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Sixties Radio  60s Radio BBC and Local Radio

Pirate Radio and Sixties Radio

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The American sounds of rhythm and blues and highly charged rock'n'roll hit Britain in a big way during the mid to late Fifties. The staid old establishment of the B.B.C. failed to recognise, or ignored, its broadcast potential and made very little effort to convey these new sounds to the public despite the potentially huge youthful British audience who wanted as much of it as they could get.

Instead, it stuck to the tried and tested formula of a mixture of soaps, comedy programmes, quiz shows and light or classical music.
Its output consisted of three main 'channels' comprising of the Home Service ( which was Radio 4 style ), the Third Programme and Network 3 ( Radio 3 style ) and the Light Programme ( Radio 2 style )
  Television and Radio Licences


1960 - 1964 4 ( inc 1 excise duty )
1965 - 1966 5
1967 - 5 Black and White + 5 for Colour
1968 - 5 Black and White + 10 for Colour
1969 - 6 Black and White + 11 for Colour
A separate radio licence was required if you had a radio but no television.

10 shilling licence
1964 - 1
1965 - 1969 1-5s-0d
Also, a separate radio licence was required if you had a radio in your car - this was finally abolished in 1971.

The first two entertained the middle-aged middle and upper-class audiences with various types of programme, none of which particularly appealed to the new youth culture. The Light Programme was the only one which made even a token attempt at youth programming, offering mainly trad jazz and skiffle, but was generally hosted by presenters who were uncomfortable with the material.

The Clitheroe Kid website Shows in the late Fifties and early Sixties consisted of offerings like Worker's Playtime, Pop Inn, 12 O'Clock Spin, and the slightly more youth-oriented Drumbeat and Go Man Go - 'your Friday tonic, the show with the most'. The latter was presented by 'your swinging man Friday' David Ede and was broadcast live from the B.B.C. Playhouse in London featuring resident session bands, such as Bob Millar and his Millarmen, Arthur Greenslade and the G-Men and Colin Day and The Hound Dogs, who played a half-and-half mixture of 'pop' music and standards. Both these shows originally entertained a live studio audience and Drumbeat even contained an early version of 'Juke Box Jury'.
The B.B.C. did make a couple of minor concessions to the new music culture with a programme on Saturday mornings called ' The Saturday Skiffle Club' ( later to drop the 'Skiffle' ) and a review of the singles record chart on Sunday afternoons ( although more short-lived shows were added at various times during the Sixties to try and compete with the 'pirate' phenomenon).

Radio Times                 Radio Times                Radio Times                Radio Times
Even in this, the shows were hosted by presenters, like Don Moss, who were more used to the usual B.B.C. output, making the end result rather uninspired. Things improved slightly in 1961 when Alan 'Fluff' Freeman took over Sunday's 'Pick Of The Pops' slot from the more sedate David Jacobs (left) but his upbeat style was not particularly to the taste of the corporation management and he was not infrequently requested to 'tone it down'. The following year saw another programme called 'Teenager's Turn - Here We Go' on which The Beatles made their radio debut in March 1962. There were few alternatives, the best of which was probably in frequenting one of the multitude of small coffee bars with the obligatory jukebox that sprang up ever faster around this time although they were not a new phenomenon.

David Jacobs
Other than that there were the 'listening booths' at your local record shop or, if you happened to live near the east coast, you could try tuning your wireless to Radio Luxembourg which was coming in from across the North Sea on 208 metres medium wave. The only snag being that the signal fluctuated a lot and it could only be received between about 7p.m. and 3a.m. Shows which could frequently be heard were a Merseybeat feature called 'Saturday Night at The Cavern' and a programme called 'Swingtime' which went out on Sundays at about 9 p.m. It was from Luxembourg that Keith Fordyce introduced us to the 'power play'.

The major record companies such as Decca, Columbia, Philips, Capitol, Warner Brothers and E.M.I. paid huge amounts of money to sponsor 15 or 30 minute time slots on the station and because of this generally only the first 30 seconds or so of a record were played, linked by a 'live' disc jockey doing quick intros, in order to get as many of their artists and new records as possible into the time allocation. This was sometimes as high as 13 or 14 records crammed into a 15 minute 'slot'. Many of the shows were pre-recorded at London's Hertford Street studios and a typical night's programming consisted of 30 minutes of singles, 30 minutes of L.P. tracks followed by lighter music until 'Music In The Night' came on at midnight, catering to a much wider selection of musical tastes. On Sundays at about 11p.m. Barry Aldis hosted a 'Top 20' show. The station also produced its own weekly magazine, 'Fabulous 208', a feature which was to be emulated by the major offshore 'pirates'.

Radio Veronica

The early Sixties saw mainland Europe address the lack of youth-oriented shows in their own countries by setting up privately-owned offshore 'pirate' radio stations to broadcast the music that they wanted to hear, transmitting unlicensed broadcasts from ships anchored outside territorial waters. 1960 saw the launch of Radio Veronica and, within a few years, it was followed by Radio Nord, Radio Mercur and Radio Syd who covered some Scandinavian countries.

Belgium had Radio Antwerpen for a short while and Radio Veronica, soon joined by Radio Nordzee, was belting it out to the lowland countries from off the coast of Holland. This was great for the mainland of Europe but the signal strength these stations generated wasn't high enough to reach over here with the exception of Radio Veronica which could sometimes be picked up on the east coast when conditions permitted.
With the B.B.C. failing to cater adequately for the new 'beat generation' and the limited reception quality from the European stations the only apparent ( some would say obvious ) solution was for someone to start a brand new station a bit nearer to home.

At the start of the Sixties there had been some considerable pressure on the British government to issue licences to land-based commercial stations but none seemed to be forthcoming. One of the more persistent lobbyists was T.H. Colbourn who was a member of the Manx parliament, Tynwald, and whose radio and television company serviced a large proportion of the island's communications. Another major supporter was Sir Ronald Garvey, the island's Lieutenant-Governor, who had been instrumental in setting up a local radio station in his time as Governor of Fiji.

Technically, Manx Radio did not need a broadcasting licence from the UK authorities as it was a Crown Dependency and not part of the United Kingdom, but after two years of negotiations with the Home Office and other bodies success was finally achieved when the G.P.O. agreed to issue a licence for a local station which could only be heard within the confines of the island. The telecommunications company PYE were to build the station but it was still forced, by the licence conditions, to use a VHF transmitter even after an earlier offer of a medium-wave frequency of 1594 kilocycles had been rejected on technical grounds.

The man employed to manage the station was Richard Meyer who had previously been manager of the International Broadcasting Company ( which had organised the start of Radio Luxembourg before World War II ) and the commercial manager of Associated television ( ATV ). From the outset he was less than enthusiastic about using VHF as there were comparatively few receivers for this medium around at the time. Nevertheless, test transmissions were carried out initially on VHF, the first broadcast being a commentary on the Isle of Man T.T. of 5th June 1964. The station continued throughout the summer in stereo on FM 89.0 MHz.

Manx Radio

Manx Radio officially became Britain's first licensed commercial radio station when regular transmissions began on November 23rd/24th using the frequency which had been previously rejected. Power was severely limited, by licence, to a mere 50watts!
The operation began from a caravan situated on a hillside at Onchan Head, just outside Douglas which, according to their own website "
... being situated on a headland and exposed to high winds the station was prone in those days to needles skidding off records and the occasional bout of staff sickness from the rocking motion!". Manx Radio relocatedthe transmitting station to a permanent building at Foxdale in the centre of the island in 1965 while keeping the main offices on Douglas seafront. At this time an extension of the licence was granted allowing the station to broadcast on 232 metres (1295 KHz) during daylight hours and on 188 metres at night with a power of 2kW that actually enabled it to be heard over a large part of northern England.

Despite this, the station's controllers still had ambitions of reaching a larger audience with a more powerful transmitter which caused a great deal of ill feeling between Tynewald and Westminster. The result of this was that the island had a much better relationship with a potential rival, the recently arrived Radio Caroline North, than it did with the B.B.C.

The two stations co-existed quite happily side by side, Manx Radio retaining the aspect of a local station providing a service to the island while the more powerful 'Caroline' transmitter with its bigger audience helped achieve the island's aim of increasing tourism.
Bernie Quayle at Manx Radio
Bernie Quayle 1967
A Career in Radio

Manx Radio                Manx Radio

Also in October 1965 RADIO LUXEMBOURG had a new medium wave transmitter installed which meant improved reception on 208 metres for the station in the U.K. A Gallup Poll during the year had put its estimated listening audience at 37 million. Up until 1967 the broadcasting of 'pop' music had been almost completely confined to the various pirate radio stations. The Marine Offences Act of 1967 was responsible for the shutdown of most of these, every one having stopped broadcasting by 14th August 1967 except Radio Caroline, North and South. As if finally realising the size of the potential audience that it had been ignoring, the B.B.C. completely revamped its setup, announcing its future plans in December 1966. The Home Service became Radio 4, the Third Programme and Network 3 became Radio 3, the Light Programme became Radio 2 on long wave.

Radio 1 Annual    Radio Times Radio 1

With these changes on 30th September 1967, along came a brand new B.B.C. radio station accompanied by a huge amount of pre-publicity that took up where the pirate stations had left off - Radio 1 was born. The first voice heard, which announced ". . . and welcome to the exciting sound of Radio 1..." was, ironically, that of Tony Blackburn who had previously worked for both Radio Caroline and Radio London. His opening announcement was followed by The Move's 'Flowers In The Rain', the station broadcasting for 5 hours and 35 minutes on its first day, combining with Radio 2 in the evening. The Record Controller, Robin Scott said of it "It's not bash-bash-bash and nothing but the harsh, strident, way-out thing. We hope that it will have more than a teeny-bop audience. It would be absurd to have just a teeny bop network". First day's schedule in full

Tony Blackburn

                                                                              Early Radio 1 programming included:

Emperor Rosko

Radio 1 DJs

Radio Leicester

The Tony Blackburn Show

Junior Choice ( Leslie Crowther )

Saturday Club ( a Light Programme survivor )

Midday Spin ( various presenters )

The Jack Jackson Show

Where It's At ( Chris Denning )

The Best of Newly Pressed ( Pete Murray )

Pete Brady

Country Meets Folk ( Wally Whyton )

Scene And Heard ( magazine programme )

( Monday to Saturday 7:00a.m. to 8:30a.m. )

( Weekends 8:30a.m. to 10:00a.m. )

( Saturdays 10:00a.m. to midday )

( Monday to Saturday midday to 1:00p.m. )

( Saturday 1:00p.m. to 2:00p.m. )

( Saturdays 2:00p.m. to 3:00p.m. )

( Saturday 3:00p.m. to 4:00p.m. )

( Weekdays 2p.m. - 4p.m. Saturdays 4p.m. - 5p.m. )

( Saturdays 5:30p.m. to 6:30p.m. )

( Saturdays 6:30p.m. to 7:30p.m. )

Radio 1 initially employed about 33 disc jockeys ( or 'presenters' as they were known ) of which more than half were ex-pirates, many of whom had already transferred to the B.B.C.'s Light Programme. Radio London provided 11, Radio Caroline 4 plus Radio Scotland's Stuart Henry and Mike Raven of Atlanta, King and 390. With a large proportion of them having worked previously on Radio London there was a tendency for Radio 1 to have the same style of presentation, even down to the sound of the jingles.

The 'senior' disc jockeys were 'big 4' Pete Murray, Alan Freeman, Jimmy Saville and David Jacobs, other presenters including Jimmy Young, Keith Fordyce, Jack Jackson and Dan Moss. The final integration of the 'pirates' and 'establishment' radio is largely considered to have occurred when the 'pirate's pirate', Radio Caroline rebel Johnnie Walker, joined Radio 1 in May 1969.

The B.B.C.'s national stations were to be followed by low power regional 'local' stations the first of which, Radio Leicester, began broadcasting on Wednesday 8th November 1967.
Radio Sheffield followed a week later with Liverpool's Radio Merseyside a further week behind.

In 1968 Radio Luxembourg changed its style, following the example set by Radio 1, and introduced all live shows with a new team of disc jockeys.

Eventually, on November 25th 1969, the government authorised licenses for another 12 local radio stations and finally allowed a replacement for the services offered by the pirate operators, on a regional level, when licensed independent commercial radio stations began broadcasting in 1973.

All Original Material
SixtiesCity 2009