Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Viking Invasion – Part 2 - So Why Not Take Your Time and Bridge the Humber

Viking Radio’s launch date was set for Tuesday 17 April 1984.

First on air would be ‘ageing groover’ Dave Fewster. Dave had started his broadcasting career in hospital radio in Warrington before moving to Red Rose Radio and Marcher Sound. When Viking Radio beckoned Dave became a regular DJ in the area later appearing on Radio Humberside, KCFM and community station WHCR. Alongside this Dave found time to establish and later sell Chem-Dry UK up on Swinemoor Lane in Beverley.

Here’s Dave Fewster and Steve King enjoying some banter in 1987 (apologies for the odd buzzing sound).

Following Dave was, er Dave. Jamieson this time, with Notice Board. Dave’s radio career runs as follows: hospital radio in Edinburgh, guest DJ on Radio 1 Club, Radio Leicester, BRMB, BBC Scotland, Radio Clyde, Mercia Sound, Viking Radio, Radio Tees, Central TV, then on a freelance basis back to BRMB, Xtra AM, Heart FM and now enjoying life in Spain working on Coastline FM.

Here’s part of Notice Board on Day 1. Towards the end listen out for Dave getting somewhat exasperated trying to contact Beverley, Australia.


Inviting listeners to a Packed Lunch was Steve King. Steve was at Radio Aire over in Leeds before moving to Hull. He rose through the management ranks at Viking, Hallam, Aire, Metro Radio Group and Forever Broadcasting. Now at EMAP Steve is the Programme Director for their network.

In the afternoon it was Checkout with Mark Allen. Mark had previously been as Wiltshire Radio and later may have moved to Australia. In this clip listen out too for news reporter Hugh Pym, later to work for ITN, Sky and now Chief Economics correspondent for the BBC.

Note the use of programme titles, a much favoured practice at the early ILR stations and reminiscent of the old BBC style (Midday Spin, Music to Midnight and so on). The rationale for this was, according to Dave Jamieson (Viking’s first Programme Organiser), “we believed that anyone reading our schedule in the local paper would get a better idea of the output from (vague!) descriptions of the individual programmes, than simply a list of names.  Until you get into the top echelons of radio where the presenters are personalities in their own right, names mean very little.” 

At launch Viking only transmitted for 14½ hours on weekdays. Dave Jamieson explained that “the IBA was very nervous in 1984, following the failure of Centre Radio in Leicester the previous October.  They couldn't afford to be seen to give a franchise to another company which would eventually fail.  So they restricted our broadcasting hours, insisting that we opened at 5.30am and closed down at 10.00pm at night on weekdays and midnight at weekends.  Unthinkable nowadays of course!  Within six months though, they relented (a little!) and we went from 5.00am to midnight everyday.”

Opening up the day, from the Wednesday, on Daybreak was Les Smith. Les had started in radio in South Africa before returning home and joining Viking. Subsequently he would appear on the Yorkshire Radio Network and Compass Radio.

Closing the day with Fast Forward, as well as hosting the cleverly titled North and South Bank Show on Sunday evening, was ex-Swansea Sound DJ Kerry Evans. 

In this clip you’ll notice that Dave Golley was working both ends of the day as he was reporting from Boothferry Park.  And there’s a soothing goodnight jingle to close the first day’s proceedings.

Those early schedules promised much more than pop music of course. ILR stations were still trying to be “all things to all people” and providing programmes that would serve a wide cross-section of the audience. So we had farming programmes, local business topics and music for jazz, country and brass band aficionados.

Inevitably there was a bit of poaching from the local BBC competition. The Presentation Department secretary came from Radio Humberside and she in turn acted as go-between in negotiating to bring sports presenter Dave Gibbins (below) onto the team.

Also there at launch was Steve Colman, though mysteriously missing from the publicity and schedules. Steve’s first show was on Friday night at 10 p.m., with Night Light. Steve went on to work at Metro and Magic 1152.

The final ingredient in the on-air mix were the jingles, those wonderful full orchestral over-the-top jingles. Several production companies were approached to produce Viking first jingle package before the commission went to Cath Baxter. The bonus here was that Cath Baxter was based locally at Cawood near Selby, though the jingles were recorded over at the Strawberry Studios in Stockport. On vocal duties were Steve Butler and Sheila Gott, both seasoned jingle singers with Alfasound.  

The package offered about 100 jingles, with all the various alternative mixes. These instrumental versions of the main image song and the sports theme let you appreciate the work of arranger Paul Flush. You can see where Chris Moyles and the guys at Music4 got their ideas from can’t you?

So here’s Viking’s launch from that Tuesday morning just before 7 a.m.

MD Roger Brooks provides the opening announcement before the Viking song. The first adverts are for the TSB, Comet, North Country Breweries, Humberside Property & Motor Guide and Paul Dixon Motors. The news is read by David Golley and certainly demonstrates Viking’s commitment to news - the first record, Kool and the Gang’s Celebration, doesn’t kick in until 12 minutes past 7! Dave Fewster then cues in It’s a Miracle by Culture Club.

An advertisement feature published in the Hull Daily Mail the day before the launch gave more details about the news team which was headed by Colin Palmer who had spent the previous ten years at BRMB. The team of journalists were David Golley from Wiltshire Radio, Mike O’Neill and Richard Ventre had both been on local papers, Hugh Pym ex. BBC Radio Oxford and Simon Garrett from BRMB.

As well as FM and AM Viking could be heard in Hull on Channel D of the cable system operated by Rediffusion and on the Radio Line by dialling 211258 – yes remember that, radio over the telephone in the days when Hull Telephones offered unlimited local calls for about 5p.

Viking Radio was one of the first stations (after Southern Sound, Gwent Broadcasting and Signal Radio) to use the new frequency sub-band 102.2 to 104.5 MHz, this was beyond the 97.7 to 102.1 MHz still used by the police and emergency radio communications in some parts of the country. When the station launched there was nothing near it on that part of the dial so the signal went for miles. Dave Jamieson remembers former colleagues at Mercia Sound telling him that they’d heard the opening day “clear as a bell” and that he’d had a telegram (remember those?) from the IBA engineers who’d overseen the technical installation of the studios that read “Congratulations on the start of broadcasting to Humberside on medium wave, and to the world on VHF!”

Coming up: network splits, country wars and Viking goes gold.

Thanks to Dave Jamieson and Paul Bromley for their assistance with this post.

1 comment:

Robin Blamires said...

That's a fantastic analysis and accompanying audio. Viking's Cath Baxter jingle package remains one of my favourites from ILR in the 80s.

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