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MERSEYSIDE - KGW 738

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The story of KGW begins early in 1982 when Dave Simpson, Robin Ross and Henry Henderson decided to start a station of their own, which was a 'real alternative'.  Dave had hosted free radio programmes on the original Merseyland Alternative Radio, Radio Elenore and J1000 amongst others, and was eager to continue with this. Robin Ross wanted an outlet for alternative and local music, which he had previously played on MAR, J1000 and Radio Elenore.  Henry Henderson wanted somewhere to show off his talents in humerous programming to a wider audience.  There was just one problem.   No transmitter.  The station name, KGW,  was picked as Dave had a complete set of old jingles with this call sign.

Eventually, a 100 watt transmitter was located in Coventry.  This had previously been used by a station called Midland Weekend Radio, and was still on top of the block of flats where it had been installed.  Midland Weekend Radio was operated by a couple of deejays from the then local ILR station Mercia Sound.  They had decided that not everyone wanted to listen to sports on a Saturday afternoon, and set about making amends.  The station operated on both AM and FM stereo.  The AM transmitter was a  100 watt valve output, with a transistor modulator.   This transmitter was installed in a cabinet on the roof of some tall flats in the East part of Coventry.  The power was activated automatically by the 19kHz stereo pilot tone from the 50 watt FM transmitter located at the studio.  The AM oscillator was a vfo, but was extremely stable on its 1305kHz frequency.  For instance, listening in Leeds, some 150 miles away, it was always exactly on the same channel as Boyneside Radio (i.e. no heterodyne). Unfortunately the deejays  voices were recognised, and after a few weeks, threats of dismissal were made by their manager at Mercia Sound.  As a result the station had closed by the Summer of 1982.

 

 

The transmitter (shown above during dummy load tests), was eventually obtained from the flats,  taken back to Merseyside.  Unfortunately, the HT transformer had burned out and a new one had to be fitted.  It had been decided to operate the new station on 954kHz, and a crystal was ordered.  In the meantime, the vfo was altered to this channel.  This frequency was  fairly clear at the time, with only TTTR Radio (945kHz) from Dublin and the occasional Sunshine Radio (959kHz)  from Ludlow adjacent to it.  Radio Wyvern (954kHz) was not then on the air.   It had been hoped to get the station on the air by September, prior to the opening of the new Preston based station, Red Rose Radio.  There was an idea that on the morning of its opening, a 'Red Nose Radio', would be heard just adjacent to Red Rose Radio!! This was well before anyone had heard of Red Nose Day.  Unfortunately things didn't go to plan.   The transmitter was installed on the balcony of a flat in the centre of Southport, and a longwire aerial strung across the car park at the rear.  However, for some reason that day it was not possible to use 954kHz, possibly due to Radio Jackie North appearing around that channel.   At the last minute the oscillator was moved down to 872kHz, not a very good channel, but there wasn't time to adjust it any further.  The programmes were pre-recorded and were transmitted from a van a short distance away via a low power FM link.  Everything appeared to be OK, and everyone went down the pub.  After about an hour we head off in the car to see how the signal was travelling.   Unfortunately we were in for a disappointment.   It was only just managing to cover Southport - not very good for 100 watts!!  We decided to switch off and investigate the problem.  The transmitter was taken away to be looked at, but it was most likely caused by the change in frequency.

To get the station back on the air, the dust was blown off an old 15 watt shortwave transmitter which was converted to run crystal controlled on 1404kHz.  By this time use of the flat in Southport had been lost, and one broadcast was made from flats in Preston using  this low power transmitter.

 

A rather poor photo of the temporary 15 watt transmitter.

Further transmissions were abandonned until a better site was found and the big rig was repaired.  Through a Liverpool musician, use of an empty top floor flat of a tower block in Kirby, was obtained.  He hoped that the station would promote local music, something no other station, legal or otherwise was doing in the area at the time.   By now the crystal for 954kHz had arrived and been fitted to the 100 watt transmitter.  The area around this channel was now clear, and the transmitter was installed in the flat in February 1983.  A 300 foot longwire was strung between the top floor flat, and the balcony of a flat in an adjacent block, above a row of houses in the middle.  

For security reasons  it was decided to still operate an FM link, and this was installed in the same flat as the end of the longwire.  The first test with full power went out on Saturday 5th March 1983 with good results.  It was discovered that the crystal supplied was off-channel, and the oscillator had to be adjusted to get exactly on 954.00kHz.   Full broadcasts began on Sunday 10th April 1983, with Dave Simpson, Bob Lewis, Henry Henderson, Buzz Carter and Dawn.   (Robin Ross never appeared on the station after the Southport broadcast as he went across to Ireland to work on ABC Radio in Tramore, and Sunshine Radio in Dublin, before eventually appearing on Radio Caroline as it began tests in August 1983.)  The whole idea of KGW was to be an 'alternative' station.   One thing which was very rarely played on KGW was chart music, as programme wise, Dave spun the oldies interspersed with free radio information, whilst  Bob Lewis played  lp tracks with oldies.   Henry Henderson's show had to be listened to in full to be appreciated, as he mixed comedy clips, his own humour and alternative music for his two hours.  Henry  produced probably the most entertaining shows on any free radio station, and legal station also, and a lot of time must have gone into his shows.   Buzz Carter  promoted new bands and also played jazz, blues and rock. 

Finally Dawn was into her alternative music and punk rock.   During that first broadcast arcing began to occur on the pi-tank at peak modulation, and on further transmissions anti corona spray  had to used to try and reduce this.  An audio compressor may have cured the problem, but in the meantime a pair of higher voltage tuning capacitors were obtained, although these were never fitted as the owner of the transmitter decided he needed it back.  And so KGW was without a transmitter once again.
 

An offer was made of a high power transmitter from a company who were about to begin production of 1kW units for export.   But due to hassel from the authorities this never materialised.  At this point it was decided to built a new one.  Diagrams were obtained from a radio amateur, and the construction began.  The RF section consisted of 807's and the modulator was to be transistorised.

 

 

The RF section of the new 120 watt transmitter during construction,
as tuned for 954kHz, viewed from front to back.

The finished product was mounted on two chassis'.   The RF section was housed in its own enclosed case complete with cooling fans and the power supply on another.  By the time the the transmitter was ready, Radio Jackie North was operating on 945kHz and 963kHz and would have caused problems to 954kHz.  Also, Radio Caroline had just dropped anchor off Essex and was about to start testing on 963kHz.  Radio Leinster had not been heard since May 1983 following the Dublin raids, so it was decided to use their former channel of 738kHz, announcing it as 399metres.  A crystal was ordered and transmitter altered to operate on this lower frequency.  Everything was finally ready towards the end of the year.  The modulation initially suggested meant that the audio was not very high, so it was  back to using anode modulation.  Although the RF output from the transmitter was excellent, the station was dogged with modulation problems.  It was never able to obtain a suitable modulation transformer, and as a result most transmissions sounded rather harsh, as the transformers used would not give a full audio frequency range or handle the power.  KGW came back on the air on 738kHz in December 1983 and broadcast intermittently until April 1984.  It was at this point that Radio Nova in Dublin decided to move to 738kHz  with its 50kW transmitter.  The station only broadcast once after this, when Buzz Carter  switched on the rig to re-broadcast a local rock concert, unaware that  Nova was also on the channel.  At the time, Chris Cary was in Lancashire monitoring his new channel,  and thought someone was jamming his signal!!

Unfortunately KGW never returned, which was a shame, as the programmes were so different to any that were being broadcast on other 'pirates' at the time.   The transmitter was removed during the Summer of 1984 and given to Weekend Music Radio in Scotland, where eventually with a new modulator it was used during the late 1980's to broadcast across Europe on shortwave.

 

Two more views of the 738kHz rig. 
Above, as it was being tested on dummy load, and below, during its construction.

Below shows the rear of the RF unit.

 

March 1983 This clip features Dawn hosting the first anonymous test transmission from Saturday 5th April 1983 on 954kHz using the original 100 watt transmitter. The records she played gave an idea as to the alternative music which was to be played on this station. Recorded in Kirby. (File Size = 275k)
April 1983 An extract from the 1st day of broadcast on Sunday 10th April 1983, again from 954kHz.  Dave Simpson runs down the days broadcast, and is followed by Bob Lewis. Recorded in the car, around 10 miles from the tx site.  (File size = 760k)
Christmas Day 1983 The return to the air of the station on the new channel of 738kHz.  Tests were carried out the previous day, but this is the full return.  Dave Simpson starts up the station, followed by Bob Lewis, Henry Henderson, Buzz Carter and Dawn. This was a bad day to start transmissions as the foreign station  from Poland was extremely strong, causing severe interference. Recorded near Blackpool. (File Size = 1075k)
January 1984 Probably the clearest extracts on this page, from various shows on 7th January 1984.  Recorded around Liverpool. The modulation quality had improved by this time, although it didn't last long as the transformer overheated. (File Size = 1025k)
April  1984 On this clip hear part of the Henry Henderson show on 6th April 1983, and was actually a repeat of the 7th January show.  This was one of the final transmissons on 738kHz prior to Radio Nova moving to this channel.  Recorded near Blackpool, some 25 miles from the tx site.  (File size = 820k)

 

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