Back in the 1970’s there was rock music played on the radio, but it was limited…So 3 people who were into listening to rock music decided it would be a good idea to start their own radio station.
Dave Grainger, Rob Bolton & Keith Jeffries set about putting together a rock based station.. Choosing a name for the station was easy, as a guy in West London was making radio programmes on tape for Celebration Radio, an American station. He thought about launching his version of the station to broadcast to West London, but at the last minute dropped the idea.
The Italian rock band PFM had recorded a song called “Celebration” and the band was a favourite of Grainger and Jeffries. The 3 liked the name “Celebration Radio” and with the PFM tune, that was it…name chosen.
Dave Grainger had worked for Swinging Radio England, the Medium Wave station broadcasting to London on Sundays, so had the experience of working on a clandestine radio station. With a background in the electronics field he set about getting things together.
With a studio built and a transmitter bought from a future Radio Caroline DJ in Leicester, Celebration Radio was ready to hit the airwaves of London…
The first broadcast on 30th August 1976 was a 45 minute programme presented by DJ Mark Anderson who was to be a semi regular presenter in the early days. The programme consisted of music and announcements asking people to contact the station via a mailing address in North West London. For this broadcast the station received one letter from a listener in Guilford Surrey. Considering this was a broadcast of only 45 minutes that had no publicity it was amazing that the station received the one letter.
With the equipment working the station was ready to move on, but with a staff of just 3 we knew we needed more people, as 3 was not enough to run a station that was planning to broadcast for 4-5 hours each Sunday…After recruiting some more people they ended 1976 with a staff of about 6 people.
Celebration Radio entered 1977 full of optimism, the station was now a regular feature on Londons airwaves, broadcasting thoughout the year.
With an even larger staff broadcasting continued through 1978…It was later that year that several members of staff were to leave the station…Undeterred at this very minor setback Celebration continued going from strength to strength
1979 arrived and Celebration Radio continued broadcasting to London on the Medium Wave, but things were to change….
In late 1979, a few of the team left to form Radio Floss and Celebartion decided to make the switch from broadcasting on AM to the FM band..Time was spent building a transmitter and constructing a higher quality studio…The reason for the change of waveband was simple, broadcasting on FM meant that our listeners could hear to our programmes in far better quality. There were still many pirate music stations in London that continued to plod along on the Medium Wave broadcasting with poor quality programmes….The switch proved to be a great success as the coverage area of there transmissions increased vastly…
3rd August 1980 was the date of the first FM Celebration Radio broadcast. Iit was a 2 hour test transmission on 90.2 MHz, that was well received throughout London and the suburbs…. The programme was presented by John Richards who invited listeners to to contact the station with their comments on the signal quality and programme content. Celebration FM had arrived. There were not many more broadcasts after this, but some of the team did later return to 90.2 as Radio Orion.
The Celebration Radio format was always “rock based” drawing from the dj’s extensive knowledge of music, playing both albums and singles…Music from outside the UK and USA was played in an effort to bring a wider choice to the listener. Bands such as Earth and Fire, Sandy Coast, Alquin and Kayak from Holland and Atoll and Ange from France plus German, Italian and Scandinavian bands were also included in the programmes….We certainly did not ignore the mainstream bands of the time, The Doobie Brothers, The Who, Rolling Stones, Rare Earth etc were played with regularity…
Special programmes were broadcast, for example when Genesis headlined “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” open air festival at Knebworth in Hertfordshire in June 1978. The next days Keith Jeffries morning programme contained music from the bands that played at the concert, so 1 hours worth of music from the likes of The Atlanta Rhythm Section, Brand X, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Jefferson Starship, Roy Harper and of course Genesis was aired….On one occasion Dutch DJ Rik Van Dyke joined Keith in the studio and talked about the Dutch music scene while playing music from some of Hollands bands.
During its time, Celebration broadcast on several medium wave frequencies with 1214 kHz, 1277 kHz and 1286 kHz being the main ones. 90.2 MHz was the FM frequency used.
The programmes were mainly pre-recorded at the two studios and were transmitted from a variety of locations in around North West London/Middlesex…These included a church hall, tower blocks in Camden Town and Wandsworth, a cemetery in Ealing, a derelict house in Wembley and countless fields and woods. The station was also involved with several live broadcasts, two memorable ones were on Christmas/Boxing day 1978 and over Easter 1979.
Here is a list of some of the presenters and staff that were involved with the station during its history…….Dave Grainger, Rob Bolton, Mark Anderson, George Squire, Andy Richards, John Richards, Glen Scott, Steve Jay, Mark Adams, Bob Williams, Carole West, Helen Davidson, Keith Jeffries, Paul Diamond, Just Alex, and Grant Benson who went on to become a presenter on Radio Caroline…. A 1 hour programme was presented by rock DJ Neil Kay of The Bandwagon/Soundhouse/New Wave Of British Heavy Metal fame.
If anyone ever listened, or made off air audio recordings, please feel free to contact the former station by emailing [email protected]
Several of the stations staff went on to work for comercial radio and the BBC.
John Richards and Richard Norris aka Keith Jeffries are both currently presenting Saturday shows on the internet rock music station ARFM….
This brief history of Celebration Radio is dedicated to the memory of Mark Adams……….