Monday, October 29, 2012

The Route 66 Radio Tour

A few weeks back we told you about an exciting radio concept that we were asked to help to promote.

From what I understand, several of you have already been in communication with the powers that be behind this unique radio idea ... and now we're trying to get a few more of you onboard for this.

Here, from British DJ Paul Peters, is an overview of the project:

Hello Kent,
Bish, in Chicago, has asked me to write something for you, about our 2013 Radio Road Trip, along the old Route 66, and how, and why, we are doing this. So here goes.  (I've even added a few 'Snaps' of us, as we are now, and as I was 45 or more years ago!)
All the very best,

 Paul and Geoff ... The Fabulous '50's Show

Paul and Geoff on the L.V. 18
(Pirate BBC Essex broadcast from the L.V. 18, the same little ship that was used to make the film 'The Boat That Rocked' re-named 'Pirate Radio' for the U.S. market.)  

 Paul Peters - Home Studio, 1966

 Paul Peters on the way to Knock John Fort, 1960's

Route 66 Mother Road Radio Tour 2013

People are always asking me how, and why, I got interested in radio. Well, one of the reasons was the children's 'Saturday Morning Pictures' as we called them here in the U.K. I'd see these films made in the 40's and 50's where there would be a typical, as far as I was concerned, American Radio Station ... The little white 30's building, the the call sign in large letters on the front, standing out in the desert, with it's tall radio mast at the back, quite often painted red and white ... oh, I so wanted to visit one of those stations, and better still, become a d.j. on one.  

But back in the late 50's early 60's, America may as well have been ten million miles away, as there was no chance of a little kid like me ever getting there, except in my dreams. Here in the U.K. we had the BBC, and you had to be a bit posh to work for them ... they'd never take me on, but that did not stop me riding my little bike the 12 miles out to Brookmans Park, where the BBC had their main transmitting station for the London area. I'd lean against the fence, gazing up at those huge masts, for hours, dreaming of the day that my own voice would emanate from them. It did, but I had to wait almost 45 years for it to happen.

At Easter, 1964, Radio Caroline set sail from Ireland to moor off the Essex coast and began broadcasting. I was just 15, and I so much wanted to be a part of this wonderful new thing called 'Pirate Radio'. I wrote to them, sending a 7" spool of tape with all sorts of things that I had recorded, and in due course a nice letter came back, together with my tape, saying that unfortunately they did not need anyone just at this moment, but if they did in the future, they'd remember me. As other pirate stations came along I wrote to them, but again without any success. Then one day in early November, 1965, I was sat by the fire, looking at the the back of the paper that Dad was reading, and there was the headline 'Pirate Radio War'. It told the story of a guy called Roy Bates, who had landed on an old WW2 Naval Fort, called Knock John, thrown off the guys from a rival station, Radio City, and began to broadcast a station called Radio Essex. Within minutes I had ran to the telephone box on the corner, got his number, and phoned him asking him for a job. "Be in Southend nice and early in the morning and the job is yours!"  Within a couple of days I was heading the 18 miles out to the fort, and my short stay with Radio Essex. But I had got radio in my blood, and in the 70's I joined the team of 'Freelance' broadcasters who presented music shows on BBC Radio Medway, in the south of England.  (Here's a link to an American newspaper that did a report on the death of Roy Bates, the guy who started Radio Essex ... the chap that I ran and phoned ... when he died earlier this month.) 

Fast forward to 2006, and my days as a radio broadcaster were long behind me, and I never ever dreamed that I ever get back behind a microphone again. It was a Tuesday morning in May, when, as I arrived at my shop in Lymington, with Geoff Kemp, my business partner of 30 or more years, we were met at the door by David, a member of our staff. "Good morning, sir ... the BBC have been on the phone looking for somebody called Paul Peters.  I told them that there is nobody of that name here, but the lady would not take no for an answer and will phone and speak to you at 11 O'Clock."  "What did you say David?....That's me, I was known as Paul Peters when I worked for the BBC years ago!!!!"

The lady did phone back, spot on 11 O'Clock, and asked me if I'd like to do a 10 minute spot, on BBC Radio 4, talking about my time as Britain's youngest pirate radio d.j. I did this a few days later and afterwards, I so much wanted to get back behind a microphone once again. I'd had this idea for at least 20 years for a show playing just 50's music ... 'The Fabulous 50's Radio Show', so I contacted several BBC local stations with my idea, but none were interested. I was told that nobody listens to 60's music these days, let alone 50's. Then, just by chance, I heard of a new community station called Forest FM, a few miles from my home in the New Forest. I contacted the manager, Steve Saville, and asked if I could have a little look around sometime. He invited me along, and we talked radio for more than an hour. I told him of my teenage adventures on Radio Essex, and to cut a long story short, he offered me a slot each week for my 'Fabulous 50's Radio Show'. I recorded an hour long show, but just could not get a grasp of the way things are done these days. For a start there were no turn tables, just c.d. players and a computer with something called SAM. The show went out on the air an hour after it was recorded, and I sat in my car, deep into the forest, listening to it going out on FM. But I was way out of my depth ... things had moved on over the past 30 years and left me behind in the 70's. No, I'd have to decline his kind offer as there really was no way that I could cope each week ... I was going to make a fool of myself.

The next morning in the shop I told Geoff all about it and said that I'd have to phone Steve at Forest FM and decline his kind offer of a slot for my FAB 50's Show. Geoff flew at me, "NO WAY, you're doing it, even if I have to come along and help you."  "You know less than me about radio, how on earth can you help me?" "I'll learn", was his reply.

Well, Geoff did come along, and within a few weeks he was choosing most, and then all, of the records that I played, and slowly he slipped into becoming the co-host of the show, too. The show has been on the air for almost six years now, and we both got asked to work on Pirate BBC Essex, the BBC's re-creation of an offshore pirate radio station, in 2009.

Geoff had always been interested in old motor cars, and I was mad about radio and still, so much, wanted to visit those real American radio stations that I'd seen in the films. Somehow we got this idea of 'doing' Route 66. I told him, "You can see all the old cars that you want, and I'll call into every radio station that we pass, and make a nuisance of myself, asking to have a look around." And so we started to talk about, and plan, our trip along Route 66. By this time our FAB 50's radio show was being aired on several stations in the U.S., the Falkland Islands, and New Zealand, including WRLR in Chicago, where I just happened to mention our intended trip to Bish, the President of the radio station. He thought that the idea was great, and said that WRLR would very much like to help us to fulfill our lifelong dream. Over the months this grew into a full road trip ... the 'Route 66 Mother Road Radio Tour 2013'.

We intend leaving downtown Chicago at 6 am on June 6th, 2013We are hoping (diary permitting) that Governor Quinn of Illinois will be there to send us off, as he's a big fan of Route 66. Our intention is to try and find, and meet up with, radio people from the past and present, who can tell us some interesting stories of their time in radio. The musicians and radio people that they have met, how their station was started, and by whom. We'd like to find some of the early founders of stations, those people that had the vision to put their hard earned money into this business. We have been offered the free loan, by the American manufacturer, the sat-alight equipment that we shall need, so that we can send back our daily reports to WRLR in Chicago area, and Forest FM in the U.K. We shall also be presenting the FAB 50's, my 60's show, and WRLR's morning 'Drive Time Show' from wherever we may be, and we shall certainly need the help of friendly radio stations for this part of the trip. CAN YOU HELP????

From the 1920's onward, before the days of television, the small towns of America, depended on their local station to keep them informed, and entertained. Many, if not most, of the big stars of the music world started on their local station. We know that many of these small family run stations no longer exist, but we'd like to find those that still do, and also the local community stations that have now, in many places, taken their place on the dial.

If you feel that you can help us in any way, to fulfill our dream, please email me, Paul Peters, at or Bish, President of WRLR, at

Even if you are way off Route 66, we'd so much like to hear from you if you have a story to tell. You never know, we might one day come radio 'tripping' down a highway close to you.

Paul Peters
(AKA Paul Freeman - Pirate BBC Essex 2009)

This is a TOTALLY unique concept (and shows some of the "outside the box" thinking we speak so often of here in Forgotten Hits) ... which is why we're so proud to be attached to this project.

We're looking for radio stations located along Historic Route 66 as well as deejays who broadcast in the areas along the way that this trip will take us ... I'm hoping we can get at least two dozen current and former deejays right here in Chicago to participate as well.  They hope to stop by many of these stations to visit and broadcast live on the air (or simply have these jocks join them in their double-decker bus, from which they'll also be broadcasting along the way!)  All-in-all, a whole lotta fun that listeners all over the world will be tuning in to hear.  (There's even been some talk about filming some of this for a special radio documentary!)
Please contact either of the parties listed above if you would like to participate.  And deejays, please pass this information along to your fellow jocks and former sidekicks ... let's turn this into something the radio world hasn't seen before.  (Leave it to The Brits to come up with a concept like this, honoring and paying homage to the great American Radio Stations of the '50's, '60's and '70's ... with a tour of Historic Route 66 throw in for good measure to boot!!!)  

This could be THE vintage radio event of the year ... so please contact Paul or Bish ... tell them that you read about their plans in Forgotten Hits ... and want to be part of the celebration.
Kent Kotal
Forgotten Hits 

Kent - 
I do so want to say thank you for ALL that you are doing to make my dream of more than 50 years come true. As that 16 year old kid, that climbed that rusty ladder up to the fort, with such great hopes of becoming a radio star, all those years ago, I never ever dreamed that I'd meet up with so many lovely people in radio, as I have over the past six  years. Just wish that it'd happened for me back then. I still get 'tickled pink' with every email or letter that comes into my shows from listeners each week.


Stay tuned to Forgotten Hits for updates ... we appreciate your support.  Please take part in this landmark broadcast.  (And, for those of you NOT in radio, we'll soon provide links for T-Shirts, Mugs, Caps, etc.  And, of course, ALL of you are welcome to come out and greet the bus as it passes through your area.  Hope to see you there!)  kk