Following the boom of the 1960s offshore pirate stations, many people began to start stations on land. An early operator was Jacko Diamond whose first station was Radio Atlanta from Selly Oak in the early 60s. They would sometimes broadcast for up to a fortnight at a time claiming to be from a boat off the coast of Denmark!
Other stations in the late 60s included Radio Jezabel from Selly Oak and Radio Christina from Alvechurch. Christina was run by Robin Wood, using a converted ex-army 19 set (tank transmitter/receiver) and whilst he wasn’t completely blind, he was not far off. This didn’t stop him doing his own engineering including winding coils on screwed up fag packets! Robin’s long-wire aerial was tied to a GPO telegraph pole and he received a visit from the GPO who asked him to remove his aerial from their pole. He refused stating that their telegraph pole was on his property and if he had to remove his aerial then they would have to remove their pole from his garden; they backed down on that one!
Other early operators included Radio Albatross from Northfield, Steve Green, who was the radio engineer for several pirate stations and Dave from Longbridge who started Radio Jolly Roger. Jacko Diamond later helped Jolly Roger before eventually taking it over. They then started regular broadcasts from a flat located at Vernon Road in Edgbaston in 1971. The station transmitted on frequencies from 1357 kHz to 1363 kHz, announced as 222 metres to exploit the slogan, “music for you on 222”. Jacko had obtained a little experience from Eddystone Radio where he had learned some radio constructional skills. The RJR transmitter was based upon an 807 value and a Linear Concorde Modulator with 2EL34’s.
Radio Jolly Roger, or RJR, initially transmitted all day Saturday and sometimes on Sunday with its theme tunes, “Exodus” and “Rinkydink”. The disk jockeys included Jacko Diamond (your man Jacko) and also Monty Magic. Often, after RJR’s transmissions had closed on Saturday evening, a Radio Jolly Roger South would come on the air, and RJR (North) would converse with RJR South on medium wave. RJR South, from Northfield, aired a number of programmes in its own right.
During 1972, after many weeks of transmitting, Radio Jolly Roger was raided by the GPO and “our man Jacko” was fined £75. The transmitter was confiscated, but this setback did not keep Jacko off the air for long. RJR was soon back on the air from Vernon Road and they teamed up with a number of other operators to form the Birmingham Free Radio Network. Radio Dolphin from Halesowen with Chris Stevens and Radio Midlands Mobile (Smethwick) each transmitted a 30 minute slot from a different location on Sunday afternoons; this way the GPO had insufficient time to trace the signals. Other stations came and went from the network including Radio Javelin (Rubery), Radio Seagull (Rubery), Radio Pegasus (Warley) and Radio Signal North (Northfield). Other stations from around this time included a Radio Venus North on 194 metres medium wave from Shropshire, SRBC from Banbury on VHF and Radio Britannia from Nuneaton.
Soon the GPO, known as the Gippo, increased its activity and the stations had to move from location to location to maintain hourly weekly broadcasts. Sometimes, RJR would only manage 45 minutes before the Gippo turned up! It was learned many years later that the Gippo were thrilled by the Sunday broadcast because the activity lined their pocket with Sunday overtime payments. Walter Frank Preston headed up the GPO team, and records were often played for Frank Preston – “this one’s for you Frank”.
A number of court cases were heard following raids, and fines started to mount. During one court case, eggs were fed into the diesel tank of a GPO Land Rover, and someone’s mum, a parking warden, issued the GPO with a parking ticket when the Land Rover subsequently broke down on a double yellow line.
Some years prior to the outbreak of illegal CB in the UK, a number of individuals took to 27 MHz. Unfortunately the third harmonic caused interference at a government radio station at Romsley, and again there were court cases.
The Birmingham Free Radio Network faded out around about 1974 and the stations were not heard again. The final act of the Birmingham Free Radio Network was to jam the local commercial station, BRMB, for a whole afternoon because it was believed that a transmitter from the BRMB transmitter site was being used to jam Radio Jolly Roger broadcasts – this was unproven but a directional finding expedition was deemed to demonstrate that this was the case.
Many people who helped out these early stations later went on to run their own stations, with Jacko Diamond even appearing on one of them. He presented regular reggae shows, together with Music Master, during 1981 on Sounds Alternative. The two of them then formed Radio Star, which eventually became PCRL.
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