Memories 'Round Midnight
It all started with Pete Hobson in Hertfordshire asking us to pass on a message to Bob Stewart. Pete sparked off so many good memories for Bob that we asked if we could edit the conversation between the four of us, so that other Anoraks could share them.

Dear Bob,
As an old Caroline North and Jazz fm listener I should just like to wish you a speedy recovery. I was saddened to hear of your illness but gladdened to hear of your steady progress back to health. I think the last time I thought about sending you a letter was in 1965 but I never got round to it. This time though I've actually gone and done it!

I actually have a memory of you playing Jimmy Smith's Walk On The Wild Side one grey weekday afternoon in late December or early January, a few days before I went back to school after the Christmas holidays. I even taped it on my brand spanking new Grundig tape recorder (long since gone – along with the reel of tape!). I seem to remember that the interference was beginning to come through as it was about 2.50pm and the Caroline signal used to deteriorate a little bit on winter afternoons in the Potteries...

God, how I go on! But maybe you and the other Caroline jocks managed to turn me into a bit of a jazz fan on the quiet. And for that I shall be eternally grateful...

All the best for the future, Bob, from one of your old listeners, Peter Hobson (Jazzy Pete) (now in darkest Hertfordshire)

Thanks for your message to Bob which we have duly passed on.

I think Caroline turned a lot of people on to jazz and soul. Much of it was to do with Ronan O'Rahilly being a big jazz fan – hence the famous hauling aboard of Jimmy Smith plus Hammond for a live concert on the deck of the Mi Amigo, which must have been the first live performance from an offshore station. Some books give the date as May 5th 1964, and some 1965. After some correspondence with the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame, Vivian Barnard confirmed that she has a press cutting about the event, which is dated 1965. This makes a big difference as to which Caroline ship was involved. Had the date been 1964, it would have been the Fredericia; but confirmation of the date as 1965 means it must have been the Mi Amigo.

(Picture: 'Round Five O'clock in the Afternoon! Simon Dee with Jimmy Smith plus Hammond aboard the Fredericia)

You're right about Ronan and the enthusiasm for jazz and soul. It really was a bit of a mod thing and I understand that 'The Scene' club with which he was involved was a magnet for both bright young things and the purple heart brigade. And then, of course, there was the interest in Georgie Fame, one of the best British interpreters of rhythm and blues and a fine jazz singer too. Let's not forget his Hammond organ skills either – he was clearly a devotee of Smith, McGriff, Groove Holmes et al. Bob's theme was Image by British organist Alan Haven. I even tracked it down on a Fontana single. It was not until the mid-eighties that I heard the fabulous Hank Levine version on a Kent album compilation called Shoes. It's become one of my favourite records and that has to be down, indirectly, to Bob and the rest of the Caroline guys. What an influence they've turned out to be!

I'll sign off with 10 tracks that I distinctly remember hearing for the first time on Caroline:

My Guy – Mary Wells
Goin' Out Of My Head – Little Anthony and the Imperials

Magic Potion – Lou Johnson
Where Did Our Love Go? – Supremes
I Spy For The FBI – Jamo Thomas
Candy – The Astors
Soul Sauce – Cal Tjader
I'll Take Good Care Of You – Garnett Mimms
Treat Her Right – Roy Head
I'm Into Something Good – Earl Jean

Hope this finds you and Chris well, safe and happy. Thank you for forwarding the email from Peter Hobson. If what I hear of the weather in jolly ol' England is anything to go by, I hope y'all are dry, too! Sorry I can't resist this - it's 82 degrees with blue skies and wall-to-wall sunshine here. It's gotten so I've had to go back to wearing long pants now that the 'cold' weather has arrived! (tee hee!!!!!)

Thanks for the letter and good wishes. It's kind of you to remember and good to know you got some pleasure out of it. Jimmy Smith and Walk on the Wild Side, eh? He also did a drop-dead job on Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf. I recall Cal Tjader's Soul Sauce and a cut by Walter Wanderly, Summer Samba, that we played around the same time. It truly was a fabulous time and I recall many hours/days/weeks/ of wonderful memories, from the sunsets that were so very visible from the ship, to frying up ham steaks with Don Allen at 2am in the galley.

The music of the era really was so good, and though the likes of Capital Gold radio has worked it to death, they never did get into the true art of memory jerking. Never once did they play the Young Rascals', I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore, The Vogues' Five o'clock World, or Jimmy Smith, or the dozens of other non-chart discs that were absolute turntable hits. The sounds that were the "sound of the nation".

Incidentally, Caroline's Sound of the Nation jingles were recorded in England by Doris Troy. She was a somewhat revered soul singer from the US one or two R 'n' B hits but not big time. Personally I thought the Sound of the Nation jingle package sucked for air, but we had to play 'em. Jimmy McGriff closed the station down with 'Round Midnight What a blast! What an organ! What a musician!

You understand, Peter, that all these memories were brought about by you mentioning a Grundig tape recorder. What a fabulous machine. Expensive, modern, German – high tech for the time. Funny thing is I never realized just how good, and how definitive "the time" was. I guess Gladys Knight's intro to The Way We Were really hits the nail on the head when she says, "The good ol' days? These are the good ol' days!"

Well sir, the years have just flashed on by. Where did they go? Whilst they have gone into the foggy mists of time, the fabulous memories of fabulous times cannot be taken away and isn't that a God-given blessed gift? I'm glad you enjoy Jazz FM. They do play some terrific music very, very similar to 107.5 the Oasis, here in Dallas. If, we on Caroline helped you develop a taste for jazz, that's good. That you remember us warmly is very flattering. Thank you.
God bless and all the best for your future too, Peter, from one of your old disc jockeys.
I wish for you only good things, Bob.

I so clearly remember hearing the last bit of Caroline North each night, from our flat in SE London. I made some very eerie-sounding recordings of McGriff fighting the foreign stations!

For years, Alan Hardy and I tried to track the title down, and having established that it was pianist Thelonius Monk's composition 'Round Midnight, the search for the record started. And what a search! Eventually, Alan found a rereleased album (I think on one of his jaunts to the States), and they'd actually had to remaster it off vinyl, as the original tapes were nowhere to be found! That was in the late seventies I think. Recently, we've found a CD of the original album, no mention of lost tapes, and it's just terrific. The CD, issued in 1996, is I've Got A Woman, and it's on Collectables, COL-5752.

There has been some dispute as to who recorded the Sound of the Nation jingles, but it seems the credit should be shared by Madeleine Bell (she certainly has the most appropriate name!) and Doris Troy. Doris, who passed away in February 2004, was of course, a great soul singer and a tremendous heroine of the Northern Soul circuit. She also made some recordings with the Beatles. Chris, Alan Hardy and I saw Doris perform in London in the musical about her life, Momma, I Want To Sing, circa 1995, and she was in great voice.

Jimmy McGriff appeared at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in Soho, with fellow organist Dr Lonnie Smith during the week ending November 5th, 2000. Jimmy, though unwell, took the stage in the 'show must go on' tradition, but unfortunately, had to leave all the solos to Lonnie.

Paul Kay from Telford writes:
Regarding the Radio Caroline 'Sound Of The Nation' jingles – I believe Madeline Bell and Doris Troy shared the female vocals. Billy Preston was on organ (and vocals?) – I'm not sure who the male vocalist(s) was(were). Bass, drums and other musicians unknown! Did Jimmy Smith write these jingles or was it Billy Preston? Jimmy may have also played on the session. A complete set of this jingle package does indeed live in the on-air studio in Maidstone as these jingles are still in use today on Radio Caroline – despite Bob Stewart not liking the pack. They have lived on and been used at some point in every decade of Radio Caroline and it is surprising how well 'some' of the cuts stand up being used with modern tracks! Hope that is of some interest anyway. Cheers - Paul Kay

July 2001 update

Radio London has now made contact with Freddie Ryder, the Caroline House recording engineer who was responsible for the production of commercials and promos, having taken over the job from Gerry Duncan. We asked him if he could solve the mystery as to who recorded the Sound of the Nation jingles.

Freddie says that he was not the recording engineer at that session; that was Gerry, who sadly passed away many years ago. Freddie's personal opinion on the matter is that the voices on the jingles were Madeleine Bell's and Doris Troy's! He says that Jimmy Smith did, indeed, play organ at the session.

Freddie also had a career as pop star and we shall be revealing more about him in the future.
John Cronnolley writes:

Hi Gang, Great website, loads to read.
A bit of info regarding the Jimmy McGriff album 'I Got A Woman' featuring 'Round Midnight. You can order it via the Collectables website and you can (allegedly) listen to it on the website as well.
I suppose the actual Tower Records retail shops will also order it for anyone who requests it.

Thanks for that info, John.

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