Mike Ahern: Disc jockey who appeared on Radio Caroline and was in at the start of Radio 1

Wednesday 02 December 2009 01:00
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In the pirate radio days of the 1960s, Mike Ahern was among the UK's leading disc-jockeys, winning favour on both Radio Caroline North and South. But unlike many of the DJs, he did not make a successful transition to BBC Radio 1.

Mike Ahern was born in 1942 in the Liverpool suburb of Waterloo. He was at school with Kenny Everett and he was injured when Everett carelessly threw a brick over a wall and hit him. Ahern acted as compère for events at the Odeon Cinema's Saturday Club in Waterloo and then, in December 1963, he opened the Teenbeat club in a local dance studio. He booked Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, but the club was shut when residents complained of the noise.

Ahern had a succession of day jobs, mostly working in a furniture store, but he preferred his evening work, when he would present shows at local venues for the promoter, Brian Kelly, and also, occasionally, he would work at the Cavern. In 1964, he applied to join the pirate ship Radio Caroline and told them in his CV that he was the best DJ in the world. His audacity won him an audition and then a regular spot on Radio Caroline North. He became very popular and was then moved to Radio Caroline South, where he took over from Keith Skues.

"Mike was a very good choice for the mid-morning show," Skues recalls. "He had excellent presentation and he knew how to pick records." Indeed: his signature tune was the highly distinctive "Buckeye" from Johnny and the Hurricanes. Ahern thought that the recent film, The Boat That Rocked, painted a blissful picture of life on board. They did not have a chef and Ahern was once dismissed, but soon reinstated, for making a bacon sandwich at 10pm. Sometimes, he would leave the boat by climbing down a 40ft rope ladder in a storm.

Coming on shore, Ahern was one of the first presenters of New Faces in 1966 and he was one of the initial DJs at the launch of Radio 1 in September 1967. He co-presented Top Gear with Pete Drummond, and although he performed competently, the BBC decided to stay with one presenter and he became the first Radio 1 DJ to be dismissed.

Ahern moved to Australia and worked successfully on radio stations in Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne. Returning to the UK in 1988, he worked for a number of BBC stations and also for Capital Gold. Earlier this year, he was featured in Johnnie Walker's Radio 2 programme, Pirate BBC Essex.

Spencer Leigh

Michael Ahern, disc jockey: born Liverpool 30 September 1942; married (divorced, two children); died Norwich 5 October 2009.

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