Tom Lodge

Tom Lodge (1936-2012 RIP)

 Interview by Roland Beaney.

Back in the 60s "Cowboy, Arctic adventurer and best selling author, Tom Lodge's list of jobs read like a Hollywood casting director's call sheet, add to it the job of Disc Jockey on Caroline North and South and you have proof of the very full and varied life he enjoyed. Tom was born in Forest Green, Surrey, and taken to the USA at the age of 4. After he completed his education in England, when he was 18, he went to Alberta, Canada and became a cowboy. Later he joined up with an American Indian for commercial fishing in the frozen wastes of The Great Slave Lake near the arctic circle. During this adventure his life was saved by a timber wolf he named Mohair Sam. He also experienced near death while drifting alone on a ice flow. Later he returned to England where he wrote his book about these adventures, "Beyond the Great Slave Lake" which became a best seller on both sides of the Atlantic. Then later, after working in a gold mine in Yellowknife, Tom decided to become a Disc Jockey with the Canadian Broadcasting Company, and soon returned to England to work for the CBC as a correspondent. It was at this time that he met Ronan O’Rahilly and joined Radio Caroline. He became programme director and one of the stations top DJs. His grandfather Sir Oliver Lodge was one of the inventors of wireless telegraphy. He has since moved permanently to the other side of the Atlantic but has kept in touch with Caroline ever since".

I was pleased to catch up with him recently to put some questions to him.

1. Where do you live now?

In the Santa Cruz mountains on the central coast of California.

2. Why did you decide to live there?

That was how life unfolded. I was living in Stroud Gloucestershire and I had written a book called “Success Without Goals”. This lead me to being brought over to San Francisco, about once a month, to conduct workshops in awareness. Then one day these people bought a house in order for me to continue doing this work with them in California.

3. What do you do now?

I live in this community in the Santa Cruz mountains called Stillpoint, a Zen community. Here we live simply with vegetable gardens and fruit trees, with two cats and a Redwood forest at the back. We meditate, dance, play, create and live fully. We welcome guests, and from time to time do workshops.

4. Why did you return to Caroline after so long?

Radio Caroline has always been a special treasure in my heart. When I was in England in the 90s I was pleased to be on the ship for a few of the one month RSLs. Then one day, after I had moved to California, I received an email from John Patrick asking me to do a remote show on Caroline. He sent me the program Cool Edit Pro. But at the time it felt like too much work. But then my son, also Tom Lodge, got very excited about the idea of the show, and persuaded me to do it. I said, on one condition, you have to do it with me. Tom had no hesitation, and so we set about putting a Radio Caroline show together.

5. How does it feel to be back on Caroline?

It is a lot of fun. Working with my son who is familiar with more up to date music, and my memories of those great songs from the 60s and the 70s, add up to a lot of musical fun.

6. How did your son get involved with Radio Caroline?

He has been involved with Radio Caroline since he was five years old. Tom was brought up hearing the latest rock music. We always had the most ground breaking music in our home and of course the stories of Radio Caroline were part of his upbringing too. In the end it was Tom who convinced me to actually make the effort to do the shows. Tom now lives in Ontario Canada, on the shore of Lake Erie.

7. Do you still have any contact with Ronan?

Yes, from time to time, we make contact. Ronan has always been one of the very important people in my life. When I was on Radio Caroline, we had a close relationship, and I have always been grateful for his bringing me on to Radio Caroline in April of 1964.

8. What other Radio stations have you worked on?

 My first experience behind the mike on radio, was when I was 19 in Edmonton, Alberta, on CHED. I sang, played my guitar and talked about our used car business, that I and two friends were running. Then three years later while I was working in a gold mine in Yellowknife, North West Territories, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation decided to open a radio station in town and I applied for a job. To my excitement I was hired, and soon I was on the air at CFYK. It was here that my son Tom was born. After one year the CBC asked me to create a new radio station for them in Fort Smith North West Territories. That was fun. Once the radio station was up and running, my longing for England started to grow. So I asked the CBC, if I could be a correspondent for them in London. They agreed. And then after two years with the CBC in London, I met Ronan and joined Radio Caroline. I write about those adventurous times in my book “The Ship That Rocked The World, The Radio Caroline Story”. I also explain what happened in 1967, before the government’s intervention, the situation that arose in Caroline, which lead to my sad departure from Caroline. Soon after that I was offered an on air slot on BBC Radio One. Now remember, I was used to freedom and of a life where radio can be an uplifting adventure. In my bones was the experience of allowing the unbridled creativity to flow. Having a place on the air, where the relationship between the musicians on the record and the deejay behind the microphone, can create an invigorating and fulfilling experience, for the deejay, but especially for the audience. So you can see how the bureaucracy of the BBC was too much for me, and so I boarded a ship and sailed to Canada. In Toronto one of the deejays that I had hired on Caroline, Keith Hampshire, now had a job there on a radio station. He invited me to stay with him, while I looked for a job. After a few weeks, I found myself an opening on a radio station in London, Ontario, called CHLO. This was fun. Again I was on the air, with freedom and an enthusiastic audience, on an evening slot. I worked there for two years until I was hired by a community college in the town, called Fanshawe College. It was there where I started the world’s first training for recording engineers and record producers, a training I named Music Industry Arts.

9. Who is the most famous person you have met?

There have been so many, where to start. John Lennon, Paul McCartney Mick Jagger, Keith Moon, Eric Clapton et al.

10. How did you get involved in Radio?

I describe this in my book “The Ship That Rocked The World”, how I walked into a pub in Chelsea, complained about the music playing on the radio behind the bar, and a fellow chimed up that, that would soon be solved. That was Ronan. I joined with him on the spot.

11. What are your earliest memories of Caroline?

My earliest memories are the first time I went out to Radio Caroline. We were in a small fishing boat in rough seas. The Caroline ship looked very grand, with her tall mast and what I saw as an attitude of defiance. I was excited to be on a ship, on the ocean, on a radio station, on the air. What a gift! These were all my joys rolled into one.

12. Were you ever sea sick?

No. From three years old the sea was in my blood. First the English Channel and then many times across the Atlantic Ocean. And because I was never sea sick, I often had the privilege of doing the show for those deejays that were sea sick.

13. When did you first join Caroline?

At the start of April 1964

14. What is your favourite station other than Caroline?

KAZU, my local radio station.

15. Was there a difference between the music formats of Caroline North and South?

While I was on the North ship the format was my responsibility. And at that time, I don’t know the details, but whatever the format was on the South ship, it didn't touch the hearts of the audience, because they soon lost their audience to Radio London. It was then in 1965 that Radio Caroline South went broke and Ronan took it over from Allan Crawford, and asked me to come down from the North ship and get the audience back from Radio London. I had two conditions with Ronan, first that I could hire all new deejays and second that I would have complete control over the format. My format on both the North ship and the South ship was simply this. I hired deejays who were young, enthusiastic, positive, friendly, loved the current music scene and in fact lived and breathed the music scene. For their shows they were not allowed preparation for their programs. But they were allowed to collect the music that they might want to play, LPs and 45s, and place them all around them in the studio. Then they could only pick the next record when the one before was playing. So they had to be spontaneous and feel their show. But above all they HAD to listen to their own show. It may sound strange, but very few deejays actually are always listening to their own show. Also they had to intro and extro every record. No three in a row. Because we were to remember that the only reason we were on the air was because of the talent of the musicians who had created such great music, and it was very important for us to make sure that our audience knew the name of the group and the name of the song before and after it was played. We were promoting the talent of the day and the audience loved it. Because by August 1966, we had not only beaten Radio London, we had twenty three million listeners. Yes, that format worked.

16. Did you prefer being on the South or the North ships?

I loved them both. My exciting time, in 1964, on the North ship was sailing around the coast of Great Britain and broadcasting all the way, and having the audience flash the sun at us with mirrors in the day and flash their car headlights at us at night. On the South ship being shipwrecked onto the Frinton beach was a great experience. But on both the North and the South ship, the greatest fun of all, was our interaction with the audience.

17. Do you have any funnies you can remember on board?

When Mike Ahern joined us on the North ship, I sent him straight into the studio to do a show without any training, just raw, and he was great. This was how I was trained with the CBC in Canada. And then we were always playing tricks on each other. Sometimes we would chase each other around the ship and up the mast. You have to remember we were just a bunch of young kids, and when we went on the air, Ronan was only 24 years old.

18. What was your most embarrassing moment?

I do not remember being embarrassed. Because I had, had so many near death experiences before I joined Radio Caroline, and had seen so much of the world, I think I was ready for almost anything.

19. What is your favourite sport or hobby?

Playing the flute, hiking, climbing mountains and going to movies.

20. What do you do for relaxation? - Writing. My books are The Ship That Rocked The World, Beyond The Great Slave Lake, Success Without Goals, Footprints in the Snow, The River and the Raven, Enlightenment Guaranteed, Circles and with my life being so much fun, I relax when I sleep.

21. What are your favourite bands?

Gosh, there are so many. The bands I play on my show. I like bands that come from feeling, where they have something to say, either with their words or with their music.

22. What's your favourite meal?

Italian made pasta, with a true Italian source.

23. What are your top 5 favourite tunes?

I don’t have any five, maybe one thousand. And all at the top.

24. What's the best and worst thing about radio today?

The worst is that it is run by machines, by large corporations, by people who are not interested in music but just making a profit, and by deejays who have lost the spirit of rebellion and fun. The best about radio is that anyone can now create a radio station on the Internet. Once again the world is open.

25. What plans have you for the future and what would you like to be doing in 10 years time?

I have no plans. I never have had plans and because I have no plans and no dreams, I am always available to the abundant gifts of each day. I am not locked in by some plan or goal. Even though I have lived for a few ten years and a few ten years and a few ten years, I am always surprised that another ten years has gone by, and they have always been greater than any dream I could have had, if I had dreamt. And so thank goodness that I have never had a thought about what I would be doing in ten years time.

26. When did you last go on board the Ross?

It was in the 90s for those RSL broadcasts. It was either four or five broadcasts. But all of them were a treat to be with the guys on board, with the music, with the continual close support of the audience and then the close quarters of the ship, and always the delightful smell of the ship, the smell of salt, diesel oil and paint.

Tom did his last broadcast on Caroline at Easter 2007. His son also called Tom has now taken over his shows and can be heard on Tuesday between 1pm and 2pm and on Sunday night between 9pm and 11pm. His book, "The ship that rocked the world" can be bought on the Caroline webshop

Sadly Tom passed away in March 2012

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