County Sound Radio
Onto part 2 of my "May The 4th" special and County Sound Radio, the station broadcasting to Surrey and Hampshire where the concept first began over
40 years ago.
By the early 80s it had become a reality and with Frank Muir as one of the backers of the station they began broadcasting on the 4th of April 1983 where the first voice was Frank Muir himself who was brought on as a guest.
Presenters at the time included Paul Owens who was previously at Devonair, the late Simon Cummings, and Sarah Lucas who progressed to Classic FM.
Mike Powell was the station's head of news and presented their extended news programme "County World" on weekday evenings.
The station had it's own theme song which was written by Les Reed who amongst his resume also wrote "Delilah" by Tom Jones and "The Last Waltz" by Engelbert Humperdink.
The original jingles have been hard to get hold of but a few of them can be heard in this selection of airchecks from 1983, including a few by The Swingle Singers who also did a few of the early "194" jingles for Capital Radio.
A year later, Mike Powell had taken over as the Programme Director and being a big radio and jingle fan decided to go over to Alfasound in Manchester for the station's next jingle package where they brought along Les Reed to help them out with jingles based around his established signature tune.
The result can be heard below in the demo from the original Alfasound collector tapes and the enthusiasm of Powell helped to emphasise that this was only the beginning of some of the best jingles on UK commercial radio.
1984 Demo - Alfasound
Two years later Mike had become the MD of County Sound and the station had become one of the first to implement the RCS Selector computer system into their operation to select the music played.
Of course back in 1986 the music was still played off of vinyl and compact discs and the on screen display looked very basic.
Also around this time County Sound moved on FM from 96.6 to 96.4.
The progression continued with the station's first US sung package consiting of Alfasound tracks with Dallas vocals recorded at the Strawberry Studios.
The slightly passe audio quality doesn't really do the tracks justice but they remain one of my favourite custom packages from Alfasound with really lovely vocals and orchestration.
Especially on the fast to slow transition jingles.
1986 Jingles - Alfasound
There was also another version of the station's theme and just for a change
I thought it would be good to have a solo version from top jingle vocalist
In addition to the above cuts, a series of Doc Morgan liners were recorded and here's the session itself.
In 1988 County Sound became the first independent local radio station in the South Of England to split frequencies on AM and FM with FM promoted as "The Premier FM" and AM as "The Gold AM" although the jingles announced the station as County Sound Gold.
During the day the stations broadcast seperate output but in the evenings and overnight they broadcast together using the 1986 package.
Onto the jingles themselves and on AM they brought back some of the vintage PAMS jingles that had been used on the pirates Radio London and Radio England back in the 60s. Some of the cuts such as the news and weather intros had also been redone by Alfasound although how they decided which ones were used on air, I've never been too sure.
County Sound Gold 1988 Jingles - Alfasound/PAMS
Amongst the PAMS cuts was a resing of the "Sonowaltz" which can be heard towards the end although the station also recieved a rather naughty version designed to have a dig at their rival Capital Gold which around this time had started broadcasting on AM at weekends only.
County Sound Premier were using resings of the 1986 package with the new station name, as well as some new cuts containing hints of the PAMS jingles with some rather nice presenter IDs.
One of them I've included in the selection below happens to be Jamie Crick, who's now doing well at Classic FM and Gaydar.
County Sound Premier FM 1988 Jingles - Alfasound
A snapshot of that era with Mark Chivers can be heard here.
Also from this time, Mike Powell commissioned Alfasound and TM to produce
a special "Thank You Song" for the staff, advertisers and listeners.
The song was originally written for KVIL in Dallas but when Mike Powell heard it, he knew that it had to be brought for the Guildford based station.
Even TVS got a mention in the song although County Sound served an area where the majority were more likely to receive Thames/LWT.
In 1989 Alfasound began selling JAM jingles and Mike Powell was quick to act by commisioning a new set of jingles for County Sound Premier resung from JAM's "The Only One" package originally written for WNBC in New York.
This has to be one of the station's strongest and most memorable packages which worked perfectly in terms of fitting the "Premier Radio" name into the WNBC logo.
County Sound Premier Radio 1989 Jingles - Alfasound/JAM Creative Productions
The jingles were also adapted to replace the 1986 jingles on the night time service on both stations and there was also a special version of the station theme which made use of both the Premier and Gold melody logos throughout.
And here are the County Sound versions of the Premier jingles.
County Sound 1989 Jingles - Alfasound/JAM Creative Productions
Also during this time, a new station launched in the Haslemere area providing a more formal service to County Sound under the name of Delta Radio.
The jingles were a resing of Alfasound's package for the defunct Centre Radio in Leicester with JAM vocals.
Delta Radio 1989 Jingles - Alfasound/JAM Creative Productions
On AM it wasn't going well as Ocean Sound in Portsmouth kicked up a fuss with County Sound over who had the right to use the name "The Gold AM".
This resulted in County Sound changing the name of it's AM station to
"First Gold Radio" which meant more jingles which consisted of those from the previous Gold package along with a few others including ones that had been used on Radio 1 on it's launch including the one at the beginning of the selection below.
First Gold Radio 1990 Jingles - Alfasound/PAMS
As mentioned in the previous post, Radio Mercury had acquired County Sound in 1991 and relaunch saw County Sound Premier and Delta rebranded as Radio Mercury, whilst County Sound on AM changed it format and jingles to a resing of TM Century's "Classic Oldies" and "Good Time Classics" packages which were actually pretty good in comparison to the station itself.
The new tagline was "Good Company".
County Sound 1992 Jingles - TM Century
Mike Powell left the station when the merger took place and took his radio ventures to other parts of the country, with the launch of Pirate FM in Cornwall
in Spring 1992.
The jingles were once again by JAM and consisted mainly of resings from the Q95 packages, as well as a very catchy station song towards the end which many jingle fans have ended up singing in London town on pub meets.
Pirate FM 1992 Jingles - JAM Creative Productions
Many jingle fans who own the Alfasound ILR CD with the Pirate FM demo on their will be familiar with the bizarre mixout of Right On Q cut 15 which ends with "#In Buffalo" for some unexplained reason.
The real reason was that Jon Wolfert at JAM had forgotton to turn off the vocals in the mixdown for a resing of that cut for a station in Buffalo.
In 1993 another station was launched in Slough under the name Star FM which consisted of some delightful resings of the KOST packages as well as a few rare cuts from the KDWB package.
Star FM 1993 Jingles - JAM Creative Productions
There was also yet another superb station song, orginally made back in 1979 for WROR.
However with interference on 101.6 coming from KFM in Tonbridge Star FM relocated to 106.6 and brought in resings of the existing cuts as well as a few more from the newer KOST packages.
Star FM 1995 Demo - JAM Creative Productions
Back in Surrey, Radio Mercury had lost the license to broadcast in Surrey and Hampshire and Mike Powell and the UKRD group got it back, bringing back the original County Sound back to AM and FM in September 1995 as well as Delta Radio on 97.1.
The jingles from "The Only One" returned but as there were only a handful of cuts which had "County Sound Radio" in them, they went to JAM and brought a resing of the similar sounding "Nothing But Class" also done for WNBC and contained a superb top of the hour.
County Sound Radio 1995 Jingles - JAM Creative Productions
The 3 notes at the beginning of the cut were the signature chimes from NBC but as the radio station WNBC had been long gone, Mike took the opportunity to adapt the NBC chimes as the County Sound chimes by postitioning them at the beginning of each station's top of hour news jingle.
However, County Sound on both AM and FM was a short term plan as in 1996 a new station would be launched on FM under the name 96.4 The Eagle.
The station took to the air in January 1996 with breakfast presenter Peter Gordon and the first record being Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" which was also used to launch Fox FM 7 years earlier.
The jingle package has to be one of my favourites from JAM consisting of cuts from Hot KIIS and Turbo Z, as well as the station song which was the slower version of the song used by Pirate FM, originally from the Channel 4 package which was a television station in the states.
96.4 The Eagle 1996 Jingles - JAM Creative Productions
A selection of airchecks featuring overnight "android presenter" Talon can be heard hear with several JAM jingles and a series of rather comforting promos making use of the theme to Star Trek Voyager.
In 1997 over in Berkshire, Star FM brought in a new jingle package resung from "It's Nice" originally for WNIC in Detroit with the station sung as "Wonderful Star FM" to fit in with the WNIC melody logo.
Brekafast presenter Tony James brought a set of additional cuts which for me personally shows what many breakfast shows on UK radio are lacking in terms of presentation, even if these are rather syrupy.
Star FM 1998 Tony James Jingles - JAM Creative Productions
Wey Valley Radio also began using resings of the WNIC jingles that can be heard in this selection of airchecks with the news jingle preceeded by the chimes.
Delta had also dropped it's package after being used on and off for nearly 10 years and replaced it with a resing of JAM's "Totally Kool" but retaining the Delta Radio logo from the previous package.
Delta Radio 1998 Jingles - JAM Creative Productions
Not long after, Delta began broadcasting with their name on Wey Valley's frequencies and both stations started using resings of the WNIC jingles.
Delta FM October 1998 Jingles - JAM Creative Productions
And County Sound itself on 1476 AM had started broadcasting an overnight oldies service and decided to buy some more classic PAMS jingles.
County Sound 1998 Gold Jingles - PAMS/JAM
In the late 90s 96.4 The Eagle decided to give it's sound a refresh and commisioned a resing of the "Z Plus" package by JAM and a an absolutely stunning top of the hour from "Overdrive".
When I was staying on a PGL study weekend in November 2000
(well, there was barely any studying at all) in Hindhead,
I spent an awful lot of time listening to the station and I doubt anyone else from my secondary school could understand my enthusiasm and routine of making sure I had to have my radio switched on at the top of the hour when possible.
I've been trying to grab hold of the package for a long time although a few airchecks can be heard here with quite a lot of appearances of that news intro.
(Hang on, what's that record playing in at 1.29?)
Around this time UKRD had even extended the Eagle brand to Bristol and Cambridge although by 2001 they rebranded to Star.
I even brought my own version from JAM a few years with a hint of Electric 6 in the vocals and whilst I was impressed with it at the time, I find it excrutiating to listen to.
County Sound Radio around this time had moved from 1476 to 1566 and shortly after the move brought a new jingle package resung from JAM's custom package for the Century Radio network in the UK, later demoed for Mix 100.3 in Denver so it could be sold to US stations.
It was all looking good for the FM stations as well as Mike Powell had been working with Steve England in the UK and Jon Wolfert at JAM to produce a custom package for the FM stations including The Eagle, Pirate FM, and KLFM in Norfolk which the group had brought from GWR.
The tagline was "Today's Radio" and featured a contemporary and uptempo set of jingles from what I'd say had to be JAM's best custom package of the decade in terms of taking things to the next level.
Sadly, Mike decided to move elsewhere in 2001 and the miserable old fart who took over decided not to air the package and replaced the exisiting ones with uninspiring sweepers.
And everyone says that radio has an exciting future...
Anyway the package did resurface on Steve England's website and can be heard below.
UKRD 2001 Custom Package (Unused) - JAM Creative Productions
It did find a place on the VOA stations a few years later as the three note County Sound logo fitted in perfectly, and KIMN had the package demoed in 2006 as "And Now" which can be heard via the JAM website.
Last year County Sound celebrated it's 25th anniversary with a special documentary including an interview with Les Reed as to how the station song came about. Definitely worth the listen and in all cases, I'm sure it's a lot more informative than what I've written above.
Thanks to Sean Saunders, Stacey Harris, David Furness, David Barras for the airchecks, Sean Martin, and most importantly Mike Powell for having a hand in some of the best jingles on UK commercial radio.