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
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
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
Here's a typical schedule that was used in those early
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
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
Project Atlanta had played its vital part in the birth
of British offshore radio.