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Radio Atlanta - History

In 1960 an Australian  ex-wartime bomber pilot and music publisher, Allan Crawford, eAllan Crawfordstablished a business in London managing minor artists and producing cover versions of hit songs on his own record labels.

Crawford had, until 1959, worked both in Britain and Australia as Managing Director of a music publishing company - Southern Music - before leaving to establish his own business, Merit Music Publishing Ltd. which produced records on labels including  Rocket, Sabre, Crossbow and Carnival.  

It was into this environment that Allan Crawford launched his own music publishing business. Crawford's business philosophy was simple if a little naive, he thought that increased record sales, and consequently Top 20 chart listings, could best be achieved by repeatedly promoting artists and labels to the largest possible audience

Frustrated by the monopoly controls exercised by  the established broadcasters Allan Crawford decided, in keeping with his own business philosophy, that  if he started a radio station of his own he would have the means to endlessly promote his record labels and artists to a large audience.

Crawford set about convincing  a number of wealthy and influential backers of the commercial potential for launching a radio station to challenge the BBC monopoly. The result was the formation of Project Atlanta Ltd., which initially had 38 separate investors each holding anything between just 50 and 10,000 of the company's 150,000 £1 shares.

By early summer 1962 Allan Crawford was aware that the Scandinavian offshore stations (with the exception of Radio Syd) were about to close because of new legislation coming into effect at the beginning of August to outlaw them. Crawford had closely followed events surrounding these Scandinavian stations and he negotiated a deal with the American backers of Radio Nord to purchase that station's vessel, Magda Maria, complete and ready to broadcast, together with the entire contents of the fully equipped land-based studios in Stockholm. In addition Crawford was interested in taking on some of the Radio Nord technical staff and marine crew to continue running the Magda Maria and all its equipment. The prospect of this sale to Project Atlanta had, in part, led to the early closure of Radio Nord - in June 1962 rather than at the end of July when the Scandinavian legislation came into effect.

As a result of this deal providing a ready-made, fully equipped ship-borne radio station the backers of Project Atlanta could dispense with the original plan to fit out their own ship which, it had always been recognised from the Scandinavian and Dutch stations' experience, would be fraught with legal difficulties and technical problems.

Bob Thompson (one of the American backers of Radio Nord) and Allan Crawford reached a preliminary agreement for the purchase by Project Atlanta of the Magda Maria and all the associated radio equipment and even agreed a delivery date for the ship to drop anchor in the Thames Estuary. But before anchoring off the British coast it was agreed that the Magda Maria would go into port for a complete technical and marine overhaul.

Even before Radio Nord had closed rumours of the sale of the Magda Maria started to circulate in Sweden during the early part of June 1962 and the station's owners became very nervous that the authorities would attempt in some way to seize the vessel, possibly if she sailed through the narrow channel between Sweden and Denmark. These fears proved unfounded, however, because after lying at anchor for a few days following Radio Nord's closure, the Magda Maria successfully slipped away from Scandinavian waters sailing quietly through The Oresund and into the international waters of the North Sea.

The Magda Maria docked at El Ferrol in northern Spain on 2nd August 1962 where a complete overhaul of the vessel took place as part of the agreement with Project Atlanta. The renovated ship left El Ferrol on 14th September 1962, giving her destination as Dover, England and a few days later she dropped anchor, as agreed, in the Thames Estuary.

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Allan Crawford


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