not responsive and not conscious but he was still breathing.  So I know he was still alive when I got there and when the medics got there, they took over and told me after he had been put in the ambulance that he was gone. Officially he was pronounced dead at the hospital. Bob Lackey’s dad actually saw the wreck and came to the station and told us about it.   

 

I was the one who had to go back to the studio and do Boomer’s shift that afternoon.  As I recall, I had been on the air only a few minutes when I got the official word that he had died.  It certainly made for a long afternoon for me and I know it wasn’t pleasant for Boomer either.”

 

Finally the word passes to Steve Richards(Steve Nelson), also formerly of WPXI:

 

When Boomer left Radio England he went to Roanoke and worked at WROV (where Jack Curtiss had been a DJ prior to joining the ship). Boomer had brought with him a copy of Herman's Hermits' No Milk Today and the song was played there as an exclusive. The record company released it in the States and it became a big hit. Marty Shayne, with whom he shared a flat, urged Boom Boom to leave WROV after a short time and subsequently joined Marty at rival rock station WPXI, also in Roanoke.[21]

 

 

Roanoke Times for April 5th,1967 reporting of Boomer’s death.

 

Radio England “Boss Jocks” in ©LIFE International Magazine October 31st, 1966.

 

 

War on the Radio Pirates. Front Page of ©LIFE International Oct.31st,1966. Submitted by Lars Holm.

 

 

Will Radio Pirates Walk the Plank? ©LIFE International Oct.31st,1966.

 

 

How djs enjoy the freedom of the seas. ©LIFE International Oct.31st,1966. Submitted by Lars Holm.

 

 

 

Ron O’Quinn and Larry Dean in the messroom. Jerry Smithwick, Brian Tylney, and Rick Randall behind.

And Australian “Boss Jock” Colin Nicol climbing a rope. Unknown photographer. ©LIFE International Oct.31st,1966. Submitted by Lars Holm.

 

”Redundancy to you, buddy”.[22] A format change on 227 and Bill Berry shows leadership.

 

In Mid-October 1966, a promo on SRE announced a format change to Swinging Radio Holland in Dutch in Tom Cooper’s evening show. Also so in Bruce Wayne’s Midnight Early Show  on October 22nd, 1966. And Johnnie Walker mentioned the change in his farewell show on October 15th, 1966. But on November 11th, the new station was unnamed in the Errol ”Boss Cat” Bruce afternoon show, while in a promo in the same show on November 13th, the last day, also no name was given.
 
 
“Swinging Radio Holland” to come. From Dutch press via ©Hans Knot’s archive.

 

John Ross-Barnard of the Radio England news staff has his story:

 

“I left SRE/Britain Radio in October 1966 to join BBC 2 TV. But on the day I received the word from my wife that I had been offered work with the BBC, the information that SRE was to close, very soon, was delivered by (I think) Brian Tylney who had formerly been a broadcaster on the ship but joined the Supply & Tender company as a manager. When the news broke everyone was devastated so I realised that my good news would not go down very well. (My own memories are included in Keith Skues's splendid book 'Pop went the Pirates'.) It was the first experience for many on board to be part of a station close-down. But of course the American DJs were very used to format changes, station closures etc and I recall that Bill Berry got the boys (we were hardly more than boys) together and gave us a good talking-to, right there on the deck of the Laissez Faire. "Life will go on" he said "You will survive this experience, you will have a career in radio if you are persistent and if you are not you might as well forget radio as a career." It was a salutary lesson and lecture and one which I have never forgotten. In fact Bill Berry was an unsung catalyst to those of us who had very little experience of what "real" radio was all about. Many of us took his words to heart and not only survived in radio & TV but some even succeeded!

 

I am sorry to hear that Tom Hatala has died. He too knew what English radio would become in the future. The US Boss Jocks must have thought we were very naive. But they had the good manners not to say so. We did not deserve the courteous treatment we received from Don Pierson and others, well from most of them in fact.”

 

 

 

The Olga Patricia carrying the “Laissez Faire” name and the new station IDs on the side spring 1967.

©Eric Gilder. Used with permission.

 

David Gillbee, also known as Dave MacKay came to the Olga Patricia as News Editor for Britain /Dolfijn in November, 1966, replacing Chuck Blair, who went “over the road” to Radio London.

 

Dave MacKay had then been in aviation for a time after leaving Radio City “299” on Shivering Sands. He relates something quite unknown before:

 

“When Ted Walters, the Chief Engineer was on shore leave, Alan Black, Phil Martin and myself opened up again the Radio Dolfijn transmitter who usually closed early and made Swinging Radio England come back for a couple of hours some nights. We played some music and SRE jingles and said the transmission was coming from “Ronan’s mushroom farm”, relating to the fight between Caroline and Roy Bates for Rough Towers, now better known as Sealand.”

 

When asked about the Carousel automation system onboard the Olga Dave recalls that the “Derek Burroughs” tapes were originally 10 inch and were categorized into instrumental, vocal, male and female. The tapes were made by “Ovation Programmatic” in the USA.

 

Dave also remembers when the Olga’s antenna mast was damaged on February 28th, 1967. Going over with the ship to Wijsmuller in Zaandam, he and Alan Black became sailors and took their stint at the wheels. While at the wharf they had “plenty to eat drink, but no money”. It was in Holland they heard that Peir-Vick Ltd. was insolvent and that Britain Radio was no more.

 

Some of the Britain Radio staff remainded after the name and format change to “Radio 355” in the evening of March 16th, 1967, but with Ted Allbeury taking over from Bill Vick as Managing Director, also former Radio 390 announcers took to the high seas. Dave recalls some culture differences between the two groups and the feeling that the new boys were “a bit unseaworthy.”

 

The new format did not last long, and Radio 355 took on Britain Radio’s format. Also Radio 227 changed back to the format used by SRE. On 355/227 Dave was production director, and made the new versions of the SRE Pams #27 jingle set into “Swinging Radio Double 2-7” and “Radio 227” in 8 hours overnight at the end of May,1967.

 

When asked about the evening related in the diary of this essay on July 29th, 1967, where ”Derek Burroughs” is ”going home”, Dave explains some of the staff were ardent card players and had a ”North Sea Canasta Championship”. Here “TW” was an eager contender, whilst “Derek” had a “great hand” and was a “great caster.” And David O’Brien, a Newzealander present that evening, was the Sales Manager of the 355/227 operation.

 

But who gave the “Derek Burroughs” name to the Carousel announcer? “I think it must have been Ted Delaney or Jack Curtiss.” And then Dave gives us the identity of “Derek Burroughs”: “It was Jack Wagner”, a bespectacled comedian in the “Rowan and Martin” US TV Show “Laugh-In”.

 

Dave stayed on the Olga for some time after the closedown in the morning of August 6th, 1967 being involved in the run-down process of the radio stations that had been there.

 

Alan Black, assistant programme director on Britain Radio from December 1966 and senior dj on Radio 355 in 1967 was also the great cartoonist of the Olga Patricia and “Radio News”.

 

 

Alan Black joined the Olga from Radio Scotland(there from January 1966) in September, 1966. From Radio News(in London Weekly Advertiser and National Advertiser) of January 31st, 1967.

 

Alan Black appeared on SRE at least until mid-October 1966. Then Britain Radio. On the final day of Radio 355, Alan was Senior dj and was the longest-serving dj on the ship, his voice had been on both channels and on all 5 stations. In his farewell speech on the final transmission on 845 kc he mentioned the friendship with Boom Boom Brannigan. Bill Berry, Bruce Wayne, Mark Stevens, Ed Moreno, Phil Martin, Jack Curtiss. ”I hope they’ve all gone on to greener pastures... When I first came to the Laissez Faire I worked for the other station Swinging Radio England. We really had to swing. We played the Tamla Sound.” (The Elgins Put yourself in my place. )”Just one fine example of the sounds you could hear on Radio England. But of course in November of 1966 England swang no more and was replaced by Radio Dolfijn. And when they said ”Postbus 1390 in Amsterdam”(Postal address of Radio 227-editor) the listeners on the continent really did respond.

 

 

An appearance by a Dolfijn in November, 1966. From Dutch Press. From ©Hans Knot’s archive.

 

 

From Radio News(in London Weekly Advertiser and National Advertiser) of February 7th, 1967.

 

 

Is #2 from left Alan Himself? From Radio News(in London Weekly Advertiser and National Advertiser) of February 7th, 1967.

 

 

The general feeling onboard the Olga in late 1966? Which US call letters are in the wall? From Radio News(in London Weekly Advertiser and National Advertiser) of February 14th, 1967.

 

 

From Radio News(in London Weekly Advertiser and National Advertiser) of February 21st, 1967.

 

 

Texas Radio in Europe seen through a Scotsman’s pencil. From Radio News(in London Weekly Advertiser and National Advertiser) of February 28th, 1967.

 

Look Boden, formerly on Radio Dolfijn and 227 writes:

 

“…a great job (done)putting all this information on your site, some of the time I was on board of the Laissez Faire. -I'm gonna use it for my programme "Laissez Faire" on the new 227. By the way, Jos van Vliet was the one who brought the ship to IJmuiden and Lex Harding was the one who brought it back to England.”[23]

 

 

Look Boden acknowledgement. From Bert Bossink in Boxtel in the Netherlands and ©Hans Knot’s archive.

 

And then it’s over to Dick Weeda’s Radio 227 Memories[24]

 

Hans Knot relates:

 

“At the Dutch broadcasting museum(121-131 Amerfoortseweg) in Hilversum, where there are several collections and the museum’s own broadcast archive, Arno Weltens(handed)me a few pieces of paper belonging to Dick Weeda, who was a dj on the Laissez Faire in 1967. He’d given these to the museum some years ago. Dick Weeda began his memories at the end on August 5, 1967:

 

Reception

 

”Unfortunately after dark Radio 227 was inaudible in Holland due to the fact that Radio Leipzig, an East German Propaganda station broadcast on the same frequency 1322 kc with 150 kW whereas we only had a maximum of 50 kW. Our station closed early evening because after eight o’clock we where blown away by GDR propaganda.

 

Radio ship

 

”The Laissez Faire also housed Radio 355 and was used during the Korean war as an American transport ship for fallen American personnel.

 

The owner of the ship as far as we could find out was Pierce Langford III, (and?)a senator from Texas. On board the ship however, we heard strong rumours that the real owner was Lady Bird Johnson, wife of American President Lyndon B. Johnson.”

 

Programme director and djs

 

Tony Windsor(Tony Withers)(”Tee-Double-U”/”Tie Dubbeljoe”) who was the programme director of Radio 227 had big plans to steal the audience from other stations which he was unsuccessful at doing. He was hoping to attract the audience in Holland, who listened to Radio London[25].

Lex Harding (Lodewijk van Hengst)(Hitwerk)

Tom Collins(Tom Droog)(Easy Listening)

Look Boden(Country and Western)

Harky(Harold van Gelder)

Dick Weeda was a DJ on Radio 227 from first of May 1967 until the closing of the station in august ’67.

He presented two programmes- from 5.00 to 6.30 Folk Time and from 18.30-19.00 Only Dutch (Louter Nederlands).

John van Doren(Jaap Paardekoper, but with 3 other names)was a land-based DJ on radio Veronica before coming over to Radio 227, He worked for a beat group, which came from Amsterdam and the Hague called Daddy’s Act, which had a record contract with EMI. He had several hit singles in Holland. One was a very slow version of “Eight Days A Week” by the Beatles whilst “Baby’s in Black” was another. Also under his own name he recorded two solo singles in 1967, “Last Night” and “We Waren Zo Optredens” (We Were So Very Happy). John went to Paris in 1969 where he became a very big star and made a great career in France with several concerts in the Olympia in Paris. He was contracted to the Riviera label. In October, 1969, he had a big number one hit with "Oh Lady Mary", but that was recorded under his other name, David Alexander Winter, recorded for the Eurovision Song Contest for Luxembourg. After that he recorded "Vole S'en Vole" and in December, 1973, "Laissez-moi LeTemps". He didn't have any more hits and sadly died in the 90's In France.”

There was no tension between the DJ’s outside the studio. Evidence : Not only I but also other DJ’s from the “pirate-time “ of 227 have joined the new 227.

 

Salary and logistics

 

"The deejays of Radio 227 had good salaries. We were two weeks on, one week off. On board we had four DJ’s, each doing a three hour show. We earned 210 guilders net a week after paying tax and national insurance. As a 17 year old I earned 350 guilders a month gross.” Whilst the DJ's were on board the ship they didn't have to pay for anything as it was provided. After being on board for two weeks we left the ship for a week and went home to our parents. (We) travelled from Holland to the ship by Channel Airways, which was a very important advertiser on the station, from Zestienhoven, near Rotterdam to Southend airport. (We) then went by taxi to Harwich and to the ship by a small boat. If it was low tide we couldn 't get to the ship from Harwich, we went by taxi to Felixstowe. Our tender did not come everyday, but once a week when two DJ’s came on board and 2 left for a week time out.

 

The format of Radio 227

 

The format of the station was the same as Wonderful Radio London-with one difference. We tried a Fabulous 50 instead of the 40 records played on Big L. Next to the Fab 50, we had a Tip chart of 15 records. It meant we played 10 records every 30 minutes. We had to play two records out of the Top 10, two from the Tip list, one golden oldie, one request[26] and four records out of the 10-50 range. When the new records came in, we listened and then decided whether they would make an entry in the Fab 50 or the tip parade. Between 0600 and 1800 we had three-hour shows. I often presented programmes after 6pm. The Fab 50 and Tip list were made by all the deejays and the programme director and not record sales. As a British company the people behind Radio 227 received a lot of flexi-discs, which were like promotional records from the record compares to see if they were successful. Therefore Radio 227 played a lot of records earlier than the other Dutch language stations. For instance, A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum and All You Need is Love by The Beatles were played as soon as the flexi-discs came on board and we had them immediately at no.1 the following week, making these records smash hits and not only in the Netherlands.

To prove the point that if one played a record often enough it would become a hit long after other radio stations had neglected it.

We picked a Dutch carnival record that flopped(“Dan moet je mijn zuster zien" by Ria Valk) and played it continuously in June, 1967. It had been released seven or eight months earlier but didn’t do anything. We decided to play it 12 times a day and it became a no.1 hit in Holland and all the other Dutch stations began to play it.

 

Censorship

 

"During Folk Time, it was forbidden to play protest songs about American politics and America's involvement in the Vietnam war so Phil Ochs couldn't be played at all. Also "What Have You Learned In School Today?" by Tom Paxton couldn't be played either. " It seems Weeda was reprimanded by the programme director for playing this. On May 18, Rod McKuen's "Seasons In The Sun" had its first airing but "Soldiers Wanna Be Heroes" was refused because it was anti-war. But I discovered it for the Dutch listeners. That number became McKuen’s first hit and went to no.1 in August 1971, and stayed in the Veronica Top40 for 17 weeks. His number Freight Train by the Folk Singing Harpsichord was the theme tune for the programme Freight Train.

 

The concert of José Feliciano.

 

In July 1967 we had Jose Feliciano on board of to do a live and an exclusive concert in the studios of 227 and 355 for a joined broadcast . An absolute unequalled technical achievement, also because Jose is blind and handicapped. Alan Black of Radio 355 had been to London to interview José but his tape recorder broke down and José being quite sympathetic thought that it was quite romantic about broadcasting from a pirate station so he offered to do a concert for nothing from the ship. So he came out to the ship with his secretary on the tender but not only was he blind he was also partially disabled and couldn’t climb the rope ladder to get on the ship. So he was hoisted on board. But our studios were down in the belly of the ship. So we also had to lower him and after the show the vice-versa. He did the concert, which was hosted by Alan Black and Tom Collins. John van Doorn(another DJ who also used four other names) tried to chat up the secretary on board and he was partially successful. She didn't want to go to his cabin but she promised to go out with him the next time he was in London. Otherwise we never had woman aboard.

 

The ”mutiny” attempt

 

This wonderful happening ended in a disaster as a part of the crew started a mutiny, leaving us a few dreadful hours until they left the Laissez-Faire for IJmuiden. During the concert, the Dutch crew of the Laissez Faire went to join their companions on the tender and started drinking. By the time José was set to leave, two members of the crew were very drunk and didn’t want to come back on board. The British Captain who only gave the crew three cans of beer a day warned them that they had to get back on board. One of the crew,…went to attack the captain but was karate chopped to the deck, which sobered him up. He had to be restrained by the rest of the crew when he went after the captain again. During the night an extra tender came and replaced the crew on board with a relief crew.”

 

The end

 

”On 21st July, 1967 all of the Dutch djs left the ship and went back to Holland, leaving only taped programmes to be played later.”

"Due to the fact that Great Britain had signed the Act of Strasbourg as the fourth country which made working, advertising, supplying and tendering from the UK to the offshore radio stations illegal.”

“Lex Harding, Tom Collins, Harky and myself left the ship for the last time. Harky didn’t travel with the others to Holland but went to London to get his last payment in cash which was a sensible decision because the other people never got their final wages for the three-week period on board the ship.”

 

John Aston takes the microphone[27]:

 

On Radio 355,we always refered to Derek Burroughs as the voice on the automation tapes. The tapes we supplied by Alto Fonics of  Palo Alto C.A. The playout system consisted of two 6 ft cabinet racks,the left hand rack housed two Scully Tape Machines,the right hand one had One Scully Tape Machine at the bottom with a Carousel Multi Cart Machine above.

 

The programme tapes were supplied on 14 inch NAB spools and their format was 7 1/2 IPS Mono Half Track. Inaudible cue tones were placed to start/stop and trip into next player or carousel and as such continue ad infinitum, this way the system played song one with its back announcement and cue tone,this in turn started tape two, meanwhile machine one ran until its song start cue tone placed it in pause mode...........tape two in turn started tape three and this in turn could be routed through the carousel for Ads or ID's...and then back to tape one,and so on.At the end of the tape the unit would reverse direction and play the other track(one capstan and pinch roller either end of the head block.)

 

The biggest fault with the system was the Tape Tension Switch,it was fine on 14 inch NAB's but not so clever on 7 inch or smaller spools. The units also required longer leader tape on the smaller spools.A 3 inch spool would be too small and the tape would stretch and break!

 

Our religious programmes (World Tomorrow etc ) would sometimes break, as they were recorded on very low quality acetate backed tape. Other than that they were State Of The Art Machines.

 

Martin Kayne was the last dj who did breakfast on the Olga[28]:

 

Studios

 

The radio conversion on  the Laissez Faire was constructed differently that other pirate radio  ships. Rather than the studio and transmitters halls being constructed  within the vessel. With the Laissez Faire both the transmitter hall and the 2 more or less matching sound proof studios were built on land. Looking  like 2 large Portacabins, one contained the 2 studios with a connecting  door, the other the two transmitters. These Cabins were lowered through the 2 big hatch covers into the the ships hold, one in front of, and the other to the rear of the main mast. Resting on specially constructed  supports they were welded to the lower deck, in fact there were several  steps up to get into the studio block. The funny thing about the studios  was the fact that they were like a soundproof box, you couldn't hear the  generators but the air-conditioning could usually be heard on air.

 

Studio equipment

 

I think the studio equipment is already well documented. It was one hell of an experience for me working in austere conditions of Radio Essex, then suddenly being confronted by what was  then the latest broadcasting kit. Though the enthusiasm and ethos behind  the people on the station was exactly the same, I certainly never expected,  in my wildest dreams, to be hired by and work with the legendary Tony  Windsor. In fact Tony seldom operated his own equipment preferring to  use a radio engineer. However new DJ's were given this job to give them  technical operators experience. At first I thought this was a baptism of fire, but soon realised there was no mistake one could possibly make  that Tony would not only recover from, but turn into a jolly good joke.

 

Accomodation

 

The ships marine crew were accommodated  at the rear of the ship in the cabin area originally constructed with the vessel. The DJ's quarters came as an afterthought, I have heard that  in the early days radio staff slept wherever they found a suitable space.  However by the time Radio 355 arrived there was a sort of shanty town  of timber constructed accommodation at the bow of the vessel. There were  no windows or doors on the cabins, though laundered bedding, comfortable  mattresses provided a quiet place on the ship fine for sleeping, perhaps  aided by the pitching motion of the the vessel at anchor

 

Anchor trouble

 

Experiences like dragging the anchor when the captain took the bold decision of lower both bow anchors to prevent  the vessel entering UK waters. Unfortunately due to the wind and tides  the ship turned and for some time the twin anchor chains were badly  entangled to the extent they could not be pulled up! Another temporary anchor arrived along with what seemed miles of very heavy chain. This  anchor was placed on the port side of the ship and the chain duly arranged  in a ziz-zag pattern on the forward hatch cover and secured by rope  every few metres. The idea was for a sort of controlled decent for this emergency anchor. However once this anchor was pushed over the side, using  a wooden plank, the chain followed...the rope that had been indented to  control the decent snapped like string. The sight of such power was awesome,  fortunately the far end the chain had been shackled to a bollard which  held tight, causing the ship momentarily sway to the port side. It took several days for the crew untangle the original anchor chain whilst it  was gradually hoisted on deck by winch.

 

Johnny Dark

 

I remember Johnny Dark/Harry Putnam as Sales Executive at Radio Essex, the money was poor but job titles were cheap:-)  I believe it were he that provided Radio Essex with an impressive collection of American RandB records.  I know little of him as we only met briefly in Southend-On-Sea, but he did produce and voice many Radio Essex commercials while he was there.

 

”God” tapes

 

On the Laissez Faire in the summer of 67 it was the British 'Radio 355' and 'Radio 227' in Dutch. I usually have a good long term memory, but am stuffed over things that happened yesterday.  I remember the recorded religious programmes like Garner Ted Armstrong, and a guy that Revived Your Hearts for 15 minutes each breakfast show on 355 called Eric Hutchings, of Eastbourne.  Actually playing back the 'God' tapes on the Carousel could be a nightmare unless you first checked it was set to play the tape in 'forward mode' as the prerecorded Carousel tapes were double track and when a spool came to the last tune it would switch tracks and play backwards from right to left on the second track.  Certainly a wonderfully innovative machine, a music box that never stops....happy radio?

 

355 'live read' radio commercials

 

I have dug us some 355 'live read' radio commercials.  How things have changed since 1967, the wages for a start and London phone numbers were much shorter then. Here’s one:

 

STAFFORD HOUSE.

 

Here's news of an exciting career offering immediate high salary prospects and requiring no previous experience or qualifications.

 

If you are under 35, Stafford House Computer Courses Ltd will in a 20 week part-time course qualify you as a computer programmer.  Graduates are given every assistance in finding employment in the computer industry, where a drastic shortage of programmers has caused salaries in this field to soar, and well over £2,000 per year is within every programmers reach.

 

If you are ambitious, telephone this number for details...FREmantle 3746...Freemantle 3746.

 

A visit by Roy Bates

 

During the last week of transmissions I was taking a snooze on my bed when I was awoken and told "Roy  Bates is outside and wants to speak to you". Immediate thoughts were  we are almost 4 miles offshore how can he be 'outside'? Anyway it transpired  that he was alongside in a fishing boat with half a dozen other people.  Everyone was a bit nervous, the military had just blown up Sunk Head Tower,  Radio 390 and Radio City had recently closed and the MOA was only  a few weeks away, so what would he want here? Anyway on my way up to the  deck I was told, you don't invite them aboard, you don't get off this  ship and you don't stand in line of sight between the bridge and their boat. Well the first two commands I understood, but queried the line of  sight business. In fact the captain had refused permission for Bates and  his entourage to come aboard and intended to open fire if they tried.  A short but polite conversation took place, after which Bates and crew  then sailed away, but I never really believed this was a purely a courtesy  call.

 

’May Each Day’

 

I am always reminded of my time  on the Laissez Faire each time I hear the Radio 355 evening closedown  record. Andy Williams singing 'May Each Day' I also get the feeling  that the floor should be rising and falling beneath my feet with the  gentle swell of a rising tide.

 

 

“Tony gaat van 227 een zogenaamd format station maken.” “Tie Dubbeljoe en zijn broer John in de Hitburelem gekiekt met de Polaroid.”(Weekblad no.35 18 Mei 1967. From ©Hans Knot’s archive)) (John Withers was Tony Windsor(Withers)’s half-brother, editor.)

 

 



[1] Richard Crandall (Rick Randall) March, 2006,  This is an updated version of material in ©OFFSHORE ECHOS #143, March 2006 and www.teddwebb.com/.../rick_randall.html

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

[3] Roger Day has told of sleeping bags on the floor in the lounge and that one was bothered by cockroaches. Interview on the Steve England Radio England story.

[4] From an interview with Roger Day by Jelle Boonstra and Hans Knot. ©Soundscapes— online journal on media culture ISSN 1567-7745. http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/VOLUME04/Roger_DayUK.html

Also published in ©OFFSHORE ECHOS #124, December 2001. 

[5] Roger Day has told more about this incident in an interview on the Steve England Radio England story: Bill Vick: ” You better come up and see us, boy.” Roger Day: ”It was just like in the movies, you know!” ”Room 604 at the London Hilton served as the de facto office of Radio England prior to the lease of the Curzon Street facility”.( ©Grey Pierson, February 2006)

[6]  ©OFFSHORE ECHOS #117 April 2000 Ron O’Quinn Interview By ©Steve England.

[7] ”As I recall, one of the first things that happened when we did start broadcasting with our jingles and the regular sound of the station was I believe Caroline, one of the other ships, no it was London, was recording our jingles right off the air. They then took them into their studios and edited out ”Swinging Radio England”, and put in ”Big L”. We realised we really were pirates and stealing from each other as well.”(Rick Randall, ©OFFSHORE ECHOS # 143, March, 2006.) (During test transmissions)”We let the jingles go all the way through without talking and..those swines on Radio Caroline and Radio London were listening and Caroline taped them and next day they came on with our jingles with our name edited out and Caroline on them we were accused of copying them and it was our jingles!” (Roger Day in interview on the Steve England Radio England tape.)

[8] Transcription of a recording of Johnnie Walker’s 9-12pm show on Radio Caroline South 1187 kc in October(October 15th?)1967.

[9] Via Mary Payne.

[10]  Radio Moscow relay station in Leipzig, GDR, 1322 kc.-Editor.

[11] Interview on the Steve England Radio England tape.

[12] From the collection of the late Bill Vick, Managing Director of SRE/BR.

[13]  Phil Martin expression.

[14]  ©Eric Gilder.

[15]  Who was Jim  Henry? Editor.

[16] This per Jon Myer of Pirate Radio Hall of Fame. http://www.offshoreradio.co.uk

[17] Does anyone remember this?

[18]  “Boomer was not much older than I was at the time, and he was there on the radio just at the right time and right place. The editor must have heard him last with ”Boomers Broadcasting Company”  the week Good Vibrations topped Big L’s Fab 40. ie the week after Sunday, Nov.6th, 1966.

http://www.radiolondon.co.uk I remember so well his morning show a day(November 9th, 1966) I was home from school, the records, the jingles, quite much of it is glued to my mind, and I think it is right to say that that day in Nov.1966 and SRE was a peak of my youth experiences with the radio, even if there before and later have been a great number of other dj favorites and stations. On that occasion, BB also played the song several times. The same day Big L played Good Vibs by the Beach Boys all day after their half-hourly news, as it was no. 1 in the Fab 40.( Roger Day: ”I was the first DJ to play Good Vibrations and I did play it three times back to back because I was so knocked out with it.) Boomer’s life was short. And the end is a sad, sad story. Think about it, he was only 19 at the time. Not easy for parents to send away kids that early, I suppose.”(veteran radio listener “svennam”, Norway)

[19] Interview on the Steve England Radio England story. You may be interested to look up the new(May, 2006)OEM CD production here:

http://www.offshoreechos.com/Radio%20England/Radio%20England%20-%20Main%20Page.htm

[20]  ©Eric Gilder.

[21] http://www.wrovhistory.com/main.htm

Editor: We'll keep looking for more data. If you do remember any other info concerning Boomer, including things he might have related about his pirate days, and those having worked with him, I'll be glad to include them here. It is important to get get the story straight as possible and to make sure the true story is preserved.

[22] Boom Boom Brannigan in morning show on 1322kc, October 30th, 1966.

[23] Read more from Look Boden in http://www.radio227.nl/herinneringen_look.htm

Luister nu LIVE naar Radio 227: http://www.radio227.nl

[24] From ”Radio 227 Memories” ©OFFSHORE ECHOS # 117, April, 2000. Transcribed by John Cronnolley. van Dick Weeda, deejay op het zendschip The Laissez Faire. http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/VOLUME01/Herinneringen_aan_Radio_227.html

Dick Weeda: ”Look Boden, who did a country program in 1967, took the initiative to bring back 227 on air. And he succeeded. In the south of Nederland, provinces Zeeland, Noord-Brabant an Limburg and parts of Utrecht and Zuid -Holland 227 is on cable. Since December 10, 2004 I am back on 227.” This part is augmented by Dick Weeda’s input in 2004. Read more from Dick in ” Enkele herinneringen aan Radio 227.” Uit de aantekeningen van Dick Weeda, deejay op het zendschip The Laissez Faire. http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/VOLUME01/Herinneringen_aan_Radio_227.html

[25] Former chief announcer of Radio London, Tony Windsor said in Spring 1966 he had to advise his disc jockeys as SRE offered them ”fabulous salaries”. Then in London’s Savile Row Cliff Richard had told him SRE would call their djs Boss Jocks. That had relaxed Windsor who thought the English audience would not take the word Boss Jocks. So he had said ”forget Radio England.” The year after Windsor himself was in charge on the Olga with Radio 355’s “brighter broadcasting.”(©Steve England.)

[26] Later input: One own choice.

[27] ©John Aston(John Hatt) – April 2006.

[28] ©Martin Kayne(Andy Cadier) – April 2006.