Andre Palfrey-martin collection
Andre Martin….Dateline: 19.00hrs [BST] 27 March 1964 – read on………………….
Birth of Pirate Radio in Britain – April 1964
Fifty three years ago, the radio world was going to be changed forever for the listeners in the United Kingdom. In the February of 1964, Irish musician manager and businessman Ronan O’Rahilly obtained the 702-ton former Danish passenger ferry, Fredericia, which was converted into a radio ship at the Southern Irish port of Greenore.
The Fredericia was renamed MV Caroline [after the daughter of the late President Kennedy] On 26th March the MV Caroline set sail under the command of Captain Baeker. Her destination was given as Spain. A Royal Navy destroyer inspected the MV Caroline as she passed Plymouth. On Good Friday – Friday, 27 March 1964, at 18:00 hours the MV Caroline dropped anchor off the coast of Felixstowe, Suffolk, and started test transmissions. The following day – Saturday, 28 March, broadcasting regular programming started at 12 noon on 197 meters on the medium wave band (announced as 199 meters)
The official opening was undertaken by Simon Dee. And the first programme, which had been pre-recorded, was hosted by Chris Moore. The first record that was played on Radio Caroline was “Not Fade Away” by The Rolling Stones. Radio Caroline’s first musical theme was Jimmy McGriff’s “Round Midnight”, a jazz standard co-composed by Thelonious Monk. In March 1964, Birmingham band The Fortunes recorded the song “Caroline”, which later became the station’s theme song. The station’s slogan was “Your all-day music station”.
Broadcasting hours were between 6 am and 6 pm to avoid competition from Radio Luxembourg. After its 6 pm close-down, the station returned to the air at 8 pm and continued until after midnight. This was to avoid direct competition with popular television programmes
What was on offer to the young people in Britain when Radio Caroline launched? It must be remembered that, the Radio Networks were under state control, and the amount of time allowed each day for “recorded music”! ie record was about 5 hours spread across all the networks – Light Programme, Home Service and Radio Three. Because of this restriction much of the music provided was “live” performance or recorded programmes, ie bands, groups and singers. The main competition would have come from Radio Luxemburg broadcasting from the Grand Duchy of Luzemburg, and not being subject to British Laws – the English service was using a lot of pre-recorded programmes, all being sponsored by one of the major record labels, ie DECCA, EMI, PYE etc. It had been because of this “ closed shop” policy that Ronan O’Rahilly had started “ pirate radio” he wanted to promote a Georgie Fame single – but could not break the hold of the big companies and let the independent record labels have air time.
A typical weekends broadcasting would have looked something like this – let’s look first at Saturday – 8.00-10.00 Children’s Choice : 10.00 – 12.00 Saturday Club with Brian Matthews featuring some current pop records, studio recordings and live bands : 13.00-13.30 Jack Jackson and then from 13.30 onwards to about 18.00 –Sports afternoon. The evening would have been made up of musical, comedy and concerts.
Sundays – 9.00 – 10.00 Children’s Favourites: 10.30 – 11.30 Easy Beat with Brian Matthews, records, studio recordings and live bands: 11.31 – 12.00 Religious Service: 12.noon – 13.30 Two Way Family Favourites – BBC London and BFBS[British Forces Broadcasting Service] Cologne [Koln Germany] record requests and dedications – we still had service personnel stationed throughout the world: 13.30 – 14.00 Billy Cotton Band Show, Variety show: 14.00-14.30 Comedy – Navy Lark, Hancock etc.. also on a Sunday afternoon you would have “Top of the Pops” with Fluff – Alan Freeman, another regular show was “Movie Go Round” and of course “Sing Something Simple”
About the only other legal radio source of popular music would have been if you had been lucky enough to be able to tune into American Forces Network – the sources were Holland and France, but this was very much hit and miss as it was dependent on the atmospheric conditions and direction of the transmission – there were only a few US bases in Britain, and they would not have been allowed to broadcast in UK because of the GPO.
Jim Breeds… Worth noting that Caroline is still ‘on the air’ at http://radiocaroline.co.uk/#home.html and occasionally on 1368kHz if you’re in the north.
Alan Esdaile… I was listening to a great show from Clive Garrard last week.
Robert Searle… The very first day Radio Caroline aired,I heard Simon Dee show,it was the first time I actually heard a Bob Dylan record on the radio.
Eric Harmer… I think Simon Dee’s parents lived in Westfield Lane.
Graham How… It certainly is Simon Dee!
Coastal Ham Radio https://coastalhamradio.wordpress.com… guess for its day it “dared to go where…..” well you know the rest. Hard to imagine it just celebrated its 53rd birthday.