Never was there, and never will there ever be a more exciting time for radio than when, on Good Friday 1964, the good ship Mi Amigo launched its programming with Lou Busch’s “Take me out to the ball game”. I may not have remembered the music correctly, but I know where I was – at Brand Hatch racetrack with the car radio on! I immediately wrote a fan letter to their Chesterfield Gardens HQ – became a member of their fan club and was hooked. This was real radio! It was illegal, it played new records at a time when BBC needle time restriction prevented them from playing more than a handful a week, and it was at sea, which could be rough. It depended on supplies – records and sustenance – arriving and we listened as a devoted club of followers.
Then, a few months later, there was I at home one evening in Loose, a little village just south of Maidstone, when came there a knock at the door! It was Carl Conway, who, along with Chris Moore, Simon Dee, Garry Kemp and Mike Allen (who incidentally became my first very favourite DJ) formed the inaugural Caroline team. He was reacting to my letter, told me the government wanted to close down the pirate ships and would I help with a petition to save them? Would I ever! I started writing to any newspaper that would print my letter and soon a gang of us from both south and north was hard at work gathering signatures, slowly but steadily. In return – can’t remember whether I asked, or it was offered, I got a pass to visit the Mi Amigo and a letter from Carl Conway giving me full details “The tender (tug) leaves Parkeston Quay, Harwich at 10.30 am Saturday (July 31,1965) morning. Mr Scaddon is our agent there……well, have a lovely time, wonder if we’ll hear you on the air!” (they didn’t)
This was the first of several trips, later with the wonderful Ken Evans, and another when Ronan O’Rahilly was also on board and detoured on the return journey to view some forts he wanted to buy…not sure what for!
By the summer of 1966 I had got a job as a cub reporter on the Gravesend edition of the Kent Messenger. By a wonderful freak of fortune,tug boats left from there to service the Thames estuary fort stations – Radio City and Radio 390 from memory – so my editor was quite happy for me to write about pirate radio. The entire Kent Messenger Group of papers then threw its editorial weight behind the “Save the Pirates” petition and eventually a bunch of us went to 10 Downing Street (in the days when anyone could walk down there) and presented over 250,000 signatures……..to absolutely no avail!!
I met some great people in those days – Keith “Card
board Shoes’ Skues even came to our wedding, and then in 1967 when I joined Disc & Music Echo, Johnnie Walker became a featured columnist post the Marine Offences Act. Happy days and for anyone lucky enough to have experienced them, the best days of radio……ever! I even got a letter from Simon Dee!!