mercredi 8 avril 2009
Reg Calvert (1938 – 1966)
Reg Calvert was one of the great hustlers of the fifties and sixties music scene, managing a stable of solo singers and succesful groups – including Screaming Lord Sutch, The Fortunes, the Rocking Berries amongst them.
Alongside Larry Parnes and Don Arden, Reg Calvert was one of the main figures in the emerging British Rock scene. Contrary to his two main rivals, he paid his protégés a basic wage with all there living accommodation and food as part of the contract. He was one of the first to import Rock & Roll music from the U.S.A. such as Bill Haley and Chuck Berry in Europe. He was also the first in the U.K. to run 'rock and roll' dances for teenagers and open air rock concerts.
Born in 1938, Reg Calvert started out as a qualified hairdresser then ran a sweet shop in Northam, Southampton, and later a sweet stall on local fairgrounds. In the evenings, to earn extra money, he played the piano in local clubs and also compered for the big bands.
When the arrival of american Rock & Roll music captured the teenager public's imagination in the mid 1950's, he tried to persuade the managers of the dancehalls to play it instead of Big Bands.
His idea was first to use the fairground’s Dodgem Bumper Car track as travelling dancehall all over the country.
He started to use the expression 'teenager' to promote his dances.
Then he searched all over the south and London for good musicians and singers to form into bands and found dancehalls to put his proper 'shows' on - with variety, comedy and competitions. Star drummer Rory Blackwell, Marty Wilde and Cliff Richard came onto the scene.
In the late 1950's, he ran various dance halls round the Midlands where he booked a few theme and copycat acts, on of the first to do look alike bands. The Nevitt Brothers or the Dowlands which were Everly Brothers sounding duos. Buddy Britain & the Regents, were a Buddy Holly tribute acts. Danny Storm was a Cliff Richard look-alike plastered etc. At that time Reg Calvert owned two houses in Portland Terrace, Southampton, and one of them housing a small printing firm in the basement by the name of ‘Hartex’and producing advertising leaflets, flyers and posters.
Circa 1961, The Calvert family moved to Clifton Hall, near Rugby and most of Reg Calvert's bands lived at his house there, where they practised by day.The place was also known as “The School of Rock’n’Roll”.
In the early Sixties more and more bands wanted Reg Calvert to manage them including Screaming Lord Sutch & the Savages, so he started an agency in London with Terry King, called “Kings Agency”.
The following year, Reg Calvert and Screaming Lord Sutch plotted a fantastic publicity campaign during the Profumo affair. Reg Calvert suggested Sutch to stand for parliament at the The Stratford-upon-Avon By Election in august 1963. Dorothy Calvert came up with the idea that his campaign should be for 'Votes for 18 year olds.'
Then Screaming Lord Sutch decided to launch himself into the pirate radio field circa 1964.
Radio Sutch launched at the end of May 1964 from Shivering Sands anti-aircraft fort in the Thames but originally it was Reg Calvert’s own idea.
As his daughter, Susan recalls, Reg had always dreamed of having his own local radio station – “and when the family moved to Clifton Hall - he applied for a Radio Broadcasting licence.”
“When Radio Caroline started (using the Fortunes song 'Caroline' as the theme tune) in early 1964, Reg knew that his dream could become reality. Unfortunately - he had just spent all his 'spare' cash trying to get a nightclub started at Loughborough.”
“Reg and Dave Sutch planned a new publicity campaign - as neither of them could afford to have a 'ship' suitable to run a radio station from.” So they hired a fishing trawler Cornucopia on the Thames and sailed through London, having a Rock’n’Roll party with the Savages and friends - saying it was 'Radio Sutch.'
In fact, they had been using this boat during 2 weeks, to anchor off Shoeburyness in the Thames estuary he broadcast as Radio Sutch, until he discovered the Shivering Sands army fort.
In September 1964, Reg Calvert bought out Screaming Lord Sutch and changed the name of the station to Radio City. A new more powerful transmitter was installed and over the months that followed the station gradually grew in power, in proficiency and in revenue.
In June 1965, Reg Calvert suggested Screaming Lord Sutch to stand at Huyton, in prime minister Harold Wilson’s constituency.
By 1966, Radio City began to re-broadcast Caroline's news and plug some of the bigger station's programmes.
A certain Major Oliver Smedley, a chartered accountant, who ran a station called Radio Atlanta, persuaded Reg Calvert that he would provide a much more powerful transmitter and they could go into partnership together.
The transmitter was delivered to the fort, intended to be used by Caroline when it jumped ship. But the merger plans collapsed.
Reg Calvert and Caroline's great rival, Radio London decided to launch a new sweet music station from the fort - To be called UKGM (United Kingdom Good Music).
Smedley claimed ownership of the transmitter and, on the night of 19th/20th June 1966 sent a group of burly dock workers to take possession of Shivering Sands. They surprised the sleeping occupants and locked the disc-jockeys and engineers out of their studio. Smedley wanted his transmitter back or he wanted a piece of the UKGM deal. So that evening Reg Calvert took with him money to pay off the boarders but unfortunately was shot dead when visiting Smedley's home, Duck Street, Wendens Ambo.
This tragic loss signalled the beginning of the end for British offshore radio as the killing spurred the Government into legislative action. BBC Radio One started to broadcast the following year using the disc-jockeys from the former pirate radios and playing pop music for the younger audience.
Nevertheless, Reg Calvert was well ahead of his time and the concepts he pioneered changed the style and direction not only of the British music scene and entertainment but also British politics forever.
Thanks to Dorothy Calvert and Susan Moore (nee Calvert), respectively Reg Calvert’s widow and daughter for their recollections and photographs
Susan Moore has just completed writing a musical play 'THE SCHOOL OF ROCK & ROLL' and the 'DEATH OF PIRATE RADIO.'
Celebrity singers and performers were booked into the shows including the Billy Fury, The Rolling Stones and the Beatles.