celebrated year of 1984, plans were underway in Texas to
recreate an offshore broadcasting station aimed at a British audience. This venture was both
inspired by, and initially promoted by Don Pierson who became an entrepreneurial maverick operating from his home in the tiny East Texas town of
Eastland, where for a time, he had also served as its mayor.
Twenty years earlier in 1964, Don Pierson launched a broadcasting station aboard a former U.S. minesweeper which anchored off the coast of south-east England to transmit the programs of Wonderful Radio London. This 50,000 watts station was originally designed as a clone of KLIF, a radio station which began life in the Oak Cliff suburb of Dallas, Texas. That station was part of a chain of stations using different formats, and all owned by Gordon McLendon.
In Dallas, McLendon promoted KLIF as his flagship station over which he developed a stye of broadcasting using a mix of 'Top 40' format records; disc jockey personalities and a liberal spinkling of jingles made in association with a Dallas jingle company that he was also involved with. KLIF was just one of the McLendon stations that were copied by many other broadcasters. This included BBC Radio 1, and BBC Radio 2. However, the immediate impetus causing BBC Radio to absorb this form of broadcasting was Don Pierson. It was Pierson who brought the sound of McLendon's stations to the ears of both British listeners and UK government officers in London. Pierson's original Wonderful Radio London or 'Big L' (mimicking the Dallas slogan of 'Big D'), became the blueprint for BBC Radio One. and Pierson's easy-listening offshore station Britain Radio became the blueprint for BBC Radio Two.
Primarily because of their success, all of the offshore stations were eventually closed down by a British censorship law which starved them of advertising revenue. The real purpose of this law was to preserve the State-controlled British Broadcasting Corporation radio audience, which 'Big L' and other offshore stations had taken away. 'Big L' went off the air in 1967 because Don Pierson and other investors thought that commercial offshore broadcasting to the British Isles was no longer financially feasable. But events that took place in the early 1980s made Pierson rethink his conclusion, and he began to promote a new version of 'Big L', first by a syndicated radio show heard in the USA, and then from a proposed new ship-based radio station.
Following a determined series of attempts to bring-about a relaunching, it eventually became clear that the original decision to close down Wonderful Radio London and the other offshore stations was correct, in that this form of unlicensed broadcasting from the sea was no longer a profitable commercial venture, due to the law passed by the British government some twenty years earlier. That conclusion led associates of Pierson to ask why it was possible to play 'rock and roll' music all day on the air in the USA, but not in the UK (due at that time to legal restrictions imposed by record companies against the unlimited playing of records on the airwaves.)
It was that question which led to the chance discovery of an interesting answer which had been published as a five page article the year after Don Pierson's original Wonderful Radio London signed off for the last time. If the connectivity of background facts that spawned this question was unusual, so was the author of its answer.