In Memory of Tom Taylor (Barry Stephens)
This article is in memory of the late Tom Taylor, one of FRS-Holland’s inspirers and at the same time indispensable in the early years. It was posted not long after Tom's death back in January 2018.
A Free Radio station, starting in 1976, surviving the 20th century and still being active in 2017, thát is unique. It says it all about the person behind the station I’m referring at: Tom Taylor.
A passionate Free Radio enthusiast whose brainchild European Music Radio served so many listeners with ‘Sunday entertainment’ on short wave. For many older SW listeners the name Barry Stephens will perhaps sound more familiar. With great sadness I was informed about Tom passing away at the age of 63 on Monday January 22nd 2018. As a long time radio friend I feel the need to share some of my personal memories…in Memory of Tom Taylor and E.M.R.
When I first started having interest in short wave Free Radio it was 1978. After purchasing my first communications receiver, E.M.R. was one of the very first SW pirates I monitored. My first E.M.R. QSL (as far as I know) dates back to November 19th 1978. In those days E.M.R was pure magic for me…the station provided good & clear reception and had a varied, unique programme schedule including former R.N.I.’s World Service presenter AJ Beirens (Carte Blanche & E.M.R. DX), an International Service ánd Roger Tate who did a great job in the Mail Box programme. Looking into my collection of E.M.R memorabilia- letters, stickers, info sheets including the well known E.M.R. sticker ‘Broadcasting from Europe to Europe’- brings back fond memories. Following a number of letter exchanges, Tom asked me to do the Dutch service on E.M.R. as part of the International Service early 1979. Shortly after, it was the first time I visited Tom in London. We would meet up on Liverpool Street Station. Tom drove me to his home at Colliers Wood, SW London where he lived with his parents, both being very sweet and caring, truly supporting Tom in running E.M.R. even though they knew it was illegal. From that moment onwards Tom and I developed a close friendship with our mutual interest in SW Free Radio. Tom happened to be a calm, very friendly and helpful person with much passion for Free Radio on SW by means of E.M.R., the station he founded in 1976. He showed me interesting spots like Radio Jackie's main transmitting location, the station he once worked for in the very early 1970s. In his three wheeler Reliant Robin we went to shops on Tottenham Court Road where you could buy all sort of spare parts for building transmitters. And instead of writing letters, Tom introduced the ‘audio letter’ which was completely new to me. A very practical way in exchanging lots of information. Mid 1979 I intended to start my own SW station: Free Radio Service Holland. Without Tom’s indespensible help, FRSH would have never ever made it on the airwaves. He was the one teaching me how to run a SW Free Radio station giving all sorts of practical tips.
In September 1979 Tom stayed a few days at my mum’s home and most importantly: he then built FRS’ first 10W 807 rig and constructed a 48 mb aerial including a balun. Early 1980 during my second visit to London, Tom introduced me to Roger Tate (Bob Tomalski) who was a familiar name in the London landbased Free Radio scene (Radio Invicta London). The first set of FRS IDs were recorded in Roger’s studio, it was Tom’s idea to ask Roger for that job. I was both delighted with the recording results and very much impressed: what a fantastic studio Roger owned. On that occasion I went with Tom on a monthly E.M.R. broadcast. Very early on a Sunday morning I recall…a 90 minute drive to a lonely hill side somewhere in the greater London area. That day Tom showed me how a broadcast on a field site had to be carried out.
August 31st 1980 saw the start of FRSH including Tom’s involvement presenting the English Service. In fact it was him presenting the first ever official FRS show on that final August Sunday back in 1980. E.M.R. went from strength to strength every 3rd Sunday and FRS followed one week later on a 4th Sunday. We exchanged DX News on a monthly basis (on cassette) and Tom supplied me with monthly news about London’s very lively and professional landbased scene adding many AM & FM recordings on the audio letter cassettes.
We often phoned…every month when I returned from the FRS site after firing up the transmitter(s), Tom would call me at approx. 10:15 CET to give a live report. Tom let me hear FRS loud and clear from his Eddystone receiver through the phone. Absolutely amazing… Typically Tom: always supportive, showing interest in FRS’ broadcasts. Tom’s technical skills- building solid transmitters- and giving good advice were of great value: one very important lesson he taught me was to put out the modulation as loud as possible. He used to say to me the audio had to be distorted at the transmitting site with ‘hissy sidebands’ meaning that it had to splash, cutting the noise. Very useful! A louder modulation was achieved by using the loudspeaker output of the cassette machine instead of using the normal DIN output. A simple yet very effective adjustment!
The fact E.M.R. received monthly thick piles of letters throughout the famous Kent Place address proved it was a leading and popular station. Leading also in a different way: (as far as I know) E.M.R.was the first ever SW Free Radio station introducing a second (41 mb) service on 7325 kHz in September 1978. And: just over a year later E.M.R. came up with tests to North America resulting in reports from the U.S.A. and Canada!
October 19th 1980 was a black day for Tom and all others at E.M.R.: E.M.R. was raided! I remember very well Tom calling me a few hours after the raid being very embittered. He realized this could be the end of how E.M.R. was operated until then and almost immediately decided not to continue with a full monthly 3rd Sunday service. Instead he and I agreed FRS would put out E.M.R. every 3rd Sunday between 09:30- 10:30 CET prior to FRS’ regular programmes. That would continue until February 1981. After that E.M.R. moved on for two hours on 5th Sundays only.
It was December 1980, not long after the raid, that Tom visted me taking with him two 10W SW rigs. We went together to the FRS site on December 14th carrying out a very first test on two frequencies in parallel. From that moment, thanks to Tom, FRS could be heard on two frequencies: 6250 and 7315!
Sunday February 15th was a rather sad day for many dedicated SW listeners. European Music Radio, the legendary UK SW hobby pirate, made its final regular 3rd Sunday transmission. More than a 100 letters poured in! I was very happy that day E.M.R.'s signals got out very well on 6250//7315 kHz from our site. And Tom was happy as well! It would be the last time he used the Kent Place address. Since Tom had always been so helpful and cooperative, FRSH was more than happy to have been doing something in return.
E.M.R. would continue until June 12th 1983. That day saw the worthy end of one of the best Free Radio stations ever been on the SW bands. The end of a legend. At least...for the time being! There’s an interesting anecdote about this final broadcast (1983-page 2) originally planned on May 29th.
Following E.M.R.’s closure, Tom continued on FRS until July 1985. He then sent me a lot of E.M.R.’s original programme cassettes.
I was very honoured he asked me to be his ‘best man’ at his wedding in August 1983. Tom’s interest in SW free radio remained but in the later 1980s the level of our contacts reduced. My guess is that private circumstances were causing this. Time went on and it even seemed Tom had lost interest in radio (which I think was certainly nót the case).
In February 1996 Tom unexpectedly returned within the SW free radio scene with a self-constructed 180W transmitter still being illegally! From that moment onwards our contact was intensified. Tom told me he was determined to bring back E.M.R. on a regular basis. And so he did though mostly for a maximum of 2 hours per broadcast!
In 2001 Tom rejoined the FRS ranks for 9 months using the name Steven Reath. Early 2002 he told me he would fully concentrate on E.M.R. November 2002 marked the start of legal transmissions via numerous (mainly European) outlets including the IRRS, Ulbroka Latvia (100 kW!), Wertachtal and MV Baltic Radio in Germany (among others). Tom was very proud with the celebration of E.M.R.’s 30th Anniversary in April 2006. E.M.R. continued on 3rd Sundays for most of the year- just like in the old days- with mostly two presenters being Tom, now using his real name on air (since E.M.R.’s legal broadcasts), Mike Taylor (until 2015) and Tony Curry (until 2017).
E.M.R.’s 40th Anniversary took place a few years ago in 2016. A milestone!
In May 2017, just returning from a short vacation, I received a short message in which Tom informed the E.M.R. listeners:
Due to personal reasons EMR will be back on the air sometime later this year.
All the best! Tom
Perhaps strange but for one reason or another that message rung some alarm bells with me. Unfortunately I was right. I asked Tom what was going on. He had no good news for me: “I have been diagnosed with Lymphoma cancer and will be having chemotherapy for the next 6 months. My Chemo started last Thursday and will continue until late September. Lymphoma cancer can not be cured but can be controlled over time. EMR will be back on the air sometime later this year with some luck. “
The last sentence proves Tom’s positivism, something he always carried. Tom thought that he would win his battle and return with E.M.R. at some point in 2018.
Our contact intensified and Tom kept me up-to-date with his situation. Things looked good and on September 17th 2017 Tom planned a further E.M.R. broadcast. Without knowing then, it would be the very final one… Tom was the kind of person always quickly replying to mails. When I didn’t receive any reply on various mails I sent in November & December, I feared the worst. I was só happy to get a message on January 6th. But after all reading, I felt very bad. Tom told me he had been in hospital for several weeks and added he had 3 more chemo weeks to go starting on the 15th January. Still hope. “Then we will see what happens with me.” I replied: “May I wish you just everything you need to keep on going in 2018. Moving on without too much suffering and living a decent life!”. His final very short answer arrived the next day: “It is very hard, thank you N. “. When again receiving no reply on a mail sent a little while later, I once again got very worried. The rest is history…
A warm personality, true radio friend, short wave pioneer ánd legend is no more. Tom, thank you so much for all. We will miss you ánd E.M.R. But foremost: we’ll cherish all memories and never ever forget you.
Peter Verbruggen, Friday February 2nd 2018, 14:35 hours CET
Here you can download a number of E.M.R. Infosheets from different years: