Radio Caroline Pirate Radio

Radio Caroline Pirate Radio

Launched on March 28, 1964

Radio Caroline Pirate Radio


By March 1964, the Beatles had landed in the USA and Pied Pipered its youth. Of course “their” music was often a reinterpretation of “our” music. Filled with sophomoric hubris, we did not realize that many of their (and other British Invasion hits) were covers of earlier American hits.

In stark contrast, British youth had a difficult time hearing any rock music on their radios because of the British government’s control of the airwaves. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) limited their commercial-free stations to six hours of pop music a week!

Radio Caroline Pirate Radio

Enter Radio Caroline

Sensing  young  Brits unmet hunger for their own and American pop music, Radio Caroline,  the first pirate radio station, began to broadcast on March 28, 1964.

Radio Caroline Pirate Radio

Pirate Radio

The ironic characteristic about such radio is that it copied the style of commercial AM radio in the US. That is, top 40 format of rapid DJ patter and frequent commercials.

The approach was so successful that by 1967 ten pirate radio stations were broadcasting to an estimated daily audience of 10 to 15 million. Interestingly, the number of people listening to BBC stations did not decline indicating that the audience was a new one, one that the BBC had not had to begin with.

The British government attempted to rid the airwaves of pirate radio by passing the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act in 1967. The British government also adjusted its BBC program by increasing the number of programs playing pop music.

Radio Caroline Pirate Radio

Land-based pirate radio

Reg Calvert, known widely as ‘Uncle Reg’, ran the popular Radio City station from an abandoned Second World War fort off the coast of Whitstable. His daughter, Susan Moore, had recently published a book that explores her father’s experiences. (Kent on line article)

Radio City broadcast from Shivering Sands, an abandoned fort in the Thames Estuary. The British had erected many of these metal tower forts during World War II  to protect the coastal sea lanes. By the early ’60, these towers provided an alternate choice for someone interested in setting up a pirate radio station.

Radio Caroline Pirate Radio

Shot dead

Major Oliver Smedley was the former owner of another pirate station: Radio Atlanta. He and Calvert had a running feud about merging their operations, but Calvert felt Smedley was taking advantage of him.

He went to Smedley home. An argument ensued. Smedley shot and killed Calvert.

A jury found Mr Smedley not guilty of manslaughter, accepting his claims of self-defense.

Radio Caroline Pirate Radio

US version

In 1987 the New York Times reported that  Allan Weiner and Randi Steele was the main person of a group called Radio New York  International (RNI) that did the same thing of the coast of Long Island, NY. 

The called their ship, The Sarah–several of the men had girlfriends by that name. The group felt that none of the local the land-based stations played the type of music they wanted–which included such anti-war rock as John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” Country Joe’s “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag,” and Bruce Cockburn’s “If I Had a Rocket Launcher.”

On July 25, the Federal Communication Commission boarded the ship and told the group it had to shut down the station. The FCC said that they did not have a license and that it was using an already assigned frequency. 

The government did eventually succeed in shutting down the station, but after RNI had sold the ship. The movie Blown Away used it and blew it up at the end of the movie.

Here is the raw footage of that 1993 explosion

Radio Caroline Pirate Radio

Still around

Radio Caroline continued to broadcast though with limited hours until 1990, but had periods of years when it was off the air completely. The way that it and other pirate radio stations were able to continue was by using new technology to broadcast, moving to different locations, or using secret land-based locations.

According to Wikipedia, There are currently an estimated 150 pirate radio stations in the UK. A large proportion of these pirate radio stations operate in London.

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Sam Phillips Sun Records

Sam Phillips Sun Records

First record pressed on  March 27, 1952

Sam Phillips Sun Records

A slice of the first Sun Record:
Johnny London, “Drivin’ Slowly.”  The B-side was “Flat Tire.”

Peter Guralnick published Sam Phillips The Man Who Invented Rock and Roll in 2014. With 661 pages of text it is, to say the least, very thorough.  If you have an interest in the birth of rock and roll and  a person’s struggle to achieve a dream, then I highly recommend this deeply researched book.

Sam Phillips Sun Records

There were many times during Sam Phillips’s 18-hour work days that he could simply have walked away from his dream and earned a profitable living as a radio engineer.

From an early age, Phillips believed that “music will take you anywhere you want to go.” His father was a farmer and Sam grew up listening to the sharecroppers’ stories and songs while they worked. The feeling their sound’s emoted was his holy grail: the “purity of emotional communication, not perfection.”

Sam Phillips’s CV might both impress and worry a potential employer. Certainly diligent, meticulous, and capable, but he was those things at many places since he didn’t stay anyplace too long.

His dream of having a recording studio was always primary. Having a record label for those recording was secondary, so at first he’d search for “that” performer or band that had “that” sound. Then he’d record take after take waiting for “that” to happen.

Most of the people he recorded had not been recorded before or had had limited exposure. Neither mattered to Phillips. Did he get the gut bucket feeling he sought?

Phillips had opened Memphis Recording Service on January 3, 1950  in Memphis, Tennessee.  His early recordings included such future stars as BB King, Junior Parker, and Howlin’ Wolf. In fact, Phillips recorded “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats. The real band leader and person who wrote the song was Ike Turner. To many rock and roll critics, “Rocket 88” represents the first rock and roll record.

Sam Phillips Sun Records

Sun Records

By 1952, after recording hits for other labels, Phillips decided he needed his own label. Unfortunately, the Sun Record label quickly failed, but not for lack of effort. Phillips’s drive to showcase the music left him little time to understand the intricacies of distribution, pressing, and publishing.

Phillips’s doggedness led to Sun Records resurrection in January 1953. It continued to struggle until Phillips thought the voice of young white kid who recorded a song on his own might be someone worth working with. At first nothing happened, but soon local successes followed and Elvis Presley put Sun Records on the map.

But that’s another story for another time.


Sam Phillips Sun Records
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Women Strike for Peace

Women Strike for Peace

photo credit: The New York Historical Society

As the nuclear arms race escalated so did the number of groups who protested that expansion. And as the US participation in Vietnam’s civil war increased, the same became true.

Abzug & Wilson

Bella Abzug (left) and Dagmar Wilson (right) founded Women Strike for Peace on November 1, 1961 by when they organized an anti-nuclear weapon protest.


First Conference

At its first national conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1962, Women Strike for Peace adopted the following declaration: “We are women of all races, creeds and political persuasions. We are dedicated to the purpose of general and complete disarmament. We demand that nuclear tests be banned forever, that the arms race end and the world abolish all weapons of destruction under United Nations safeguards. We cherish the Historical Introduction right and accept the responsibility to act to influence the course of government for peace. We join with women throughout the world to challenge the right of any nation or group of nations to hold the power of life and death over the world.” (from >>> Swarthmore edu)

Dorothy Marder

Dorothy Marder

From the same site:  Dorothy Marder (1926-2007), was a social realist photographer active during the politically energetic 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.  In her photography Dorothy Marder captured the peace, anti-nuclear, social justice, women’s liberation, lesbian/gay pride, and disability rights movements, especially in New York City and Washington, DC.  For many years, she was the photographer for the women’s peace group, Women Strike for Peace.  Marder’s work has appeared in numerous alternative-press publications, as well as in books, and even a documentary film.  Dorothy Marder was not only a photographer, but also a self educated artist and dedicated activist, whose strong passionate for life was reflected in her art.

Here is a slide show with some of her Women Strike for Peace work:

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Long after the 60s

From WikipediaWSP remained a significant voice in the peace movement throughout the 1980s and ’90s, speaking out against U.S. intervention in Latin America and the Persian Gulf states. On June 12, 1982, Women Strike for Peace helped organize one million people who demanded an end to the arms race. In 1988 they supported Carolyna Marks in the creation of the Unique Berkeley Peace Wall, as well as similar walls in Oakland, Moscow, Hiroshima and Israel (a joint Jewish and Palestinian children’s Peace Wall). In 1991, they protested the Iraq-Persian Gulf War; afterwards, they urged the American government to lift sanctions on Iraq. In the late 1990s Women Strike for Peace mainly focused on nuclear disarmament.

It was on this date, March 26, in 1969 that Women Strike for Peace demonstrated in Washington, D.C., in the first large antiwar demonstration since President Richard Nixon’s inauguration in January.

More important was the fact that Paul Findley, a Republican from Illinois, had inserted into the daily Congressional Record the 31,379 names of the United States dead in Vietnam.  [>>> NYT article]

WSP remained active through the 1990s.

Women Strike for Peace
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