Roger Day shows
Like many other pioneers of commercial radio, Roger’s parents had expected him to get a ‘proper’ job. The former pupil of Margate’s Chatham House Grammar School was set for a career as an accountant with medical giant Pfizer.
But the trainee wages clerk had his eye on other figures, mainly 45 and 33 rpm. He spent most of his pay on singles and when he heard Southern TV’s music quiz Pop The Question was to be recorded in his home town in the Winter Gardens in October 1965 he auditioned and wormed himself onto one of the teams.
He recalled: “Muriel Young was the compere and The Fortunes and Chris Andrews, who sang Yesterday’s Man, were on the bill.”
His team won and the young Day earned himself some instant notoriety. Within 24 hours he received a call from the assistant manager of Dreamland Fun Park who asked: “If you are a DJ, can you host our Wednesday night disco sessions at the Rendezvous club?”
Roger didn’t need to be asked twice and was soon playing the “hits of the day” from 7.30 to 10.30pm every Wednesday night. On Sundays he was allowed to introduce visiting groups such as the Tremeloes, Marmalade, the Spencer Davies Band and Dave Dee, Dozy, Mick and Tich.
He recalled: “The Dreamland management was very canny. It would book bands up to six months in advance so it was not unusual to have a band like Spencer Davies playing two one-hour sets for £35 the day after they had reached number one in the charts.”
Roger loved rubbing shoulders with his newfound showbiz mates but by day he was still dishing out the wages at Pfizer. He desperately wanted a job on radio so on his 21st birthday – March 29 1966 – he went to London to blag his way into a Radio London gig at the Marquee Club.
It was there he ran into a young DJ called Dave Cash who told him bluntly there were no vacancies on the ship. But he let slip DJ Ron O’Quinn was looking for staff for a new station. O’Quinn had flown in from the USA that day and was staying at London’s Hilton Hotel.
Quick as a flash the eager Day was soon banging on the door and after a two-hour chat was hired to join the fledgling Swinging Radio England along with an unknown Peter Dingley, who later changed his name to Johnnie Walker.
“It was the beginning of a wonderful voyage of discovery,” recalls Day who was soon climbing aboard the former Second World War American supply ship MV Olga Patricia moored four miles off the Essex coast at Frinton-on-Sea. Day and the station went on air on May 3, 1966. The station lasted six months.
But the money had been good. At Pfizer, Day had picked up £5 10s a week and £3 a night DJ-ing, if he was lucky. On board, he was getting a staggering £35 a week.
After Swinging Radio England stopped swinging, Day talked himself into a stint on the legendary Radio Caroline (South) before the Labour Government brought in the Marine Offences Act at Easter 1967 and put paid to the pirates – except Caroline.
But by Christmas 1967 Day was homesick and after taking a break in Amsterdam he flew to London using the fake name of Roger Thomas. When Customs officers searched his suitcase they found a fan letter addressed to Roger Day.
Day said: “I watched as the officer read the letter, smiled, then zipped it back in the suitcase. I asked if he was going to arrest me but he said I must be joking because all the Customs men loved listening to the station.”
In March 1968 Caroline, the first and last remaining pop pirate, went off air when the boat was finally towed into harbour for non-payment of bills. By this time Day had joined land-locked Radio Luxembourg.
He had also been appearing in Kent nightclubs working with bands such as Vanity Fair, Chicory Tip and Edison Lighthouse. He can even be heard introducing the Beach Boys at the start of their album Live In London recorded in 1968 at the Finsbury Park Astoria and London Palladium, where Brian Wilson returns in May.
Roger briefly returned to the waves for a flirtation with Radio North Sea International in 1970 after answering a mysterious advert in the Record Mirror. He recalled: “It was an address in Switzerland and didn’t say anything about a boat.”
But in February of that year Twiggy ended up back on a boat as programme controller of RNI, much to the delight of his fans and to the horror of the Labour Government, which decided to jam the station.
Roger recalled: “That was the worst thing it could have done. Eighteen-year-olds had been given the vote for the first time and the Tories were promising to introduced commercial radio to Britain if they won the general election. I like to think that was the main reason Ted Heath suddenly found himself Prime Minister.”
So it was that Capital sprung up in London, Piccadilly Radio launched in Manchester and BRMB followed in Birmingham. Roger worked for them all, except Capital, plus Radio West in Bristol, Pirate FM in Cornwall, Jazz FM in London, County Sound in Surrey, Amber Radio in Suffolk and Fusion 107.3 in London.
In 1984 Roger returned to Kent as programme controller for the launch of Invicta Radio, later to become Heart, and stayed for eight years before being headhunted by BBC Radio Kent for a five-night -a-week slot.
Nowadays he still presents a Saturday evening show for Radio Kent where, he maintains, he is growing old, disgracefully…He has a sixties oldies show “The Sixties Vinyl Countdown” which is broadcast on stations around the UK and Europe.
On July 1st Roger is joining Pure Gold broadcasting to the Costa Blanca hosting a daily show. I am so looking forward to presenting a daily live radio show in this lovely part of the world.