The Radio Rose of Texas by Derek Burroughs, jr.
Updated on December 6th, 2008. Anniversary date of the “Big L” “277” transmissions, 1966.
Chapter 11: Meanwhile on the Galaxy.
Radio London entry in WRTH 1966.
©From City Digest, Arlington, and Irving. TX., June 1980. Derek Burroughs jr. archive.
The Galaxy at sea. Picture used by permission of ©Grey Pierson.
The Galaxy at sea. Picture used by permission of ©Grey Pierson.
Wonderful Radio London was the ”cousin” of the 5 Olga Patricia sisters. It had its studios and transmitter aboard a former US Minesweeper anchored close to the Olga, but this station broadcast for a longer time, from December, 1964, until 3 PM on Monday, August 14th, 1967. It was never heard again.
Just like the original Olga Patricia stations, Radio England and Britain Radio, Wonderful Radio London was the brainchild of the Eastland, Texas entrepeneur, Don Pierson, and was set up together with fellow businessman Tom Danaher of Wichita Falls. Don Pierson got the idea to start the station while reading the Dallas Morning News.
Pierson compared the number of stations then serving the population of Northwest Texas where he lived, with the two original offshore stations serving the population of England. He concluded that he had an idea that would be worth a lot of money.
Radio London’s popular ”My Home Town” song(Pams Series #16, Song of the City) was only one of several 100s of cuts of this tune, sung by Trella Hart. Here is the KOGT Orange, Texas version for 1600 on the AM dial.
Pierson caught the next available "red eye" flight from Love Field in Dallas to England where he investigated the British broadcasting scene. He flew out over the North Sea and after taking photographs, he returned to Texas with the idea of creating a station that was bigger and better than bot the BBC and existing offshore radio.
Don Pierson took his inspiration for the station and for the name from two sources.
The station was originally devised as an actual clone of Gordon McLendon’s highly successful radio station KLIF in Dallas, Texas. Don Pierson wanted to use recordings from that station and remove the local commercials and then retransmit the tape-recorded output with local British advertisements. In other words KLIF in the ”Big D” would become ”KLIF London” broadcasting to "Big L".
However, the PAMS jingles used by ”Big L”, were modelled on those heard over KLIF’s Dallas competitor branding their station "Wonderful KBOX".
The investors behind the project were based in Texas and they used a series of totally different names for interlocking companies for ownership purposes in order to disguise their interest.
This as the British authorities would not allow the registration of a British sales company called "Radio London" and so it was registered as "Radlon (Sales) Ltd." which was the name plugged on the air for advertising sales.
Because of a boardroom battle Don Pierson was pushed out of direct management (while remaining an investor) and this led him to start Radio England and Britain Radio.
Looking over to Radio London from Radio England, May, 1966. Unknown photographer. ©LIFE International Oct.31st,1966 .
Input from Engineer Dave Hawkins.
And now it’s over to Radio London Engineer Dave Hawkins who got in touch in October, 2007:
Good to meet you in August at the London “Marine Offences Broadcasting Bill” anniversary event.
I have sorted out some pix of the technical arrangements on MV Galaxy (which is the only ship on which I was employed).
We start with an aerial view of Galaxy. © David Hawkins.
Here is a view as the Offshore One or Offshore Two tender approached the ship. © David Hawkins.
Here is a (forty-year younger David Hawkins!) adjusting the compressor on the audio chain pre-transmitter input before that technical area was tidied up. © David Hawkins.
Two pics of the workbench within the Transmitter Hall with audio conditioners, communications receiver and waveform monitor. © David Hawkins.
Two pictures of the 50kW RCA transmitter that operated on “266”, mostly on 1127, and 1137, 5 kHz. 1133 and 1115 kHZ(briefly in June, 1966) also used.
Lower pic has the door to the modulator section removed for access). © David Hawkins.
Russ Tollerfield at work in November 1966 when he and Dave were commissioning the 10kW “277” transmitter that operated briefly on 1079 kHz. (Was it tested more than on December 6th, 1966 from 2200 BST?-Editor) © David Hawkins.
Radio London time is 3 o’clock…Russ Tollerfield turning off the transmitter for the final time on that long ago August 14th, 1967 afternoon........ © David Hawkins.
Dave also has some other notes:
delivered to the ship from the U.K. in 1966, and was installed
and commissioned in-place by Russ and I(November, 1966, editor) whilst the station was in operation with the original 50kW+ transmitter running.
© David Hawkins, October, 2007
Radio London became an enormous success, Published reports show sales of approx. $2,800,000.00 a year in less than 18 months of operation.(1966)Today the station is still fondly remembered as "Wonderful Radio London", and it formed the main inspiration for the BBC’s later(1967) copy. As a PAMS jingle sang it: ”Radio One is Wonderful-BBC” when the new radio network took the air on Sept.30th, 1967.
As of the implementation of the Geneva Plan in November for the LW/MW bands in late November 1978 BBC Radio One moved from 1214 and 1484, to the better channels of 1053 and 1089 kc. It was no longer a bleak copy of Don Pierson’s great stations, and was doing great with its own identity.
But-the roots of Radio One are in Texas!
Don Pierson and his stations on the Galaxy and Olga were also part of the inspiration for UK commercial radio. These two stations ”General Entertainment” and ”News” were the first modern licensed commercial radio stations in Britain, taking to the air in early October, 1973. Although with modest power from a provisional site at Battersea Power Station, their coverage was considerable, and took on big names from one of the Pierson stations, like Kenny Everett, Dave Cash and Tommy Vance. Operating now from another site and with different names, the stations still exist 33 years after.
When the word got out to Philip Birch about Don Pierson's new SRE/BR, Birch sprang into action with his counter plan for a competitor to Britain Radio(here called LGM, not as commonly known UKGM) using able staff, like Keith Skues and Duncan Johnson. But when the news broke that Calvert had been killed by a “Big L” rival amidst the dealings for a takeover of Radio City Birch immediately played down both his role and the entire project TV Mail, June 17th, 1966.
According to this Dutch press report from Nov.17th, 1966, “Amerikaan” Birch would discuss with one R. v. der Waart van Gulik of Holland the possibility of creating “a Dutch arm” in view of the incoming MOA. It was of course also competition to the new Radio Dolfijn, having started only November 14th. From ©Hans Knot’s archive.
Dutch dj rehersals for Radio London November 15th-18th. 1966. From ©Hans Knot’s archive.
 ©Eric Gilder.
 ”In 1961 the Pams jingle company in Dallas launched it's "My Home Town" series of jingles(Series #16, editor). The basic premise was a two minute song that sang the praises of a particular city, naming the best sites, attractions and such. They all start with "Let me tell you about my home town....." Orange is a small town of about 35,000 just up the water from Port Arthur and Beaumont, near the Louisiana border. Where many of these discs sing about the big things in their cities in this small-town song they're bragging about the waterways, mighty industry, Chemical Row, the shipyards and the community band. It's got the same song on both sides of the record.”(Reel George) If you are interested in this subject, let REEL GEORGE of PO BOX 1222, ROWLETT, TX know if you have one for sale.
 Contrary to popular belief, McLendon did not invent Top40 radio. That credit must go to Robert Todd Storz of KOWH 660 in Omaha, Nebraska. Read more on Uncle Ricky’s page:
 ”Together with Radio London co-investor Mal McIlwain, Pierson was still a frequent visitor to the Galaxy.”(“The Wonderful Radio London Story.” P.176) ©Chris Elliott, 1997.
 ©Eric Gilder.