I read with great interest John Newstead's memories about
Caroline North, and really identified with them, as I had similar experiences.
In case you would like to place my memories and recollections in the Caroline
section, I'll list a few the problem being what to leave out!
In 1964 I was aged 8 and my sister, Joyce was aged 13. One Saturday morning she burst into my bedroom, clutching the big, blue tranny (a wireless set not the cross-dresser) shouting something about a pirate ship. Imagining a galleon with Captain Hook and scurvy crew, my previous worries about Joyce's sanity seemed to prove well-founded until she clapped the tranny to my right ear. I heard a voice, later ID'd as Jerry Leighton, introducing "Spanish Harlem" by Ben E. King, followed by a "little song" that sang "Caroline" (it was to be some weeks before I understood what a jingle was), and then a commercial for Crunchie Bars.
A commercial? On a station other than Luxembourg? On a Saturday? At about 8.20 am? A pop record? On a station other than Luxembourg? On a Saturday? At about 8.20 am? I had difficulty reconciling the info my ears were giving me, with what my mind told me could not possibly be true. Both of us hugged each other in sheer EXCITEMENT.
"You'll be arrested for listening to that station!" worried Mother in the next few weeks. Finally we managed to convince her that sending children to Strangeways for 30 years could be viewed as a tad over-zealous on the part of the GPO. I wish I could remember the date of this event, because, for me; it was Love at first Listen. The next three-and-a-bit years saw me walking around with a radio strapped to my right ear, looking like I had a large blue carbuncle growing out of the outer lobe. Other kids liked lollipops and conkers, Joyce and I liked music!
John Newstead did a 'paper round in t'rainy North; I did a milk round with my father, every weekend and every day in the holidays. We would set out to the dairy just as Caroline came on air, a radio in our car and a transistor in the milk truck keeping us tuned in, especially to Jerry Leighton. He once played a track by Mozart as he had decided to "bring the tone of the station up" later his colleagues made him actually walk the plank for this dreadful sin! Jerry played a lot of early-morning turntable hits, not least "No Fun At The Fair" Bobby Goldsboro the first song Mike D'Abo ever wrote.
Next time you chat to any former Caroline North people, please
pass on my regards and let them know that Caroline North's programming and
professionalism was far superior to that of her sister ship. A large number
of people not only agree with this, but point out that in 1967, the Beeb did
not do its homework properly and missed out on recruiting the talent that
was on the North ship. Mick Luvzit was "naughty" for the time... Tony Prince,
the Lancashire lad... Bob Stewart sounded very 'American boss jock', but came
from Liverpool... Ray Teret dunked biscuits in tea, coffee and petrol...!
Jerry Leighton was the funniest guy in radio (with due respect to the late
Kenny Everett) and my favourite of ALL time, the late Daffy Don, gave everybody
a love of Country music. It was quite a station!
Listening to Daffy Don's C&W show under the pillows, I'd just be dropping off to sleep when he would play the jingle: "Don Allen's Country & Western...jam...bo...REE!!!" Don played "Flowers On The Wall" Statler Brothers, and "My Son Calls Another Man Daddy" Mo Bandy, a lot. This gave me insight into the world of Country music something I did not even know existed at the time. Don was an EXPERT in the use of jingles. He could take one jingle bed, and from it make around 20 different ones using different voice-overs. His "stabs", as I then called them, are what we now know as "drops" as used much later by Steve Wright. "Lovely" and "Funnee Funnee" are perhaps the best. Don was slick and very, very tight in presentation when I entered professional radio I did my utmost to emulate his way with jingles and drops. Don was YEARS ahead of his time.
Left: "The 'Big Blue Tranny', at home in my retro corner it's between the 1950's telephone and the 1940's radio
Bob Stewart was the cause of childhood embarrassment! I wanted Bob's theme tune, badly. All I knew was that it was a B side and on Motown. Two friends and I went to Hubble's record shop in the indoor market in Hyde. After listening to many flipsides, I wasn't getting anywhere, so decided to half hum, half sing the INSTRUMENTAL as the artistes used their voices very much like instruments. "Ermm it goes like... erm... oooo, oo ooh, oooo, oo ooh, oo oo oo, oooo oo oh" This I had to repeat at least 3 times so the owner could get the beat. "What's Bennett doing?" queried one mate. "Not sure," replied the other "...imitating a billious pigeon I think!" Red with embarrassment and mortified at the barrage of laughter from the schoolgirls also in the shop, I was about to give up, but having suffered this much... Singing the thing another two times produced a dawning of recognition on Mr Hubble's face. He placed the flip of "6 X 6" by Earl Van Dyke on the turntable and around 4 seconds in I knew I'd got it!! Exit quickly to guffaws, smirks, titters and people tapping their heads. Bob Stewart, I hold you responsible...!
Rick Dane is responsible for my nickname! Rick, taken by the new single "Hang On Sloopy" The McCoys, played it EVERY OTHER RECORD! This got me into the track so much I became similarly obsessed and could not stop warbling it..."If I hear that one more time..." was the usual comment I received. My schoolfriends started to call me Sloopy, and when The Beach Boys' "Sloop John B" came out (John B = John Bennett), again played heavily on Caroline, that sealed it and I'm known as Sloopy to this day. Thank you, Rick.
The station had a big audience. On holiday in Butlin's,
Mosney, Eire, in 1965, the signal hammered into Dublin. The whole camp seemed
to have a radio on every corner, all tuned to Caroline. In Eire, Isle of Man,
Scotland and Scandinavia the station was absolutely huge, as witnessed by
the mail the ship received. In Eire and the Isle of Man; the station held
a very LARGE place in the hearts of the people. Aged 9, I wrote to Caroline, offering to give up primary school and go out to Ramsey to work onboard
Chris Moore, Prog. Con. turned me down the first of many radio
rejections!! Although on relatively low power, the signal was excellent during
daytimes; crackles and heterodynes appeared after 8pm or thereabouts.
Caroline North truly BROADcast as opposed to narrowcasting. The mix of musical styles was eclectic and one record could be the current Stones' Hit, to be followed by a Jazz classic, then an American import and the next a Flashback. Boring it never, ever was. Caroline North had a STATION identity and personality, to which the jocks added themselves to form a whole. No other station I have heard had this unique mix. The station ID's were usually to a jazz organ bed, and to this day if I hear an organ, I think of Caroline.
I stayed with Caroline right up to March '68. The loss of my friends on t'wireless cut very deep. In adult life I entered radio, Beeb/ILR/VOP etc., consequently I had the romance and naivety kicked out of me in the hard business of radio. However, like John Newstead, there are a few mornings every year when I wake up and automatically reach for Caroline and Jerry Leighton, Daffy Don, Tony Prince, Bob Stewart, Nick Bailey and Co.
Caroline North is still much-loved, and very, very much missed. That blue transistor from 1964 is still in existence and occupies a place in the "retro" corner of my lounge the tuning dial is always set to 259 meters, MW. To ALL concerned with Caroline North, thank you, you are fabulous.
Top 5 Turntable Hits
Michael Geno Washington
Cousin Jane The Troggs
No Fun At The Fair Bobby Goldsboro
My Uncle Used To Love Me But She Died Roger Miller
Nick Nack Zoot Money
Top 5 Jingles
Time To Get Up, Get Outta' Bed Jerry Leighton
Big Wide Wonderful Willy Of The Daffy Donny Ally Argh Daffy Don
Off And Running, You'll Win, Let's Go-Go With The Baby Bob Stewart Show Bob Stewart
Everything Lights Up, Makes You Want To Shout Caroline ID
Ionospheric Weather Checker - weather after news bulletin
I remember very well the late, great Daffy Don Allen on Caroline North. He had a couple of laughter drop-ins that he used quite frequently on his shows. Don used to play a laughing track of a chap he nicknamed Hank. At the end of the laughter, the guy would say two words, "Funny, funny!" The other track Don used was a bunch of guys laughing till the laughter turned into hysteria and ended with the words, "Forget it!" The other Caroline North DJs sometimes used the tracks as well.
You said that Jim had asked who was the Caroline North giggler? It has to be Gordy Cruse. Once you got him started, he lost all control. I used to enjoy egging him on. If it appeared that he was about to regain control, all I had to do was snort, laugh and off he'd go again. Sometimes he would be in total silence, but shaking and red in the face. You'd just wait for him to erupt... which he always did. This could go on for a full 15 minutes and it was contagious. He and I would end up like a couple of mental cases who'd completely lost it! Sometimes he'd go to his cabin lock the door to get away but this would be followed by muffled sniggers, squeaks, then pounding on the wall in desperation, followed by loud hysterical laughter. He would re-emerge with tears rolling down his cheeks, gasping for breath, before going off in another fit of giggling. I consider this one of the most enjoyable memories of my life, and he is one of the nicest people I ever met. If only there were more Gordy Cruses in the world it could only be a better place.
I haven't seen Gordy since 1966. I did locate him on the phone one time. I was in Luxembourg, he in Canada. It was 1971 on an evening when nothing was going on I got playing with the phone tracing long lost buddies. We've not made contact since. The years, the miles and so thru' the hour glass, the sands of time. But what a nice person and what a fun memory. Those really were the good times. If I could live it all over again, I'd do it in a heartbeat.
Gord the Giggler, 2002
You must be aware that some of the jocks were, and I'm sure, still are walking monuments to their own fabulousness etc. I know of some who would listen to tapes of themselves on air laugh at their own jokes smile to themselves as they thought just how good they were. They were ideally suited to PAs Ð gigs where they could bask in the glory of some local disco/club or phone booth. At the time we referred to them as megalomaniacs. It was the nature of the biz to draw these kind of personalities and the listeners never knew it. Needless to say, I, Gordy, Mick, Murph, Don Jerry were nice, well adjusted non egotistical folks!
I never did enjoy PAs of any kind, but put me in a closed room, let me talk to myself for 3 or 4 hours and I was as happy as if I was in my right mind. The fact that somebody may have been listening was, what the hey! I just liked sharing my music. In my little world, music is the greatest invention of man, more than nuclear energy, medicine, the poptop can, or whatever. It's the only true time machine that can instantly take you back to another place and time long ago, far away. Isn't that somethin' else!
You won't know this, but I only ever went to Caroline House twice. Once to get the job, once to tell them I was quitting. I once received a note from them saying they'd lost my personal details, could they have my name and address again, please. I never did tell them. I moved to Luxembourg, ended up being the longest serving DJ for 208. I did 20 years and was quite happy to stay in Lux.
Enough rambling on, 'cos I can ramble on and on and on....