Celebrating the Pioneers of British Music Radio

from the 60s thru to today
Pirate Alley UK
Keeping the Memories Alive
THE 60s

Project Atlanta was put together in 1962 by Australian businessman Alan Crawford. The first part of the year was spent searching for a suitable vessel, they eventually decided on the M.V. Bon Jour which had been used for a lengthy period by Swedish offshore pirate Radio Nord. (Radio Nord had been forced to close in July when the Government passed one of Europe's first Marine Offences Acts).

The Bon Jour left its anchorage, off the Stockholm coast, on July 4th. and sailed to the Spanish port of El Ferroll. arriving there on August 2nd. She left Spain on September 14th. and headed towards the Thames Estuary where she took up station just north of the Shivering Sands fort.

Tests were reported by several enthusiasts on 980 khz but there is no confirmation as to whether they came from the "Mi Amigo" as the ship had now been renamed.

The American Radio Nord backers - Gordon McLedon and Bob Thompson (also the owner of KLIF Dallas), were becoming a little impatient waiting for their payment. Atlanta had hit money problems when the radio ship' "Lucky Star" was seized by the Danish authorities after trying to flout Denmark's M.O.A. The bill had been passed on July 31st. 1962 and the Lucky Star resumed transmissions a fortnight later, only to be boarded by police and escorted into Danish waters after three days.

All this heavy handed action worried Atlanta's backers and the majority pulled out their money. Crawford looked round desperately for new investors and suggested to McLedon and Thompson that he leased the ship from them, the Americans turned down the offer as they were pessimistic about the future of offshore radio and wanted to unload the boat completely.

The Mi Amigo sat around for three months, not actually making any broadcasts, and the disgruntled Americans ordered the ship to sail over to Texas where the aerial tower would be dismantled and all the technical equipment removed. She set off shortly after Christmas 1962 and eventually arrived in Galveston on March 9th. 1963.

The project appeared to be in ruins but Crawford never gave up hope and eventually found new sponsors. He finalised the purchase during late summer and the Mi Amigo left Galveston harbour during November 1963, once again having to make that long trans-Atlantic crossing.

A broadcasting crew was put together towards Christmas and included such well known names as Tony Withers (later known as Tony "T.W." Windsor on Radio London), Colin Nichol and Richard Harris.

A studio was built in Dean Street, Soho, London and the new team started stockpiling recorded programmes. Meanwhile, the Mi Amigo put in at Greenore in the Irish Republic during March 1964. The main priority was the construction of a new aerial mast, the previous tower had been removed in the States, and the switch on seemed imminent.

Atlanta would have been Britain's first offshore pirate but they'd reckoned without Radio Caroline and Ronan O'Rahilly . Fate determined that Atlanta had chosen the same port as the M.V. Caroline and O'Rahilly’s grandfather actually owned the docks. Atlanta wasn't far behind though, the Mi Amigo left Greenore on April 20th. and headed straight for the Thames Estuary.

They experienced a few problems with the aerial tower and pulled into Falmouth for repairs. These only took a couple of days and she eventually arrived at her anchorage on April 27th, just one hour after Caroline had signed on for the first time.

The only broadcast crew on board were Johnnie Jackson and Bob Scott who had both joined the vessel in Galveston. Despite the different names, they were infact a father and son team and were put in contact with Alan Crawford (pictured right) by Bob Thompson. Jackson was a vastly experienced engineer and had been employed by KLIF Dallas for a number of years. He had no problems sorting out the Atlanta eqipment and tests were first heard on May 9th. 1964, a few minutes after 09.00 on 1520 khz.

Bob Scott was the first deejay and sounded very professional, generally putting Caroline's novice presenters to shame. Atlanta's signal was also far superior, they were running a full 1O kilowatts.

Full programmes commenced three days later at 18.00 in an attempt to steal Caroline's audience, the frequency had been altered by then to 1493khz. Johnnie Jackson and Bob Scott would preside over the tape changes and make live announcements such as time checks, programme introductions and news.

Here's a typical schedule that was used in those early days:

Monday to Friday. 06.00. Early Call - Bob Scott . 06.15. Country & Western Style - Johnnie Jackson . 06.45. Early Call - Bob Scott. 07.30. Breakfast Club - Ted King. 08.45. Musical Mailbag - Richard Harris. 10.00. Work Along - Clive Burrell. 11.15. Morning Star - Tony Withers. 11.30. Spin Around - Clive Burrell. 13.00. Headline Hits - Tony Withers. 14.00. Music The Wide World Over - Richard Harris. 16.00. Sounds Of The Sixties - Tony Withers. 18.00. All Systems Go - Mike Raven. 18.30. Music Of The Moment - Neil Spence. 20.00. Closedown.

Saturday. 06.00. As Monday to Friday. 10.00. Downbeat - Tony Withers. 12.00. Sweet And Lively - Clive Burrell. 13.00. The Saturday Show - Tony Withers. 16.00. Latin Americana - Clive Burrell. 16.30 . Best Of The Ballads - Richard Harris . 17.00. Country & Western Style - Johnnie Jackson . 18.00. As Monday to Friday except All Systems Go up till 19.00.

Sunday 06.00. Sunrise Serenade - Richard Harris. 08.00. Croissants And Cafe - Clive Burrell. 09.00. Sunday Singalong - Neil Spence. 10.00. Quality Street - Richard Harris. 11.30. Turntable 64 - Tony Withers. 14.00. Music The Wide World Over - Richard Harris. 16.00. All Systems Go - Mike Raven. 17.00. Traffic Jam Sessions - John Ridley. 18.00. Nice 'N Easy - Clive Burrell. 20.00. Closedown.

Atlanta, although stronger and more professional, tended to sound rather empty and scripted against Caroline's very natural, relaxed atmosphere. It's hard to say who had the bigger audience, both obviously claimed it, but no one could deny that Atlanta had the strongest signal in Britain' s advertising heartland - London - and 0'Rahilly was concerned.

Johnnie Jackson and Bob Scott left after only a month, their deep Texan drawl didn 't seem to go down too well with British listeners, and they were replaced onboard by dj Colin Nichol and studio engineers Keith Martin (who later went on to become a continuity announcer with Anglia Television) and Bryan Vaughan.

Colin was now responsible for all the live segments while Keith and Bryan acted as technical Operators. The restrictions of taped programming eventually began to tell and after a couple of months Caroline appeared to have the edge once more. Most of their shows were live and the topical comments were much easier to relate to.

Behind the scenes O'Rahilly and Crawford were working on a merger and on Saturday July 4th. listeners could hear Simon Dee presenting his breakfast show from the Mi Amigo while Tom Lodge woke up the punters on the M.V. Caroline.

This was all very confusing at first but the newspapers eventually put people straight. Atlanta had become Radio Caroline South, staying in its original position, and O'Rahilly's boat was sailing round to the Isle of Man and starting up as Radio Caroline North.

This would give the station and its potential advertisers nationwide coverage. The two companies moved in to joint premises at 6 Chesterfield Gardens, London NW1 and the merger was complete. The South ship continued to be run by Alan Crawford and the Atlanta management until Christmas 1965 when they were bought out by publisher Philip Solomon. Many of their on-air personalities and programme titles survived right through until the station's closure in 1968.

Project Atlanta had played its vital part in the birth of British offshore radio.
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