1942 - 2021
We often look at the careers of the offshore radio deejays, but equally important are those who worked behind the scenes, to keep things running smoothly. One of the latter is Freddie Ryder, who worked as a studio engineer at Caroline House in the 1960’s.
Freddie – real name Freddie Self, sadly passed away on 22nd January 2021, after suffering from Parkinsons Disease. Our condolences go to his family and friends. Back in 2001, Chris Edwards met Freddie, and asked how he got involved with Caroline...
Well I’m a Liverpudlian, born and bred.
I first got involved in performing music when I was an apprentice electrical engineer. I used to walk around singing, and there was a guy there who said, “Do us a favour, you sing all the songs, could you write down some of the words of the songs for me, because I don’t know the words and we’ve got this gig we’ve got to do.” So I said okay. I wrote them, and Friday night he said, “Listen, I haven’t had a chance to learn these songs. Would you come down to the gig and just coach me in the band room and get me to sing the right words”. So I went along and he said “I can’t remember them. Just this once, do me favour. Will you just come on stage and sing us the songs for the night”. So I did - I was very very nervous, and I was with that band for three years. And then I gave it up.
What were they called?
They were a band called ‘The Bobby Bell Rockers’. The line-up was like Freddie Bell and the Bell Boys - a stand-up drummer with just a snare drum, and just a straight, across the stage line-up. Then I was reading a local paper, asking for someone to join a band as a lead singer - and they were a band in Liverpool that had been called ‘The Beachcombers’. And with me they became ‘The Beatcombers’ - and we did quite well. We played The Cavern - everybody says they know where they were the night Kennedy was assassinated - well we played The Cavern. That was 22nd November 1963. So that was how I got into music first of all.
After a big hiatus with our local Liverpool manager, we came down to London, and we worked Brads Club, just off Jermyn Street, Duke of York Street - and that was a very swishy night club, and we were very successful there. In the meantime we’d done auditions for The Star Club, and we went over there for a month and came back a nice tight rock ‘n roll band. We were doing very well until some thieves came along and stole all our gear. And that was goodbye band, and that’s when I started to do things solo. One of the first things I did was I auditioned and got the job to be Cliff Richard’s understudy at the Palladium in the Aladdin panto. So I trod the boards for six months.
Was that under your own name or another name?
That was under my real name, because Ryder isn’t my real name - Self is my real name. It came about because we ran a competition, a publicity thing, because somebody said you should change your name - everybody was changing their name. So we ran this competition, and the replies that were coming in - they were all addressed to the wrong name anyway. So we changed our name - and we changed it to Ryder, because my recording manager Mike Walker was married to a woman called Jean Ryder of The Breakaways. So we adopted that name, and with Mike Walker I started recording proper. There was a company called HEK Enterprises who had Ashton, Gardner and Dyke and Deep Purple. Do you recall the Record Man Stores? The guy who owned it, whose name I sadly forget, got me recording at Mercury. And we made one record that was written by the guy who was writing for Billy Fury at the time - and that was the only record I ever did under my real name, apart from with the band. Then Mike Walker moved in as head of A & R, and we started to record with him, doing a number of titles - some of them quite successful. We got airtime plays - we got like number one in Zermatt and things like this. Real exciting stuff!
When did Caroline come along?
It was after our stuff was all stolen, and I was looking for a job. My first wife, before we were married, a friend of hers, who was a cameraman at night, and during the day he already worked at Radio Caroline. I went in and saw him and he said, “Yeah okay, this is what we have to do” - and I got a quick lesson in how to dub commercials. I went up and saw the boss Allan Crawford. He asked me a few questions and I got the job. It was when Gerry Duncan, who was the Production Manager then, when he left and went onto other things, that I inherited his position within the hierarchy of Caroline. I did that until the Marine Offences Act, and all at the same time we were recording songs, but nothing very successful. Then Mike Walker left Mercury Records, went to EMI, and one night we went out, and one of our circle of friends was Dermot Harris, Richard Harris’ brother. We were down at the garden flat which they were living in up Pond Street, and Richard came up to me and said, “I’ve got an album here - all Jimmy Webb songs, and it’s by the Fifth Dimension, and there’s a great song on it for you called ‘The Worst That Could Happen’ “. It was a terrific song; we made a good record of it - it was released in the UK. I asked the people at EMI the non-promotion department if they would release it in the States. They wouldn’t, and Brooklyn Bridge came along, and they did and they got it to number 3. That was the last single I made.
When you first joined Caroline who else was there at the time?
At Caroline House, in the engineering department, there was Martin Newton, Jeff Brown; Gerry Duncan was the Production Manager there before me. Bill Hearne - he used to do the Cash Casino programmes. Terry Bate and Al Slate from Toronto - they were the sales force. There were the Duggan brothers. Then we had the traffic department, Arthur Peltray was the head of that - he was a South African. Too many names to remember out of that traffic department. Carolyn Irvine, she was in the record library with Frances van Staden, the lady who looked after it. And upstairs you had people like Ralph von Brunswick - he was a photographer who operated on the top floor.
Frances van Staden
What was your main job at Caroline House?
My first job was copying the commercials. We used to have master commercials and we’d dub them onto a master reel - one for each ship. So we’d take the master commercials and assemble them in a tape for the day..
Would you record them yourselves or were they from agencies?
A lot of them came from agencies. Towards the end, in the last six months of Caroline, prior to the Marine Offences Act, the Duggan brothers were out selling. They would sell the airtime first and then they would sell the facilities. So these commercials would go out to the boat - some of them were agency commercials, some of them were ours. The guy who used to be the drummer with my band, he also used to run the dubbing chain for the North ship, and I used to run the dubbing chain for the South ship, before I took Gerry’s job. Gerry was then producing the competition shows - we had Cash Casino and Partners In Profit. Colin Berry used to work for the traffic department, and he desperately wanted to be a presenter. He talked them into letting him do this show Partners In Profit, and it was as good as any of the other shows. He’s now a link man / presenter at BBC Radio 2s, so he got where he wanted to go.
Were many shows recorded at Caroline House?
Well, the studios were tiny - the actual control room would be about six foot square, and the voice booth would be not much bigger. They were sound acoustically, but you couldn’t get many people in there. When the agencies came along and we were recording commercials, there was no room for them in there - they would stand behind the door. It was very spartan conditions, but they had nothing to judge it by - we were producing the commercials and the shows, and they would just get copy. The religious programmes and the Jack Spector shows would come in ‘ready canned’. The Jack Spector show came in on nasty acetate tape that used to snap very easily. We would get one copy in and I would high-speed copy it and then that would go off to the ships. They used to come in batches from WMCA in New York. Then come the Marine Offences Act, Ronan said to us, “I have the answer lads. All we do is we hand in our passports, and we give up our citizenship”. I said, “Not for £25 a week, Ronan”.
What sort of equipment did you have in the studio?
We had two console machines on castors, two Garrard 301 decks with SME arms and we had a little mixer with rotary faders. A man called Pete Postumous, who was a BBC engineer who operated out of Bush House - he built us a little patch panel, so that we could have any arrangement of decks, microphones, spot master machines or the main standby machine. You could patch them all with little GPO switches, and it kept the EQ and the loading so that we didn’t have any problems with levels - we could literally just switch them in. Then we had one huge AKG ribbon microphone for the voiceover. And that was just one microphone - we didn’t have one in control. The window in between the studio and the control room was only about 3 feet away from either of us, so it was all done on visual cues. There was one spotmaster record, one spotmaster playback, the first mixer with the rotary faders, the patch panel, the two Garrard decks, and that was it and a chair to sit on. Terry Bate and I were going to make an offer to buy the stuff and set up a little recording studio and do jingles with Gerry Marsden. But the engineering department took it over to Holland. The stuff wasn’t available so we didn’t continue with the venture.
What would a typical day be like?
We would get in the office at 9 or 9.30, do the first set of dubbings, and then produce what shows were ready, because Bill Hearn used to have stacks and stacks of mail. We had a room which was absolutely totally filled with sacks of mail, and he would have to script that and pull envelopes from the pile. We’d have to arrange songs and get the thing done. Then lunchtime down to Shepherds Market or round to the Red Lion with whoever the jocks were who were in. Then in the evening it would be on to record company receptions again with the jocks. They were a great entree to any of the clubs and all the record company functions. You just had to say you were from Radio Caroline and you were in, no problem. But not such a thing as a typical day. The copying of the commercials, the running of the dubbing chains was a very mundane engineering job really. It was only when you got a chance to be inventive and produce commercials - what I used to do was take all the effects and assemble them on a broadcast cartridge. Then when the voiceover came in you would just push the button and put your effects in music underneath. That’s how I first learned my production techniques at Caroline.
Radio Caroline North mail
Did you script the commercials yourselves?
We used to script some of them ourselves, but some of them used to come in with the agencies with the account executives, and they would bring the whole thing. They would have their idea how they wanted it done, and they usually found they would have to tailor what they wanted with what they could have, because the equipment we had was minimal. We used to do stuff for J. Walter Thompson quite a bit because they were just round in Berkeley Square, so they could just walk round and do their stuff.
Did you get involved with the North ship at all from London?
That was serviced from Caroline House just the same. Tony Prince was on the North ship, then he came south. There was a little bit of rivalry between the two ships as to who was the best, or whether they got serviced properly - but I didn’t get involved in that. That was for other people to worry about - the personnel department.
What happened towards the end of Caroline?
I was there till the last day, most of us were. I went straight off doing independent sound productions. I couldn’t see the point of hanging around - we were out and there was nothing we could do about it.
What have you been doing since Caroline?
The only recording I’ve done is some demos for Mike Walker. He had a contract for somebody to write some songs, and I did some demos for him the guy who used to be the bass player with Mud - he had a little studio in his house in Langley Vale, near Epsom. I went into fashion publicity and I was doing that for 12 or 13 years. Then I knocked that on the head and went back into radio on the engineering side, and started building studios and putting radio and TV stations together, and we’re still doing that today. We call ourselves Broadcasting Communications Systems and have a number of close associates, one of which is ex Caroline - that’s Robin Adcroft. We’ve got people from Cable & Wireless and the BBC - there’s a whole bunch of us.
The Freddie Ryder interview originally appeared in Offshore Echo’s magazine 125 from March 2002. The interview by Chris Edwards, was recorded at Freddie’s home in Barking Essex, with magazine transcript by Richard Worswick.
The above is an edited version. The full version is available in the website subscribers section HERE.
© 2021 Offshore Echo’s magazine.
A tribute page from Freddie’s family, and for donations to the Cure Parkinson Trust, in his memory is at:Freddie Ryder - Man of The Moment 1942 - 2021 (muchloved.com)