Colin Dale's memories of Radio Sutch.

Colin Dale was a disc-jockey on the UK's third offshore station, Radio Sutch. Unlike other pirate radio ventures, this one was not started as a money-making business but as a promotional tool for an ambitious pop singer. With a very limited budget and the most basic of equipment, Radio Sutch was never going to be the biggest offshore station but it is still remembered fondly. The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame is very grateful to Colin for writing about his time with Sutch and for providing the memorabilia.

Screaming Lord Sutch and colleagues

Left to right: Tony Dangerfield, David “Screaming Lord” Sutch, Colin Dale and Peter ? (surname unknown) in 1963.

Colin Dale

Colin Dale.
All the photos and cuttings on this page and the next are kindly provided by Colin.

“Well, where do I start with my story about David Sutch, the gun towers and Radio Sutch? Both David and I grew up in Charteris Road, Kilburn, London, NW6. I was born in 1939 and he was born in 1940. We were both ‘war babies’ and most of the time we did not know where our next meal was coming from. This made us sharp people. We were ‘street-wise’ before the phrase was ever heard of. At the age of eight and nine we collected orange boxes from Sainsburys and Fred Myers' greengrocers in the Kilburn High Road, chopped them up into small bundles and sold them for three pence or six pence a bundle. We both worked milk rounds and newspaper rounds and I worked on the coal lorry on Saturday mornings. At the age of eleven and twelve we ran a money-lending scheme. If we lent you half a crown, you paid back five shillings. This worked very well. No one would tell their mums or dads because they would have been in deep do-do from their parents. At the age of sixteen I moved to Harrow - the Pinner Road. David moved to West Harrow about nine months later. By this time we were both great fans of rock 'n' roll and had loads of records by Elvis, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Bill Haley and many others. Little did I know that some years later I would get to meet most of these great artist and shake their hands. It was about this time, or a bit later, that David met Carlo Little. Carlo was a great drummer and they decided to form a band. David asked me to join them as a singer. I had a reasonable voice as a young man but I was too busy working and could not get to the gigs. David kept on at me for years, asking me to come on board and eventually, at the ripe old age of twenty-two, I did. I ended up being the general dogsbody - a bit of singing, compèring, road manager - and eventually disc-jockey on Radio Sutch.

Screaming Lord Sutch and colleagues

Left to right: Little Tony, Colin Dale, David “Screaming Lord” Sutch, Tony Dangerfield.

Radio Sutch. No one will admit it but Radio Sutch only started as a publicity stunt. David Sutch had been using by-elections as publicity stunts. The Profumo Affair and resulting by-election had given David massive publicity. John Profumo was a Tory grandee, a Conservative MP who got caught having nooky with a young lady called Christine Keeler. She was also reputedly the mistress of a Russian spy. Also another young lady was involved called Mandy Rice Davis. This business finished John Profumo's career in politics. He spent the rest of his life working for charity in the East End of London and, in my opinion, paid his dues. Anyway, David Sutch stood in the by-election for Profumo's seat and got massive publicity.
He was always looking for a vehicle to hit the newspapers with ... and that's how Radio Sutch was born. Reg Calvert was David's manager and they cooked up this stunt between them. We were all in on it - roadie Brian Paull, keyboard player (and later actor) Paul Nicholas, guitarist Jeff Mew, all David's group The Savages, plus myself. We were all sworn to secrecy because the publicity, we hoped, would be massive.
We launched the station on the good ship Cornucopia - but it never went much further than London Bridge! We actually went out to sea on another vessel, a fishing boat from Whitstable, and sailed out into the Thames Estuary, leaving loads of reporters on the dock. Cameras were flashing, reporters were running along the quay shouting for us to pose. The fishing boat was sloshing from side to side. David got seasick, I remember. We were all doing our bit dressed up as pirates, flashing our swords and any thing else we could flash! Several girls were running along the dock waving skull and crossbones flags and anything else they could wave. We had to hang onto the boat. There was a heavy swell running. In fact we hung on for dear life. This was to get away from the reporters so that they would not catch on that it was all just a stunt.
When we got about two miles out to sea we looked at each other and said ‘what do we do now?’. It was just at that moment one of us spied the gun towers. It was like a miracle. We said to the fishing guy steering the boat, ‘what are those?’ He told us they were the old gun towers on Shivering Sands, used during the Second World War as a base for ack-ack guns to fire at the German planes as they came up the Thames Estuary to try to bomb London. A STAR WAS BORN! The gun towers at Shivering Sands became the home of Radio Sutch.

Radio Sutch press launch

Posing for the press on board the Cornucopia.

We could not believe our luck as we landed - by that I mean we went climbing up the ladder onto these massive gun towers. It was all there for us. They were fantastic. We were like kids with a new toy. We were running all over the place. There was room after room, great big water tanks that had stored drinking water, they had everything. The roofs of the towers were made of concrete 20 foot thick and there were cat-walks leading from one tower to another. We were made up.
We went straight back to land, collected a transmitter and some 12 volt car batteries plus a turntable, some records and a microphone. Food and drinking water came next. (We had to wash and shave in sea water which is not easy - soap does not lather in saltwater.) Thank God for Reg Calvert. He was a genius. He turned a load of old rubbish equipment into a radio station.
We had been there a few weeks when a guy from ‘Tin Pan Alley’ (Denmark Street, the home of London's music business) came out to the towers. He was big in the music industry. I cannot remember his name for the life of me. I remember that, as he went to jump onto the ladder to climb up to us, he slipped and fell into the sea. The boat was rolling about and nearly crushed him against one of the concrete legs. We dragged him out with a big boat hook. He was like a drowned rat and his Savile Row suit was ruined. He never made it up the ladder. He got back in the boat and went back to dry land. We never saw him again.
On one occasion Reg Calvert left me and Brian alone to run the station while he went back to land. He instructed me in how to run this manky old transmitter and batteries etc. (You must remember this set up was a bit Heath Robinson - there were wires running and hanging everywhere. It was a complete mess. I sometimes wonder how we got it all to work - but we did.) I was upstairs doing an hour spot on the radio when Brian Paull started shouting ‘we're in trouble down here’. I shouted back ‘We are always in trouble on this damn station’. I stuck on an LP record (don't forget we only had one turntable!) and dashed downstairs to find the whole place on fire. All the wiring was ablaze. It looked like a giant catherine wheel. Everything was burning, Brian was stood there screaming his head off ... Thank God for dry foam. I grabbed an extinguisher, started it working - but got it wrong. Brian stood there, covered from head to toe in foam! After we had put the fire out we both started laughing. We didn't stop laughing for the next 24 hours - and it took that amount of time to clean up the mess. Needless to say Radio Sutch was off the air for three days. When Reg got back he did his nut, blaming me for it all. I just made one comment: ‘why don't you spend some money and get some decent equipment?’ We didn't speak for a week.
The navy lark. ‘This is the Captain speaking. Come out with your hands up or we are going to board you. You are camped on these towers illegally.’ Imagine. It was early in the morning. We were all sound asleep when Her Maj's ship arrived to try and get us off the towers. The first words that came out of Brian's mouth were ‘piss off - we are tired. We have been up half the night trying to fix a broken generator.’ David Sutch shouted back ‘If you try and climb the ladders to get us, we will cover you in chip fat.’ The chip fat was two months old. It stunk. I just went back to sleep. I was dreaming about Mandy Rice Davis! When I woke up the navy had gone, leaving us some fresh drinking water and a basket of fruit. They must have thought we had scurvy!

Colin Dale helicopter rescue

The RAF come to the rescue. For more cuttings from Colin's collection, see the next page.

The headlines read ‘RAF Lifts Disc Jockey Colin Dale From Radio Sutch after SOS.’ During my time on the gun towers, doing my thing as disc-jockey plus general dogsbody (we all had to muck in maintaining generators etc.) I got taken ill with food poisoning. I had eaten some duff salmon. I was in agony. With just the two of us on the towers, Brian Paull and myself, I knew I was in deep trouble. I hung on in there for several hours with massive stomach cramps. I did not want to leave Brian on his own. He was a great bloke and I was very sad when I heard he died some years later in a swimming accident. Eventually Brian had to put out an SOS and, lo and behold, an RAF helicopter arrived from Manston airbase. They winched me up into the 'copter and off we went to Margate Hospital. They rushed me into emergency. I was kept there for several days. This episode was later used in a film, Slade In Flame, with the group Slade. David Sutch was most upset about this. He said they had stolen it. I just laughed and said it was free publicity. I have been told that Slade used old footage from BBC and ITV newsreel coverage of my rescue but I have never seen the film so can't confirm this.

Radio Sutch press launch

The station launch. A cutting from ‘New Musical Express’, dated 5th June 1964. Left to right: Colin, Paul Nicholas, Jeff ‘Pussy’ Mew, Savages drummer Pete Phillips, Screaming Lord Sutch.

Having survived the food poisoning and lived a very full life since then, I can tell you we had a great time on Radio Sutch. I have been reading about this film, The Boat That Rocked, and comments made by disc-jockeys on Radios Caroline and London that they never had any fun. They say it was all work and they had no girls on board. Are they nuts? The girls were queuing up to get on board Radio Sutch. (It must have been because we were so good looking, he says with a grin.) Every time we came back to dry land there would be six to a dozen girls waiting on the dock. Yes it was sex, grass and rock 'n' roll on Radio Sutch. These days, though, all I want is a good steak dinner and an early night!
I left David and the Savages in 1965. He asked me to stay on and I heard through the grapevine years later that he wanted me to come back, but I never did. I got married but it turned out to be a complete failure. I won't go into that sad story here. I have lived with my lovely Joan for the last 26 years and it has been the best years of my life. We have had a building/painting contractors business, a garden contractors business, a hotel and an antiques business. Self-employed for 50 years, I have had a very good life and it's never been boring. I have bred, trained and raced greyhounds as a hobby and won some big races in my time. I have shown Smooth Collies and made up Kennel Club Champions. I was elected as the District Councillor and Parish Councillor for Wendover in Bucks three times and served the public for fifteen years. I was President of the St John Ambulance Wendover Branch. I served on the board of Stoke Mandeville Hospital for some years and I stood for Parliament for the UK Independence Party in 2001. In the last couple of years I have appeared on television antiques programmes - ITV's Dickinson's Real Deal four times, Bargain Hunt on the BBC three times, and The Weakest Link, also on the BBC.
I miss David Sutch, Tony Dangerfield, Brian Paull and Carlo Little. They were all good friends in my youth and if there is anyone out there from my days with David and the Savages, please get in touch. Let's have a chat and perhaps a drink for old times' sake. I think we should all remember that pirate radio did great things for this country. It made the BBC and others realise that young - and old - people want the music of the moment. Long Live Rock and Roll.
From an old buccaneer and Radio Sutch disc-jockey,
Colin Dale.”

Screaming Lord Sutch and Harold Wilson

“Screaming Lord” Sutch meets Prime Minister Harold Wilson. This photo was used by Sutch for a Christmas card. The caption inside the card read “Sutch congratulates the top of the land by the shake of the hand. Governments come and governments go but Lord Sutch stays there, friend or foe.”

Many thanks to Colin for writing and for providing the photos and memorabilia.
You can see more of Colin's press cuttings on the next page.
Back to the DJ and crew memorabilia index.
Screaming Lord Sutch's obituary: The Guardian.
Savages drummer Carlo Little's obituary: The Guardian.
Bass player Tony Dangerfield's obituary: The Guardian.

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