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Encyclopedia > Swinging Radio England

Swinging Radio England ("SRE") was a top 40 offshore commercial station billed as the "Worlds Most Powerful" that operated briefly from 3 May to 13 November of 1966 from a ship anchored in the North Sea, three and a half miles off Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, England. While the station was dubbed as a pirate radio station, its actual operation took place within the laws of the day and its offices were located in the heart of the West End of London. Its representation was by a company formed earlier in the year to represent in Europe the ABC radio and television stations of the United States. Top 40 is a radio format based on frequent repetition of songs from a constantly-updated list of the forty best-selling singles. ... May 3 is the 123rd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (124th in leap years). ... November 13 is the 317th day of the year (318th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 48 days remaining. ... 1966 (MCMLXVI) was a common year starting on Saturday (the link is to a full 1966 calendar). ... The North Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean, located between the coasts of Norway and Denmark in the east, the coast of the British Isles in the west, and the German, Dutch, Belgian and French coasts in the south. ... Statistics Population: 5500 Ordnance Survey OS grid reference: TM236198 Administration District: Tendring Shire county: Essex Region: East of England Constituent country: England Sovereign state: United Kingdom Other Ceremonial county: Essex Historic county: Essex Services Police force: Ambulance service: East of England Post office and telephone Post town: Colchester Postal district... Essex is a county in the East of England. ... Motto: (French for God and my right) Anthem: God Save the King/Queen Capital London Largest city London Official language(s) English (de facto) Unification    - by Athelstan AD 927  Area    - Total 130,395 km² (1st in UK)   50,346 sq mi  Population    - 2005 est. ... The term pirate radio lacks a specific universal interpretation. ... London (pronounced ) is the capital city of England and the United Kingdom. ... ABC are the first three letters in the Latin Alphabet ABC may also refer to: easy as ABC – i. ...

Both the studio and the transmitter of Swinging Radio England were located in two separate prefabricated rooms lowered into the two holds of the MV Olga Patricia (later renamed MV Laissez Faire), a World War II vessel built in the USA as a supply ship. The station shared the studio and transmitter holds with a sister station named Britain Radio which was billed as the Hallmark of Quality and broadcasting a format of easy listening music. Combatants Major Allied powers: United Kingdom Soviet Union United States Republic of China and others Major Axis powers: Nazi Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Harry Truman Chiang Kai-Shek Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tojo Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead...


Origin of the station

Swinging Radio England was the brainchild of Don Pierson who lived in Eastland, Texas, USA. According to an interview conducted by Dr. Eric Gilder with Don Pierson which was published by Sibiu University Press in Romania during 2001, Don Pierson got the idea to start Swinging Radio England following the success of his earlier venture called Wonderful Radio London. Donald Grey Pierson was born October 11, 1925 and died age 70 on March 30, 1996 at Eastland, Texas. ... Eastland is a city located in Eastland County, Texas. ... Official language(s) None See: Languages of Texas Capital Austin Largest city Houston Area  Ranked 2nd  - Total 268,581 sq mi (695,622 km²)  - Width 773 miles (1,244 km)  - Length 790 miles (1,270 km)  - % water 2. ... Wonderful Radio Londons transmitter ship, the MV Galaxy Wonderful Radio London or “Big L” was a United Kingdom unlicenced off-shore commercial station, with studios and transmitter aboard a former US Minesweeper anchored three and a half miles off Southeast England from late December 1964, until 3 p. ...

The unique format of SRE was built around a hybrid collection of sounds and formats. Like those of Wonderful Radio London, its jingles were made by PAMS in Dallas, Texas as part of "The Jet Set" series 27 that was originally made for WABC, New York. Its rapid fire bannerline news format, at 15 minutes past the hour was borrowed from WFUN in Miami, Florida. The on air staff were known as boss jocks, although the offshore version bore only a slight resemblance to the style of broadcasting performed by KHJ in California which had originated the name. (See footnote section below regarding Tommy Vance on KHJ in November 1965 and Radio Caroline South in January 1966.) PAMS of Dallas (Production,Advertising and Merchandising Services)was the most famous jingle production company in American broadcasting. ...      Nickname: Big D Location in the state of Texas Country United States State Texas Counties Dallas, Collin, Denton, Kaufman, and Rockwall Mayor Laura Miller Area    - City 997. ... Official language(s) None See: Languages of Texas Capital Austin Largest city Houston Area  Ranked 2nd  - Total 268,581 sq mi (695,622 km²)  - Width 773 miles (1,244 km)  - Length 790 miles (1,270 km)  - % water 2. ... WABC may refer to: WABC (AM) (770 kHz), also known as NewsTalkRadio 77, the flagship station of the ABC Radio Network, serving the New York metropolitan area WABC-FM (95. ... Official language(s) None Capital Albany Largest city New York City Area  Ranked 27th  - Total 54,520 sq mi (141,205 km²)  - Width 285 miles (455 km)  - Length 330 miles (530 km)  - % water 13. ... WFUN could refer to three broadcast stations in the United States: WFUN, a radio station broadcasting at 970 kHz on the AM band, licensed to Ashtabula, Ohio. ... Nickname: The Magic City Location in Miami-Dade County and the state of Florida. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... KHJ can refer to multiple things: KHJ-AM, US radio station Airport code for Kauhajoki Airport in Finland This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... Official language(s) English Capital Sacramento Largest city Los Angeles Area  Ranked 3rd  - Total 158,302 sq mi (410,000 km²)  - Width 250 miles (400 km)  - Length 770 miles (1,240 km)  - % water 4. ... Radio Caroline is a European radio station that originally commenced transmissions as an offshore radio station broadcasting from a ship anchored off the coast of South East England in international waters. ...

Station transmitters

Don Pierson delegated all transmitter and antenna work to the LTV-Continental Electronics company in Dallas, Texas as a turn-key operation. Consulting radio engineer Bill Carr of Fort Worth, Texas had performed work on the antenna construction of Wonderful Radio London, and Don Pierson originally sought Carr's advice for the new station, but when Pierson began to run out of time in getting the twin stations on the air due to difficulty in getting financial underwriters for the project, he decided to compartment the project into three segments: the ship; the stations and advertising. As a result of this development it was not until the beginning of 1966 that a total contract for the stations was signed. LTV/CE proceded to design a mast system that supported an extending triangular metal boom to which a heavy insulator and cable stretched all the way down to the deck. This heavy cable shunt-fed the transmitter signals to the top of the mast to which the original antennas were attached. Just as predicted by a consultant to Don Pierson, the heavy cable came crashing to the deck after the ship had left Miami, Florida where she had been outfitted. A Corsair II aircraft made by Ling-Temco-Vought. ... Fort Worth is the sixth-largest city in the state of Texas, located about 30 miles west of Dallas on the West Fork Trinity River and forming part of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. ... This article is about the city in Florida. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ...


The studios for both Swinging Radio England and its sister station Britain Radio were located in adjoining rooms, and like the transmitters which were housed in a prefabricated building lowered into one of the holds of the ship, the two rooms were located in a similar building which had been lowered into the second hold of the ship.

When Don Pierson first planned the station in 1965, his engineer Bill Carr had suggested 665kc and 795kc or 815kc as frequencies for the twin stations. But by the end of November of that year, Don Pierson had still been unable to finance either the purchase of a ship or the finance of two offshore radio stations. By the time that financial arrangements were finally completed, the New Year of 1966 had arrived and so he decided that in order to make up for lost time it was necessary to speed up the operaton. This was divided into a ship purchase and a package purchase for both stations and the antenna to be manufactured and installed by Continental Electronics.

Both radio studios were originally going to be fully automated using the same ideas that Don Pierson had previously planned for Wonderful Radio London. At that time, some stations in the USA were using this method to program both easy listening and top forty formats because they required fewer staff which in turn resulted in keeping expenses to a minimum. However, at the last moment Don Pierson was persuaded by one of the disc jockeys that he hired from nearby WFUN in South Miami, to make a further purchase for the top forty station to install a Collins Radio control board and to staff the station with live announcers who would live on the ship. WFUN could refer to three broadcast stations in the United States: WFUN, a radio station broadcasting at 970 kHz on the AM band, licensed to Ashtabula, Ohio. ...

As a result of this change of plan, most of the automation for both stations was moved to the Britain Radio studio in order to create more space for the new board and equipment.

Technical Problems

Among other suggestions made by radio engineer Bill Carr had been the erection of a 200 foot mast to which the transmitter signals would be shunt-fed to the top using a similar (but higher placed) method to the Wonderful Radio London ship station. When the work was reassigned to Continental Electronics the company designed a mast supporting an outstretched triangular boom to which a heavy insulator supporter a huge and heavy swinging cable stretched down to the deck. With the signal shunt-fed to the top of the mast antennas were then attached to radiate both signals.

After leaving port with carpenters hurridly constructing new sleeping arrangements for the additional staff made necessary by the installation of the Collins board which was also being wired while the ship was underway for England, the huge shunt-fed cable broke loose and came crashing down on the deck after about two hours at sea. A series of delays caused by the unavailablility of Continental Electronics staff caused the Olga Patricia to arrive in Europe where two hasty and improvised cage antennas were rigged. Unfortunately the electonics company had not researched the frequencies suggested by Bill Carr and this resulted in the discovery that one frequency was in use by a BBC network in Britain. When Swinging Radio England finally got on the air, its signal began clashing with a state-owned radio station in Italy on the same frequency. When Britain Radio came on the air, its improvised and very unsuitable frequency was swapped with Swinging Radio England to avoid SRE from clashing with the Italian radio station, while Britain Radio did not operate at full power. The British Broadcasting Corporation, invariably known as the BBC (and also informally known as the Beeb or Auntie) is the largest broadcasting corporation in the world, employing 26,000 staff in the UK alone and with a budget of £4 billion. ...

Ownership and Management

Ownership of the venture resided with investors in North and West Texas. These investors formed loyalties to various factions and this caused tremendous infighting within the organization when the venture quickly turned into a chaotic financial failure.

Advertising sales were assigned to William E. Vick of Amarillo, Texas by the venture under an exclusive employment contract. Vick, whose family were also investors in the venture then moved his family to London where he formed a British company called Peir Vick, Ltd. Vick leased offices above which he also lived, at 32 Curzon Street in the Mayfair district of London. They were situated across the street from Radlon (Sales) Ltd., at 17 Curzon Street which had a similar contract to represent Wonderful Radio London. Amarillo is a city located in Texas, USA and is part of the West Texas region. ... Mayfair is an area in the City of Westminster London, named after the fortnight-long May Fair that took place there from 1686 until it was banned in that location in 1764. ... London (pronounced ) is the capital city of England and the United Kingdom. ...

Vick entered into two exclusive contracts with two British companies. The first contract went to Peter Rendall and Asssociates who handled all of the public relations and extensive and expensive parties to launch the stations. In turn Rendall introduced Radiovision Broadcasts International, Limited (RBI), which had been formed in January 1966 as a subsidiary of Pearl & Dean whose reputation had been established by selling space on British cinema screens. The creation of RBI had been triggered by the intention of the ABC radio and television networks in the USA to expand the sale of their program sales and broadcasting interests in Britain and Europe. The ABC connection with British media had begun many years earlier when it entered into a working relationship with Rupert Murdoch. Pearl & Dean is a British cinema advertising company. ... Rupert Keith Murdoch AC, KCSG, (born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on 11 March 1931) is an Australian-American global media executive and is the top shareholder, chairman and managing director of News Corporation, based in New York City. ...

These media moves coincided with continuing and intensive rumors that as a result of lobbying by prospective commercial radio interests culminating in the arrival of Radio Caroline and then Wonderful Radio London, the British Government was about to license two 50kw commercial radio stations to be located in two different British cities. As late as December 1965 Pierson had been advised not to go ahead with his new offshore stations but to seek these two licenses instead. A compromise was seen in the prefabrication of the CEMCO transmitters and studios which could be immediately unloaded on land should such licenses be granted.

Unfortunately for all concerned the engineering work never succeeded in making the offshore stations fully operational and RBI failed to sell enough advertising to make the venture profitable, which the public relations firm spent large sums of money promoting the stations. However, an application was submitted by William Vick to the GPO radio licensing authority for licenses to bring his offshore twin stations on land.

Noteworthy events

Two major parties were thrown by Peter Rendall and Associates to introduce RBI to advertisers, with the second of these parties being held at the London Hilton hotel and promoted in the press as "The Party of the Year". This star-studded affair was followed by a nationwide live music tour called "Swinging 66" for which the headline act was the Small Faces. The Hilton Hotel chain is owned by Hilton Hotels Corporation and is based in Beverly Hills, California. ... The Small Faces were a British rock and roll band of the 1960s, led by Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane with Kenny Jones and original organist Jimmy Winston. ...

Swinging Radio England made its arrival on to the British airwaves with the Mitch Miller recording of "Yellow Rose of Texas". This first tune was followed by playing the PAMS jingles in succession, which resulted in them being copied, edited and rebroadcast by rival Radio Caroline South on another ship anchored close by the Olga Patricia. Mitch Miller (born July 4, 1911) is remembered as one of the best-selling recording artists of the 1950s and early 60s. ... Radio Caroline is a European radio station that originally commenced transmissions as an offshore radio station broadcasting from a ship anchored off the coast of South East England in international waters. ...

The last minute decision by Don Pierson to allow Ron O'Quinn as Program Director to change the automated system of broadcasting to a live format was the most controversial of all. O'Quinn, who had previously been a disc jockey at WFUN, hurridly borrowed every kind of format gimmic that he was familiar with in the broadcasting area of Georgia and Florida, to create a hybrid sound heard only in England (or anywhere else in the world) via "SRE". The key to this hodge-podge was the renaming of the djs as "boss jocks", a term borrowed from a station on the West Coast of the USA who were using it in a very laid back form of on air delivery. In contrast SRE was anything but laid back. It was a like a top 40 station on steriods where everything had echo, was shouted, had either a genuine southern US accent or English accents feining what came to be called a "transatlantic accent". Even the news format which had been used on stations such as WFUN and KBOX in Dallas, was full of buzzers, beeps, echo and full-throttle delivery (the exact opposite of conversational speech.) An example was in the top of the hour station identification announcement (which was also accompanied by a drum roll): "This is “SRE-Swinging Radio England. Broadcasting 4 1/2 miles off the Frinton Essex Coast on 227 metres, 24 hours a day, in excess of 50,000 watts of power. SRE, first and foremost is BOSS!" While many British and Contintental European teenagers where exited by the these sounds, they did nothing for the advertisers and coupled with the technical problems they gave SRE a very short life. By November of 1996 it was all over.

Of the American staff of SRE who left a brief but memorable mark on the minds of British listeners were Rick Randall, Boom-Boom Branigan and Larry Dean. It was Larry Dean who became a master of O'Quinn's hybrid sound and turned it into the most exciting noise that had ever assailed the ears of British and European teenagers in 1966. In recent times Rick Randall has mused that perhaps Don Pierson had been right after all and that more polish, control and saving of expenses would have been achieved had Swinging Radio England been an automated station.


Ron O'Quinn was the Program Director of SRE and he borrowed its style of presentation from several radio stations that he was familiar with. The term "boss jock" which O'Quinn substituted for disc jockey had begun with radio station KHJ in Los Angeles. By 1965, Richard Hope-Weston who was born in Oxford, England in 1940, had arrived at KHJ in Los Angeles from KOL in Seattle where he had been broadcasting under the name of Rick West. A condition of his new employment at KHJ was that he changed his name to Tommy Vance, since the station had a jingle already cut for that name. Tommy Vance arrived at the height of the British Invasion of the US music charts by British pop groups and his very pronounced British accent told listeners that KHJ had both the music and the authentic accent to go with it. By November of 1965 Tommy Vance was identifying KHJ as being in "Boss Angeles" on "boss radio" with "much more music", the last two expressions being used repeatedly by SRE the following year. When Vance received notice that he was likely to be drafted into the U.S. Armed Forces he returned to the U.K. and by January 1966 he was broadcasting on Radio Caroline South with a very pronounced "transatlantic accent" in order to demonstrate to British listeners his American roots in radio. At that time SRE was still months away from coming on the air. (See External Links below for examples of Tommy Vance on KHJ as a British boss jock, and on Radio Caroline South as a transatlantic disc jockey.) Oxford is a city and local government district in Oxfordshire, England, with a population of 134,248 ( 2001 census). ... Flag Seal Nickname: City of Angels Location Location within Los Angeles County in the state of California Coordinates , Government State County California Los Angeles County Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) Geographical characteristics Area     City 1,290. ... City nickname Emerald City City bird Great Blue Heron City flower Dahlia City mottos The City of Flowers The City of Goodwill City song Seattle, the Peerless City Mayor Greg Nickels County King County Area   - Total   - Land   - Water   - % water 369. ... Tommy Vance, born Richard Anthony Crispian Francis Prew Hope-Weston (July 11, 1941 – March 6, 2005) was a British pop radio broadcaster, born in Eynsham, Oxfordshire. ... The appearance of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, February 9, 1964, accelerated the burgeoning British Invasion. ...

During the short time that Swinging Radio England was on the air it launched the British radio broadcasting careers of Roger Day and Johnnie Walker, both of whom also adopted a transatlantic accent on SRE in order to mask their British roots. After SRE both men resumed to speaking in a more natural tone of English accent. Broadcaster Roger Day born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire on 29th March 1945 & currently presents shows on Birminghams Saga 105. ... Johnnie Walker Johnnie Walker MBE (born Peter Dingley, 30 March 1945 in Birmingham, England) is a radio disc jockey. ...

When SRE left the airwaves it was followed by a series of three Dutch language stations occupying the same wavelength during the short time that the transmitters remained on the air between 1966 and July 1967. Dutch ( ) is a West Germanic language spoken by around 22 million people, mainly in the Netherlands and Belgium. ...

An example of a functioning automated top 40 station still using the same PAMS jingles series 27 as SRE, but minus the "boss jocks" and shock news delivery, was WGNE-AM and in 1971 it was located at the Signal Hill Country Club in the city of Panama City Beach, Florida. WGNE-AM was primarily run by three adults and a teenager, with one adult managing the station and two adults recording programs and selling commercials. The automation was similar to that used aboard the Olga Patricia for Britain Radio. 1971 (MCMLXXI) was a common year starting on Friday (the link is to a full 1971 calendar). ... Panama City Beach is a suburb of Panama City, located in Bay County, Florida. ...

Swinging Radio England was billed on its letterhead as "Worlds Most Powerful", a slogan used extensively by LTV-Continental Electronics in its brochures to describe many of its company transmission applications. Continental Electronics intended to provide Don Pierson with two functioning 50,000 watt transmitters usng a common mast to support two antennas and a combining system that could potentially create one offshore station with 100,000 watts of transmission capability. Although the offshore station Radio Caroline (which returned to the airwaves under new management following the demise of the original Caroline Network company of the 1960s), offered two AM stations and one shortwave station in the 1980s from one ship, the power of these stations did not match the power potential of the stations aboard the Olga Patricia of 1966.


  • Mass Media Moments in the United Kingdom, the USSR and the USA, by Gilder, Eric. - "Lucian Blaga" University of Sibiu Press, Romania. 2003 ISBN 973-651-596-6 Contains exclusive interview with Don Pierson about his offshore radio stations.
  • Beating the Odds. The Untold Story behind the rise of ABC: the stars, struggles and egos that transformed network television. By the man who made it happen. By Goldstein, Leonard H. with Wolf, Marvin J. - Charles Scribner's Sons, New York; Collier Marcmillan Canada; Maxwell Macmillan International. 1991 ISBN 0-684-19055-9 (With reference to the early relationship between Rupert Murdoch and how and why ABC began international expansion.)

See also

  • Boss Radio - In depth article about how the term came into use at KHJ in Los Angeles.

Boss Radio was the name chosen to promote two new radio programming formats which were both launched in May, 1965 on both KHJ-AM broadcasting from Los Angeles and on Swinging Radio England broadcasting from the motor vessel Laissez Faire anchored three and a half miles off the Frinton-on...

External links

  • A Radio Rose of Texas, edited by Burroughs, Jr., Derek. Published online this omnibus continuing work contains a large number of documented and illustrated exclusive archive materials regarding the entire story of the history of the stations located on board the MV. Olga Patricia (renamed Laissez Faire); with contributions by Eric Gilder from his Don Pierson Archives as well as contributions from many people who were directly involved with the financing, construction and operation of the station in 1966.
  • The Olga Patricia story. Earlier work which led to the creation of 'A Radio Rose of Texas'.
  • The story of Swinging Radio England
  • 40th Anniversary of Swinging Radio England and Britain Radio held in London during June, 2006.
  • Listen to Tommy Vance on HJ Boss Radio in "Boss Angeles" during November 1965 and contrast this aircheck with Tommy Vance two months later in January 1966 on Radio Caroline South and see more details about Tommy Vance at KHJ (scroll down page) and career posted at the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame (scroll down page.)

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Boss Radio was the name chosen to promote two new radio programming formats which were both launched in May, 1965 on both KHJ-AM broadcasting from Los Angeles and on Swinging Radio England broadcasting from the motor vessel Laissez Faire anchored three and a half miles off the Frinton-on-Sea, Essex coast of England in international waters.
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