"It all started with Ad Roberts borrowing my new microphone"
|The wet and wild history of Radio Caroline (10)|
|by Hans Knot|
|Rob Hudson began his radio career with Radio Mi Amigo in 1978. Next he was with the first local cable radio station in Holland, Radio Unique in Amsterdam and, for a short period, worked with offshore station Radio Caroline in 1979. Later on Ruud Hendriks — his real name — became the European Director for NBC TV in London and subsequently director of the ill-fated Sport 7 in the Netherlands and sales director for EndeMol Productions. At the Dutch Annual Radio Day of 1992 Hans Knot interviewed him about his early days in offshore radio.|
|1||Right: Rob Hudson in action
Ruud Hendriks a.k.a. Rob Hudson. Many people whose names are now well-known within the British and Dutch media industry started their careers within offshore radio in the 1960's and 1970's. Two of the most well-known voices on BBC Radio, John Peel and Keith Skues, are both active within the radio industry since the sixties thanks to Radio London and Radio Caroline. In the Netherlands Tom Mulder is deejay and director of the popular Radio 10FM. He started his career with Radio Veronica in the sixties. Of course there are a lot of other examples of former offshore radio deejays who have made it within the media industry. One of them is Rob Hudson whose his radio career began with Radio Mi Amigo in 1978. Next he was with the first local cable radio station in Holland, Radio Unique in Amsterdam, and for a short period, he worked with offshore station Radio Caroline in 1979.
From that point on the career of Rob Hudson, or Ruud Hendriks by his real name, made a very high flight. First he worked behind the scenes with NOS TV (a sport programme) and next with Veronica Broadcasting Society (TV and Radio). In the 1990's Ruud became the European Director for NBC TV in London. After a few years he thought it was time to go back to Holland, where he became director of the ill-fated Sport 7, a television station which went as quickly as it came. Well-known EndeMol Productions reacted very quickly and saw in Ruud the potential boss for selling their television products outside of Europe. A couple of weeks ago it became known that Ruud Hendriks will leave the EndeMol organisation from May 1st 2001. When he did the opening speech of the ill-fated Veronique TV — later to become RTL4 — Ruud spoke the famous words: "It's like a kind of art to make higher ratings with less money." Something he did in the several jobs he had since 1978.
|2||First steps. What interested us was how he made the first steps of his career, in his offshore days. This is the extensive answer he voiced to that question at the Dutch Annual Radio Day of 1992:
"It's not that I have lost my passion for offshore radio, it's just that the offshore radio scene has got smaller again, although it gives me great pleasure to see people turning up at these annual get-togethers and that is surprising to me at all. So it pleases me that a few hundred people still come to these events and enjoy themselves. I must, however, confess that I'm not entirely an offshore radio person but a radio person in general and recently television has entered into my life. It doesn't matter for me whether radio comes from the sea, from land or from satellite, as long as it is good radio."
|Left: The MV Mi Amigo
"My interest in radio began in 1974. It all started with Ad Roberts borrowing my new microphone. I will tell you the story. I listened a lot to Veronica and RNI when they were still on the high seas. When Veronica closed down, there was a land-based pirate radio station in Amsterdam, which went on the air on 538 metres on exactly the same day Veronica closed down: on August 31, 1974. A few days later it became apparent that this station transmitted on land very near to where I lived in Amsterdam. It was this station that started my interest in land-based pirates. It was a warm, summer day in August 1975, I was 16 years old and had just bought a microphone. I cycled through Amsterdam docks and the MV Norderney was just being towed in and several people stood on the quay side watching the ship coming in. One of the people watching was Ad Roberts and he had a cassette recorder with him but he told me he hadn't got a microphone."
|"I told him I had one with me and I lent it to him so he could interview a few people from Veronica. Some time later he told me that I could do an interview for him with Vader Abraham, of Smurf's fame. He was the first person I ever interviewed and to my surprise the interview was transmitted two days later on this land-based pirate station. Ad Roberts phoned me and told me that I was on the radio and from that moment on I only wanted to do one thing: to work on a real radio station. I became a real enthusiast on radio matters and worked on fifteen land-based stations in Amsterdam and the surrounding areas. I was in my last term at the HAVO, which is a Dutch school type, and during the lessons I spend more time listening to my portable receiver on my earphones than following the lessons."|
|3||An Amsterdam dialect. "Shortly afterwards my father asked me what I was going to do for a living after leaving school. It was very simple, I told him: I was going to work for a radio station. So I started sending demo tapes to several broadcasting societies which in turn sent back very nice letters, thanking me for writing and telling at the same time that I wasn't needed. I think it was because of my Amsterdam dialect. It is very difficult if you that accent when presenting the Top 40, which is a programme I haven't presented at any time in my career. I also didn't have any success in Hilversum, so I decided to send a couple of demos to Radio Mi Amigo in Spain. The first tapes I sent clearly didn't succeed. I didn't get any response from Mi Amigo's office in Playa de Aro. After some time I decided to carry on my studies in Utrecht at the School for Journalists and during my first period I had to work at Studio Sport on NOS Television."|
|"That was my learning period and I worked there for a whole year. At the same time I worked in the weekends at several discos and that way I earned a lot of money at a young age. One evening I arrived home from a discotheque and my mother told me that there had been a phone call from Belgium asking if I could ring them back soon. By this time it was 2 a.m. so I decided that I would call them back tomorrow. My mother, however, told me that it didn't matter what time I rang back so I rang back at once. It was Patrick Valain who answered the phone and he asked me if I could go aboard the Mi Amigo in a couple of days. I was only 17 at the time and had never left home before and I was scared to leave. I told him that I was still attending school and also worked for NOS Television in Hilversum. I said that I had first to ask for permission to go to work on an offshore radio station and that I needed a little time to think about it. Valain replied that I had two days to think about it all. In the meantime I asked the school board's permission to continue my learning period on an offshore radio station instead of the NOS. They too had to think about this request, but after a few hours they said it was OK."|
|4||The journey to the MV Mi Amigo. "I collected my things and with all my luggage I went to the city of Haarlem. There someone from Belgian would pick me up. Haarlem was chosen because the programme tapes of Dominee Toornvliet had to be picked up from a place near the city. Toornvliet had a daily radio program on religion on the station. So at 11 a.m. I was sitting at the railway station, waiting nervously for my contact person and still being very afraid to make the voyage to the radio ship. Becoming a member of a radio station is a great feeling but when it is so far to reach the ship, and you knows that you are going to be on the ship for two or three months, it becomes a bit daunting to think about it. A few hours later no one had showed up and I was still sat there waiting. I was about to go home again, when a man in a very long raincoat, which made him look a bit creepy, walked up to me and said he was Germain Boy. He added: "Let's go" and off we went, first to the Toornvliet building and then on to Scheveningen."|
|Left: Climbing the mast: muscle training or just hard work?
"I was sick on the car journey and when we reached Scheveningen, Boy bought everything he needed in a baker's shop. He went into a supermarket and came out with trolleys full of goods and took all of this to the harbour where a Belgian fishing trawler called the 'Hosanna' was berthed and everything was put on board. That morning I had put some decent clothes on, but when the Belgians saw what I was wearing, they started laughing. They said: "Well don't you know that you're going onto the wanker wagon for three months!" But then, I didn't know that they meant! The next thing they did was buy an overall, pull it through the dirt on deck and tell me to put it on."
"We left at 7 p.m. heading for the open sea. We had just got out of the harbour and my car sickness turned into seasickness and that was still more terrible. I had never been so sick. Because the weather was so bad, they decided to go back to harbour and we tried again the next day when the weather was better. It was early in the morning, Saturday, 9th January 1978, at 5 a.m. when we arrived at the Mi Amigo and everything was dark. The generator had broken down and the station hadn't been on the air during the previous ten days. Herman de Graaf was on board, together with Ferry Eden — the only Dutch people on board — and Peter Chicago. The first thing I was going to do was sleep. The following afternoon I had to do my first programme. I had left the discotheque in Holland because of a quarrel: they said I played "Brickhouse" by the Commodores too much. So my first record at 4 p.m. was "Brickhouse"."
|"Unfortunately I was just announcing the first record when Peter Chicago stuck his head around the door and said that we were off the air again because of condense in the transmitter room which had got into the equipment. Luckily he got it all going again and I was very nervous presenting the first two hours. I still have this tape somewhere lying around in my house and I listen to it these days only occasionally. I close the curtains and listen on my headphones and I'm ashamed at what I hear. The first time on board the Mi Amigo things went reasonably well. But after two weeks, Herman de Graaf decided that he wanted to go home due to the fact that he had been on the ship a few months."|
|5||Right: Ruud Hendriks next to the Mi Amigo transmitter (1978)
Standing on your own two feet. "There was a tender coming alongside and on board was a guy, who called himself Tony Huston but this was not the same guy who worked on Radio Atlantis. His real name was Frans Maas and he came from the Hague and later on he called himself Dick Verheul. He came on board, made the usual trip around the ship and was very scared about the state of the MV Mi Amigo and said that he was going home immediately. I said to him that he couldn't go home because it meant that I would be the only Dutch person left on the ship and so he stayed. I let him become experienced at the mixing desk and said that he could do his first programme at once. He had some trouble with his name. During his first week on board of the ship, he always used different names in his programme. For instance, within thirty minutes he used his own name Frans Maas, then Dick Verheul, then Tony Houston. However, he got better and better as the week went on."
"Three days after he came on board the weather was atrocious; it was the same day that Margate pier was washed away. I have never seen such bad weather and it is only at such moments that you realise what terrific force the sea is. The whole crew was seasick and the only one who could stay on his feet was the Belgian generator technician, Lue, who did the breakfast programme because Dick and I were too seasick. You know what it is like in bad weather: you play a lot of records, commercials but don't say very much. I did thirty minutes and then I went back to bed. Luc then played non-stop music until noon. At twelve, the next programme had to start but no one was in any fit state to do it. So Luc carried on but he did not know what commercials he had to play. So he decided to play one particular commercial eighteen times within two hours, but he took the wrong one. And all the while Dick Verheul was crying and asking for his mother because he felt so sick. To be honest I myself didn't feel too happy about it all. I really wanted to go home, but we carried on and went through this first period. As time passed, working on board became easier and soon I came off for a couple weeks after which I went back for another couple of months."
|"To me the periods on board of the ship seemed like serving in the Army. For many people their time in the Army means learning to keep upright on your own two feet. I learned to do that on board of the ship. Also as time went on, I met more and more interesting people. More guys from Amsterdam came on board. Johan Visser arrived and also Marc Jacobs who was very friendly. During that time, the station was still on full power, almost 50 kW, and it was also very popular in Belgium. All things went well, until I got a letter from my school informing me of the fact that they didn't think news reading on Radio Mi Amigo to be exceptional enough as a training period. So they stated that I had to go back to school in August 1978. I went back to school, but after the very first day, as I noticed that the people there weren't quite happy that I had worked for a commercial radio station, I decided to quit at once. I was ready to go back aboard the ship but it was October 1978, and the generators had broken down and Radio Mi Amigo stopped their transmissions from the Mi Amigo forever."|
|6||Left: The MV Mi Amigo
Meeting Erik de Zwart. "After a while I tried to get a job at Studio Sport at the NOS, which I was lucky enough to get and at night I worked again at the discotheques. When I was working in the later days of Radio Mi Amigo in Playa d'Aro during a drive-in show there, a new contact appeared: Erik de Zwart who just wanted to say hello to his mother by radio. After the programme I suggested him to do a demo for the station, which he did. It was very good. When I suggested that he go to the ship, he didn't want to do this as he already had a good job working for an agency and also did a drive-in show which made a lot of money. When the Mi Amigo thing was over, I met Erik on a regular basis. Together with some other friends we built the first cable pirate in Holland. One of those guys was Johan Vermeer, who worked on Radio Mi Amigo 272. He was a very good technician and it was he who put the signal onto the cable. It worked for a couple of months and due to the fact that Erik and I sorted out the commercials we could live on a very good wage from this money with the additional money from the drive-in shows."
"In April 1979, Radio Caroline was starting up again and together with some other people, we were asked to work for the Dutch service and Erik decided to come with us and he changed his name to Paul de Wit. We first went to London for a couple of days with Ad Roberts, waiting for a telephone call telling us to go to Margate to leave with the tender to the ship. When we got there, we discovered that there was no tender, but only a small boat fit for canals but not really suitable for the high seas. But they told us that we had to do it with this small boat. Due to the fact that there was a large tank in this vessel, they decided that this boat would suffice. After six hours sailing, it seemed as though we were lost and we had no compass on board. The only people on board who knew how to get there, were people like Peter Chicago. We reached the Mi Amigo in the middle of the night after twenty hours of sailing and the station was due to be back on air a few hours later! When we got on board, we put all the commercials on cart and at 10 a.m. non-stop music started and at noon, transmissions began with Tony Allan playing "Fool If You Think It's Over" by Chris Rea."
|7||Right: Erik de Zwart (a.k.a. Paul de Wit) and Ruud Hendriks (a.k.a. Rob Hudson)
Stolen car keys. "The summer of 1979 was very nice on board the Mi Amigo and this spell I enjoyed the most of all. We had a good team on board with a lot of talent. A lot of people who worked on the Dutch side are now working in Hilversum or Luxembourg or somewhere in-between. Until the financial troubles manifested themselves in August, 1979, you could say it was a good year for the Dutch Caroline organisation. But, problems began in autumn and after a couple of weeks we had nothing to eat or drink on board the ship. The transmitter power was turned down due to a shortage of fuel and that was the moment I decided to leave. However, our wages had not been paid and the station owed me approximately 10,000 guilders. So Paul and I decided to take some action."
"First we went to Danny Vuylsteke, the man who was responsible for the organisation in Belgium. He was also the one who had to go to the advertisers to get the money and we said we couldn't wait any longer. The first day he didn't show up with anything good, but the next evening we accompanied him to a drive-in show in his Mercedes, filled with Caroline T-shirts in the boot. We stole his car keys and drove off with the car and the T-shirts. Next we phoned him from a hotel, telling him that when we got the money from him, he would get his car and T-shirts back. Much later, he came in another car and we got our money and our Caroline period was over."
|8||After Caroline. "After Caroline, I started sending demos to all kinds of radio and television stations. My wife told me to send a tape to Rob Out of Veronica because it was a very young organisation. She told me not to apply as a deejay because everyone wanted to be that. So I started in television and I was completely astonished that I got a job very quickly and time flew by. After a few years as a radio reporter, I got a job with VOO TV and started Newsline and I also made the initial plans for commercial radio for Veronica. I was unhappy about the absence of commercial radio, because many people from the old days with lot of know-how still were doing other things. One day, I went to Rob Out and Lex Harding and I told them that if they didn't want to start a commercial station, I would do it myself. That way Cable One, the satellite radio station, and Sky Radio were set up in 1988. Together with a couple of other people, we made a business plan which we sent to two groups: TV Ten and RTL Veronique, which later became RTL 4. First I became director of programming and later on managing director of RTL 4 Television and Radio. So, that's were offshore radio brought me some fifteen years after Ad Roberts borrowed my first microphone."|
|This interview was published before in this journal in May 2001. This version is slightly adapted to fit in with our series on Radio Caroline. Look here for the index of this series|
|2001 © Soundscapes|