Hans Knot's International Radio Report - July 2008 (2)


During the last weeks so many things came in that I decided to do one extra issue with two longer items. First we go way back in time to the period 1964-1966. An e mail came in, which resulted in exchanging e mails for a few days with several people involved within the Radio Atlanta as well as the Radio Caroline merger in 1964. Let’s start at the beginning.

Question time again from England this time from Manchester: ‘Hi Hans greetings and I hope you're well. Someone recently asked the question on Anorak Nation if anyone knew how/why the name ‘Radio Atlanta’ was chosen for Allan Crawford's station in 1964. I know Colin Nichol is a regular on your list and I'm wondering whether he might know the answer. Many thanks, Alan Milewczyk aka The Pole with Soul.’

Well an e mail to Australia was enough for Colin to give an answer and also some of former colleagues he still is in contact with: ‘I do wish I could help with an explanation as to how the name of Radio / Project Atlanta originated. The fact is, we all (we early Atlanta pirates) just took the name at face value – it seemed an obvious and very good name to use. Obviously, there are connections with the Atlantic Ocean, trans-Atlantic and particularly, I thought at the time, with Atlantis. It did niggle me a little that the ship was not in the Atlantic, but near enough I supposed. Just as well it wasn't! I'll ask Ken Evans soon, but doubt he could add anything.

Following are extracts from my interviews with Allan Crawford and Richard Harris, which touch on the name, but don't really help with an explanation as to its origin. These from my interview with Allan Crawford on 5 February 1984, speaking first of the structure of Atlanta, then of the merger and the change of name from Atlanta to Caroline South:
AC: No, Hengown Limited was the company that employed the disc jockeys.
CN: Hengown paid me..
AC: Yes, and it got so much every month from Lichtenstein, from the company there, and the company selling the advertising was Project Atlanta Limited, PAL, and it was that formula that was used by both sets of companies, the one with North Caroline and South Caroline.
And also:
AC: Nevertheless, someone had to be cooperative, and I swallowed my pride, having been the creator and I was losing my own created name (Atlanta). So we became Radio Caroline, North and South, with the agreement that his ship (Ronan's) would go 'round the Irish Sea off the Isle of Man and we would operate as a network and share the income.

Extract from interview by Colin Nichol of Richard Harris on 8 February 1984, speaking first of Allan Crawford: .. He and I used to have regular evening meetings after we had both finished work, usually in Chinese restaurants, to discuss the setting up of the studio, programme format, how it was going to be and eventually I sort of became General Manager of Project Atlanta Ltd, which it was called then. He formed a company called Project Atlanta.
CN: Do you know which date it was he formed that, which year?
RH: I don't know – it was certainly going when I joined him, officially, which was …
CN: Late 1963 ..
RH: Mid '63. I think. Mid '63. Because it was a corporate, he, um – the ship was the Mi Amigo and Project Atlanta Limited was PAL (my friend, pal) and he liked this, he used to keep saying, “I love it”. He used to keep on about the fact that the Mi Amigo and the PAL was a thing and he liked the name Atlanta and indeed, so did I. And that's how it first started. The time came in mid '63 when eventually I left ATV and went to work for him full-time.

The Times July 3rd 1964 Sunday Telegraph 1964                                      Colin Nichol Archive Colin Nichol Archive

Dermot Hoy / Bryan Vaughan comments: ‘I must say that I always took the name for granted and don’t know its origin. I probably assumed that Atlanta had some connection with the Atlantic Ocean. Many of the disc jockeys were said to speak with a ‘mid-Atlantic accent’ and we did program with an eye to what was happening in the US (as well as Australia). If you ever track down the reason, I would love to know.’

‘Keith Martin is unable to provide an explanation.’ Regards, Colin Nichol.’

Well thank you so much for the long reply Colin and also the one from Bryan Vaughan. Once again it’s good to have you old Atlanta presenters in my readership too. So who wants to tell more in this subject is free to send the comments to HKnot@home.nl

And it’s Alan in Manchester, after receiving the Colin Nichol answer by e mail with the next one: ‘Thanks so much for asking the question on my behalf and please thank Colin especially for his reply. I certainly didn't give the name any thought all those years ago - like Bryan Vaughan says, it sort of fitted with ‘mid/trans-Atlantic’ accents!

Can I extend the discussion/questioning further? I was brought up in Manchester which was in the catchment area for Caroline North, although I could hear the South ship albeit with a much weaker groundwave signal during the day. What has puzzled me for some time is the difference in the music policy of the two ships, especially for the first 15 months or so post merger. We know that Radio Atlanta was Allan Crawford's vehicle for his music interests, so post merger the South ship often played records that Crawford had an interest in, rather than the original hit versions - whereas from the outset the North ship off the Isle of Man was very Top 40 oriented, playing the original hit versions and also heavily promoting tracks from the American Hot 100. I believe that, in this London-centric world, the South ship has always had more publicity at the expense of her Northern sister - in my view, the North ship's programming and music policy was brilliant and has been totally under-rated over the years. We also know that after Radio London came on air, Caroline South's audience figures suffered dramatically.

I understand that the Crawford venture went bust in late 1965, which was when Ronan took over and put in Tom Lodge, who had been Head DJ on the North ship, to turn around the fortunes of the South ship. Pre merger, Christopher Moore was Programme Director for Caroline - did he take over the same role for the South ship post merger in addition to the North ship? The ‘merger’ seemed to be a marketing convenience and I know that both ships adopted the same programme names, The Early Show, Top Deck, etc, yet the music policy was so very different. So who decided on the actual music content of the two stations in the period July 1964 to end 1965? Was that down to Christopher Moore for both ships or was Tom Lodge given that freedom in his position as North ship Head DJ or did Allan Crawford and Ronan merely continue to run their own ships their own way. In short, why is it that the two ships had such a different music policy despite operating under the same banner? I hope some of the people behind the scenes might be able to help. Thanks again, Alan.’

I then did send the new questions from Alan to Colin Nichol in Australia and to Tom Lodge in Canada who both came back with very interesting answers. First of all the long answer from Colin in Australia: ‘Hello again Hans, I am consulting with others, again, over your latest request for information, but my answer is, that while the two ships carried the same or similar advertising etc, music programming continued separate ways for a while after the merger as the two ships were run as they were before the merger, until Allan moved out at the end of 1965. Then the MV Mi Amigo went aground in early 1966 and after I had helped get Cheeta II into shape for broadcasting, Tom Lodge came aboard with others and put the south ship's programmes into line with those of the north. (I left at that point and shortly after, joined Britain Radio / Radio England, then Luxembourg, BBC, BFBS). Chris Moore earlier tried to influence the south ship's programming, but had failed up to that point, as Keith Martin recalls and I feel that was so. Allan Crawford had his ideas about programming and Ken Evans had the job of implementing them and later moved on board the ship to make sure they were carried out. Yes, we did have to play Allan's records, just as later both ships had to play those of Phillip Solomon, but it was above board in both cases, as they were owners of both the stations and of the record companies.

As a side-issue, later stories of payola in association with DJs being paid for playing records was not something I never knew about on the south ship in my time, although after a while we heard rumours of it happening on Caroline. When income was difficult to come by, there were official 'paid plays', which was where a record company or publisher would pay the station to have a record promoted. These were accounted for and shown on the advertising schedules. That was not dissimilar to the arrangement at Radio Luxembourg, where record companies bought air-time to showcase their material. I am not conscious of knowing much about the north ship's programming during that time but I was aware we were not always as progressive as we might have been, especially when Radio London came along and we then didn't have the audience all to ourselves. Up to then, it hardly mattered what we played, fortunately for us. However, we did have good programming and it covered what was happening and introduced many new artists, publishers and record companies. But it must be remembered, Radio London may not only have had some impressive programming and DJs, it had massively more output power (once it sorted out its early transmitter problems) and that was a decider. They also had the advantage of building on what we were doing and of learning from us on Atlanta / Caroline South, just as Caroline, although it came on-air before Atlanta, learned from Atlanta once we started broadcasting, at least in the early stages. Those of us, like myself, who had extensive previous experience in broadcasting, were not entirely happy with the south ship's early output, but we had no influence in the matter, neither did programme manager Ken Evans, to any great degree.

Indeed, I was recording a rather poor standard of breakfast programmes at the Dean Street studios in early 1964 because I had little heart for the music we were playing. These were when we intended to use taped programmes and not operate 'live' from the ship. I tend to 'bounce off' the music I play and there wasn't much bounce in what we had to spin. Our output improved when we went 'live'. The Caroline trainee DJs at the time – Simon Dee, John Junkin and all those others who came to our Dean Street studios to be instructed and learn about broadcasting, recorded programmes using the same discs as were using for the first pre-recorded Atlanta shows, which were broadcast before it was decided we should move aboard ship to broadcast live. I suppose some of their tapes were played on Caroline in their first days, when Simon was short of staff on board. However, they were not just Allan's records – but being the first and not yet transmitting, we were having great difficulty getting any records, much less anything particularly good or special. Promotional copies of records were not plentiful in those days, especially for a radio station that was not on the air. Ken had to go around London, cap in hand, to beg for whatever he could get. It should be said that although Caroline led in terms of getting on the air, it followed in terms of programming and presentation. And the point has to be made, that the reason Ronan was anxious for a merger was, research showed advertisers preferred Atlanta and Ronan's main backers were getting worried. Atlanta's programming and presentation in those early months were seen as superior to those of Caroline and later criticisms of Atlanta / Caroline South, after the event, are not really justified.

More of great interest on that can be found on the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame site, July update, at: http://www.offshoreradio.co.uk/keith7.htm
That site provides Keith Martin's copy of the Chris Moore format, not used at the time on Caroline South but possibly used on the north ship.

Bryan Vaughn Photo: Freewave Archive

Dermot Hoy / Bryan Vaughan has also read my notes and has replied as follows: ‘Hi Colin, like you, I am also annoyed that history is being re-written. There was a little bit of the same thing at the 40th Reunion last year. I think that your draft reply sets out the situation very well indeed. The early Atlanta programming was limited by the availability of actual records and also was not really formatted for an overall sound. The early recorded shows featured a whole host of different music genres set for different times of the day. Alan and Ken were from the old school of radio and felt that variety was important. Ken’s days at 2CH reflected these ideas. I think you, Tony Withers and I were much keener to play a fairly extended Top 40 format (which after all had been in the US since mid 1950s and 1958 in Australia, so was hardly new). Anyway our views didn’t prevail at least in the early days. Once we were broadcasting live on Atlanta and then Caroline South, we did still have a variety of programmes but a little more current pop inspired. As you know, I did the breakfast show for the vast majority of 1964 & 1965 and mostly played the Caroline Top 60 (I think it was Top 60?) plus quite a few oldies from the past decade plus new singles. The Drive show with Tony Blackburn was much the same but from 9am to around 4pm there was a lot more MOR music (soundtracks, big name older artists, big bands & orchestras etc.). The North and South stations were quite separate even after the merger and only really shared most advertising. I am happy for you to use anything I have said in your reply and would be interested to be kept in the loop. It really was such a wonderful time and it is still great to be talking about it all these years later! Cheers Dermot/Bryan’

Caroline South program schedule June 18th 1964

But Colin had also some material from his archive: ‘Also this from the Richard Harris (Atlanta General Manager) interview I made with him in 1984:
CN: Do you remember the date we switched on? I'm having a little trouble with that at the moment. I will find it. About how long after Caroline, do you think – a month, six weeks, less?
RH: I could be up to 6 weeks, I think. It could be about six weeks. But I know that our programmes were that much better, and this was brought about – because I still had – I mean, there was no revenue coming in at all, to start with. We, both ships, had to live 'off the hump', what we'd got - because no-one was advertising. From my connections with Independent Television, I still had tremendous contact with people in advertising and they were all saying, “We're just listening to see which one we're going to put our money with”, and there's no doubt that we were winning hands-down, I had that on very good authority from some of the big advertising agencies. It also got around to people, like Jocelyn Stevens who were backing Caroline, that the agencies were much more favourably impressed towards Atlanta.
CN: He was at that time doing what?
RH: Who? Jocelyn Stevens? He was one of Caroline's biggest backers.
CN: But his business was, er ..
RH: Publishing.

CN: Yes, he was the owner or the editor of Queen Magazine? RH: He was Harpers and Queen, wasn't he? The owner? I think he was the governor. Anyway, Ronan's big shot, and he started getting a bit worried because Ronan was getting nowhere and he also got the word, so I understand, that the agencies, the big (advertising) agencies were beginning to suggest to their clients, the Cadbury's, Schweppes and people of this world - that they should put their money with Atlanta, and it was then that he said to Ronan look, you'd better do something about this or else, and it was then that Ronan, so I understand, Col, came to Allan and said look, this is crazy we are working together we should combine, we should call the stations Caroline because we were on the air first and everyone associates with us, forget the name Atlanta – and Allan agreed to all this and of course, once he'd agreed to that, then Ronan said again, I think we ought to make certain changes. He was the one who said that the programme format should be changed, he tried to introduce Chris Moore, who in those days knew nothing about programming, as his Programme Director, and Allan listened to him. The rest is history of course. Atlanta disappeared and Caroline took over and we had Caroline North and Caroline South.
CN: Do you remember how Ronan came by the name Caroline? Did you hear the story at the time?
RH: Yes, I heard the story; you probably heard it as well. He was dating, so the word had it, Reggie Maudling's daughter who was called Caroline, and he named the station after her. Did you hear that?
CN: Mm (yes).’

Caroline North program schedule Colin Nichol Archive

Keith Martin has contributed as follows: ‘During my recent researches, I discovered a letter from Christopher Moore sent to me on board, asking me to see him as he wanted to “do things with my voice.” Included with this letter, was the new programme policy with programme titles without DJ names in them. This new format was never used on the South ship. As Jon (Myer - Pirate Radio Hall of Fame) mentioned in an emailing to me, it was C. Moore trying to get one over Allan Crawford who was still controlling the south ship music output. But Christopher M. continued to be the person who dispatched new voices south - I can confirm that fact as all of them bunked-up in my sharp end of the Mi Amigo (He was consigned to the anchor hold in the bow). I remember a bingo caller with a very strong Rab C Nesbit type voice who only lasted on-air for three days - a letter must have arrived from Christopher Moore informing him that there were one or to things “need to be done” with his voice. He was never heard again on Radio Caroline, but he may still be calling numbers somewhere, somehow. Allan Crawford underlined his control when he sent his two full-time song makers and record producers from Dean Street - Allan Zeffert and Alan Day, out to Radio Caroline South as replacement disc-jockies. It was certainly a sickeningly-steep learning curve for me! If you hear me, thanks Allan!

Ken Evans was an original radio pirate Programme Manager for Radio Atlanta and later Radio Caroline. These are excerpts from his interview with Colin Nichol (Colin Nicol) in London on January 28th 1984: At Radio Atlanta I was operating a system which I had operated in my past: you always had a great big star as an opening and I have always said this, come straight in after you have had your big familiar standard cope straight in with something that is exciting and maybe a little newer but the tempo is still up then bring in something new. This is where Allan Crawford wanted his own particular records played, and I used to make the programme playing: standard, recent oldie, instrumental - and I can't really remember the combination now - but it used to be about six different types of records alternating and then just turning over, Top 40 record or something from the NME or the Melody Maker chart, and just having a variety coming through the whole time.
The Caroline system was much different to that. When record plays were being bought – payola, call it what you like - onto Caroline North and South. I used to sit and I used to do, every week, two huge charts and it might be a case of a record being bought for twelve or fifteen plays a day for one record, and I would make a colour scheme and each record had a particular colour and when I had worked out everything – a record for this particular company and a record for that particular company or that particular artist and there might be as much as 20 - 30 records being bought in over a particular period; they might be bought on a week's basis, two week's basis, four week's basis - mainly two weeks was the general thing and they would receive 12, 14 or maybe 18 plays in each day and I would try and work out so that there wasn't going to be a repeat under about two hours and so a record was going across the whole programme spectrum.

Ken Evans Photo: Colin Nichol

The records were records that might have a chance of becoming hits and they were from promoters who knew that getting them onto the BBC was either next to nothing, they might get one or two plays if they were extremely fortunate - but here was a method by which they could have a record on the air over an 18 hour time-span, and that was very attractive and they were sure of getting it on. Here was one of the things I used to make these graphs up and I used wonder whether or not they were actually played on the ship. One day Christopher Moore said to me, “Ken I want you to go to the Northern ship,” this was December of 1964, “I want you to go up to the ship and I want you to take an inventory of all the records that are up there and then we want you to make the programming system identical for the north and south ships.”

Now Col, this was absolutely impossible, they had records up there which the southern ship didn't have and the southern ship had records which the northern ship didn't have, we would have to have scrapped umpteen hundreds of records. I remember seeing Buddy Greco's (discs) up on the northern ship which were not in existence down in the south, there were Dean Martin LP's because these were, as we remember, the people who were very popular at the time - a lot of the cabaret type of artist - and they were mixed in with the current pops on both ships.
My reason for being there was to make a list of all the records and I had a helper who had been brought in from the Isle of Man. There was a company up there who supplied a young assistant and it took about four days with that raging (Force 12) gale to make a list of all the records on board the ship. The dual system that this was supposed to lead to never came about.
It was just impossible, they had too much stuff of their own on each ship and they were two very different stations; that was Caroline North and this was Caroline South with Atlanta undertones, if that makes sense. They were very different; they had their own team up north.’

Tony Blackburn and Colin Nichol Photo: Freewave Archive

So far it was the very interesting answers from Colin Nichol with assistance of his former shipmates from Atlanta and Caroline days. Thanks a lot to you all and it will bring Alan in Manchester the answers he asked for. In one of the next issues we take the views from another source, Tom Lodge.

I told you some issues ago about the sad and sudden death from Keith Ashton, who worked worldwide in radio and also had an offshore past at Radio Hauraki, Radio Caroline and the Voice of Peace. On the later one he worked very close together with Don Stevens. In cooperation with Don I’ve decided to republish one of the chapters from the book about Abie Nathan’s work and the history on the Voice of Peace:

Keith Ashton Photo: Freewave Archive

‘Another frequent visitor to the Don Stevens home in 1974 was a man who would prove to be the most influential person in the story of The Voice of Peace and in the life of Abie Nathan, but none of us knew it at the time. Keith Ashton had arrived in Britain in September 1974 and someone had given my name to him as a contact in the alternative radio world, and Anne and I grew to love this outgoing bouncy guy from down under. He was like the character Tigger in the Walt Disney films, full of life, ideas and concepts and wanted to do everything at a hundred fifty miles a second. His radio credentials were fascinating and extensive including being one of the first jocks to be hired by Radio Hauraki, New Zealand’s one and only offshore station and voted number one breakfast deejay in New Zealand for many years. He was unashamedly honest in that he was out to pick my brains and learn all he could about UK radio, he was a man in a hurry, the best salesman I ever met, taught me loads of techniques. Tony had no time for Keith and would not come round if he was at our home, which was every day up to Christmas 1974 by which time he was selling airtime for Radio Caroline and trying to get Capital Radio London to give him a show in exchange for advertising. They went for this in the end and gave him a Saturday afternoon slot for his 'London Link' show from January 1975, uniting Australians and New Zealanders with British families and friends and vice versa, Keith sold all the spots on the show and took a commission and with four hours to fill with spots I'm sure Keith did ok

Don Stevens during breakfastshow VOP Archive Don Stevens

Keith had heard from me about Peace and Abie, I passed on Tony's stories to him and I was aware that Keith had his options open always, but with Capital Radio he was doing very well and his show was going from strength to strength. Sadly, this all ended when Keith's Visitors Permit expired, he could not get it renewed despite appearing on Page 3 of The Sun newspaper with two topless dolly birds asking for a British girl to marry him and let him stay in Britain. So in July 1975, Capital Radio lost 'London Link', the host and had a major problem, Keith literally evaporated and he could not be located anywhere in London or England....then I got a phone call. At the beginning of 1975 in January, Tony told me that the Peace Ship might be heading back to sea. He thought it was in France and was at my home on the phone checking with Nick Oakley of Script Magazine for any news of Abie. She had no information but if she heard anything it would be passed to Tony straight away, it was then he told her he and I were going out to the Caroline so could she send news to the Mi Amigo. Great news, off to Caroline and maybe Peace Ship too, this was going to be a good year, especially as Tony strongly urged me to take Drafi Deutscher 'United' with me and use it as a theme on Caroline. I'd played it a number of times on the Night Service of Radio Concord and it became a favourite of his, and later, it became a firm favourite of many Caroline listeners during Spring 1975.

By the Summer of 1975 I was back in London, Tony was in Amsterdam chilling out and I was at Sloopy's in Piccadilly Circus with a residency and doing what I could onshore to support Caroline. Then, my world came crashing down. The British authorities were trying to get Caroline staff to supply them with information to assist them in closing Caroline down. It was common knowledge that we DJ's were trying to get contracts with the newly launched radio stations, but the authorities would not allow this to happen unless co-operation was forthcoming. I had many job offers suddenly turned down, and in the end I was arrested and charged under the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act 1967 for my lack of co-operation. My home was searched and all my papers and documents removed, Anne was terrified and this was the start of a very bleak time for us. Thankfully, Brent Walker retained me at Sloopy's and gave me a further gig at Hackney Stadium's new night spot, but I was followed, phone was tapped and I had frequent visits to my Sloane Square apartment from men in grey coats, my life was under a microscope and it was terrifying my family.

Then I got a phone call......"I have a job that is tailor made for you, interested,? just say yes, I'll send details." "Yes" I replied, "Details with you shortly" end of conversation, but the voice was Keith Ashton and he was phoning from the other end of the universe, he was so faint, but I was curious to see what my old Aussie mate had up his sleeve. It was November 1975, and I needed a lift. Sure enough, three days later, a letter arrived, with an Israel stamp, postmarked Tel Aviv, at a neutral address known to Keith and I in which he laid out the details of this 'Super Station' he was in operating with a format and programming style that was made for me. Good salesman Keith, my experience in working Drake format style programmes since 1969 on pirate and closed circuit radio in Britain, with my knowledge and love of formats and jingle packages made me ideal for this new operation. He reckoned I was stifled on Caroline and needed to work for him on a station that played the hits and they stayed played, a station combining the best elements of KLIF under Gordon McLendon with a cutting edge Australian take on Todd Storz, makes Drake look like a beginner.

When he said he was reporting to Abie Nathan I was shocked, the Peace Ship, as Tony Allan had told us, was a laid back radio service, few commercials and very like Radio Caroline in the 1970's. Keith was describing a tiger of a station, Veronica/Big L/England with WABC thrown in for good measure. More music, more jingles, more commercials, more often, 24 hours a day, we still did have that in Britain, so Israel? I replied in a letter that Anne was keen to go back to Canada and was not keen to get blown up in Israel and sent it off before Christmas 1975, but Keith never got the letter. In the next post in January 1976, he told me more about the station, the great jocks he had, just hired a Steve Gordon and Phil Sayer to back up his backbone team of Ken Dickin, Phil Brice, Robin Adcroft and Black Printz.

Why was I messing about he wondered. Keith phoned too, on a safe line, and I told him about my forthcoming court appearance for Caroline, he was afraid it may result in a custodial sentence and I should get out while the going was good. I assured him that in conversations with Johnny Jason and Ronan they were going to back me up and keep an eye out for me, which they did. But further charges were pending regarding Caroline so Keith persuaded me to attend court, and then, using my Irish passport get out of the country and head for Israel as soon as possible, he would arrange everything. I agreed, and on the 9th March, Johnny Jason drove me to Heathrow Airport for the morning flight to Tel Aviv, we had a good omen, we bumped into Loving Awareness who were off to the States to record an album. Johnny knew them, introduced me, great guys, they suggested sending the album out to the Ship, great stuff. We had a few good drinks and my adventure with the crazy world of Keith Ashton and the Voice of Peace had started on a real positive vibe.

Evening in Tel Aviv, warm wind and it was dark as I landed at about 7pm local time. The flight on El Al had been comfortable with a level of service from the attendants I have never experienced before, or since. I had left a London bathed in sunshine, clear blue skies and 2C, the blue skies stayed with me until sunset as the Boeing 707 approached Ben Goerion Airport and a country at war with its neighbours. The crew wished me luck in Israel as I prepared to disembark, had Keith arranged all of this, I had given no clue as to my business, but, crew knew my destination and were huge fans of '1540' as they called it. Met by the company driver and his lovely wife I was invited to tour Tel Aviv if I was up to it, Keith had suggested it as a way of giving me an insight into the stations reach and he insisted they make it a thorough tour.

Keith would see me later at the hotel. In the car, the background hum of a radio, cassette maybe of WABC, kept us company as my new husband and wife friends introduced me to their homeland, they spoke perfect English. Then, suddenly, typical Israeli, the driver cut the conversation, said how rude it was of him not to let me hear 1540, up went the volume and there was 'The More Music Sound of Ken Dickin' with 'G'days' and 'Dicko here' and a montage of sound, strewth! All of this at 10pm at night, when European radio was winding down, I came to the rapid conclusion that I might be out of my depth, this was a radio sound like no other, big, brash and fast moving, was there time to re-board the plane?

Ken Dicken on the VOP Archive Don Stevens

The tour of the city continued, my wonderful guides suggested food and offered a western style restaurant but I was keen to try the local food, much to the obvious delight of my new friends. I ate a hearty meal in an overcrowded restaurant and then we walked up Dizengoff to the Kikar and sampled the atmosphere. In to the car, up to Kikar Atarim, Ibn Gvirol and then to Kikar Hamedina, everywhere we went, every radio in cars, shops, wherever had 1540 blasting out. I was able to follow the programme walking down the street and I did not have a radio, it was the most intimidating event of my life. Even in the hey days of Big L you would never have that situation happen in Oxford Street, it was a revelation.

Finally, to my hotel, oh, and this was another surprise. Booked into the Tel Aviv Sheraton with a pool side apartment and an invite to join Keith at Schmulicks in Ben Yehuda, the favourite watering hole of all the drinking class in Tel Aviv. Keith did not stay long, told me I had an early morning departure to the Ship and filled me in on my role. We discussed salary and the ongoing accommodations for shore leave which was always the Sheraton, and then he shot off to close another commercial sale, the guy was fizzing, and very pleased to see me. We met up later at the hotel bar and Keith filled in the gaps. Keith gave few details of the background to his arrival with Peace, just that he implemented the new style shows once the ship had got back from Port Said on September 22nd 1975 and he had retained the services of Black Printz, Robin Adcroft, Phil Brice, Jules Retrot, Ken Dickin and then Steve Gordon and Phil Sayer. But it was very clear that he ran the entire operation for Abie who stayed in the background and used the revenues to assist the poor and weak in the region. Keith was pleased that he could provide this service for Abie, and I was told how the money was spent and all those details, it was clear that an ideal was being served by commercial thinking.

The format was similar to 'Boss Radio' in the USA, but the pattern was a harder edged Australian product, honed and sharpened at Gold Coast Radio Queensland, 4 Double G. it was tight and ultra professional. Phil Brice and Ken Dickin, with Engineer Jules Retrot from Australia implemented the whole sound on ship, so everything was geared to this product. The guys had been to Britain and thought commercial radio was a joke, this was a chance to show how real radio was, more music, less talk, and the jingles too were US with the late Bill Mitchell providing some voiceovers. Phil Brice had obtained these prior to leaving LBC Radio in London, but other jingle firms provided cuts including CPMG and TM. Advertising was mostly through Tavas, an advertising agency owned and operated by people who knew the power of US style radio. Keith dealt with them almost exclusively and they were keen to work with him, he spoke the radio language they understood and he provided a refreshing alternative to the hum drum radio on shore. Keith pointed out that the sound of the station was generating huge revenue for Abie, he, in turn was devoting these funds to all his good causes, it was a good relationship. All the major firms advertised through Tavas on the station, British Leyland was one international spot, plus Maccabiee Beer, OK Beer, Elite Foods (all the range), Osem and Dubek tobacco advertised most of their brands.

It was clear from Keith's comments that Abie was generating enough income to keep the station operating for many years if the unexpected happened and advertising ceased, it was a fascinating introduction. Keith wanted me to do the mid-morning show, keep it tight, but slow your English to half speed, might attract an audience whose English was a little rusty, do a coffee break, play a couple of standards in 'own choice' but generally, keep the show moving. No problems, I was happy to fulfil that role and the thought of being a Mid-East Tony Windsor or Tineke was very amusing, big black beard and shoulder length hair notwithstanding. Keith was keen to provide the secular population of Israel the product they enjoyed when they were in the States, and he showed me the huge bags of mail that had arrived at the post box, he was taking them to the office. I must confess it was exciting stuff.

Early morning March 10th 1976, out from Tel Aviv Marina in an open speed boat heading out to MV Peace, formerly Cito, a favourite playground of my friend Hans Knot as a lad in Groningen. I was surprised to see, on approach, that the ship was in a very high state of repair, compared to Mi Amigo it was brand new. The ship shone like a bright light in the mid-morning sun, and the blue sky and sea set it off like a graceful Swan on a placid lake. The photo I took at that moment is still one of the best I have ever seen of the vessel, it was a perfect moment. Climbing up the ladder on to the deck was another surprise. On the Mi Amigo from Radio Caroline, because she is low in the water you just time your jump and go across from the tender when the swell equalizes the beneath the vessels. With Peace, no swell, the water was like glass, absolutely smooth...but you had to climb up the almost 5 metre side of ship on a rickety old rope and wood ladder, great fun when it was choppy in winter.

I was greeted immediately by Ken Dickin who introduced me to Jules Retrot and Steve Gordon, and these became my firm friends on board the ship. In fact, Ken and Jules, once they found out I was Irish, were more than happy to share a consignment of Maccabiee Beer with me and bring me up to speed with the situation on ship. Jules was due to leave in a few weeks time and Ken was thinking of leaving too, Phil Brice had already departed and was at Beacon Radio in the English West Midlands so the team that brought Israel 1540 was disbanding. I understood then, why Keith wanted me on board, to at least have one presenter in the team who understood the concept of more music radio.

Shown the studio by my hospitable new pals and I was impressed, for the time it was a functional and very professional set-up with a huge Gates Diplomat Mixer with big pots for driving the shows. Gates cartridge machines and Gates turntables with Gates arms completed the set up, with, mercury switches which were a problem when the swell was high, and an audio rack with processor behind. The studio was freezing cold due to an over active air conditioner, so we adjourned to the bowels of the ship to the lounge with its huge sofa's, television and games table. I was able to renew a friendship with Bill Danse whom I had worked with on the Caroline the previous year. We used to have some stimulating discussions about many subjects, and I learnt a heck of a lot from Bill. He was proud of his work on the Peace Ship, with good reason, he kept the station on the air when the nearest spare part was ashore, he was good at solving problems that would bring others to their knees. On the Caroline, Bill had told me a great deal about the Peace Ship and Abie from his previous tour aboard in 1973, but, the station I was listening to was nothing like the one Bill Danse and Tony Allan had spoken of.

The next day, on air, and Ken Dickin had spent the previous night, after his show, making up a couple of identification jingles so I may sound blended in to the format, never had to use the jingles Peter van Dam made for me on board the Mi Amigo when I voiced his 'Gangboord' jingle in English, that was a shame, Peter would enjoyed Israel hearing him. The studio was easy to use compared to the Caroline, and the only real problem was learning enough Hebrew to 'hear' the out cue from Kol Israel's news which we broadcast top of the hour. Steve Gordon helped me a lot through this one, and cautioned me for false out cue which Israeli newsreaders often did to throw us. If you missed the outcue then you had a further five minutes of local news and weather for every region of Israel....this was a massive tune out factor for our Cyprus listeners, so ears alert. I soon learnt a lot about the station and its running in the next few weeks, the practical jokes played on each other. Fire alarms and simulated sinking in a storm all contributed to making the Voice of Peace a great place to be, a fine crew and a great bunch of jocks. I quickly settled into a good friendship with Ken Dickin and Steve Gordon often having a few beers in the production studio whilst Ken sorted out the weekly playlist and chart, we had our own Top 40.

One particular day, Ken wanted to go ashore for a break but it was going to be difficult, he had a two daily shows and he was our Number One jock, everybody in the Middle East listened to his shows and he was disappointed he could not get a 24 hour break. We knew the tender was due on the day he wished to go ashore at about 6pm, when his afternoon slot finished but he still had a night time slot to fill from 10pm to midnight so it was out of the question. Being a Caroline jock and used the activities of the British Government tracking our movements I suggested Ken record a set of links using his catch phrases, make a 12 or so, load them on to a cart, and I'd drive the night time show and play the cart loaded vo's between tunes. It worked a treat, Ken was in Tel Aviv and everybody thought he was aboard ship, great fun. He was in Schmulick’s listening to his own show, Schmulick thought it was the sharpest trick he had ever come across, and he knew some tricks.

It came time for Jules to leave the ship for the last time, and he was due to attend a celebration party in Tel Aviv, but, knowing my birthday coincided with this he somehow arranged for me to get an early shore leave and go too. It was a real surprise to meet Israeli's and discover how popular the station was, I'd forgotten after my initial introduction the night I had arrived. Jules saw my surprise, and informed me that Voice of Peace was the biggest pop station bar none not just in Israel, but in the Middle East, and why not, it was the very first format of its type ever heard outside Australia and the US. I learnt that we were so popular that BFBS on FM out of Cyprus was revamping its format, Radio Monte Carlo in Cyprus was suffering too and they began to increase their music rotation, and then the Government of Israel announced plans to start a pop service to be known as Reshet Gimel. Even Jordan Radio in English began to use English disc jockeys by April 1976, a testament to 1540's sound. Walking around the city and hearing the station from every shop was amazing, and I soon learnt to be careful when I spoke in public, the listeners heard us so much they could identify us by our voices. No mean feat when you consider the majority did not speak English very well, but, as a lifelong listener to Dutch radio and I do not speak the language I was aware that they could replicate my own ability to discern Rob Out from Lex Harding or Peter van Dam. If you were unmasked it caused a major public disturbance with everybody trying to hold you, catch your clothing, and I love this, invite you home for a meal to meet the family and friends. It resembled Beatle mania, but the one broadcaster they all wanted to see was Ken Dickin, he was far and away the most popular talent on the station, everybody liked his show, men and women boys and girls. I often wonder what would have been the history of the Peace Ship if Ken had signed on for another three months, he was also the advertisers’ favourite, and all his slots were fully booked.

Good news for the projects that Abie was assisting, including the Children’s Ward at Tel Hashomer hospital for sick Arab children from all around the region. While I was ashore, Abie took me to view this facility and explained to me that our overt pop service was not obviously a peace service, it was generating income for peace projects and this would have a long term benefit for the region. We were photographed with the doctor in charge for a national newspaper, but Abie refused publication rights so I ended up with the picture. In hindsight, he was spot on, he created a mood among people leading by example and giving with no expectation of a return, and beneficiaries of this spread the word of their good fortune and encouraged our listenership.

Back to the Ship and Abie came out too with Keith Ashton to spend a weekend on the ship and to make a couple of live broadcasts on The Peace Show, he was also keen to talk to Ken Dickin he hoped to persuade him to stay a couple of months longer. That night, Abie had a get together with the DJ’s and crew to find out how they were feeling, who was staying and whose contracts were up for renewal. I recall Abie telling Ken and Keith that he wanted a more MOR style and was insisting upon a change in format, and then he said ‘that’s what I’d like, but I don’t know a lot about radio’ suddenly Keith said something like ‘Well yeah Abie, you don’t really mate so leave to us professionals and we’ll keep it right’ and stopped Abie in his tracks. The format never came under discussion again until Keith left the station. Abie clearly failed to hold onto Ken who was sad, Steve Gordon agreed to stay on for a further 3 months which was great news, but Phil Sayer had a job to start at Piccadilly Radio and was unable to be with us. Then Keith asked me what my plans were, and I agreed to stay on for another 6 months to maintain some continuity of the station sound.

Into April 1976 and the station was gaining more advertising, Tavas were really going flat out and Keith was selling like a devil, good times, but on the horizon was the talk from the office that Abie was keen to go MOR and the Knesset had approved the immediate launch of Israel’s first pop music station with a start date of early May 1976. Tavas Advertising were totally against Abie changing a successful radio station and literally handing over the market to the new Reshet Gimel, Keith agreed, it would be impossible to sell space with an obsolete music policy and feelings were running high in the office. Concern was voiced that Abie was under pressure to give the airwaves to the new service by his ‘friends’ in Government, and it was true to say that he was very happy with the way things operated until Reshet Gimel was proposed. Tavas made it clear that if the format changed they would pull all advertising as it would be a waste of clients money to be on an MOR service. Abie suggested that I be retained on the station right through 1976 and go on the breakfast show with a brief to keep it fast moving and Tavas continued to buy space in that show, in addition they would give him a full advert roster on the Sabbath, if the station went MOR.

Ken Dickin by now had departed and Steve Gordon and myself maintained the station sound, nothing appeared to be changing and then with the launch of Reshet Gimel only a days away Keith left the station and a few days later Crispian St.John arrived from London to implement the MOR format, this resulted in Tavas Advertising informing Abie that they would only book spots on breakfast and on Shabbat, when Israeli radio did not run commercials, thus implementing what must have been a cut and dried deal. It was great to see CSJ out on the ship but it was so unfair to him that the office told him how we must implement the MOR format as the station needed to be successful. Years later when Crispian was at Metro Radio Newcastle we used to meet up at my house, he would dine with us and it was clear to Crispian pressure was being applied to Abie. As he had been brought out to fill Keith Ashton’s shoes he carried out Abie’s policy and did the best he could. With the MOR sound active and breakfast using the old style it was a constant source of friction on board. Abie had not made CSJ aware of the instructions I was receiving via Motorola radio from shore, which was adhere to the normal format. Poor old Crispian and I were placed under awful pressure and I offered my resignation to Abie, which was not only refused, but he insisted I undertake to guarantee doing another three months right up to November 1976.

One of the more unusual recruits to the ship, who did not arrive through Broadcast Placement Services, but from Steve Allen at UBN, was Tara Jeffries our first female broadcaster who arrived aboard in late Spring, mid May 1976. Tara was an accomplished broadcaster for UBN and wanted to work on an offshore radio station, but preferably a station like The Voice of Peace, a station with a mission. For Tara, this was a great adventure and an opportunity of working in a new and fresh environment with a group of idealistic young people. I mention Tara because her story is unknown but her name is well known in association with the Peace Ship. Tara did not stay long with the station and eventually left Israel and took up a broadcast position back in England, but her departure from the station was a loss in many ways to the audience and Abie, at the time he could not see that. As a young woman arriving on board a radio ship with a very strong male culture life was never going to be easy. If she had joined when Ken, Phil and Keith had been around her time would have been easy, these were radio folk who had worked with female broadcasters before. Her easy on air manner may not have fitted in with the style of that period but she would have found the company very pleasant.

As it was, she joined when the British guys were the mainstay of the ship and they brought with them the 1970’s attitudes of young lads from the London of the time. Tara, who was a sincere and gentle person had difficulty settling in almost immediately, the lads were unsure of how to deal with her, she was, after all a well educated and well travelled young woman, a major problem for most lads of the day.

I spent many hours over the weeks talking to Tara, making her feel comfortable and trying to get her to settle in, but she made it clear to me that she felt she was not welcome on the vessel. To make matters worse, we had some late Spring swell and the ship was riding high out of the water, and Tara suffered from bad sea sickness. She was keen to go home, things were not as she expected, and despite my urging her to stay a bit longer she made plans to leave. Steve Gordon too made every attempt to settle her in, but we both understood that she was not at ease. When she did broadcast she adapted well to the self operated studio and she had a wonderful microphone manner and a superb voice full of honey, as listeners to LBC would testify. In her last couple of weeks, the weather got better and Tara seemed to be okay as photos of the time testify, but, she went ashore for a break and eventually I heard she left for Britain to resume her career with independent radio.

More staff joined but now these were exclusively drawn from the UK radio market and most were provided by Broadcast Placement Services, an agency owned and operated by Maggie and Tony Stevens from Hampstead, London. Newcomers included Norman Lloyd and Gavin McCoy and Kenny Page who was clearly influenced by Kenny Everett and a host of other old friends. Phil Mitchell and Kelvin O’Shea came out too, guys I’d worked with in London. Talk between tracks increased and the overall sound was very middle of the road with all output strictly controlled, causing revenue to drop and listeners tuning in to Shosh Atari with Tony Fine and the gang over at Reshet Gimel. Gimel played the hits we had played only weeks earlier and the commercial spots were loaded, to me it made very sad listening.

Abie Nathan, Robin Adcroft and Jules Retrot Photo: Freewave Archive

By late November 1976 my contract was coming up for renewal and Abie asked me what my plans were for Christmas, was I going to stay with the Ship. We had a good long conversation about the station and my time on it, he told me Keith Ashton had abandoned him in his time of need and it was typical Abie, he was great at getting sympathy, loved his style. As I was on my last shore leave I was invited to dine at Abie's new apartment in Tel Aviv with his friends, and so I had the opportunity of meeting a number of very interesting people who gave me another insight into the Peace Ship and how it was viewed in Israel. Clearly, the station was seen by a number of these folk at the party as an anachronism, a museum piece playing music for a minority market, poor Abie with friends like these. After everybody left Abie and I had a drink with a couple of ladies and talked about the future, I was keen to see England for Christmas and Abie was insistent that I remain in Israel, at least until January 1977. I offered to return at the beginning of January but this was not agreeable and so the evening ended on a sour note. Next day in the office, Abie gave me extra cash to enjoy myself so I headed off to my girl friends home in Holon and I had a good shore leave, but this was before mobile phones and I was not due back to the office for three days, unaware that Abie wanted me back on the ship. When I returned I was despatched to the ship straight away and a day later a television crew from Japan came out and filmed the ship and my live show, it was a great piece of promotion for the station, and Abie had an opportunity of showing the crew around the ship. He was so happy, best I'd seen him for months, and he also made a special Peace Show for them so somewhere in Japan is an extremely interesting film.

My final day and I left the ship, said goodbye to all and sundry, got to the office and Abie was in a funk and refused to see me. The staff explained he felt let down by me, I should stay on longer, but I was mystified, as were they by this sentiment, the reason for his irritation became clear in January 1977 by which time I was back in Israel as a private visitor. The staff wished me well, I picked up my return ticket and went off to Holon to be with my girlfriend and her family and seven days later in late November 1976 I flew to London with my girlfriend.

What happened next was interesting and explained Abie's mood. January 1977 saw me return to Israel as a private visitor, my girlfriend finding Britain and its people too cold for her taste she left and returned to Israel on New Years Day. I followed her out two weeks later for a brief visit and to make sure she was okay. She was fine, but our relationship was a thing of the past and her thought was to move on, but as a goodwill gesture, she showed me a copy of LahiTon, Israel’s national pop magazine and translated for me the results of the Annual Readers Poll of favourite disc jockeys carried out in November 1976 and I was voted by the readership as Top Foreign Language DJ, and in the Top 10 of favourite National broadcasters. Big surprise for me especially the publication of this poll had only just been released the previous week so it was hot news. Ronit, my girl friend was very perceptive and suggested that maybe this readers poll was the reason for Abie Nathan’s strange behaviour prior to our flight to London a month earlier.

During that first week back in Tel Aviv I just socialised and relaxed a little with friends, popped around to Tavas and was approached with an idea to act as station manager and restore the old sound. Abie, I was told was unaware of this plan, but he would be told if I got on board, I could not see how this idea would fly, Abie was committed to the low key approach to radio. I had tried to phone Abie to let him know I was in Tel Aviv, but the office staff clearly did not pass on the message. Thanks to Tavas I was connected to Ian Wiener at CBS Records Israel to assist them in launching the new disco concept in the country by helping with releases and advising on the construction of night clubs with full sound systems and lights. I was also contracted to provide the start up shows too once the projects were open. I also presented a Top 40 show with Eli Israeli on Israel Army Radio using English and Eli in Hebrew, it was a great idea. Unknown to me, Abie was trying to contact me, but after the Army Radio appearance Abie would avoid talking to me even at Kikar Atarim for Israel’s Independence celebrations when the Mayor of Tel Aviv announced our names in the same breath and Abie barely acknowledged me. He was upset and probably felt I was against him, Abie often felt this way, but a year later and Abie sent a message to me.

The rest of 1977 was a great year for me in Tel Aviv and I was making public appearances up and down the country in various night clubs and even appeared many times with Reshet Gimel's Shosh Atari at Le Club in Tel Aviv. I was under a contract with Sheraton and ran my own shows at The Forum Palace in north Tel Aviv, the disco boom was helping me a great deal and as the disco star rose so the Peace Ship declined. In January 1978 I was performing at a venue and Abie was a guest, he approached asked if I was well and could we meet up, I readily agreed to see him at his office at a time of his choosing. We met a few days later and Abie suggested I would enjoy going out to the ship and host a daily disco radio show, very avant garde idea for any radio station and for Abie Nathan a stroke of genius. He wanted a typical disco show, as if in a club, but play commercials if he could get them, and he would expect me to present the breakfast programme too and he thought he had a regular commercial sponsor. I loved the idea, Abie said it would help him, so we agreed I would go out in 10 days time which gave me enough space to recruit jocks to cover some of my contracts which were not 'name' critical, they only wanted disco service. The project was a success and we ran it for 3 months playing all the latest dance hits from Europe and the USA which I obtained from my own finances directly from overseas. We played full length mixes too, including the full 50 minute mix of 'Romeo and Juliet' by Alec R Costandinos and a host of other great tracks, Abie's idea was that the listeners could organise dance parties around the radio schedule.

We had run party nights before on the ship, Phil Sayer and Ken Dickin used to do a Friday night party show in early 1976 and it was a huge success but it was geared to a radio audience. Abie was trying to create a new type of radio and it appeared to be working, but it really needed a local disc jockey, if nothing else, Reshet Gimel had created a market for Hebrew language DJ's playing Western music. As my three months was coming to a close Abie and I discussed the future of the show, would I continue. I said it really needs a local guy to move this to the next stage, I had attracted a good audience of Israeli's who could afford to travel and spoke English and knew disco in the West, but a local jock could spread the net wider. Eventually, after passing the show over to UK DJ's Abie hired Gad Biton to run the show, Gad was well known to me on the night club circuit, it was a stroke of genius, he built the audience up to significant level during 1978 and early 1979. With Gad Biton our second Israeli broadcaster, joining Reuven Levi who broadcast intermittently from 1975 through to the 1980's, the Peace Ship had a chance to finally reach a new market.

Abie and I remained in contact right through until 1980 when I left Israel to return to Britain, I also provided some logistical support during that time. When the money began to run out and Abie was unable to accommodate DJ's on shore leave I extended the use of a spare room in my apartment to anyone who wanted it. Abie took advantage of the offer, but the guys hardly stayed as they had girl friends and such like to be with. Abie drove me mad asking for various DJ's and I could not tell him where they were, and I had to cover for them. 'Sorry Abie, he is in the room with a girl' 'no Abie, they have just gone out' stuff like that, good fun. I met a number of the Ships crew at this time including Kas Collins who was a really good jock and succeeded in attracting the biggest audience for any Peace Ship show since 1976, but, he left, sent me a lovely card from Cairo and then he went back to Europe. Steve Marshall joined, a real soul man, his knowledge of soul and R 'n' B was second to none, and I renewed an old friendship with Keith York from my Dynamite 235 and Radio Concord days.

Don Stevens and Norman Lloyd Photo: Archive Don Stevens

As September 1980 drew in I went to see Abie to let him know I was leaving Israel and heading back to Europe, I went to wish him all the best for the future.
We agreed that maybe our relationship over the years could have been better, to the benefit of the Peace Ship, but, we are both stubborn and we laughed at that. Abie, ever the man with an eye to the future, asked me if I would ever return to help him if he was in need. Clearly, I said it was no problem, you call, and I'll come if I can be of help. Abie shook my hand and I thought that was the end of me and The Voice of Peace.............. That’s what I thought........

Don Stevens

That ends up this second edition of the Hans Knot International Radio Report for the month of July. Hope you enjoyed it and for all memories and bits and pieces you can write me at HKnot@home.nl and for photos and other material please use the Hans.Knot@gmail.com

Till next month
Greetings Hans Knot

During 2006 a lot of work has been down to research not only the history of the Voice of Peace but also the various humanitarian jobs Abie Nathan has done through the past 4 decades. With assistance from people next to Abie, deejays and staff of the station in the past, Hans Knot has succeeded in writing a 250 pages book. In the book are many exclusive photographs, but as there were hundreds of photos sent in by many people, a ‘photo cd’ is included. The book was officially presented at the Annual Radio Day in Amsterdam on November 2006. The book can now be ordered from the publisher. The price for people in the Netherlands is 30 Euro, including postage and packing. For people outside the Netherlands the price is33 Euro. You can send in your money by sending it in an envelope to SMC, PO Box 53121 1007 RC Amsterdam. Also you can pay your money to Giro account 4065700 on the name of Mediacommunicatie Amsterdam. Don’t forget to mention IBAN number: NL 37 PSTB 0004 0657 00 BIC: PSTBNL21. This to avoid high costs.



Offshore Deejays' Nicknames


Female Offshore Radio Deejays


Radio London Commercials


Offshore Radio Programme Names - Programmanamen Zeezenders 1958-1990


Read Hans Knot's former report