When it first came on the air, Radio Caroline and then Radio Atlanta seemed to be just pop music pirate stations. There were other stations that followed, but they were amateurish affairs.
Then came Radio London and someone from somewhere seemed to be taking this idea of alternative broadcasting to the BBC very seriously. More clones followed. After that came Radio England and Britain Radio, and that two-station venture seemed to have the backing of some financially ambitious interests based in Texas, USA.
But back to Radio London. It really began regular programming at the beginning of 1965, and Radio England and then Britain Radio created quite a publicity storm when those stations came on the air in 1966. Unfortunately their arrival coincided with a murder which involved Radio Caroline and a lessor enterprise called Radio City. In turn, that bad news then triggered a succession of government spokesmen, the most famous (infamous) one being Tony Benn, all vowing to shut down these illegal operations.
Some called them 'extra-illegal' because their offending transmitters were, for the most part, on the ship-based stations and beyond the reach of UK law. Radio Scotland for a time moved itself within UK territorial waters and incurred a summons to appear in a UK court. Radio 390 was on a disused UK military fort, and the UK finally went to great lengths to prove that it was within British Territorial Waters. When the UK authorities had gathered enough hard evidence, they dragged its operators into court and that forced Radio 390 off the air by using existing legislation.
Now this is where the story becomes of interest to our 'Trio', but not all together, that is, not all three simultaneously. That phase began during the close of the Nineteen-Seventies, and the location was the conurbation called the 'Metroplex'. That is the name applied to a geographical area surrounding the combined cities of Fort Worth and Dallas in Texas, USA. It has a population now over seven and a half million people. (The current population of Scotland is over five million, while the population of London is over nine million, and all of England is over fifty-six million.) In terms of size, the entire geography of the United Kingdom fits inside the State of Texas twice, with room to spare.
This geographical focus has created a problem of longstanding proportions for its inhabitants. Texas is so big that it can take between 14 to 16 hours to drive from its eastern border to its western border. The geographical size of Texas has also been accompanied by overwhelming access to petroleum products resulting in low cost fuel for a Texas population that either flies or self-drives, and which looks upon public transportation as a poor alternative.
But you can't drive from Texas to the British Isles, and in the Nineteen Sixties you could not fly directly from anywhere in Texas to the British Isles, that is on a regularly scheduled airline flight plan. Texans in the Nineteen Sixties dominated the USA geopolitical landscape, because with its petroleum it could fuel the nation and with its cattle and crops it could feed the nation. Texas was powerful, but Texas were isolationists because they were isolated, except during a major international military crisis, and then its industrial military complex of companies revved-up their war output. The world according to many Texans was composed of Texas and other lands and water outside of Texas - that really were of no interest to Texans - except when someone from somewhere-else other than Texas, tried to poke their nose into the affairs of Texans. Then Texans sat up and asked: "What's going on?"
When we look back to 1964 through the eyes of Don Pierson who was at one point sitting in his favorite arm chair and reading one of the 'local' metropolitan newspapers about the arrival of Radio Caroline, what he read, and what he gathered from that article, was not what someone in the UK would have read and more importantly, what they would have gathered in comprehension from that article. Pierson had been raised by his grandparents as he entered his teens, and then, after leaving school he learned to fly courtesy of Uncle Sam. In 1964 he was now a dealer in several makes of cars. He was the owner of a small hotel and he lived in a small town called Eastland with a population of about three thousand people.
Eastland is over 50 miles further west from the city of Abilene, Texas. (There is another and larger eponymous namesake in Kansas.) Abilene is where Don had interests in managing a bank. Abilene is about a hundred miles from Fort Worth. There were no freeways (motorways) back in 1964 which linked Don with Dallas Love Field, and it was the nearest international airport to Easland. Dallas is over 30 miles from Fort Worth. Distance, especially distances in 1964, are essential to understanding Don Pierson and the creation of Radio London.
That Sunday in 1964, after reading his newspaper, Don made a decision to find out for himself what Radio Caroline was all about. He drove from Eastland to Dallas Love Field where he caught a 'red eye' flight. He eventually arrived in England, where after checking into a hotel, he lease a small plane and flew out over the North Sea. He took his camera with him. Below he saw not one, but two radio ships: mv Caroline and mv Mi Amigo. He took photographs and then, back in London he tried to meet with Ronan O'Rahilly, because the press said that O'Rahilly was responsible for initiating 'Radio Caroline', but, he said, O'Rahilly refused to meet with him.
So Don Pierson returned to Texas with his photographs and first impressions of Radio Caroline after listening to the station in his London hotel room. In Eastland he began calling his friends and associates. Out of this came two groups of investors. One connected to Pierson via family, and the other one connected by automobiles and oil business interests.
Meanwhile, Don also turned to Gordon McLendon for advice about what he had discovered: London did not have even one commercial daytime radio station. At night there was Radio Luxembourg, but during the day, while Texans were tuning-into many stations playing various versions of recorded music, the occupants of London, England had a choice of three non-commercial networks, all controlled by one organization, and none of them playing pop records back-to-back.
However, while the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was playing recorded music, and some of its selections included Elvis Presley, the Beatles and a lot of records that could be heard on Gordon McLendon's stations, but there was a difference. While McLendon's stations offered a steady stream of pop music, the BBC was very spotty in offering anything similar. At night, the promotional output of Radio Luxembourg told young listeners to buy records if they wanted to hear them, because by then, '208' Luxembourg had switched from its original post-WWII fare of both original and cloned versions of U.S. NBC mixed programming. to a non-disguised version of 'paylola' promotions.
Pierson noted the success of McLendon's stations in the much smaller Texas marketplace amidst a sea of competitors, and he wondered what would happen if he could get McLendon's permission to take a cloned version of McLendon's Dallas station to England on board a ship. He would call it 'Radio KLIF London' and record the programs in the Dallas studio as they were being transmitted, and then, after editing out Texas commercials, news and weather, he would leave blank spots for the insertion of British commercials, news and weather, by a studio operative on board the ship. This would be a relatively low-cost operation that could be put together fairly quickly and the tried and true programming style of McLendon would blow-away the amateurish output of 'Radio Caroline', and what appeared to be its competitor called 'Radio Atlanta'.
However, there were several foundational flaws in the Pierson business plan that he was totally unaware of at the time, and some of them he remained unaware of until the day he died.
The first one had to do with the slant put on the newspaper report that he read. It was influenced by Leslie Perrin Associates, a public relations firm with longstanding ties going back to the creation of the 'New Musical Express' that emerged in the very early Nineteen Fifties. Perrin had been instructed to publish a totally fake story about the people behind the start of Radio Caroline, and their reasons for starting it.
Ronan O'Rahilly was a 'front', a fake, a 'stooge' who also held anarchistic political views, which meant that he had no attachment to the existing framework of British governance, and he was entirely selfish in his approach to life: "what's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine." By his own admission in writing, O'Rahilly had developed his outlook as a child growing up in Ireland. He saw nothing wrong in using and abusing his childhood friends, and O'Rahilly claims to have been an academic failure bobbing around schools where he cheated as much as he could. Perrin has dressed-up O'Rahilly for the press, and he created a dangerous illusion for anyone such as Pierson to come into contact with.
Another problem that Pierson had was in the division among the financial interests behind his project.
That problem did not come from his family attachments, but from the auto and fuel group. They turned to a Chicago lawyer for guidance. His name is Burton Kanter. What Kanter offered these investors was an idea that was good for Kanter and good for them, and even good for Don Pierson. It involved Kanter using the 'Radio London Project' as a guinea pig to try out his formula for creating tax-free income via foreign banks under his control.
Kanter was well connected to associates linked to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and to both the Jewish and Italian 'Mafia'. Kanter's plan channeled money that the Texans would make in the UK to a bank offshore in the Bahamas. The money would be deposited via a London bank, but it would not go into a London bank account. In this way it could be 'laundered' in such a way that the Texas investors had access to all of their individual financial gains - totally free of any form of taxation, by any government. That made 'Radio London' a win-win situation for the auto branch of the investing pool.
But this "auto-led" investment link to Kanter, and not primarily to Don Pierson, quickly undermined both Don's plans and his authority, because although Pierson hired Philip Birch to rent a short-term property in London, and then hire but one secretary to handle advertising sales, Birch had other ideas.
Philip Birch had his own connections to the U.S. auto business via J. Walter Thompson Advertising and their Ford auto account. That is what Birch had worked on in North America, before he was hired by Pierson (upon recommendation by a Texas auto dealer.) Birch was at JWT when H.R. Haldeman was there, the same H.R. Haldeman who became President Nixon's White House Chief of Staff during the 'Watergate' affair. Haldeman was subsequently sent to prison for his part in the cover-up of that political scandal.
In other words, Philip Birch who had been recommended to Pierson by a Ford dealer, was not what Philip Birch appeared to be to Don Pierson, because 'Radio KLIF London' ceased to be a Pierson operation almost as soon as he spelled out his business plan. It was Kanter's tax-saving business plan that made the money for investors, not simply the initial plan of competitive commercial broadcasting. However, all of this unfolded in a series of events.
Birch was told not to open a British bank account but to use a "pass-though" system initiated by Kanter, and Pierson agreed to this idea. All income derived from advertising sales in England were to be billed by an operating company registered in the Bahamas trading through a Bahamian bank, which was of course under the control of Kanter and his CIA contacts.
But since 'Radio KLIF London' was initially a Pierson idea, he also hired a hands-on station manager to run both the station and its programming. His name is Ben Toney and he hailed from another small town on the fringe of the western edge of Fort Worth.
While Philip Birch was to manage the advertising pass-through sales, Ben Toney was at times to be managing activities on board the ship, when he was not on shore coordinating management activities in London with Philip Birch. This schedule obviously brought Birch into contact with Toney, and that resulted in a tangled struggle for power initiated by Birch with the help of Kanter.
This storyline continues tomorrow .....
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