In late 1988, a number of commercial stations in the UK started to run separate services on AM and FM. Most started new oldies stations on AM, but once again it was a pirate who had done it first. In this case over 5 years earlier!
Radio Sovereign was the UK’s first ‘Golden Oldies’ station and was founded by businessman John Kenning and ex-offshore DJ Crispian St. John. They commenced broadcasts on 10th May 1983 from their studios in Sherland Road, Twickenham on 1503 kHz. This was later replaced by the better-received 1494 kHz, but still announced 200 metres.
Professional from the outset, they had custom made jingles. First from Alfasound, and then later, re-sings of the jingles used on the 1960s offshore stations by Pams of Dallas. They had a pretty good on air team too. As well as John and Crispian, there was ex-offshore man Rob Randall and the best of the London pirate scene of the day, such as Kevin Turner, Ron Brown, Chris Elliot, Jerry James, and future hypnotist Paul McKenna!
Sovereign played the big hits of the past, but many rare and seldom heard-oldies were heard too. They also cheekily sneaked in a current track each hour after the half past news headlines. They called these ‘Future Gold’ records.
Although other stations of the time were being left alone, the authorities made a grab for Sovereign. They were taken to court in late 83, fined, and the equipment ordered to be forfeited. They therefore closed down at 3pm on 2nd January 1984.
However, it was rumoured that the equipment wasn’t handed in, but John Kenning had it shipped out to Italy and re-launched the station as Radio Sovereign International. Crispian St. John rejoined Radio Caroline using the name Jay Jackson. He also had a go at re-launching Sovereign from the Republic of Ireland, but aimed at North West England in 1987. This attempt was plagued by technical problems and never took off.
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