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18 Sep

Septembre 1966: Boom Boom Brannigan

Publié par Histoire de la Chanson  - Catégories :  #Radios Pirates - Radios offshore


Boom Boom Brannigan When Larry Dean joined “Swinging” Radio England in May 1966, he brought with him a tape of the jingle package from his previous radio station, WPTR Albany New York. These immaculately produced PAMS ident jingles were too good to waste so the Radio England DJs changed their names to fit the jingles. One of them became Johnnie Walker, another became Chuck Blair and, when a young man joined the ship in August 1966, he was given another identity from that same jingle tape, the name of a legendary WPTR broadcaster. He became known as Boom Boom Brannigan. The Pirate Radio Hall Of Fame has been trying to discover his real name for some time. Research by correspondent John England revealed his surname and, in November 2004, we heard from Steve Nelson. Steve knows the answer. Boom Boom Brannigan was really called Robert W Klingeman, known to his friends as Bob. From Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, Bob was born on 17th July 1947 and, although only just 19, had already worked on two US stations in his home state, WFEC in Harrisburg and W100 in Carlisle, before heading for the UK. The Radio England broadcasters were expected to read the news on their sister station Britain Radio (and vice versa) and, as “Boom Boom” was not considered an appropriate name for a news-reader, he was known as “B.B.Brannigan” when on news duty. Boom Boom's former colleague Jack Curtiss tells us that he thinks Boomer also presented a few shows under the name of “Bruce Wayne” to utilise another jingle the station had, part of a Batman package. Boomer stayed with Radio England until almost the very end, leaving the station the day before it closed down in November 1966. Correspondent Steve Nelson has filled us in on what happened next: “When Boomer left Swinging Radio England he went to Roanoke, Virginia and worked at WROV (where Jack Curtiss had been a DJ prior to joining the ship). Boomer had brought with him a copy of Herman's Hermits' No Milk Today and the song was played there as an exclusive. The record company released it in the States and it became a number one record.” (web-master's note: Steve may be referring to a regional chart. The song only reached number 35 on the Billboard national countdown.) At the urging of Marty Shayne, with whom he shared a flat, Boom Boom left WROV after a short time and joined Shayne at rival rock station WPXI, also in Roanoke. He was killed in a motorcycle accident on 4th April 1967 just two blocks from the station. He was sitting on the bike at a stop sign when a lady did not see him. Her vehicle dragged him for about 20 feet. WPXI Operations Manager Perry Woods (in correspondence with Curtiss) has more details. He says that the motorbike had been borrowed from a dealer by David Warf, a DJ on sister station WCFV in Clifton Forge. The disc-jockeys were taking it in turns to try it out. Perry heard about the accident and rushed to the scene. He says that Boomer was still alive when he got there and he remembers holding him. When the medics arrived they took over but, by the time they had put the young DJ into the ambulance, he had died. In April 2012, 45 years after Boomer's death, a group of his former work-mates gathered at the junction of Franklin Road and Highland Avenue in Roanoke, where the accident occurred, to pay tribute to their onetime colleague. There are photos here. Jack Curtiss says “In a way, I think Boomer's life was truly emblematic of sixties pirate radio itself... brash, cocky, bursting with adolescent energy, full of promise.. and cut short way too soon before its time.” (Many thanks to Jack, Errol Bruce, Ron O'Quinn, John England, Perry Woods and Steve Nelson who all helped in the compilation of this biography. Steve has also kindly sent this press cutting from a Roanoke newspaper reporting Boomer's death and Jack Curtiss has contributed a photo of Boomer from his time on WPXI.)

click to hear audio “Uncle Boomer” on The BB Spree from “Swinging” Radio England one Sunday lunchtime in September 1966. By this stage in the station's life each Sunday was a Sold Gold Sunday - every record played was an oldie. Two people have provided us with copies of the same programme. Many thanks to both Martyn Webster and Stuart Russell (duration 2 minutes 44 seconds)


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