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volume 3
march 2001

Dick de Graaf looks backs on RNI


  RNI Memories (9)
by Hans Knot
  During the second period of RNI, when the Dutch service was on the air, there were only a couple of live programmes. One of them started in 1971: Driemaster, a programme aired every day between 16.00 and 18.00 hours except for Sundays. Soon the programme became a big success and deejays like Hans ten Hooge, Nico Steenbergen and Leo van der Goot became well known names. Over the next three years, others joined the live team. One of them was Dick de Graaf who worked under his own name. Some years ago Hans Knot talked with him, recalling his RNI memories.
1 Dick de Graaf (right) and Hans Knot (1996)

It's strange to see Dick back again after so many years. The first thing which comes to my mind is: "He has grown around the middle, as I did, has still the same height as in the seventies and his voice hasn't changed." Although I know a lot of his past I have to ask this first question, almost the same opener when interviewing someone out of the radio scene: "How did you get involved with the radio industry?"

  Dick: "You won't believe it, but it came about while listening to Radio Monaco. They broadcasted a show called Youth for the World, a kind of religious programme which realized a very close relationship with its listeners. As soon as RNI started in 1970 I had the same feeling again with their programmes."
2 Hans: "Did you write for a job or did they ask you?"
  Dick: "One day I met Willem van Kooten, alias Joost den Draayer, and he thought that I should have a job in the near future. Just when he was arranging something to get me on the air, he left his job as programme director and I thought my chances had blown. One day the station needed a newsreader and as I visited the station on land on a regular basis, they remembered that I had a good voice as well as a good pronunciation of the Dutch language. The only thing they didn't know was that I was unsuitable for the job, but nevertheless it brought me some nice work, bringing the news and weather forecasts, until one day a memo came out to the radio ship with the tender. It said, that Dick de Graaf had to get off the news."
Dick de Graaf and Marc van Amstel presenting on the last day of Radio Noordzee (August, 31th, 1974)
3 Hans: "Did you have any experience?"
  Dick: "As with many deejays from the former Dutch offshore radio stations, I got my first experience at a local hospital radio station. Within the RNI team there were two groups. One group of deejays came from Radio Lucas in Amsterdam and the other group from the RAZO in Delft. I was with the latter group. We worked very intensively there and the station worked as a sieve for all talented radio people. RNI made good use of those well-trained people."
  Hans: "We know that people like van Leo der Goot, Marc van Amstel, Ferry de Groot and Hans ten Hoge came from Radio Lucas in Amsterdam. Who did join you from Delft?"
  Dick: "Except for myself, there were Nico Steenbergen, Herman de Bruin — newsreader in 1974 — and Eduard Maathuis."
4 Hans: "Earlier on we talked about the news. In the documentary 'Zeezenders in woelig water' (1974) Marc van Amstel revealed some of the secrets behind the news, can you tell us some more?"
  John de Mol senior, Director of the Dutch Service (1974)

Dick: "It was all very simple, we had some cassette recorders connected to several radio's, which were tuned to Hilversum 1, 2 and 3, BRT 1 and 2, BBC World Service and Deutschlandfunk. Listening to the tapes, we wrote down our own selection within 30 minutes, which we next read on the hour. We also had a telex machine, where we got all the news from United Press. We also got some telexes from the Dutch newspaper Het Algemeen Dagblad, but it wasn't strictly legal to use those."

5 Hans: "When did you present programmes for the first time on Radio Noordzee?"
  Dick: "That was in October 1972, and it was a very nice period, for the Dutch service was, at that stage, on air for 24 hours a day. The Dutch director, John de Mol, had decided that, as the international service almost brought in no money, the international staff had to be replaced by Dutch deejays. For a very small period most of the programmes came from tapes, which were recorded in the studios in Naarden, but a few hours were presented live from the MEBO II. I did a night programme. A week later the Swiss owners of the ship, Meister and Bollier, decided that John de Mol sr. had taken the international airtime without permission. However they seemed to have noticed my contribution. Directly afterwards they decided to place me in the Driemaster team, which meant that I had to present between 16.00 and 18.00 in the afternoon ... For a few months I also presented a couple of programmes which were taped in Naarden."
6 Hans: "You came within a very solid team, was it difficult to work with them?"
  Dick: "Not at all, for I was as crazy as they were. I'm still crazy now, only the colour of my hair has changed into grey."
  Hans: "How were the relations with the international staff and the crew?"
  Dick: "The Driemaster team didn't have any problems with the international staff. We often co-presented with them on the international service. However there was a problem with the Dutch language. Apart from Tony Allan, they all didn't knew how to speak Dutch."
7 Hans: "During the last week I've listened to some old tapes and on one of them there was a programme called 'Zondagmiddagtoestanden', brought live from the ship. I remember that in the 1970s I listened with much pleasure to this semi-sports programme. However, listening back I thought it was very boring and old fashioned radio."
  Tony Berk at work in the studio in Naarden (1973)

Dick: "I think most of the programmes from that time will give that same feeling when you hear them now. They still sound very nice as long as you relate them to those nostalgic days. However, it's radio of old. Already, in the 1970s, RNI and Veronica made an American type of radio, that in the USA itself dated back about five years. Radio isn't at a standstill. It changes from year to year, although there are enough radio stations, for instance in Hilversum, who still work with models of the past. Last year I had some radio practice in the USA and it made me realize in Europe everything is getting behind. We still have to learn a lot, but on the other hand the Netherlands is quite another country than the USA."

8 Hans: "In June 1973 the 'Keep it on the air' campaign started and the studio team came on board of the MEBO II."
  Dick: "That was a big laugh, our programme director Tony Berk came onboard for the first time. He always stated that he had no time to join us, but the reason really was that just a small puff of wind sufficed to get him seasick. But nevertheless he did some good shows on the MEBO II."
Tony Berk live from the MEBO II in june 1973, just after he first came aboard
9 Dick: "The real joke was with Ted Bouwens. We started a rumour on the ship that we were having problems again with the Veronica organisation, due to the fact that they thought our campaign was much better than their own Veronica Will Stays If You Want It. People were afraid this would provoke another attack on the ship. So we all kept watch all the time and one night we decided that it was Ted's turn to keep an eye on the ship. We gave him a gun, the kind of thing which you normally use to throw lines from one ship to another. You couldn't harm a fly with those things, but Ted thought it was a real gun. As soon as he went on deck, the international staff made some Molotov cocktails and we made some kind of Mills bombs out of a cake. As soon as we were ready, Don Allen threw a Molotov cocktail next to the ship. It caused an enormous noise. A signal rocket was shot in the air and we threw the Mills bombs at Ted. It was like a slapstick movie."
10 Crew and deejays boarding the tender in Scheveningen harbour (August 30th, 1974)

Dick: "Another joke was pulled on Ted one day in January 1974. The weather was fine but we had rewritten the daily shipping and weather forecast. It was rather far-fetched. If our forecast had been true, Amsterdam would have been blown off right the map. Ted, however, believed it and he was scared out of his wits. We told him to go to sleep again for some hours, so he would have some strength when the storm came up. In the next hours we counted all the life jackets and, of course, took care that one was missing. As we told Ted that he, as the then youngest recruit, wouldn't get a life jacket, he was almost scared to death. As we succeeded to get him back in his cabin, we poured water down into his cabin every time the ship rolled. He cried and screamed and went totally out of his head. Luckily Kas, our cook, managed to knock him down with his frying pan, otherwise he would have jumped overboard."

Children choir singing "Radio Noordzee ..."
11 Hans: "You managed to get school choirs singing for you about the station."
  Dick: "That was a very nice thing to do. One day I got this idea and I phoned our commercial department. Within an hour I got permission. The idea was to let school choirs sing a special song about RNI or about myself. The best of them would get a special prize, a day trip to the Dolfinarium in Harderwijk. A few of our sponsors joined the game. Labetours provided the touring cars, the fruit drinks company Hero supplied the drinks and Van der Valk Restaurants took care of the dinners. We received over 300 songs. I have to admit, however, that the first two we aired were fake recordings due to the fact that we had to record the programmes two weeks in advance on land. Those first two songs were written by Peter Koelewijn, along with Eduard Maathuis. We recorded those songs with an official youth choir, but the remainder of the songs all were made by the schools themselves. It was an honest competition which the kids enjoyed a lot."
12 Hans: "RNI had a weekly Top 50. Was it made honestly?"

Dick: "It was as honest as the Veronica Top 40 and I think that will tell you enough. In the first years the publishing companies within the Strengholt concern, who were the owners of Radio Noordzee, certainly did try to influence the choice of records. Later on we had the chance to chose and promote the records we liked ourselves, the so-called Kanskaarten. These were presented as the deejays hit tips. Every Monday there was a weekly deejay meeting where the choices were made. You better not missed that meeting. If you didn't have the time to attend, you'd be liable to get a terrible song chosen for you by the others. You'd be stuck with it for a whole week."

13 Hans: "After the close-down in August 1974, all the people from Veronica and RNI were promised, by the Dutch government, that they would get a job in Hilversum."
  Dick: "We knew then that those words were only promises. Luckily at RNI we still could get work during the first year within the Strengholt concern. I was there for two days a month making commercials, but the rest of the time you had to look for work, which meant that most of the time I was at home. We were, however, regularly paid and each month we did receive a full salary, so it was okay for a year."
  Hans: "After RNI closed down, a week later your voice could be heard again in a commercial for a bankrupt company in Deventer."
  Dick: "Yes, that was Ordex. I think that all the commercials we had made, were sent to Spain one way or another, where they were used by Sylvain Tack for his Radio Mi Amigo. He probably thought that this was a chance to make his station sound very commercial."
14 Hans: "Two years later you were back on offshore radio for two weeks with taped programmes for Radio Mi Amigo."
  Crew and deejays on the tender on its way to the MEBO II (August 30th, 1974)

Dick: "Stan Haag and Peter van Dam were both ill and I was asked by Herman Kreeftmeyer, who also did the production of their road shows in Holland, to join them for some weeks. I used a nickname, Jos van der Kamp, but I could as well have done it under my own name. In no time everybody knew I was back on the air again. As soon as I got back from Spain, I got several phone calls — all in one and the same afternoon — from several ex-RNI deejays and even from Mr. Pieters, who was responsible for looking after the MOA for the authorities. He phoned me and invited me at his office."

  Hans: "Was there any official punishment?"
  Dick: "No, he only warned me not to do it again, otherwise I would be taken into custody. I promised to think about it and that was it."
15 Hans: "What kind of work did you do afterwards?"
  Dick: "I worked for a rental company for professional equipment, which later on became my own. We had some very successful years, but after a tax problem the company went bankrupt."
  Hans: "Are you still involved in radio?"
  Dick: "At the moment I'm presenting a taped programme for WBNE in the USA, which is a kind of musical link between Europe and the USA. This programme is transmitted every weekday, except for Wednesday. I also work for a radio station at the Antilles, doing a Caribbean type of music programme."
16 Hans: "One final question. If they ask you, would you do it all over again?"
  Dick: "At the moment, yes. When I was married still I had other thoughts, but it doesn't matter now. If a couple of idiots comes along to start an offshore radio station and they would ask me ... I think I'd be crazy enough to join them."
  The sound fragments on this page are copyrighted. They are used here according to the rules of fair use and academic quoting. Take a look at the index of RNI Memories for other installments of this series.
  2001 © Soundscapes