Dubai Radio as it used to be 1960s
Dubai did not have any English language public radio in the 1960s but Sharjah did! UK's Royal Air Force had operated an air base at Sharjah since the beginning of World War 2. Their camp facilities included a cinema, swimming pool, squash courts and a radio station run by Royal Air Force personnel on a voluntary basis. Sharjah's Forces Radio Station was powerful enough to reach Dubai and provided listening pleasure for Dubai's small but growing English speaking Expatriate Community. Sharjah Forces Radio Station continued to broadcast until the RAF base closed down in 1971.
Adrian Hanna recalls being a part-time Radio Sharjah DJ
Radio Sharjah brings back many fond memories with records such as Ike Turner, Bill Haley, Joe Brown, Everly Bros, Shadows, Don Rennie, Doris Day, Dearn Martin, Judy Garland, The Mudlarks, Des O'Connor, Buddy Holly, Hank Williams, The Drifters, Cliff Richards, Jonny Cash, Jim Reeves, Billy Fury, Jonny Kidd, Lonny Donegan, Jimmy Page, Ottlie Patterson, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, Ray Charles just to mention a few. I became a Presenter on Radio Sharjah, Record Roulette and Record Roundup but my choice of music was limited! The current Top Twenty Records were kept locked in a box. Only Stuart Redgrave who presented Radio Sharjah's Top 20 show had access to that box. All the other DJ's had to make do with the old Top Twenty records! One record I really hated was Elvis Presley's "When I was a boy Old Shep was my dog we grew up together and played.....". It was played over and over again on Sharjah Forces Radio so much so that Wing Commander Tom Sheppard, Officer Commanding RAF Sharjah, gave an order banning that record from the Sharjah airways!
The most important record of that period was Ketty Lester's - "Love Letters". That song meant a lot to Listeners who were away from their home country and away from their families. Our old NAAFI piano spoke volumes which words cannot express when someone played "Love Letters" on that old piano. That song is loved by the "Old Hands" still serving in the RAF. Trini Lopez's "The more I see You" from the Diamond Horseshoe (1945) was almost as popular and don't forget Smokestack Lightning" by Howlin' Wolf, a 1956 blues song. Sharjah Forces Radio Station was housed in a soundproof glass room - more of a box really. One side was for DJs and Announcers. Another room contained shelves of records sent to us by record companies such as Atlantic, Columbia, Brunswik, Capitol, MGM and many others. These records were sent free of charge but with the understanding the station would give these records plenty of air to boost sales!
American and British Expatriates in Sharjah, Dubai and other towns often telephoned me when I was on air to ask me to play a particular record again. I tried to hotwire the telephone to our radio transmitter so I could have a "Phone In" programme. It didn't work! There was too much RF feedback.
Sharjah was a family of international friends bonded by the radio and good music, or sometimes not as the case may be! BBC's David Jacobs gave Radio Sharjah a mention on one his programmes. He played the Beatles "Here comes the Sun" just for me (he said) but really it was for all the lads of Radio Sharjah. Sharjah Forces Radio has a long history stretching back into the 1940s.
Adrian Hanna (RAF Sharjah 1966)
Historical Note on RAF Sharjah
UK Royal Air Force Base closed in 1971 when UK withdrew its Armed Forces from the Gulf. The Officers' Mess became the Sharjah Wanderers Club for a time before the Club relocated to new premises in town. Little remains of the original camp. Sharjah was the first airport in what is now the UAE. In 1932 it was very important for the British, who were developing an air route via the Persian Gulf, to be able to create a staging post in the region. Sheikh Sultan of Sharjah offered a site to the southeast of his city. UK's Royal Air Force built a runway on an area of hard, flat sand running northwest to southeast. Imperial Airways built a Resthouse in the form of an open square courtyard with accommodation in the enclosed wings together with a massive fort-like structure in one corner for air traffic control plus a wireless station. Imperial Airways passengers in their Handley Page HP42s en route between London and India stayed overnight here from October 1932. During World War 2 the RAF made Sharjah into a base which they continued to use until it closed in 1971. Sharjah Airport was a major player in the 1950s Jebel Akhdar War. A new control tower was built next to the fort. A new terminal followed in 1968. But the rapidly growing town of Sharjah was now to close so a new airport opened in the desert south of Sharjah in 1977. The runway at RAF Sharjah became King Abdul Aziz Street, now right in the town centre and the buildings used to house Al Mahatta Aviation Museum.
Source: Laurence Garey