Special thanks to ThisDayinMuisc.com.
On this day in 1966, rock promoter and pop radio visionary Reg Calvert took his final steps when he entered Major Oliver Smedley’s home. Embroiled in a radio turf war with Smedley, Calvert was gunned down to death by his rival.
For Calvert, one of the greatest wheeler-dealer entrepreneurs of the early U.K. rock and roll era, it was a sad and violent end to a life spent promoting rock music in Britain.
Initially, Calvert trained as a hairdresser, but it was his time running candy stores at fairgrounds that caused him to recognize that rock and roll was the next big thing for youth culture in Britain.
He ran dance halls, put rock and roll bands together and groomed aspiring rock and roll singers with his own stable of artists – often copycat acts like Buddy [Holly, of course] Britain & the Regents, Danny Storm who took off Cliff Richard, and the Everly Brothers clones, the Nevitt Brothers. He looked after his artists, putting them up in one of his houses in Rugby, where they were fed and watered and encouraged to practice every day.
With a reputation for looking after his acts well, more and more new bands and singers sought Reg out and he eventually opened a London agency. One of the first to sign was Screaming Lord Sutch and his band the Savages (who included a young Ritchie Blackmore on guitar). Sutch would become a British institution as founder of the Official Monster Raving Looney Party (all dressed up just like a Union Jack) at numerous U.K. elections from 1983 till his death in 1999.
Sutch, like Calvert, had a knack for public relations and loved a good publicity stunt. Calvert came up with the idea for Sutch to stand for Parliament on a campaign of “Votes for 18 year olds.”
Calvert then, looking ahead as always, decided to get into the radio business and launched Radio Sutch with his most flamboyant artist in May 1964. When Radio Caroline, the famed off-shore station began broadcasting, Calvert and Sutch shifted into overdrive and rented a fishing boat and sailed up the River Thames, calling themselves Radio Sutch.
Reg Calvert then bought the station from Sutch in 1966, named it Radio City, amped up the transmitter power and started to re-broadcast Radio Caroline news as well as music programming from their base near Southend.
Major Oliver Smedley, a chartered accountant from a station called Radio Atlanta, partnered with Reg and promised him a new high-powered transmitter. But then Calvert decided to work with Radio London instead and Smedley wanted his transmitter back. Angered, he sent in a crew of dockers to take over Calvert’s station. The heavies did just that and kicked out the DJs and engineers and locked them out of the studios.
Reg Calvert figured that money would take care of the intruder situation and on the evening of June 21 took a bag of money with him to to see Smedley. The two men got into an altercation and somehow Calvert was shot.
The shooting, and turf war events leading up to it, galvanized those in the British Government opposed to youth culture to criminalize the pirates and they quickly passed the Marine & Etc. Broadcasting Offences Act on August 15, 1967. The act made offshore broadcasting illegal and heralded the golden age of pirate radio in the U.K. But it was short-lived and in the summer of 1967, BBC Radio One was launched, and rock and roll went mainstream.