|However, by 1966, he had become
disillusioned with his job and with a band crippled by terminal boredom. The
Variations still had a great image, but the whole rock world was whirling by as
the band drifted, mostly downward, gigged here and there without bothering to
rehearse or learn new material. Keith had big plans and decided it was time to
explore some different alleys. In April, he trundled off to England with a
friend. The two adventurers puddle-jumped around Britain in a beat up Morris
"We slept in the car," Keith declared, "and lived on fish and chips and apple cider because you could be sure wherever you travelled they'd be okay. After a month and a half, our money was low so we headed back to London and my Uncle Tom's home in Epsom."
With typical boyish flamboyance, Hampshire applied for a disc jockey position on the powerful Radio Caroline, a fifty kilowatt pirate ship in the North Sea, on the strength of a letter of recommendation from CFCN in Calgary. He was being optimistic, he admitted but only a little.
"I just bee-essed my way onto the ship," Keith said a bit defensively. "I really hadn't had very much experience on-the-air. I pretended to know what I was talking about and somehow managed to carry it off."
For thirteen months, Keith was a certified English idol subjected to the hundred thousand watt glare of the English pop press, enjoying the glow and warmth of cocktail partying with well-known stars, hosting, first Keefers' Commotion afternoon show, and later, Keefers' Uprising in the mornings.
"There were no fewer than two million people listening to Radio Caroline at any one time," he stated. "The average listening audience was 8 million. Peak listening audience was between 15 and 20 million. We blanketed the whole European continent too."
"It was a strange existence," agreed Keith. "There were so few pirate jocks around that you were treated like pop stars in town. You'd be mobbed everywhere you went. One week out of three you were a star. You'd come back to the boat with eyes held open with toothpicks. However, for the other two weeks, you were a nobody sailor, sitting in a box talking to yourself and playing records."
Keith also managed his first recording at this time. "Millions of Hearts" was backed with a cover of Paul Anka's, "Lonely Boy," for King Records in the U.K.
Hampshire quit Radio Caroline on August 14, 1967, the day before the Marine and Etc. Broadcasting Offences Act was enacted by the British Parliament. The act, which elicited a virtual flood of comment and criticism, stipulated that anyone helping the pirates in any way would be liable to heavy fines and/or up to two years in jail. British firms advertising on pirate radio would also be subject to heavy fines and penalties.
"When the boats finally closed down, we got mobbed by 10,000 people at the Liverpool Street Station in London. People came out to support their favourite jock. I've never experienced anything like it."
Although Radio Caroline still exists today, what remained for Hampshire after the dust had settled was a yearning to return to Canada. Following a holiday on the continent, he flew to Montreal and took in the last week of Expo '67. Soon he drifted to Toronto, where he was hired by CKFH radio after turning down a counter offer from CHUM.
While at CKFH, he met and married Cathy Brown on August 1,1969 and together they have a son, Christian and a daughter, Laura. A couple of years later, Keith was back on the streets scouting work. It came as quite a shock to a good many people when it was announced that he would appear in the musical stage revue You Better Believe It with Jack Duffy, Julie Amato, and Almeta Speaks.
He then moved on to a great deal of television, notably as one of the regular cast on The Wayne & Shuster Comedy Hour, radio and television commercials, and more stage work in the longest-running (at that time) production of Oops!
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