Sunday, September 26, 2010

Russ "The Weird Beard" Knight - KLIF Dallas 1962

We're now up to the year of our favorite film. And this Cruisin' album/show makes a nice companion piece to the American Graffiti soundtrack. Russ Knight was crazy popular in Dallas. More than sixty percent of active radios were tuned to his show. His ratings still stand as a record in that region's nighttime radio history. Certainly not as wild on the air as Wolfman Jack, 'The Weird Beard' shared the Wolfman's sense of bizarre humor. Enjoy

LP liner notes by Jerry Hopkins
Now CRUISIN' goes to '62
Lay some groovies over you
Recreate the good ol' days
Twistin' in the summer haze
Screamin' rhythm, diggin' you
It's early Sixties radio-ooooo
That's the way Russ "The Weird Beard" Knight might introduce this volume of the CRUISIN' series. In 1962 Russ was a beefy college grad with a Masters degree who found himself holding down the seven - to - midnight show on KLIF in Dallas. By 1962 all the radio production gimmickry that had been developing reached some sort of zenith in kitsch artistry. And Russ Knight, graduate journalism degree and all, was perfectly suited to the medium (and message). His voice rose and fell with facility, moving up and down the scale like an express elevator. He had a nickname (and a weird beard to match it) and a fan club and he called himself the "savior of Dallas radio." Damned near everything he said rhymed. Horns honked and everything echoed echoed echoed. It was high powered radio cacophony at its best.

Even the jingles and commercials had extra pzazz - thanks in large part to an outfit called PAMS (Production, Advertising and Merchandising Service) in Dallas. PAMS was begun in 1951 and by 1962 had produced thousands of musical pitches and promotional spots, influencing pop radio nationally. Many of these spots are on the CRUISIN' series.

Prior to 1962, rock and roll, and pop radio, had gone through some harsh years. Since 1959 most of the music had been rather bland. There hadn't been much happening and in '62 there seemed to be a searching for the next "thing." So this was a year the television networks recognized the folkies and made "Hootenanny" one of several regularly scheduled folk music shows. Others had their eyes on California's coastline, where the Beach Boys went on a Surfin' Safari, starting a second "trend." Still more thought the wave of the future was coming from Brazil in the bossa nova beat, while the dance madness (essentially the twist) hung on like a dog to a meaty bone. Nor had the blandness disappeared totally; there are several superb examples of gingerbread left over from the early Dick Clark era in this volume of CRUISIN'.

1962 was many things musically - somewhat exciting (certainly not so boring as '59, '60 and '61), extremely commercial (surfboards, twist clubs, TWO "Hootenanny" magazines), and somehow encouraging, no matter how apparently directionless. It was, if nothing else, a peculiarly "pop" year - a year when pop culture and all its inherent fallout occupied everyone's thoughts.

It was when Herman Taller's "Calories Don't Count" topped the year's best-selling book list, (although more copies of the "JFK Coloring Book" were sold.) John Glenn circled the earth three times. The New York Daily News sent a reporter to Harvard University to check reports one of its professors, Timothy Leary, was feeding his students unusual drugs. "Lawrence of Arabia" took the best picture Oscar. And the Yankees took the pennant again.

More seriously, President Kennedy faced down the steel industry when it tried to boost prices and later in the year faced Khrushchev down, telling him to take his missiles out of Cuba, or else. Congress investigated The Fabulous Frauds of Billie Sol Estes. The Soviets orbited two cosmonauts in two space ships, simultaneously. Francis Gary Powers was returned to the U.S. in history's best-publicized spy-swap. Arthur Goldberg and Brian (Whizzer) White were named to the Supreme Court. And 1,113 Cuban invasion prisoners were ransomed with $53 million in medicine and baby food.