Part Four: The sounds of '65.

Caroline House

The entrance to Caroline House. Photo kindly provided by Robbie Dale.

At the start Radio Caroline had been run from the offices of director Jocelyn Stevens' Queen magazine in Fetter Lane but it soon became apparent that somewhere bigger was needed. Some luxurious offices in the heart of London's Mayfair were found, at 6 Chesterfield Gardens. The building became known as Caroline House. Other offices in it were rented to the actor Terence Stamp, pop group The Moody Blues, Track Records and the Rik Gunnell Agency. There was also an office opened in Liverpool, at 61 Lord Street, to look after the needs of Radio Caroline North. Mail for the north ship was directed to a Post Office box on the Isle of Man.
Although both ships now broadcast under the same Radio Caroline name, they were still separately run. Ronan O'Rahilly and Planet Productions operated the north ship. Allan Crawford and his Project Atlanta colleagues had the southern one. The two teams did not always get on. Crawford was a middle-aged businessman. The Caroline guys were mostly younger and thought that Crawford was a “square”. O'Rahilly, then just 24, was attracted to interesting characters and mavericks and often took on people who didn't have any broadcasting experience. By contrast the former Atlanta staff, now operating Caroline South, were broadcast professionals (many of them antipodean). Following the deal with Caroline, some of the Atlanta DJs quit. Neil Spence joined Radio Invicta and later Radio London. Mike Raven was involved in King Radio and later Radio 390. Others left offshore broadcasting altogether. Life was particularly difficult for Simon Dee and Doug Kerr who had been employed by Ronan O'Rahilly to work on the original Radio Caroline but now found themselves on Caroline South working for Crawford. Dee was actually taken off the air and suspended a couple of times: once for disobeying the Captain and calling out a lifeboat when fellow DJ Bryan Vaughan was taken ill and once for chucking a pile of Crawford's cover version singles over the side of the ship.
Bryan Vaughan remembers: “At the time of the merger, I believe that Christopher Moore was appointed Programme Director for both Radio Caroline North & South but he was always more concerned with the former. Even though the stations merged they continued to be run reasonably separately until the end of 1965. During this time, Ken Evans (see tribute) continued to programme specialist shows for the South (musicals, soundtracks, album shows, etc.).” As can be seen from this policy document issued by Chris Moore in July 1964, Radio Caroline was playing a wide range of music at this time, including standards, jazz, stage show recordings and film soundtracks. The pop was concentrated at those times of day when younger listeners were available.
For a while the mv Mi Amigo was moved to a new anchorage in an attempt to improve the station's signal into London but, away from the usual sheltered position, the rougher seas caused enormous problems for the DJs (see Keith Martin's memories) and the ship was soon back in her usual spot. Later a similar move was suggested for the Fredericia but, in the event, she too stayed put (see here).
The arrival of Radio London at the end of 1964 was a huge blow to Caroline South. Whereas previously it had been the only large offshore station in the area, here was a very powerful, professional, rival to compete for listeners and advertising in southern Britain. Unlike Caroline, Big L was an unashamedly Top 40 station. Meanwhile, with no comparable offshore competition, Caroline North was steadily building a loyal following in a region enjoying a local beat-boom. Its output reflected the tastes of its listeners, playing more country music than its sister station in the south.

Petula Clark

Petula Clark with her Caroline bell award, photo courtesy of Hans Knot.

On 30th January 1965 there was a State Funeral for Sir Winston Churchill, Britain's wartime leader. It was a national day of mourning and, as a mark of respect, Radio Caroline broadcast classical music and a specially recorded documentary. (It is not known if this was the same documentary which had been broadcast a couple of months earlier to mark Churchill's 90th birthday.) The station closed down while the funeral was taking place, as did Radio London.

click to hear audio The closing minutes of the tribute to Sir Winston Churchill, broadcast on Radio Caroline on his 90th birthday, 30th November 1964, taken from a recording shared by The Offshore Radio Archive (duration 2 minutes 49 seconds)

At Easter 1965, Radio Caroline was one year old. A number of special awards were given out in the shape of a ship's bell to mark the occasion. Petula Clark was presented with one for Best Female Vocal Record for her single Downtown; The Animals received theirs for Best Group Record, House Of The Rising Sun. Tom Jones got Best Male Vocal Record for It's Not Unusual and The Beatles won the award for Best And Most Consistent Artistes. There is some newsreel footage of Simon Dee presenting this last one (with Colin Nichol holding the microphone) on YouTube. A number of pop stars recorded messages, thanking Radio Caroline for its support and wishing the station a happy first birthday.

click to hear audio

Cliff Richard
(duration 22 seconds)
click to hear audio

Dusty Springfield
(duration 28 seconds)
click to hear audio
Roy Orbison
& Bobby Vee
(duration 22 seconds)
click to hear audio

The Shadows
(duration 70 secs)
click to hear audio

(duration 32 seconds)
click to hear audio

Peter & Gordon
(duration 20 seconds)
click to hear audio

The Four Pennies
(duration 53 seconds)
click to hear audio

The Honeycombs
(duration 26 seconds)
click to hear audio

The Searchers
(duration 40 seconds)
click to hear audio

The Supremes &
Stevie Wonder
(duration 23 seconds)
click to hear audio

The Miracles, Earl van Dyke and Martha & the Vandellas
(duration 47 seconds)
click to hear audio

Tom Jones &
Dave Clark
(duration 30 seconds)

loading Jimmy Smith's Hammond organ

Loading Jimmy Smith's Hammond organ onto the Mi Amigo. Photo from ‘Radio Caroline’, published by Landmark Press.

In May 1965 Radio Caroline South hosted its first, and only, live music session when Ronan O'Rahilly invited jazz organist Jimmy Smith and his group to come out and play live on the Mi Amigo. The trio was taken out on the tender with their instruments but, once there, a problem arose. Smith's Hammond organ was too big to fit down the companionway into the radio studio. Try as they might, it could not be done. That evening, though, the session still took place as the musicians played live from the deck of the ship with the wind whistling round them. The first number: Hip Ship Blues. After that experience, the station stuck to playing records. (There are some wonderful photos of this broadcast on the Radio London website.)

click to hear audio The first ever live music session on a British pirate station. Simon Dee introduces the Jimmy Smith Trio. This tape kindly provided by the late Dick Morecraft (duration 2 minutes 54 seconds)
click to hear audio Although Caroline South's audience figures did suffer from the increased competition, the station was still influential and was undoubtedly responsible for the success of The Byrds' debut single Mr Tambourine Man, championed in particular by Keith Skues. Here he is playing it on The Big Line Up on 16th May 1965. The recording is from Martin Lynch's collection and has been kindly donated by Lynne Sims (duration 2 minutes 30 seconds)

Published figures showed that in its first year on the air, Radio Caroline generated £294,000 in advertising revenue. This sounded very promising but what the figures did not reveal was that most of this had been earned before the arrival of Radio London. The competition from Big L was causing enormous problems as listeners and advertisers transferred their allegiance.

Jon Sydney

Jon Sydney in his ‘Good Guy’ outfit at Battersea Fun Fair. Ken Evans front, right. Photo courtesy of Colin Nicol. More photos from this event here.

In an effort to fight back, Ken Evans was promoted to Programme Director. Caroline South tightened formats, reduced specialist music content (the daily jazz show Downbeat was moved to weekends), introduced news bulletins, began running shows presented by top New York DJ Jack Spector and generally polished up the station sound. In May 1965 the presenters were renamed ‘Good Guys’. This idea, borrowed from 2SM Sydney (who had, in turn, taken it from New York's WMCA, the home of Jack Spector) was supposed to make the disc-jockeys somehow appear more hip. Each was fitted out with a uniform of blue and white check shirt, grey trousers and a double breasted yachting jacket, courtesy of Burton's the tailors. It was, to say the least, unconvincing.

click to hear audio Don Allen on his last show as a Caroline South ‘Good Guy’, 12th July 1965. He was to go on to enjoy a much more successful stint on Caroline North. This is an edited version of a recording available from Our thanks to Ray Robinson (duration 3 minutes 22 seconds)
click to hear audio An early Jack Spector show from Radio Caroline, audio copied from the transmission tape, kindly provided by John Aston (duration 2 minutes 58 seconds)

Caroline North
Monday 24th May 1965
Caroline South
Tuesday 15th June 1965
6.00am Tom Lodge
9.00 Mike Ahern
12.00pm Spin Around
1.30 The Andrews Show (sponsored)
1.45 Bob Stewart
4.00 The Big Line Up
6.00 Caroline Club Requests
7.00 Jack Spector
8.00 Revival Time (sponsored)
8.02 The World Tomorrow (sponsored)
8.30 closedown
More details here.

6.00am Bryan Vaughan
9.00 Don Allen
10.00 The Anchor Show (sponsored)
10.15 On The Tracks
11.00 Top Deck
12.00pm Keith Skues
1.30 The Andrews Show (sponsored)
1.45 The New Ones
2.00 Top Album Show
3.00 Good Guy Prediction Time
4.00 The Big Line Up
5.45 The Chappell Show (sponsored)
6.00 Caroline Club Requests
7.00 Jack Spector
8.00 closedown
More details here.

Jim Murphy and Tom Lodge

Caroline North DJs Tom Lodge and Jim Murphy are featured in a press advert for Cossack vodka.

Caroline North already had a younger and hipper sound than Caroline South so did not need a similar make-over. The northern station did not adopt the ‘Good Guy’ concept but did add Jack Spector's show to its schedule where it proved very popular. Around this time the team on the Fredericia tried extending broadcasting hours until midnight but, when foreign interference proved that to be pointless, a new late night show was introduced from 12 to 2am: The legendary Midnight Surf Party hosted by Big Jim Murphy, alias “Murph the Surf”. Later Caroline South continued programmes until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights with the uptempo Party Time show.

click to hear audio Jim Murphy kicks off the Midnight Surf Party on Radio Caroline North with his theme tune, Guitar Boogie by Chuck Berry, on 26th July 1965. Recording kindly provided by Hans Knot (duration 3 minutes 1 seconds)
click to hear audio Roger Gale presenting the late night Party Time on Radio Caroline South, Saturday 18th September 1965. More from this programme here. Studio recording kindly provided by Sylvan Mason (duration 2 minutes 18 seconds)

Caroline North, far away from the office politics and with a relatively stable disc jockey team, was a huge success but the loss of listeners and lack of income caused by the growth of Radio London had serious repercussions for Caroline South. On shore staff numbers were cut and, at sea, a new DJ rota was introduced. Whereas previously presenters worked a fortnight on the ship then had a similar amount of time off, now they were expected to be aboard for two weeks then have just one week ashore. Many of them quit in protest (or were fired for complaining) including Garry Kemp, Doug Kerr, Bob Walton, Mike Allen, Roger Gale and Jon Sydney (see press cutting). Radio London may have had an effect on Caroline North too where, for a time, the station's chart was known as the Fab 50 - surely no relation to Big L's Fab 40!

click to hear audio Mike Ahern on his morning show on Radio Caroline North, 8th August 1965. This is an edited version of a recording available from Our thanks to Ray Robinson (duration 5 minutes 49 seconds)
click to hear audio Jerry Leighton on The Leighton Early Show on Radio Caroline North, 28th August 1965, taken from a recording made available by The Offshore Radio Archive (duration 2 minutes 50 seconds)

A Gallup poll revealed that in the autumn of 1965, in its primary target area, Caroline South only had 0.9% audience share, compared to Radio London's 14.7%. (The BBC's Light Programme had 30.4%.) With advertising revenue down, Allan Crawford had to find a way to reduce expenditure. He began talks with Reg Calvert, owner of Radio City. Based on an old wartime anti-aircraft fort in the Thames estuary, Calvert's running costs were considerably lower than Crawford's. A plan was hatched whereby Caroline South would transfer onto Shivering Sands, Calvert's fort. The ship would then be moved to a new anchorage - one where there was no inconvenient offshore competition, such as the west country or the north-east. A joint company was set up to run the proposed operation and a transmitter was shipped out to Shivering Sands. But, unfortunately for Crawford, the plan had come too late. Project Atlanta had run out of cash. His radio dream was over. In December 1965 Planet Productions bought out the Atlanta group. O'Rahilly and his cohorts were now in day-to-day control of both Caroline ships (see article). The Radio City merger plan was abandoned. Barry Ainley was promoted from General Manager to joint managing director to replace the departing Allan Crawford and Tom Lodge, senior DJ on Caroline North, was transferred south to revamp the output and boost audiences. Tom was given a free hand to build a new DJ team. This meant there was another cull of the Caroline South broadcasting staff resulting in the departure of some long-time listener favourites like Keith Skues and Bryan Vaughan.

Part five of ‘Caroline in the Sixties’ over the page.
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