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Radio Caroline South - History


Radio Caroline South came on the air at 6.00am on 4th July 1964 from the former Radio Atlanta ship, Mi Amigo, following the merger of the two rival stations. The original Radio Caroline ship, MV Caroline, sailed toRonan O'Rahilly and Allan Crawford the Isle of Man to become Radio Caroline North.

With the two sister stations Radio Caroline was now able to offer audiences and advertisers what was, in theory, a national daytime commercial radio station. However, the North and South stations each broadcast their own independent programmes and developed quite separate identities.

On Radio Caroline South the former Radio Atlanta transmission hours of 6.00am-8.00pm were retained at first, even though listeners in that station's reception area had been used to the late night weekend programmes now being enjoyed by audiences in the north.

Although the outlook appeared promising for the new 'national' offshore station some unexpected problems arose from the merger. Several Atlanta DJs refused to join the new Caroline network and Radio Atlanta General Manager, Leslie Parrish, resigned over a difference of opinion on policy matters.

On Caroline South, over which Allan Crawford retained a significant degree of control, DJs were continually being instructed to play his record company's cover versions of hit singles - as had been the policy on Radio Atlanta. This policy caused resentment from the former Radio Caroline DJs, who previously experienced freedom of choice over which music they played, and this undoubtedly had a detrimental effect on the programming output of Caroline South.

Shortly before the merger Radio Caroline had moved its administrative headquarters to a large three storey building at 6 Chesterfield Gardens - renamed Caroline House - in the heart of London's Mayfair. Here, housed on separate floors of this excessively spacious, but most impressive building, were the station's advertising sales team, the administration offices, press and public relations staff and the listener enquiries and promotions department. Studio facilities were also built in the basement to record commercials and promotions on tape for later transmission from the two ships.

In order to deal with thCaroline Club stickere vast number of enquiries from listeners for information about the station and for items of publicity material such as badges and car stickers, the Caroline Club had been launched shortly before the merger with Radio Atlanta.  After the merger on 2nd July, the Caroline Club was extended to offer membership to listeners on a nationwide basis and the first "Caroline Club Requests" programme was aired on Radio Caroline South on 11th July 1964.

In October 1965 the Mi Amigo moved her anchorage to a position in the Black Deep near the Red Sands and Shivering Sands Thames Estuary forts in an attempt to get a stronger signal into London. However, it soon became apparent that this anchorage was more exposed and the ship was badly affected by rough seas. This, together with the realisation that the location was now within territorial waters as defined by the recently introduced Territorial Waters Order in Council, led to the Mi Amigo sailing back to her former anchorage off Frinton on Sea a week later.

Early in December 1964 a new rival for Caroline South arrived in the Thames Estuary - the American backed Radio London on board the MV Galaxy. Ronan O’Rahilly initiated possible merger talks with the new rival - proposing that Caroline South transfer to the Galaxy and the Mi Amigo be used to launch another station - Caroline Continental - aimed at the European mainland.

However, the board of Radio London rejected the merger offer. Ronan O’Rahilly did, however, point out to the Radio London team that their planned anchorage (near the Shivering Sands Fort) was now within territorial waters, resulting in their move to a position off  Frinton on Sea near the Mi Amigo.


As 1965 dawned both Radio Caroline stations were undoubtedly market leaders in offshore commercial radio, but Caroline South's position was about to be seriously  challenged  by Radio London, which had arrived just  before Christmas 1964.

Radio Caroline appointed a representative in New York - George Bernard - and opened an office on Broadway. Bernard, who was in fact British, managed a few promotions for Caroline, including Miss Radio Caroline (model Denine Fiore) who helped promote the station to advertising agencies, and the appearance of Ronan O’Rahilly on a US TV programme - To Tell the Truth. One significant result of the American representation was the signing of a two year deal with Roulette Records to air the Jack Spector Show on both Caroline stations. Jack Spector was a DJ on New York station WMCA and brought a highly Americanised style of presentation to Radio Caroline and played the latest US chart hits.

A milestone was reached at Easter 1965 when Radio Caroline celebrated its first birthday. To mark the occasion the station introduced four 'Bell Awards' which were presented to various artists for their contribution to musical entertainment during the preceding twelve months. Recipients were -

Birthday messages and greetings from over twenty artists were also recorded and included in programmes on both the North and South Caroline stations during the Easter weekend.

At the end of its first year on the air, in March 1965, Radio Caroline had achieved advertising income of £294,000, with estimated running costs put at between £100,000 and £150,000. This was a significant achievement in a market environment largely unfamiliar with the use of radio as an advertising medium. Unfortunately for the station, much of this advertising revenue had been earned during its first nine months, prior to the arrival in late December 1964 of Radio London. The impact of this new rival can be demonstrated by advertising revenue figures for March 1965 which show that Caroline South was struggling to achieve an average income of just £1,000 per week. The growing popularity and professionalism of Radio London contrasted strongly with the weaknesses of Radio Caroline's management structure,commercial airtime sales techniques and broadcast signal strength. These deficiencies were to cause further internal problems at Radio Caroline later in the year.

It was decided to revamp the station's tired and out-dated format - something which had never been addressed before - in the face of the stiff competition from Radio London. A  news service was introduced in April 1965 and in May  the Caroline South  DJs were re-launched as personality "Caroline Good Guys", modelled on a similar successful initiative by one of New York's most popular music stations of the mid- sixties, WMCA. But most importantly programme content was changed to a format based on the "Sound 65" chart although this was later changed to the "Caroline Countdown of Sound", a Top 50 chart.

Unfortunately this sudden transformation in style and format - effectively an Americanisation of the station, diluted for the benefit of British listeners - did not come across to the audience in quite the way it was intended. The Caroline DJs, or "Goodguys" were uncomfortable with their new image and many of the sponsored programmes on the station at that time conflicted both in content and presentational style with the hurriedly introduced psuedo-American format.  

The reason for this was that during late 1964, before Radio London's launch, Caroline had succeeded in selling a large number of 15 and 30 minute sponsored shows which were produced directly by advertising agencies (mainly J Walter Thompson and S H Benson) on behalf of their clients. The sponsors included significant national  brands such as Player's Anchor cigarettes, Andrews Liver Salts, Princes Foods, Chappell Pianos, Fynon Liver Salts and Miners Make-up and so gave the station an image of respectability as well as much needed income. The problem was, however, that nearly all these programmes were hosted by well known 'establishment' personalities such as Anne Shelton, Kenneth Horne, Stirling Moss and Vera Lynn,  who were more likely  to have been  heard  at the time on  the staid and dated BBC Light Programme than a vibrant, youthful offshore radio station.  

Many of the contracts were for daily or weekly segments to be broadcast over periods of 13 or 26 weeks - well into 1965 and after the station's format change. Radio Caroline itself had little or no direct input into either the musical content or presentation of these sponsored segments and when they were inserted into the station's own revitalised live programming the two styles inevitably clashed. Although very lucrative financially for Radio Caroline these programmes were probably responsible, in the south at least, for large numbers of listeners retuning their radios to a rival station and a radio audience once lost is notoriously difficult to recapture.

The revamp of Radio Caroline's format did have some success though and resulted in increased interest from audiences and advertisers. An indication of the dramatic decline in Radio Caroline's advertising revenue after the arrival of Radio London  in December 1964 and of a revitalisation after the format changes in April 1965 can be seen from these monthly advertising income figures:-

November/December 1964   £47,952 (before Radio London arrived)

December 1964/January 1965  £28,721 (after Radio London's initial  broadcasts)

January/February 1965   £32,558  (after Radio London’s initial broadcasts)

March/April 1965  £32,341 (after Radio Caroline's format revamp)

April/May 1965   £49,259  (after Radio Caroline's format revamp)

First Birthday greetings from the stars, March 1965

RCS First Birthday greetings from the stars, March 1965.mp3

Ronan O’Rahilly and Allan Crawford

Caroline House,

6 Chesterfield Gardens

News Stand

Click on picture to enlarge

Caroline Good Guy jingle

RCS -Caroline, the Good Guy Station.mp3

Petula Clark receiving her Caroline Bell Award from DJ Simon Dee

Birds Eye Florida Orange Juice

Caroline South Birds Eye Florida Orange Juice ad.mp3


Key Dates

Ship and Location




Key Dates Ships and Location Technical Staff Programmes


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Treasure Chest

Treasure Chest

Treasure Chest

Ronan O’Rahilly appearing on the American TV game show, To Tell the Truth, 3rd March 1965

Jack Spector


11th July 1964


27th March 1965

Daily Mail

9th June 1965

(Visit of Prince Richard of Gloucester to Radio Caroline South)

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Britain Radio Caroline South