It was on this day – Saturday 28th March 1964 – that Radio Caroline began broadcasting from the middle of the North Sea. Unlicensed by any government for most of its early life, it was a pirate radio station that never actually became illegal, although after the 1967 Marine Offences Act it became illegal for a British subject to associate with it.
Between 1964 and 1990 the Radio Caroline name was used to broadcast from international waters, using five different ships of three different owners, and via satellite from 1998 to 2013. Radio Caroline was begun by Irish musician manager and businessman Ronan O’Rahilly who had failed to obtain airplay on Radio Luxembourg for Georgie Fame records because they were committed to sponsored programmes promoting major record labels! So, with financial backing for the venture from six investors, O’Rahilly named the station after Caroline Kennedy, daughter of U.S. President John F Kennedy. Why that, one may ask! It is said that, on a fund-raising trip to the US, O’Rahilly had seen a ‘Life Magazine’ photograph of Kennedy and his children in the Oval Office and that served as the inspiration for the name “Caroline Radio”. It is said that a photo of Caroline and her brother John Junior dancing in the oval office as their father looked on caused O’Rahilly interpreted it as a playful disruption of government!
O’Rahilly’s ship the Fredericia was renamed MV Caroline and anchored off Felixstowe. Test transmissions began on Friday, 27th March 1964 and, on Saturday, 28th March 1964 Radio Caroline began regular broadcasting at noon on 197.3 metres (1520 kHz, announced as 199 metres) with the opening conducted by Simon Dee. The first programme, that had been pre-recorded, was hosted by Chris Moore and Radio Caroline’s first musical theme was Jimmy McGriff’s jazz standard “Round Midnight” that had been co-composed by Thelonious Monk. Shortly afterwards The Fortunes recorded Caroline, which became the station’s theme. “Round Midnight” was confined to close down on Radio Caroline North after ‘The World Tomorrow’.
The station’s slogan was Your all-day music station, and it initially broadcast from 6 am to 6 pm, seven days a week.