Older Stories
The archived Happenings index
November 2000 – June 2012 is here...

Obituaries – archive from July 2012 onwards

Obituaries – most recent at the top of the page

Basil Sisman
Carl Conway - one of Caroline's first DJs
February 1922 – February 2017

Carl, who has died in Kent at the age of 95, was a 42-year-old established actor from Ramsgate when he joined the new offshore station Radio Caroline in March 1964.

Carl had made several minor films which included – with a touch of deja vu – the part of a sailor in 'Watch Your Stern' and he had appeared in a number of TV dramas in the Fifties, prior to joining Caroline. Although he did not work aboard the ship for long, Carl produced recorded programmes for Caroline and his voice was heard regularly in commercials - which were a radio novelty at the time. His TV credits include Dr Who and Z Cars and – appropriately – he played 'a voice on the radio' in the 1969 TV Series, 'Out of the Unknown'.

In 1967, Carl was one of the presenters of 'Swingalong' on the BBC Light Programme. Best described as eclectic, the mid-afternoon show included pop stars of the day alongside jazz duos and session men.

Carl continued his acting and voice-over work and in the Eighties, presented 'The Big Band Show' on Invicta Sound. In 2008, he told the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame that he was keeping himself busy organising film shows in old people's homes and community centres.

The East Anglian Film Archive houses 'The Radio Caroline Story' a 9-minute black-and-white film, narrated by Carl.

Photo from the Caroline Annual

Carl's Pirate Radio Hall of Fame entry

Geoff Kemp
d February 2017

Chris and I were truly sorry to hear of the untimely passing of Geoff Kemp. We had the pleasure of meeting him and his partner Paul Peters on a number of occasions, usually aboard the LV18 in Harwich. They co-presented shows on Forest FM and were delighted to be part of Pirate BBC Essex, where Paul was nicknamed 'The YTS Pirate' by the late Dave Cash.

Paul and Geoff ran their successful business Palfrey and Kemp, in Lymington for over 30 years. As 'Britain's Rudest Shop', it gained massive press coverage when they retired in 2012.

The following year, they fulfilled a long-held ambition when they embarked on The Mother Road Tour, travelling the famous Route 66 and visiting various radio stations along the way. Paul wrote:

"Geoff had always been interested in old motor cars, and I was mad about radio and still, so much wanted to visit those real American radio stations that I'd seen in the films. Somehow we got this idea of 'doing' Route 66. I told him, 'You can see all the old cars that you want, and I'll call into every radio station that we pass, and make a nuisance of myself, asking to have a look around.' And so we started to talk about, and plan, our trip along Route 66".

Right: Geoff with friends aboard the LV18. l to r Tony Lawther, Tony Currie, Paul, Geoff, Mary and Moosie; Tony O'Neil in front.

After the very successful Route 66 tour, the pair were back home and back in the press, talking about their adventure and were interviewed by Dave Cash for BBC Kent.

We know that Geoff will be greatly missed and we extend our deepest sympathy to Paul and to Geoff's family and his many friends.

Mary Payne


Friend Ron Buninga:
"We got the news through a friend of Paul's sister last weekend.
So sad. Ton and I have had a nice contact with Paul and Geoff. They have been over to The Netherlands a few times and we got together on two occasions."

Links: The Rudest Shop in Britain; The Route 66 Radio Tour, Paul and Geoff's interview with the late Dave Cash.

See our story 'Radio London meets Radio Essex'

Stuart Russell
(d January 2017)

We were very sorry to learn of the death of Stuart Russell (no relation to the Caroline DJ of that name). Although Stuart had no internet access, his name will be familiar to visitors to the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame, where he was a regular contributor, and listeners to the Keith Skues Show. Stuart was a prolific correspondent with many people who will miss him, although they never met him in person.

Jon Myer, PRHoF

Stuart had been a loyal supporter of the PRHoF for many years. I will miss his regular text messages and letters. I never met him, but feel upset to learn of his death. Stuart suffered a number of mini-strokes recently and I last had a text from him on Thursday 19th when he had been awaiting treatment at Gloucester Royal Hospital for six hours.

We corresponded a lot over the years. I gather Stuart used to walk to the newsagent every day to collect newspapers for elderly neighbours, looked after people's dogs, and seemed like a thoroughly good bloke. He had a lot of friends in Exmouth and dreamed of swapping his council house in Gloucester for one in Exmouth, but it never happened.

He had strong opinions on what was wrong with Capital, the BBC, etc. and he corresponded with a number of former offshore DJs including Tony Brandon and Tom Edwards.

Keith Skues

Sad news indeed.
Stuart was a great offshore radio fan. I didn't know him personally., but he regularly sent me reams of paper about his memories of the watery wireless days. His most recent communication was a Christmas card. He was one of the 'old brigade' - no typewriter, no computer, but I believe hundreds and hundreds of archive tapes and CDs. It will be interesting to know where all his old radio archives will go.

Tony Brandon

I heard the sad news yesterday when I was telephoned by a friend who was formerly Programme Director of Saga Radio - Brian Savin. I never met Stuart but I felt I knew him well. He was a constant source of information over many years and his knowledge of the radio industry was second to none.

In common with so many I am really going to miss Stuart's many letters and texts, together with Christmas and Birthday cards.

Wolfgang Buchholz, Bonn, Germany

The news on your site that Stuart Russell passed away really shocked me.
I knew him for about twenty years, thanks to our joint memories of good old pirate days, especially those of Big L, of course. He liked to talk/write about his teens in Germany, nearby to Essen, where he had been garrisoned, I believe.
When we corresponded before last Christmas, he was looking very much forward to a visit from his old friends from here during the turn of the year.

I will bear him in good remembrance.

David Elie Phillips
Dave Gregory
25/06/1949 - 22/11/2016

Dave's long career in radio commenced with shows on Radio Northsea International in the summer of 1970 and included stints on Radio 1, Metro Radio, Essex Radio, Luxembourg and Jazz FM - with a bit of 'moonlighting' on land-based pirates thrown in. He cited fellow offshore broadcasters Tony Blackburn and Johnnie Walker as major influences. Dave's most recent broadcasts were the monthly 'Gregamix' on Solar Radio.

At the 2014 Amsterdam Radio Day, Dave participated in the RNI Panel and Chris and I enjoyed a pleasant evening over dinner with him and his wife Sue. Our deepest condolences to Sue.

Dave's Radio 1 career; Solar Radio Tribute; Pirate Radio Hall of Fame entry, with clip from Dave's first RNI show.
(Thanks to Jon Myer)

RIP Dave Cash, original Big L DJ
18 July 1942 – 21 October 2016
Link to three Radio London Tribute Pages

Ben Toney spoke to Dave's widow and says, "I had a chat with Sara on the phone, Mary, and she is overwhelmed at the outpouring of comments about Dave.

I know she will appreciate your tribute page as well.

Thank you, Mary for all the hard work you do for all of us. You are the best."

Bobby Vee (Robert Thomas Velline) died 24th October 24th
Bobby enjoyed 38 US Hot Hundred Hits, but his records appeared only twice on the Radio London playlist. 'Look at Me Girl' was Dave Dennis's climber for 24/07/66 and 'Come Back When You Grow Up' featured in the final Fab Forty, 06/08/67, although it was not scheduled for release until nearly one month later, September 1st.

Official website; Russ and Gary's Bobby Vee page


BFN Sir Jimmy
Jimmy (Leslie Ronald) Young, broadcaster and singer, died 7th November.

Mike Terry has kindly sent the following tribute.

RIP Sir Jimmy Young - I first remember him on Luxembourg in he late 50s/early 60s, a weak signal in those lower power days with much fading. It was unique and exciting commercial radio beamed to the UK where there was no competitor in its genre.

When Radio London closed in '67 some thought TW (Tony Windsor) would get the mid - morning slot on Radio 1 and 2 but his illness prevented it. Instead Jimmy got the show and moulded it into a new style of broadcasting merging music with interviews, recipes and much more. Millions regularly listened, but sadly it was hardly what the youth of Britain wanted and I hated it.

Over time however we came to realise what an excellent broadcaster Jimmy was.

Guardian obituary

Don Ciccone
1946 - 2016

Don Ciccone, the lead singer of the Critters and composer of the beautiful 'Mr Dieingly Sad', has died in Ketchum, Idaho. The song was the band's biggest US success, #17 on the Billboard singles chart.

On June 10th, 1966 having only arrived back from 'exile' three days earlier, Kenny Everett was already threatening to return to 'Little L' (by which he meant Radio Luxembourg) if 'Younger Girl' the Critters' first UK release, didn't make the charts.
The Critters single had already received airplay as a climber for the week commencing May 29th, but had then skipped a week on the climbers list. Two days after Kenny's threat, it did, indeed, enter the Fab Forty and climber to #14.

A couple of months later, Kenny picked 'Mr Dieingly Sad' as his climber for 28/8/66 and it entered the Fab Forty the following week.

Radio London gave airplay to follow-ups, 'Bad Misunderstanding', 'Marryin' Kind of Love' and 'Don't Let the Rain Fall Down on Me' (Chuck Blair's climber 23/07/67), but the tracks saw little success in the UK.
(Thanks to Jon Myer)

Full obituary

Joan Marie Johnson
1944 - 2016

The Dixie Cups, Joan Marie Johnson and her cousins Barbara Ann and Rosa Lee Hawkins, began singing as a trio while still in school. Their 1964 single 'Chapel of Love' became a massive US hit in the summer of 1964.

'You Should Have Seen the Way He Looked at Me' released November 1964, was played by Paul Kaye on the fledgling Big L on 9th January 1965 and 'Iko Iko' released the following April spent several weeks on the earliest Fab Forties, climbing to #10 in the chart of, 30/05/65.

The Dixie Cups were inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in New Orleans in 2007.
(Thanks to Jon Myer)

Guardian obituary

Annette Pierson
12th March 1926 – 29th August 2016

Annette Pierson, 90, of Eastland, Texas, passed away Monday, August 29, 2016 surrounded by her family.

Known for her grace, charm and gentle kindness, Annette was also exceptionally witty and a priceless mimic.

A graduate of Abilene High School and Baylor University, Annette employed her talents as a skilled designer for D&W Furniture in Abilene before marrying her childhood sweetheart, the late Don Pierson, in 1948. They moved to Eastland in 1953 when Don acquired the local Olds-Cadillac dealership, and in 1954 Annette designed and oversaw construction of their home on Hillcrest Avenue.

Although life experiences took her around the world, she remained active in Eastland civic affairs through a number of clubs and organizations including the Civic League, Women's Club, Civic Theater and her bridge club.

Annette is survived by daughter, Marilyn Van Zandt and Larry, son, Grey Pierson and wife Paula, son by love, Reza Zaheri, granddaughter Lauren Petree, grandson Trevor Van Zandt, and great-grandchildren Ella Petree, Kendall Quirk and Shaun Quirk.

A celebration of Annette's life will be held at Edward's Funeral Home in Eastland at 2:00 PM on Saturday, September 3, 2016. Her favored charities included First Presbyterian Church of Eastland and Meals on Wheels.

Errol Bruce-Knapp
27th October 1942 – 11th August 2016

Errol, who broadcast under the name of Errol Bruce for over 45 years, was a pioneer of UK offshore radio. In interviews with Spectrum Radio, he explained how he was working in London in 1964, when he applied for a DJ job on the 4-month-old Radio Caroline. An unexpected opportunity for swift employment arose when Bryan Vaughan was rushed ashore from the Mi Amigo via lifeboat, with suspected appendicitis. (The date confirmed by the records of the Walton and Frinton lifeboats, is July 27th.) The DJs, who in the early days did not operate their own equipment, had been left without a technical operator. Bryan's unfortunate illness opened the studio door for Errol, who managed to bluff his way aboard by claiming to be familiar with the studio equipment and its operation. He soon graduated to being a DJ and spent time working aboard both Caroline ships, using the theme tune, 'I've Got a Woman' by Jimmy McGriff. When Radio England began swinging in 1966, Errol joined the team to become 'Bosscat' Bruce, then displayed his versatility by switching styles completely to broadcast on SRE's laid-back sister station, Britain Radio. On returning to Canada in 1968, Errol joined CKFH Toronto and later broadcast with CHUM-FM, Q107, CHOO and CBC.

From the 1990s onwards, Errol became renowned for his interest in Unidentified Flying Objects and his show, later a podcast, 'Strange Days... Indeed', where he conducted interviews with both UFO and other paranormal researchers.

A comprehensive tribute with audio clips is on the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame

Spectrum Radio interview

Walton and Frinton life boat plaque

Tribute on Coast to Coast AM

Photo: from Errol's personal Facebook page

Clarence Edwin 'Eddie' Blackwell

Former Radlon Sales Executive Eddie Blackwell passed away peacefully on June 20th, 2016.

It was Eddie who had the dubious honour of selling the final Big L advertising slot for August 14th 1967 – a commercial that would nowadays be outlawed, for Rothmans' Consulate cigarettes.

Geoff Pearson, Radio London's Traffic Manager, sent the following tribute:

Thank you for sending the sad news that Eddie Blackwell has passed on; very soon there will only be memories left, as time takes us all.

I worked with Eddie at 17 Curzon Street, from the end of '64 to October '66. With Dennis Maitland, he was one of our Ad Sales Execs,who so often made my life hell by booking last-minute ads, that had to have copy or tapes got to the ship for transmission. Last-minute trains from Liverpool Street via Manningtree were often the order of the day, to ensure that copy got onto the tender at Parkstone Quay. As Traffic Manager, part of my job was to plan the ad schedules that were used aboard the Galaxy. We also had to get the copy either in tape or written form, from the agencies. The fact that I was so busy was because of Eddie and Dennis and their ability to sell advertising to the the major agencies was one of the main reasons for the success of Radio London.

I can remember Eddie thumping down the stairs to our basement office with a big grin on his face saying 'I know we're probably full, but you can fit these in the morning show for me can't you?' He would leave the office giggling, followed by a missile in the form of whatever was in my hand at the time. 

Eddie was one of those genuinely nice people that you remember with a smile, people who influenced your life in some way. I was very young when I joined Radio London and almost straight out of Art School, so I had little genuine experience. I grew up during my time there and people like Eddie were always around to help if needed. 

After all these years, I still have visions of Radio London and the people I met there. The one important thing about reaching senior status, is that the world may think we are now useless, but they cannot take away our memories of those days that we changed broadcasting forever. Rest in peace, Eddie.

Gordon Sheppard:

At 'Big L', I used to have lunch with Eddie Blackwell almost every day. Every one of them was hilarious, with us laughing all the time. A real wonderful memory. Sadly, in later years, I failed to contact Eddie, so, I will just hang on to the wonderful memories that I have of him during those lunches.

Peter Flanagan, who also worked at 17 Curzon Street

Eddie's character's presence has remained in my mind, longer than many do. I just remember his behaviour towards me as kind and reasonable, and probably more so than I deserved at that age!

Keith Skues remembers

Eddie was a popular salesman with Radio London and always had time to chat with us as presenters when we came on shore leave and visited 17 Curzon Street.

Ben Toney, Willy Walker, Dave Cash, Tony Brandon and Guy Hamilton all wished to add their condolences.

Photo: Martin Powell Photography

Joan Bates
Princess Joan of Sealand
02 September 1929 – 10 March 2016

Andy Cadier, who worked for the Bates family as Radio Essex DJ Michael Cane, has forwarded the sad news that Joan Bates has died.

Joan Bates was born in Aldershot barracks to RSM Royal Artillery, to Albert Collins, and his wife, Elizabeth. The widow of Roy Bates, aka Prince Roy of Sealand, Joan was a natural beauty who lovingly devoted her life to her husband. A former carnival queen and model, Joan led quite a high profile life alongside her husband, Roy. Joan became happily engulfed by the offshore pirate radio phenomena in the early 1960s, helping to establish the popular Radio Essex. Joan and her family then went on to form their own sovereign state, the Principality of Sealand, on a wartime fortress in the North Sea in the late 60s. Roy declared the independence of Sealand on Joan's birthday, and with it, her title of Princess, in a hugely romantic gesture on 2nd September 1967.

Sealand Official website

(Right) Prince Roy and Princess Joan with the Sealand flag


Sir George Henry Martin CBE
3 January 1926 – 8 March 2016

George Martin's contribution to the Big L Fab Forties was of course, immense. He had a lifetime achievement of 30 #1 hits in the UK and 23 in the United States. The Action, Beatles, Billy J Kramer, Cilla Black, David & Jonathan, Gerry & the Pacemakers, Matt Monro and Peter Sellers all appeared in the Fab Forty with George Martin-produced singles.

"(The Beatles) had a well of creativity that I haven't seen in anybody else."

George was interviewed in 1999 at the Parisian cabaret Scheherazade by Thierry Ardisson. During the 25-minute interview, George talked of Air Studios which he built on Montserrat and of the fundraising album he recorded with a host of stars after the small Caribbean island was devastated by Hurricane Hugo. Naturally, he spoke of his relationship with the Beatles and he also reveals how he and an equally-devastated Paul McCartney helped each other to cope with the news of the murder of John Lennon. The interview ends with Thierry asking George what he thought the Beatles would have become without him - and vice versa.

Edward Stewart Mainwaring
23rd April 1941 – 9th January 2016

"There was something special about being on a pirate radio ship in the North Sea, in a roaring gale in winter. You obviously can't recreate that in a studio on land and that's what gave pirate radio its special magic and appeal to millions of listeners"

2-page Photo tribute, from friends, shipmates and listeners, with Brands Hatch pictures from Mark Roman's archive.

Stephen Chesney writes: A connection between Ed and Terry Wogan has occurred to me.  When Wogan was first given a daily afternoon show on Radio 1, he used 'Drum Diddley' by Joe Loss as his theme tune, just as Ed had done aboard Big L.

David Robert Jones
David Bowie
January 8, 1947 - 10th January 2016

It is not widely known that Radio London was very much instrumental in promoting David Bowie's early career. This tribute concentrates on 1966 and 67 and the station plugging his recordings when they were generally ignored elsewhere; it recalls the numerous appearances he made at Big L-sponsored events.

Full-page tribute

(Right) EMI publicity shot 1965


Departures from the music and broadcasting world, December 2015 - January 2016

Ian Fraser Kilmister (24 December 1945 – 28 December 2015)

Not generally thought of as a Fab Forty artist, Lemmy (then known as Ian Willis) spent four weeks on the Radio London playlist as a member of the Rocking Vickers. In tandem with Clinton Ford, the band took Ray Davis's song 'Dandy' to #21 on 13th November 66.

Over on Radio Caroline, where the Rocking Vickers were not obliged to share their glory with Clinton Ford, the single peaked at #38 on December 10th.


Stephen Carlton "Stevie" Wright[2] (20 December 1947[3] – 27 December 2015)
Between 1964 and 69 Stevie Wright was lead singer with Australian group the Easybeats, widely regarded as the greatest Australian pop band of the 1960s.
'Friday on My Mind' was a hit on both Big L, Caroline and the Nationals. Picked as Tony Blackburn's climber for 2nd October 66, it spent a total of eight weeks on the Radio London playlist, climbing to #5 and 15 weeks on the Caroline Countdown of Sound, peaking at #9.


Robert Colin Stigwood (16 April 1934 – 4 January 2016)
Robert Stigwood was an Australian-born British-resident music entrepreneur and impresario. He managed Fab Forty acts Studio Six and Oscar, as well as Cream and the Bee Gees, and was credited as producer on one or two of Radio London's Pall Mall B-sides. On 13 January 1967 Stigwood signed a deal with his friend and colleague Brian Epstein to merge their two companies.


Giorgio Gomelsky (28 February 1934 – 13 January 2016)
Giorgio Gomelsky owned the Crawdaddy Club in London which boasted The Rolling Stones as its house band, and he was involved with their early management. He also managed and produced the Yardbirds. In September 1966, he launched his Marmalade Record label with The Roaring 60s 'We Love the Pirates' . This anti-MOA Radio London Club Disc of the Week with a Pall Mall B-side, reached #20 in the Fab Forty and was in both the Radio City and Caroline charts.

Jonathan Taylor
November 2015

The Radio London webmasters were sad to receive the news that Jonathan Taylor, who was involved in the Pirate BBC Essex broadcasts from the LV18 in Harwich, had passed away after a short illness. Ray Clark of BBC Essex said:

"A nice guy. The first time I met him was when he was sorting some new equipment at R Cambs. I'd said hello to this guy and was working away and suddenly I hear a phone tone of Big Lil!"

Our condolences to Jonathan's family.

(Left, Jonathan with Roger Day during the 2009 Pirate BBC Essex broadcast.)

(Thanks to Jon Myer)

Hubert Leroy Goins
Herbie Goins February 1939 – October 2015

Herbie Goins was an American singer and songwriter with a gospel background, who spent much of the late Fifties and Sixties working in England. He was with both the Eric Delaney and Chris Barber bands before becoming lead singer with Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, in 1963. Herbie formed his own band the Night-Timers, in 1965 and the following year, spent five weeks on the Big L playlist with 'No 1 In Your Heart' - later a Northern Soul favourite. First recorded by Motown's Monitors, it peaked at #12 on the Fab Forty in July '66. 'The Incredible Miss Brown', released in September '66, failed to make it beyond the Climber list.

In 1971, Herbie moved to Italy, where he continued to work in the music business. He returned to performing in the Eighties and last toured the UK in 2009, with contemporaries Cliff Bennett and Chris Farlowe. He died in Italy aged 76.

Wikipedia entry

Billy Joe Royal
April 1942 - October 2015

Billy Joe Royal's records were not hugely successful in the UK, but five of his singles spent a total of 12 weeks on the Big L playlist, even though only one of them reached the Top Ten. Although the major Hot Hundred success, 'Down in the Boondocks' spent only one week in the Fab Forty, it remains well-loved and remembered as a Big L turntable hit. The ever-resourceful Kenny and Cash even spliced up the intro for one of their promos. 'Boondocks' had competition from a British version by Gregory Philips, but the original quickly became the outright winner.

Two of Billy Joe's later singles were DJ hit picks - 'The Greatest Love' (Willy Walker) and 'Yo Yo' (Chuck Blair). The latter reached #9 in February 1966. 'Heart's Desire' (later popular with Northern Soul enthusiasts) was a climber for two weeks in June 66 but never made the Fab Forty. I Knew You When' and 'The Greatest Love' both made the lower reaches of the Big L chart.

Most of us in the UK remained completely mystified as to the nature of a 'boondock', until 2001, when Caroline's Bud Ballou finally enlightened us. Someone who comes from the boondocks, aka 'the boonies', will be labelled even more of an outcast than someone who hails from 'way out in the sticks'! (A real-life 'nowhere man', in fact.) 'Boondocks', a Joe South composition, was the only Billy Joe Royal release to make the UK Nationals and the single also spent a few weeks in the Caroline Countdown. (Thanks to Jon Myer)

Billboard obituary

Atlantic publicity shot

Sharon Finkelstein
Sharon Tandy, September 1943 – March 2015

The Radio London website has only recently received the sad news that Fab Forty South African artist Sharon Tandy died in March 2015.

Sharon's cover of Walter Jackson's US Hot Hundred entry, 'It's an Uphill Climb to the Bottom', appeared in the Radio London chart in July 1966 for three weeks, but was never actually released. A year later Sharon's cover of Lorraine Elliison's 'Stay With Me' was picked as Tony Brandon's climber and appeared briefly in the Fab Forty close to the end of Radio London's life in 1967.

Sharon had recorded tracks in 1966 with Booker T and the MGs at the Stax studios in Memphis, and was chosen to take Carla Thomas's place on some dates of the 1967 Stax/Volt European tour, aka 'Hit the Road Stax'. She also recorded a session for John Peel's Top Gear and enjoyed 2 Top 20 hits in South Africa.

Ace Records tribute

(Thanks to Jon Myer)

1964 EMI publicity shot

Priscilla Maria Veronica White OBE
Cilla Black May 1943 - August 2015

Tribute by Mary Payne
It was a strange and sad coincidence that late on Saturday, August 1st, I was playing Cilla Black's 'What Good Am I' from the Fab Forty Top Ten of 11th June 1967, on Radio Mi Amigo. 'What Good Am I' was Cilla's last Fab Forty entry and only a few hours later, while sitting outside the Pier Hotel, we were shocked to hear the news of her untimely death. I went straight aboard the LV18 to tell Tony Currie, who was on the air, so that he was able to put together quickly a tribute montage of her popular tracks.

Cilla's recordings spent many weeks in the Fab Forty, beginning with 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling', #5 in the first-known complete Fab Forty chart from 24th January 1965. It was a success that Cilla was obliged to share with the Righteous Brothers. Her follow-up in April, 'I've Been Wrong Before', spent six weeks in the Big L chart and peaked at #9 on May 23rd. 'Love's Just a Broken Heart' was her biggest Fab Forty hit, #2 on January 30th 1966. Follow-ups 'Don't Answer me' and 'A Fool am I' made numbers 4 and 5 respectively. 'What Good Am I' was picked as Pete Drummond's climber and reached #8 on the Fab Forty.

A touring show co-promoted with a radio station was an innovation when Brian Epstein and Radio London launched Star Scene '65. Throughout October of that year. Cilla toured with stablemates Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, while the Everly Brothers topped the bill. 

Pete Brady, who had just resigned his DJ job aboard the Galaxy, was free to host a Big L section of the show where teeshirts and records were given as prizes. Pete also wrote backstage reports for Disc, where he reported that Phil Everly was 'knocked out' by Cilla and always watched her performance from the wings.

George Martin told Brian Epstein's biographer Ray Coleman, "Brian had this sense to see in Cilla something I originally hadn't seen. I thought she was this dolly rocker from Liverpool, good and different but not in any way a ballad singer. She was a mini- skirted little girl with a brassy voice. He opened my eyes to Cilla's dramatic potential."

Cilla was awarded her OBE in 1997. She celebrated 50 years in show business in December 2013 and received a BAFTA Special Award the following year in honour of her contribution to entertainment.

George Martin quote: The Independent; Official Cilla Black site; a Canadian website tribute with video links, from Russ and Gary

Michael Valentine Doonican – Val Doonican
February 1927 – July 2015

Popular Irish singing star Val Doonican has died peacefully in a nursing home in Buckinghamshire. Val became well known not only for his best-selling recordings, but for his laid-back primetime TV shows, which he hosted from a rocking chair. However, he had an earlier, lesser-known radio career.

Alan Bailey recalls Val recording a few shows for Radio Luxembourg in London with Pat Campbell. Val and Pat had sung together in Dublin, as members of the Four Ramblers and Pat was a DJ on a 208 Decca-sponsored show, while Val was a Decca artist. Val was also a good friend of 208 DJ Keith Fordyce.

Val hosted a radio programme on the pre-Radio 2 BBC Light Programme and according to Val's Official Website, "Embarrassed the announcers terribly with some of his song titles (you try announcing...'Quit Kickin' My Dog Around' with a straight face). This led to him linking his own material at a time when regional accents were almost unknown at the BBC. However, Val's surname was still not known to his listeners - the powers-that-be in Broadcasting House, having decided that the general public would never remember a complicated surname like Doonican!"

The 'complicated' surname did not prevent Val from becoming a major star and recorded 25 Christmas Specials for BBC TV, attracting audiences of 19 million. Val admitted to the Daily Express that he had felt too embarrassed to watch them. "We'd sit as a family enjoying ourselves," he said, "But as soon as my show started, I'd nip off to another room."

Throughout the life of Radio London, Val made regular Fab Forty appearances. 'Walk Tall' was at #8 on January 10th 1965, one of the earliest-known Big L charts. A month later, the follow-up 'The Special Years' made #6, while 'I'm Gonna Get There Somehow' reached #16 at the beginning of May. Val was obliged to share the glory of #2 with Bob Lind (and no doubt the sales) at the end of March 66, when both versions of 'Elusive Butterfly' were released simultaneously. At the end of November he secured the #3 slot with 'What Would I Be' and was back at #2 in March 67. 'Two Streets' was Val's final Fab Forty entry. Picked as Tony Brandon's climber, it proceeded to climb to #11 in May 67.

One of Val's lesser-known skills was as a harmonica player, which is illustrated by a clip of him playing the theme to the Old Grey Whistle Test, 'Stone Fox Chase', with Charlie McCoy.

Val retired from performing in 2009 and enjoyed painting and drawing, donating some of his artwork to a local calendar.

Official Val Doonican site; 'Stone Fox Chase' clip; Val's paintings
(Thanks to Ray Reynolds, Alan Bailey, Jon Myer

Lynn Annette Ripley – 'Twinkle'
July 1948 - May 2015

With her long, blonde hair and fashionable clothes, Twinkle was the epitome of the female Sixties pop star. In the middle of the decade, she was a well-known 'face' on the music scene and was friendly with the likes of Brian Jones and George Harrison.

Thanks to the influence of her manager Philip Solomon, Twinkle's records were played extensively on offshore radio. Her self-penned hit 'Terry' was a huge success at the end of 1964, beginning of '65, both on the Caroline charts and the nationals and was in the earliest Radio London Fab Forties. Twinkle recorded personal promo messages for Dave Dennis and even modelled the 1965 Big L teeshirt. Her 'death disc' was banned by commercial TV companies, but surprisingly, not by the BBC.

Twinkle also wrote follow-up releases, including 'Tommy' (FF May 1965) and 'Golden Lights' (FF March 1965). Her cover of the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest Winner 'Poupée De Cire, Poupée De Son' became the title track on her 1965 EP 'A Lonely Singing Doll'.

She paid two visits to the Mi Amigo during 1965 and in July, appeared at the opening of the Caroline Disc Nights at 100 Club, Oxford Street.

Unfortunately, none of the follow-ups to 'Terry' found the same success. Although Philip Solomon ensured that 'What Am I Doing Here With You' spent several weeks in the Caroline Countdown of Sound in August 66, it did not sell well, or make the Big L playlist.

When the Postmaster General threatened to kill off the pirates in December 65, Twinkle spoke out for the offshore stations. "PIrate Radio made many names famous and was the best thing to ever hit Britain this century. The BBC was old hat and stuffy... Radio Caroline sounded much more friendly," she said.

Daily Mail obituary; 45 cat copy of 'banned' single; "best thing to ever hit Britain this century" quote from 'Pop Went the Pirates' by Keith Skues.

Departures from the music and broadcasting world, April 2015

Benjamin Earl King
Ben E King (September 1938 – April 2015)

Singer and songwriter Ben E King was successful both as lead vocalist with the Drifters and a solo artist. He was regularly in the US Top Ten, and at the top of the charts with 'There Goes My Baby' and 'Save The Last Dance For Me', 'Stand By Me' and 'Supernatural Thing'. 'Stand By Me' shot back to the top when rereleased in 1986 as title song of the film of Stephen King's short story. 'Stand by Me', 'There Goes My Baby' and 'Spanish Harlem' were named as three of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and the trio, plus 'Save The Last Dance For Me' all earned Grammy Hall of Fame Awards

In 2012, Stand by Me' took the Songwriters Hall of Fame 'Towering Song Award' and Ben E King was honoured with the 2012 Towering Performance Award for his recording of the song.

Ben co-wrote 'What is Soul', #23 in the Fab Forty in January 67 and 'Tears Tears Tears', Paul Kaye's climber for 23/04/67, which peaked at #8 on May 14th.

Numerous covers of Ben E King successes include the Duprees' 'Around the Corner', picked as Kenny Everett's cimber for 080865 and Tony Blackburn's version of 'So Much Love', released January 68.

Ben had toured the UK as recently as 2013 and continued to play US concerts till 2014, when he succumbed to ill health.

CBS News tribute


Percy Tyrone Sledge
November 1940 – April 2015

Renowned Southern soul singer Percy Sledge has died at his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

His very first release in 1966, 'When a Man Loves a Woman' was a million-seller, for which he received a gold disc. It is reported that when the musicians went to the studio to record it, the song had no title or lyrics and was completely improvised by Percy Sledge. However, he generously gave the writing credits to band members Lewis and Wright.

The record hit #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B singles charts in the USA, made #4 in the UK Nationals and when reissued in 1987, peaked at No. 2. In May, 'When a Man Loves a Woman' was picked as Paul Kaye's climber and reached #3 in the Big L Fab 40. It topped the Caroline Countdown of Sound and was #5 on the City Sixty.

The follow-up 'Warm and Tender Love' was once again allocated to Paul Kaye and made the Top 20 on both Caroline and London in August. 'It Tears Me Up' reached the Big L Top Ten in January 1967 but although Bobby Womack composition, 'Baby Help Me' was played as part of the Big L Soul Set, it did not enter the Fab 40.

Johnnie Walker was a huge fan of soul music and when he arrived aboard Caroline and started his 'Kiss in the Car' campaign, he put Percy's love songs to good use, challenging sweethearts to win a 'Kiss in the Car' sticker by locking lips for the songs' duration.

Percy Sledge was the recipient of numerous awards. In 1989, he received the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's first Career Achievement Award and in 2005 he was inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. He continued to perform to enthusiastic audiences until fairly recently, when he was struck down by illness.

Rock n Roll Hall of Fame; Percy Sledge: five best songs

Peter Young: The late Percy Sledge is mainly remembered for the deep soul classic 'When A Man Loves A Woman,' but made many other fine records. We'll hear a lot more from this great artist on Saturday's 'Soul Cellar', including a surprising number of uptempo sides from the soul balladeer.


Stanley Victor Freberg (Stan Feberg)
August 1926 – April 2015

Broadcasting legend Stan Freberg was renowned for his ability to paint believable audio pictures for his radio audiences and for making commercials listenable. He told the New York Times he loved radio from an early age. "I was such a big radio buff when I was growing up that when the other kids ran out to play baseball, I ran inside to listen to the radio," he said, naming his idols as Jack Benny and Fred Allen.

Most offshore enthusiasts will have encountered Stan's work first via hearing his parody of 'The Banana Boat Song' on Uncle Mac's Children's Favourites in the Fifties. His comedy recordings were lesser known in the UK than in the US.

In 1958, Stan launched his own ad agency, Freberg Ltd, with the slogan, "More Honesty Than the Client Had in Mind". His corporate motto was,"Ars Gratia Pecuniae" (Art of the Sake of Money). He made a living from advertising, but was never afraid of taking a pop at the industry via spoofs such as 'Green Chri$tm$' and an anti-smoking campaign. In 1960 he tackled the 'plays for pay' topic of the day via his record 'The Old Payola Blues'. In the Sixties Stan came up with six terrific promo spots for radio as an advertising medium, titled "Who Listens to Radio?", used by some of the offshore stations.

I was lucky enough to see Stan perform at London's Comedy Store in Sept 2005, He was 79 years old and although he looked a little frail and tired by the end, he was still fantastic. The show was recorded for BBC Radio 4, and hopefully will be repeated as a tribute.

Mary Payne

Guardian tribute; tribute from Stan's widow Hunter. All six 'Who listens to Radio?' promos. (Thanks to Howie Castle)


We are also sorry to learn belatedly that another of the USS Density shipmates, Bill Brandstetter, died at the end of December, aged 94. Bill is far left in the above photo.

Recent Departures from the music and broadcasting world March 2015

Yvonne Burgess (Jackie Trent) September 1940 - March 2014
Singer-songwriter Jackie Trent, who has died on the island of Menorca, made many Fab Forty appearances, although some were quite brief. The first was her huge hit, 'Where Are You Now My Love', #2 in May 1965. 'When the Summertime is Over', was Radio London Club Disc of the Week for 13/06/65, but reached no higher than #25. 'All in the Way You Look at Life' was in the FF for just one week in October, 'You Baby' made a short appearance at the end of January 66 and 'Love is Me' appeared fleetingly in March. Another major success arrived in August when 'If You Ever Leave Me' was picked as Paul Kaye's climber and proceeded to climb to the Top Twenty. 'Open Your Heart' was Keith Skues's climber at the end of January '67. Keith paid tribute to Jackie in the March 22nd edition of his BBC programme. A Cat Stevens composition 'Humming Bird' gave Jackie a FF #14 in April and Pete Drummond's climber, 'Your Love is Everywhere', made the Top Ten in July.

Only a few weeks before her sad demise, Jackie had been to the UK, where she had recorded a TV show with Ed Stewart and visited Millside Hospital Radio.

Jackie's personal website


Eric Stanley Taylor (Shaw Taylor) MBE October 1924 - March 2015

DJ, actor and presenter Shaw Taylor has died at his Isle of Wight home, aged 90. He is best remembered for fronting the long-running crime-stopper TV programme, 'Police Five' and for his catchphrase, 'Keep 'em peeled'. When Channel 5 revived Police Five in 2014, Shaw made weekly appearances at the age of 89.

Much earlier in Shaw's career, he was also a DJ on Radio Luxembourg and co-hosted EMI's long-running Friday (formerly Monday) Spectacular, with Muriel Young. It was the norm then for record companies to sponsor programming on 208. Friday Spectacular was a showcase for new EMI releases, recorded on a Monday before a young audience at the record company's Manchester Square studios in London. Tapes were then shipped to the Grand Duchy for broadcast the following Friday. The edition recorded on 8th October,1962 is significant. It is thought to be when Shaw interviewed a young, little-known Scouse quartet about their newly-released Parlophone single, 'Love me Do'. The programme was broadcast on Radio Luxembourg the following Friday, 12th October, and it is believed to have been the Beatles' first radio interview.

(Right) Shaw celebrates with fans at the Christmas recording of the Friday Spectacular, 1963

Ventnor radar tribute; Guardian obituary


Michael David Lookofsky (Michael Brown) April 1949 - March 2015

Michael Brown was the keyboard player, songwriter and co-founder of Left Banke who penned the band's Fab Forty hits. 'Walk Away Renee' was in the Big L Top 20 in October 66, 'Pretty Ballerina' just missed the Twenty in February 67. A B-Side 'And Suddenly' appeared in the chart at the end of May '67 and made #22. Radio London had chosen to play this side of the record, a departure from the usual band style found on the A,'Ivy Ivy'.

Ultimate Classic Rock tribute; Guardian obituary (thanks to Mike Barraclough)


Tanya Renee Baugus
1966 - 2015

With heavy hearts, Chris and Mary announce the untimely departure of our dear friend Tanya, the leading light of the USS Density family.

Memorial pages have been set up by Ben F Brown, Funeral Directors.

Mary Payne's personal tribute page is here.

Sad Departures February 2015

A number of recent sad departures from the music and broadcasting world.

Kenrick Des-Etages (Ebony Keyes/Lee Vanderbilt)

Simon Des-Etages has sent the sad news of the sudden death of his father in London, on February 19th.

(Left) Simon and Kenrick

Trinidadian Kenrick Des-Etages spent his life writing and playing music. He emigrated to London in the 1950s and began singing in amateur nights at his local pub. He took the stage name Ebony Keyes in 1964 and after a couple of failed releases, appeared in the Fab Forty with two self-penned songs 'Sitting in a Ring' in December 1966 and the ballad 'Cupid's House' (which was chosen as Paul Kaye's climber) in March '67.
During that month, Ebony made an appearance as an addition to the bill of the Stax-Volt tour when it played the Roundhouse.

In the Seventies, Ebony Keys became Lee Vanderbilt and collaborated with Biddu and Carl Douglas.

Kenrick was a prolific songwriter and session musician, and continued to write and perform into the Eighties and beyond. Simon has compiled a complete biography of his long musical career.


Christopher Harley (Chris Rainbow)

Chris Rainbow, who died on February 22nd was renowned for writing, producing and recording Capital Radio 194 jingles. Some of them were personalised ones for the DJs, including Kenny Everett and Tommy Vance. Kenny was a huge fan of his work and his two 1974 self-penned releases, 'Give Me What I Cry For' and 'Solid State Brain' were aired regularly on Capital. The tracks featured on the album 'Looking Over my Shoulder', for which Kenny voiced a commercial. Chris was also a vocalist with the Alan Parsons Project and Camel.

In 1977, Chris recorded a song he had written in tribute to Brian Wilson, called 'Dear Brian'. In response to the news of Chris's demise, Brian Wilson posted on his official website: "I felt really bad to hear about Chris Rainbow passing away, he was too young. I remember in the late 1970s, a friend played 'Dear Brian' for me and I was touched and honored by it. It was a beautiful track."

Ultimate Classic Rock tribute; some of Chris Rainbow's Capital jingles (thanks to Jon Myer)

Gary Owens
Radio, TV and voiceover performer Gary Owens died on February 12 at his home in Los Angeles. It was his spoof 'Kremmen's cigarettes' adverts that inspired Kenny and Cash to create the Captain Kremmen character. Gary was well-known as the announcer on Sixties cult comedy, 'Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in' and the long running children's programme'Sesame Street'. Gary was a longtime radio personality at KMPC, KFI, KIIS FM, KFWB and KKGO in Los Angeles and KEWB in San Francisco.
Variety obituary; Youtube clip of Gary (right) making one of his famous'Laugh-in' Introductions

Lesley Gore
Lesley Sue Goldstein, who was better known as singer Lesley Gore, died on February 16th. A protégée of Quincy Jones, Lesley had two singles in the Fab Forty that proved popular with subsequent RSL audiences. Jones produced 1965's 'Sunshine Lollipops and Rainbows' and Bob Crewe, 1967's 'California Nights'. 'Sunshine...' has been used many times in films, TV programmes and commercials.
NPR tribute; The inspiration behind 'It's My Party'.

Sad departures December 2014 & January 2015

Alan Bown, leader of The Alan Bown Set, later known simply as The Alan Bown, died on December 16th. Facebook page.

Ian 'Mac' McLaggen, who enhanced the Fab Forties from the release of 'Sha-La-La-La-Lee' onwards as the Small Faces' keyboard player, died on December 3rd. A tribute website has been set up in Mac's memory. Small Faces website.

Little Jimmy Dickens
James Cecil Dickens, better known as Little Jimmy, because of his small stature of 4'11", died on January 2nd in Nashville at the age of 94. The Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, who specialised in humorous songs, spent five weeks in the Fab Forty over Christmas 1965 and New Year 1966, with his novelty release, 'May the Bird of Paradise Fly up Your Nose'. A two-hour funeral service was held at the Grand Ole Opry House, where the singer had performed countless times.
People.com report of funeral

Lance Percival, who died on January 6th, was well known for his talent for improvising topical calypsos, but 'Shame And Scandal In The Family/There's Another One Behind', his double-sided novelty single that spent several weeks in the Fab Forty, was not one of his own compositions. Independent obituary.

Trevor Ward-Davies, best known as Dozy, the bassist and founder of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, died on January 13th. The band, sometimes known as 'The Dozys' for short, enjoyed seven Top Ten Fab Forty appearances. Express obituary.

The Ultimateclassicrock site pays tribute to a number of musicians who departed for the Great Gig in the Sky during 2014.

Toby Walker's Soulwalking site pays R-E-S-P-E-C-T to artists who last year 'just got on board' the Long Train Running.

Added Jan 23rd

Kim Fowley, who died on January 15th, was, to put it mildly, an eccentric. In the earlier part of his musical career he specialised in producing hit novelty records. In the Sixties, he was based for a while in the UK. During that time, he did have a Radio London connection. His version of 'They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Haa' was in the Fab Forty in tandem with the Napoleon X1V version, in August 1966. It boasted a B-side written by Mike Stone and published by Pall Mall Music.

Kim Fowley is also credited with writing the Kenny and Cash theme 'Nut Rocker', an arrangement of Tchaikovsky's "March Of The Wooden Soldiers" from the Nutcracker Suite.

Older obituaries here; older news stories Page 1 here