The archived Happenings index is here...

Site Updates
(New April 15th) John S Platt's Mi Amigo enhances our collection of model ships
(New April 22nd) Topless Twiggy! See why Roger Day was known as 'your thinner record spinner', in a page of photos donated to the RNI scrapbook by Don Pierson's son Grey.

And now, the news....

Billy Preston 1946 – 2006

Billy Preston has died in hospital in Arizona, after being seriously ill for some months. Famous as the organist who played with the Beatles and the Stones, Billy was also a fine songwriter, vocalist and actor.

Like many soul artists, Billy served his musical apprenticeship in church. By the age of seven, he was already conducting the church choir and at the age of ten, he appeared as a maestro of a Californian symphony orchestra. He played the young W C Handy in the Nat King Cole film 'St Louis Blues', and became famed as a blues organist after playing acclaimed solos on the TV show 'Shindig'.

The photo comes from Billy's 1969 album 'Greazee Soul' and the sleeve notes were written by Radio King and 390 pioneer of blues and soul, the late Mike Raven. Billy enjoyed many musical collaborations, but his biggest UK hit was a duet with Syreeta, 'With You I'm Born Again'.

Billy, who was the only artist ever to be co-credited on a Beatles recording, and penned two tribute songs, one to George Harrison and another to all Fab Four. He won a Grammy for his part in George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh and in 2002, appeared at the Concert For George at the Royal Albert Hall. In 2004, he was back in London at the Royal Festival Hall with the Funk Brothers' European tour.

Although Billy was not well known as a recording artist in the UK during the offshore radio era, he was the organist on Ray Charle's Fab Forty climber (two weeks in June 1966), 'Let's Go Get Stoned'. Stevi Merik used his 1966 release, 'Billy's Bag', as his theme tune on Caroline. (Thanks to the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame).

Links: BBC News obituary; billypreston.net.

Duncan with Mich

Many Happy Returns, Mich!
Michel Philistin (aka Mich the Steward), the only crew member of the mv Galaxy who served aboard the ship for the entire existence of Radio London, celebrates his 65th birthday on June 6th.

After the station closedown, Mich, who is originally from Haiti, decided to stay in England. He began learning English with the aid of a bible and tuition from his shipmates and gained his British citizenship with the assistance of Tommy Vance and Duncan Johnson.

Right, Mich with his wife Jeanne

Mich, who lives in London and works in Watford, has fond memories of life abord the Galaxy and the friends he made there. TW encouraged him to participate in the Coffee Break and would invite listeners to write to Mich to help him with his English. An example of a letter from Mich is here. He can also be glimpsed, wearing his steward's uniform, in the film Dateline Diamonds.

Tom Shares his Story

Tom Edwards has bravely shared his story, 'There is Life After Alcoholism' with the BBC News website. Tom, whose addiction brought him to within two weeks of death says, "I approach my 12th year of sobriety in August this year. I am proud but never complacent."

Jon and Gerry's brains hurt!
Well, they certainly did after their joint birthday celebration at a beer festival! Jon, who does a magnificent job running the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame and Gerry, who knows a thing or two about pirates, having appeared on Radio Essex and Radio 270 as Guy Hamilton, invited a number of offshore guests. Duncan Johnson, Mich, Greg Bance, Phil Martin and John Aston.

The birthday boys show off their magnificent
Monty Python ties, depicting Professor Gumby and his words of wisdom, 'My brain hurts!".

Clive Smith, Chris Payne and Jon –
revealing a nice close-up of Professor Gumby

Gerry and Duncan

Praise from the US for the Fab Forty and Oldies Project!

Ed Reynolds writes from Utah:

Was I ever born in the wrong place and time! I am 36 years old and I was born and still live in the U.S. I have only visited London twice in my life. However, I have always had a fascination with British music in general, particularly the sixties. I have been collecting sixties music for years. When I discovered the Fab 40 charts back in 2003, I had a field day making lists and collecting some of those hard-to-find songs. However, there were still a vast amount of songs and artists I had never heard of until a year later when I discovered the Oldies Project. Last Christmas when they played non-stop songs released in Britain in 1965, along with all those Big L jingles... I was in absolute bliss! My only wish for Christmas this year is that they do a repeat with all the great music in 1966! Also, I never miss a Fab 40 countdown. Even if it means getting up at 4 AM Sunday morning (7 hours difference).

My only regret is knowing that I will never be able to find copies of some of those great songs because they are so obscure. Getting to know the Big L Fab 40 charts intimately has been a dream come true for someone who lives and breathes sixties music. I can only imagine what it would have been like to have lived the sixties in Swinging London. Thanks to all of the great music and jingles, a boy can dream.

Desmond Dekker 1942 - 2006
Ska pioneer Desmond Dekker has died suddenly at his home in Surrey. Born Desmond Dacres in Kingston, Desmond was one of the major Jamaican artists responsible for bringing ska and bluebeat into international pop charts. Although his biggest hit was his number one, 'Israelites', which entered the UK Top Fifty three times, in March and July 1969 and again in May 1975, Desmond had already released numerous other singles, both solo and with other artists.

Desmond's '007 (Shanty Town)' was the biggest hit of the very few ska releases to enter the Radio London Fab Forty, peaking at #5 on July 9th 1967.

Freddie Garrity 1940 – 2006

"He's a happy feet, 'cause he's to the beat of the Freddie."

Freddie Garrity has died after being admitted to hospital while on holiday in Wales with his wife. The energetic showman had been in poor health for some time. Freddie, who always believed that humour was the best medicine, had been working on his autobiography.

Born in Manchester, Freddie worked as a salesman and a milkman before becoming a full-time singer. His band was originally a skiffle group called the Kingfishers. Freddie changed the name in 1961 and they went on to enjoy nine UK hits, with 'I'm Telling You Now' reaching #2. Freddie And The Dreamers were popular for their daft antics on stage. They enjoyed success in the States, where their single 'Do the Freddie' (the name given to the 'leaping about' dance that became the lead singer's trade mark) reached the Top Ten.

The band's Christmas hit, 'I Understand',(based on 'Old Lang Syne), was already in the charts when Radio London came on the air in December 1964. They enjoyed only two further minor hits in the Nationals, but had two Fab Forty hits and two climbers. 'A Little You' reached #3, whereas it only made #26 in the Nationals.

Those of us who wrecked our knees at school dances doing 'The Freddie' salute you, Mr Garrity.

(Right): Taking a typically giant leap at the studios of 'Thank Your Lucky Stars'


Mini-Caroline Reunion in Vancouver

Steve Young very kindly sent the photo on the left, of his May meeting in Vancouver with Admiral Robbie Dale. Steve says:

It's the first time I've seen Robbie since I left Caroline South in 1967 and it was really great to catch up on our lives since then. Robbie hasn’t changed much, other than he has his wonderful wife Stella in his life to look after him, just as I have Trish in my life to look after me. We pirates need a lot of looking after don't we?

(l to r) Robbie, Steve, Stella and Trish enjoying a selection of sinful desserts

PAMS Pioneer Dies
Toby Arnold, an inductee of the Texas Broadcasters' Hall of Fame and jingle pioneer, died on May 8th, aged 76. As PAMS' sales manager, Toby was instrumental in creating the unique PAMs sound that became integral to top forty radio. (Thanks to Howie Castle)

More about Toby Arnold here with examples of his company's work.

A Radio Rose of Texas
Svenn Martenson addresses "Fellow radio people/journalists/essayists/historians/radio news editors/tape collectors/fans who might be interested in the story of the five stations on the Olga Patricia radio ship 1966-1967: Radio England, Britain Radio, Radio Dolfijn, Radio 227 and Radio 355" and says:

The "Radio Rose of Texas" essay has now been completed, is over 100 pages long and is published on the web tomorrow May 3rd 2006 at 1030 am, 40 years after the radio ship Olga Patricia started transmitting off the Frinton Essex coast. The reference is www.northernstar.no/olgapatricia5.htm. Many thanks to everybody that has participated in the project so far!

The first effort of 2004, "Pickin'up "Boss" Vibrations" was recently updated and is still on the web at www.northernstar.no/sre.htm.

Distinguished reader, if you know of any story, anecdote, biography or event, or if you have any photographs that you feel should be presented to the world through later editions of this essay, or if you know someone we should interview to get more information on this piece of radio history, please feel free to contact us

April – an Important Month for Offshore Birthday Boys!

Stewpot hits 65...
...the two Grahams – Gill and Webb – are 70!
Congratulations and many happy returns to you all from Radio London

Rolling Like a Stone
Håkan Widenstedt reports from Sweden:

There was an interesting documentary recently on Swedish Television. It is about an almost mythical 8mm amateur film that was lost but found again.

The Rolling Stones played in a concert arranged by Radio Syd in Malmö on 29th of June 1965. For several days members of the Stones lived in the home of Ola Ström, a member of local band 'Gonks'. His parents were away over the summer and the home became a formidable pop nest!

This 8mm film was made during a party in that place and the TV documentary was following up about the persons featured on that short film and what happened to them.

There is Ola Ström, and Tommy Hansson, the singer in the band Namelosers. One of the girls at the party is Kerstin, a friend to the members of those bands and there is another girl called Mona. Mona tells how Brian Jones had a serious crush on her. She did not attend the concert at first, but Brian refused to go on stage if she was not in the audience. So all of a sudden she got a call from the arena and had to jump into a taxi to go there!

Brian wanted Mona to come with him to London but that never came about. But they became friends and kept in contact for a long time and Brian always gave her his latest phone number, as he had always had to change it when it came out in public.

Twenty-four minutes into the programme there is a part with Radio Syd where Mick Jagger and Brian Jones are being interviewed by Britt Wadner's son K.G.Alfe, on board the Cheeta II.

I was touched by the film and wanted to tell you about it. Unfortunately it is in Swedish but maybe you can get it translated?

The documentary can be found on the net here. Follow the link 'Rolling Like a Stone'.

Bye Bye Dear!
Stephen Chesney reports:

On his farewell Radio 2 show on April 16th, Ed Stewart played as his penultimate record, "You don't have to say you love me", coming in on the line, "Left alone with just a memory." Now where has that been done before?!! (Afterwards he did mention Radio London).

Ed said his initial plan was to holiday in South Africa and that when he returned he had 'several offers on the table'.

Radio London would like to wish Stewpot every success for the future.

From April 23rd, Johnnie Walker took over Ed's Sunday slot, 1700 – 1900.

Gene Pitney 1941 – 2006

The much-loved singer/songwriter Gene Pitney died suddenly in the middle of a successful UK Tour. He was found in his hotel room on April 5th, the day after a show in Cardiff where he had received a standing ovation and performed three encores to a thousand-strong crowd.

Born Gene Francis Allan Pitney in Hartford, Connecticut, Gene studied music and performed with his own band while in High School. At the start of the Sixties, Gene's songs 'Hello Mary Lou' (Ricky Nelson) 'Rubber Ball' (Bobby Vee) and 'He's a Rebel' (the Crystals) became hits on both sides of the pond. He'd already enjoyed six UK chart entries of his own by the time Radio London came on the air in 1964.

In the Fab Forty. Gene enjoyed a #1 with 'Looking Thru the Eyes of Love' (July 65), a #2 'Nobody Needs Your Love', two #3s 'Backstage' and 'Just One Smile' and three #4s 'Princess in Rags', 'I Must Be Seeing Things' and '(In the) Cold Light of Day'.

While promoting 'Lookin Thu the Eyes of Love' in June 1965, Gene took a trip to the Galaxy. A week later he guested on ABC TV's Thank Your Lucky Stars, as shown in the photo.

Gene made a recent appearance as a castaway on Radio 4's 'Desert Island Discs' and the show's website lists the singles he chose to accompany him, which include tracks by Chuck Berry and Elton John. Thousands of people e-mailed the BBC News website to pay tribute.

The April edition of The Beat contains part one of a two-part interview conducted recently with Gene.

Sixties Quest

A party of Danish university students was in London recently and part of the trip involved a project about the social and musical history of the Sixties. Anders Larsen had contacted Mary to ask if she could meet them to talk to the group about living through the magic decade.

Along with Alan Field and Alan Hardy, Mary met Anders and his friends at their hotel for a Q & A session. We were pleased to hear that they enjoyed a wide range of Sixties music and were not much impressed by rap!

(l to r) Helena Jacobsen, Anders Larsen, Henrik Ellersgaard, Andreas Koch, Sofie Mai Andersen, Stine Mortensen, Anja Nielsen, Jeppe Thiesen, Troels Markinssen.

From the North Sea to the South China Sea

Duncan Johnson bought a Radio London teeshirt for his ladyfriend Mei Feng (known as Happy) who was spending the Chinese New Year with her sister. He says the photo was taken on a beach somewhere on the island of Hainan, in the South China Sea, off the coast of Vietnam.

"I am sorry I can't be specific," apologised Duncan," but Happy couldn't find the name on my map and the other names meant nothing to me. It may come in useful in an obscure quiz sometime!"

A larger version of the photo has been added to page 2 of our tee shirt gallery.

Cruisin' the Formats with Johnnie

'Johnnie Walker – Cruisin' the Formats' is the latest book from Bob Preedy, already well-known as the author of 'Radio Caroline North – Rockin' and Rollin'' and 'Radio 270 – Life on the Oceaan Waves'. Rather than being a biography of JW, Bob's book charts Johnnie's broadcasting career in the context of radio development since the Sixties. It recalls the numerous stations that have benefited from Johnnie's on-air talents, from adopting his on-air name from a jingles package aboard Swingin' Radio England, through KSAN San Francisco, to his continuing career on Radio Two. The book is illustrated with numerous photos and memorabilia.

'Johnnie Walker – Cruisin' the Formats' is available from the Radio London store, price: £6.99 including p & p.

(You may change the quantity when the item has been added to your basket)

Click on either photo for purchasing details

Dead Good
Not recommended as a Mother's Day gift is a CD released by Ace called simply 'Dead! – The Grim Reaper's Greatest Hits'. The 24 tracks veer between sickly sentiment and the darkest of black humour, ending optimistically with 'Let's Think About Living'. The CD includes a favourite of Kenny Everett fans, 'I Want My Baby Back'. This hilariously tasteless ditty won Jimmy Cross the coveted number one slot in Cuddly Ken's World's Worst Wireless Show Top Twenty.

The compilation takes its title 'Dead!' From a track by Carolyn Sullivan and includes other disinterred decompositions of the likes of 'Mother Mother (I Feel Sick)' and 'Psycho'.

At least six of the song's luckless subjects meet the Grim Reaper in road accidents, so this collection, accompanied by ominous comments like, "The forecast did warn of dangerous roads later...", could come in handy for the purpose of ousting guests who have overstayed their welcome.

Alan Clayson went one step beyond and devoted an entire book on the subject, 'Death Discs: An Account of Fatality in the Popular Song'. As one Amazon reviewer put it: "If dead rock stars bought books, this would be the #1 book on the bestseller list."

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