The Oldies Radio Station Addicted To Jingles : On-Air Since 1963

If you were living in England in the mid-1960s and listening to music radio, then you’ll almost certainly remember 266 Radio London or Big-L as it was nick-named. In its short life from December 1964 to August 1967 Big-L, broadcasting from the m/v Galaxy just outside UK territorial waters, was Britain’s most profitable commercial radio station thanks to its Top-40 format combined with DJs, catchy PAMS jingles, regular news and weather reports and reverb/echo on the transmitter. And millions of listeners.

50 years after Radio London’s closure, the station is still remembered by many probably because of its unique style. Nothing quite like it exists today although many have tried to emulate the Big-L sound. But there is a radio station today that I believe comes reasonably close. Unlike the Big-L, WLNG isn’t located on a ship but it’s certainly close to sea-water as its studios are in Sag Harbour, right on the coast of Eastern Long Island, New York.

Although WLNG started in 1963 on AM they added FM in 1969 and since selling their AM channel in 1996 they’ve been entirely on 92.1 FM and additionally can be heard everywhere online. Their program format is Oldies and over the years they’ve earned a reputation as a throwback to earlier days because of their frequent jingles, constant reverb/echo, many outside broadcasts from local events and even a reluctance to embrace Stereo — in fact they stayed with monaural broadcasts until 2011.

And then there’s the station’s obsession with retro jingles. WLNG claim to have as many as 2000 of them mostly from PAMS and you can actually see the jingle cartridges lining the studio walls on their studio webcam. This jingle junkie addiction is best summed up in the words of Paul Sydney, WLNG’s President and General Manager from 1964 until his death in 2009: “We’re the only station that when we say ‘Here comes fourteen in a row’ we’re not talking about records.

So what’s the secret to WLNG’s enduring success? In 1998, which was the station’s 35th anniversary and Paul Sidney’s 34th year there, he stated: “The key to staying around for 35 years is pretty simple: Be local, in news, sound and music.

And WLNG certainly is local. Listen to the station and you’ll rarely hear an ad which isn’t for a local business or service. But I think there’s an additional ingredient for their continuing success… WLNG is owned and operated by the people who actually run the station, starting with their General Manager/President and chief DJ, Gary Sapiane.

So is WLNG a replacement for the Big-L? No, I don’t think so. But if you love oldies and especially if you love the old PAMS jingles, WLNG is well worth a listen.

If, like me, you are located in Europe, then I recommend listening during morning hours which equates to WLNG’s overnight show with Al Case or Bill Thomas running from midnight to 6 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. At that time there are fewer ads and more music. You can see WLNG’s programme schedule. And to listen now, just click the “Listen Live” button at WLNG.com.

Radio Caroline 50th Anniversary News Roundup

With the 50th anniversary of Radio Caroline starting broadcasting from the m.v. Caroline, 5 miles off the Harwich coast on Easter Sunday, 29th March 1964, here is a quick roundup of what the media have to say…

Tim Muffet for the BBC introduces a short 3 minute video about Radio Caroline’s first 50 years. It includes Simon Dee, Tony Prince and Tony Blackburn. You’ll also find another short video and report from BBC Essex here. Plus there’s a report by Laurence Cawley about the the Swedish guy who first pressed Radio Caroline’s ‘on’ button to start the UK’s music radio revolution.

ITV have compiled a three part video series about Radio Caroline to commemorate its 50th anniversary since its start in March 1964. The first part is presented by David Johns and includes contributions by then BBC Director General, Frank Gillard, DJ Keith Skues, Paul Graham, Roger Day and then Postmaster General, Tony Benn. There’s also an illustrated article here and we certainly agree with Peter Moore’s view:
The UK radio industry does a brilliant job of serving its shareholders but it’s so corporate they seem to have forgotten that the end product is the listener…”. The full version of ITV’s Radio Caroline Birthday Feature by David Johns is now here.

Also on the ITV website is a video interview with one of the very first Radio Caroline DJs who is now a Conservative MP, Sir Roger Gale.

Under the title: “How a radio ship and 7 men shook up Britain in 1964“, Colin Morrison traces in fascinating detail – some of it little known – Radio Caroline’s launch and the people behind it, including some figures who preferred to remain in the shadows.

The Liverpool Echo and Wirral News both report plans to celebrate the anniversary with broadcasts from The Mersey Bar Lightship, berthed at Liverpool’s Canning Dock.

The Daily Telegraph interviews one of Radio Caroline’s best remembered DJ’s, Dave Lee Travis with some of his experiences while on Radio Caroline South in the 1960’s on board the m.v. Mi Amigo.

Interesting illustrated article by Dominic Midgley of the Daily Express under the title: Radio Caroline was the boat that rocked the music business.

Nicola Jordan in Kent Online wishes Radio Caroline Happy Birthday with a fascinating illustrated article.

In the Lincolnshire Echo former Radio Caroline and Radio City DJ Tom Edwards recalls his pirate radio days.

The Orange news site has an interesting article by an unnamed personality who used to work both for Radio City and Radio Caroline back in the 1960s.

Dmitry Vostok’s article in The Voice of Russia has an interview with Peter Moore, the current manager of Radio Caroline online.

And Paul Riismandel’s RadioSurvivor.com also provides some useful info on upcoming Radio Caroline celebrations.

If you’re interested in a time-line of 1964-1965 events in offshore pirate radio history then you’ll find it at OffshoreRadio.co.uk. The list of events covers not only Radio Caroline, but also the comings and goings of other offshore stations… Radios Atlanta, Sutch, Invicta, Noordzee, City, Syd, London, King, 390, Tower, Essex and Radio Scotland.