Radio Clandestine

Radio Clandestine was one of the early modern-era North American shortwave pirates. Possibly it, more than any other station, defined North American shortwave pirate radio. Radio Clandestine was first heard in 1973, in conjunction with a number of pirates (such as Radio Highseas International, WBLO, and Radio Free Harlem) that operated in the 80-meter amateur band. This group of stations returned in early 1980, but all disappeared within months, except Radio Clandestine.

From 1980 to 1985, Radio Clandestine was the big name in North American pirate radio. Other stations developed a following as hobby pirates, such as Radio Confusion, the Voice of Syncom, and the Voice of Laryngitis but Radio Clandestine somehow seemed almost supernatural. The station appeared right in the middle of shortwave broadcast bands—and were logged in every band from 90 through 13 meters. The broadcasts sounded every bit the part of a commercial shortwave station—always in AM with good fidelity and strong “punch.”

Radio Clandestine was almost always heard with excellent signals from coast to coast. The programs were a highly professional mix of hard rock and novelty music, fake ads, and station promos. R.F. Burns was the main DJ, but also heard were Boris Fignutsky and Wanda Lust. Mentioned but not heard was Drool the Cabin Boy.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of shortwave listeners stumbled across Radio Clandestine broadcasts in the early ‘80s, but it’s difficult to gauge their audience because the clubs were polarized on the topic of pirate radio and the bulk of the reporters refused to log unlicensed broadcasters. For many of the era, Radio Clandestine was their first pirate logged.

Before the day of quick Internet searches, numerous listeners were su

rprised or angered when their reports to the “new SWBC station” with the PO Box 100, New York, NY address were returned unforwardable. They’d been duped. By 1982, Radio Clandestine began using the well-known Battle Creek, Michigan maildrop and QSL letters were soon on the way. By 1983, more of the station’s programs fell within the standard 7350-7450 kHz pirate band, and it was definitely catering to the pirate radio fans.

Radio Clandestine disappeared in 1986 and 1987, but returned in 1988 and 1989 as part of “the pirate radio network.” The programming was the same, but the station was QSOing after shows, some broadcasts were live, the signals were much weaker, and all occurred in the standard pirate band. The thinking of the time was that these broadcasts were aired by one of the members of the station, but not from the original transmitters. Also, a new maildrop was used and a blue variation of the original white QSL letters were mailed out.

Since 1990, Radio Clandestine programs have occasionally appeared on the pirate bands, but all are thought to be relays from other stations.

Radio Clandestine’s accomplishments were impressive by today’s standards, but extraordinary in the early ‘80s.

Off air recording from DXer 'Sealord' of Radio Clandestine