Home > Writing > Russ “The Weird Beard” Knight

Russ “The Weird Beard” Knight


Hey, folks.

So my absence as of late has been driven by a great many things, but none of them are as imposing as the passing of my father, Russ “The Weird Beard” Knight.

Residents of Dallas and Houston might know the name–back in the early to mid-1960s, The Weird Beard was one of the cornerstones of radio, covering the 7:00pm to Midnight shift. He was a pretty famous guy back then, and he was all over the place while working at Dallas’s KLIF and Houston’s KILT (I always have to check to make sure I didn’t type KLIT). Older folks from the area might have had the opportunity to hear the Beard-Man work his mystical magic over the silver airwaves, cranking out hit after hit while speaking in his rapid-fire, all-too-groovy patter where just about everything he said rhymed. Being a popular gent that he was, Dad hung out with a whole slew of cool cats–I awoke one morning as a youngster to discover none other than Roy Orbison crashed out on our couch, for instance, and later in life I met Kenny Rogers and his elder brother, Leland, more than once (I never got to know Kenny very well, but Leland was great fun; just the same, both of them are recalled by me as kind, gentle men). He also hung out with some genuine crackpots, one of them being none other than Jack Ruby, and this association led to my Dad testifying before the Warren Commission. In the history of radio, Dad had one of the highest market shares ever recorded–62%, during his time at KLIF in Dallas.

I was very young during this time, but I remember that Dad would leave to go to work before I went to bed, and wouldn’t return until the dead of night. There were plenty of times when I would wake up and look for him, but rarely found him. I would miss him terribly during those times, and my mother would have her hands full trying to keep me from crying my head off. But eventually, Dad would come home and stop in and give me a kiss, and all would be well. (Had I been older, I’m sure I might have noticed he was more than slightly drunk from his many after-work social outings, but of course I was oblivious to a lot of those things.)

His crowning achievement, the one he was most proud of, was introducing The Beatles to Houston in 1965. You can find clips of Dad trying to control the crowd on YouTube, and it’s hilarious to listen to (“Settle down, now!” was something my brother and I heard often). For decades, he had a green steam trunk full of Beatles memorabilia that we lugged around from state to state–all the Fab Four’s autographs, candid photos, a pair of Ringo’s drum sticks, some bootleg recordings and unheard interviews. It was apparently stolen during a move in the late 1970s–I would suspect one of the movers opened the trunk, recognized what lay inside for the treasure it was, and boosted it.

Despite his real talent, Dad was a scattered sort. Like most performers, he reigned supreme doing what he did, but when the microphone was switched off, he was plagued by a remarkable lack of confidence. He decided in the late 1960s to go into management, seeking more power and control, which was a tragic mistake. Leaving the microphone behind didn’t give him–or the family–the stability he desired, and we moved more times than most folks in the military, as Dad was either being fired from one station or hired by another. I got to see a huge amount of the country, however: Texas, Colorado, Ohio (twice!), Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Connecticut, New York…some other places too, I just can’t remember them. When he finally made it WNEW in New York, he was at the top of the management game, but radio is a tumultuous business, and his tenure there was only three years: 1979-1982. After that, he fell from the pinnacle of his career and stayed in smaller markets, save for his association with Perry Como and the syndicated radio show they started in the 1990s. (I did get to meet many radio luminaries, such as Don Imus when he worked at WHK in Cleveland, which my Dad ran–again, twice. Also some of the NYC radio greats: William B. Williams, Jonathan Schwartz, and Jim Lowe, who was a real sweetheart of a guy. Also Tom Shannon in Denver, and WNEW’s General Manager, Jack Thayer, who was one smart man.)

Dad fell ill a few months ago, and while his health was certainly taking a turn for the worse, his death happened within days. But when he died, I was holding his hand and looking right at him when he passed away. I have no idea if he was aware of my presence, but I think that part of the deal was as good as it could get. I was there, as was my brother, along with my stepmother and one of my stepbrothers. My mother was in Texas, and there just wasn’t enough time to bring her up.

He died at a little past 8:30pm on Friday, October 12, 2012.

So now, I’m moving on…getting back to life, getting back to writing, repairing fences and having trees cut down before the next hurricane moves in. Things are getting back to normal, and I’ll be heading to Texas next week for Thanksgiving. Life continues.

But when the night is deep and black, I lie in my bed staring at the darkened ceiling…and once again, I’m a little boy who misses his daddy.

  1. zombiemutts
    November 15, 2012 at 10:57 am

    RIP Weird Beard

    Must be some serious dust in here since my eyes are a bit watery.

    • November 15, 2012 at 11:39 am

      Yeah, you might actually meet some people who listened to him, seeing as how you’re in the Big D. and all. (And I got your email–sorry I haven’t responded yet, I’m a slug!)

      • zombiemutts
        November 15, 2012 at 11:52 am

        Ah don’t worry about that🙂

        Enjoy your holidays and I’m wishing you the best.

  2. November 15, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Oh, Stephen, I’m so sorry to hear about the passing of your father. I’m so glad you were there with him in his final moments. He sounds like quite a character. What an amazing and colorful life. No wonder he had such a cool, talented kid. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  3. November 15, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    So sorry for your loss Steve **Bro Hug**
    At least you were there as he began the next part of his journey.

    My Dad was a flight engineer in the USAF on a C-130, his plane went down in the Rockies during a training flight…wind shear they said. I never got to say goodbye.

    So cool to have those great memories….Roy Orbison on your couch?…. SO FREAKIN cool

    • November 15, 2012 at 2:33 pm

      Aw, man–sorry you lost your dad under those circumstances!

      Yep, Roy O. was one of them. Now I recall Glen Campbell from around 1970 and Ted Nugent from 1978. Glen was really swell, and Nugent was crazy but sane at the same time.

  4. November 15, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    WOW…to rub elbows with music royalty….

    Great memories for you, sympathies again for the passing of your Dad.

  5. November 18, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    I am truly sorry about the passing of your father Stephen. Losing a parent or parents is a seminal moment in anyone’s life. One good thing about being human is the memories we carry with us that we can reflect on at any time in our lives. This can give us comfort when we need it.
    It was good to hear from you again and I look forward to your next novel and wish you all the best.

    Fred

  6. MarcW
    November 21, 2012 at 4:56 am

    Stephen, I never had the privilege of hearing your dad on the radio. Reading your post, your dad was a remarkable guy and I regret never having that pleasure. It was good you were able to hold your dad’s hand while he passed… whether he knew you were there or not. You might have been just as unaware once upon a time as your father touched or played with your tiny hand and fingers as a newborn when you were unaware as well… the love behind it was tremendous nonetheless.

    You were there for your dad just like so many times he was there for you. Your dad had bust his ass for his family in a business that’s often brutal in its line-ups and change-ups. There must have been so many times he had thought and worried about you and his family during those quiet moments when he was alone and knew that it was all on his shoulders… moments he would have never let anyone know about.

    The guy had bust his ass to do well by his family. And look at what the man had done… not only was he a respected presence in the radio world, he also had a son who is an excellent writer. The very definition of legacy.

    I’m sorry for your loss Stephen. God bless.

  7. joseph larosa
    November 21, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    hi stephen just want to say how sorry i am about hearing of your father passing. he seemed to be a great father and to havr a profound effect on you as you are a very sincere person with a good heart. my very best to you. haveing a father like yours is something to be cherished which you already know.

    • MarcW
      November 23, 2012 at 4:06 am

      Hope the above didn’t sound too strange or off the wall but your post struck a chord with me. We lost our oldest son a few years back due to cancer. Watched him whiter away and my wife and I were alone at home when he passed away. “Passed away”… what a euphemism… there was nothing Hollywood, clean or dignified in his last moments. Seeing how the human body shuts down is not pleasant.

      So my heart goes out to you. That hand of yours that you held with your father during those last moments is the very same he did hold with such anticipation when you were an infant. That is important to note. The things you do in the future will be at least in part due to this man. His footprints will be found in your handiwork.

      Marc

      • MarcW
        November 23, 2012 at 4:13 am

        Replied to the wrong thread. Sorry about that.

      • November 27, 2012 at 11:14 am

        Not strange at all, Marc. Much appreciated, and thank you! Very, very sorry to read about the passing of your eldest son, though. Tough stuff there.

    • November 27, 2012 at 11:13 am

      Thanks, Joe!

  8. Steve Conklin- Broadcast Professionals of Colorado
    January 13, 2013 at 2:20 am

    Growing up, I listened to your Dad when he was Program Director and a personality on KLZ radio in Denver in the 1970s. I still remember that great voice and his warm delivery. I have contact with some of the people he worked with at KLZ and I know they share my sadness at his passing.

    Steve

    • January 13, 2013 at 9:53 am

      Wow, really? Thanks for your comment. Dad always thought Colorado was the best place we’d ever lived, and he recalled KLZ fondly. We were all majorly bummed when Roger Berk, the owner of Group One, moved him from Denver to Akron, Ohio. That was one transition I didn’t want to make!

  9. Gary
    July 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    I grew up in Dallas in the 50’s and 60’s and I remember your dad very well when he was at KLIF 1190. The Weird Beard was part of my childhood and was my all-time favorite DJ. The guy lit up the night airwaves in Dallas. When I was 12 years old I got to talk to him on the air. KLIF was having one of their many contests and I remember, when he put me on the radio, I was almost too nervous to speak. To this day I would recognize that man’s voice. I am very sad at hearing of his passing.

    • July 27, 2013 at 10:44 pm

      Thanks very much, Gary. The Beardman went out with his microphone on, I’m happy to say.

  10. Ralph Gunderman
    November 22, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    In 1970, during one of your Ohio stays when your Dad was running (and doing mornings) on WCUE AM in Cuyahoga Falls, I applied for a job there. I was still in Akron U, but had spent the summer at my first professional gig at Dayton’s WING. So I had my air check. But your Dad didn’t want to hear it. He took me to the production room and said, “Take 10 minutes and get used to the room, and then we’ll let you spin some records and see how you sound.” Live audition. Not the way radio was done, far as I knew. But I did it. It went well, and I got a job. But what I remember is that after I was done your Dad said, “You’ve got a good voice, don’t ever force it down or try to make it something it’s not. Just be yourself.” Well that was the first kernel of professional voice advice I got and it was spot on. I’ve had a very successful 40+ year career doing voice overs. I’ll always remember your Dad for starting me off on the right foot. And how nice he always was to me. God rest you Russ.

    • December 3, 2013 at 11:10 pm

      Ralph, thanks very much for your kind words! So you worked for George “Mammoth” Mamas as well, eh?😀

  11. Gene Roberts
    January 26, 2014 at 12:22 am

    Hi
    Stephen-I played Cruisin 62 today (1-25-14) . Weird Beard Knight will never really be gone.
    Thanks for all the posts about him. God Bless.

    • February 25, 2014 at 9:59 pm

      Thanks very much for your kind words, Gene!

  12. George Kalman
    March 16, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    Stephen: your dad was a great guy and I was proud to call him a friend. We worked together at WNEW and WNSW and started the Perry Como Shows together. So sorry for your loss, may he rest in peace. I will always look back at Russ with much fondness. Best, George S Kalman

    • March 20, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      Thanks, George…I remember you from WNEW, and of course, we have photos of you, Dad, and Perry. Hope all is well.

      • George Kalman
        July 6, 2014 at 11:02 pm

        Thanks Stephen, please send my best to Rose.

  13. Wayne Harrison
    May 4, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Stephen, I grew up in Dallas and listened to your dad every night in grade school and junior high. One time, a friend and I went down to the old KLIF studios when he was on the air during the day (must have been a weekend) and he invited us in and showed us around (circa 1959-1960, before KLIF moved to the new studios a block away). I ended up in broadcasting, partly due to him and partly due to the Kennedy Assassination. I am about to retire at a TV station in Denver.

    • May 5, 2014 at 10:39 am

      Hi Wayne,

      Thanks for the note. Glad you got the opportunity to see the Weird Beard in his prime. What station are you with in Denver? Dad ran KLZ for a while, and I think it was co-located with KMGH back in the early 1970s.

  14. Dot Walsh
    July 4, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Stephen, I am so sorry to just learn of your Dad’s passing. He and JoBeth were our friends when they lived in Atlanta, GA (you were just in diapers) and he and my husband both worked at WAKE Radio with the famous Bill Drake. Please give my love to your Mom.
    Dot Walsh (Jack Walsh, aka Stan the man Richards.

    • July 8, 2014 at 7:50 am

      I’ll do that, ma’am…thanks for stopping by!

  15. Pat in Texas
    July 8, 2014 at 10:55 pm

    I am so sorry for the loss of your Dad. I found your blog by Googling “Weird Beard KILT”. I was in Junior High and High School in Houston, Texas, and listened to the Weird Beard. He was cool! I was at the Beatles concert, too. Tonight, a facebook friend and I found out we were at the Beatles concert at the same time. I asked her if she listened to the Weird Beard, which lead to Googling for him. I remember being heartbroken when he left Houston.

    • July 9, 2014 at 8:28 am

      Not as heartbroken as I was…our next stop was Cleveland, Ohio. Going from Houston to Cleveland? Sheesh!

  16. June 15, 2015 at 1:04 am

    I was raised in Dallas and remembered him well as a DJ at KLIF. I wondered what ever happened to him when he left KLIF. I’m sorry to here he passed and my heart go out to his family. RIP, he was a great DJ.

    • June 15, 2015 at 9:13 am

      Thanks very much, Hugh. Those years were the best years of his life, I have to say.

  17. J. Hudson
    November 1, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    I was 12-14 during the KLIF years. I used to call Russ and request “Hats Off To Larry” by Del Shannon. He would find the record every time, run his Egyptian tomb, KLIF Classic tape and always talked to me as an equal and a friend. I have two copies of Crusin’ 1962 and some actual reel-to-reel tape I recorded of the station in ’64. Very fond memories. Thank you for the story about your dad. He was a good guy to me.

    • November 2, 2015 at 12:12 am

      Thanks for your message! Glad the old man was able to liven things up for you during his time at KLIF!

  18. Mike rawsion
    November 2, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    Hi
    I will always remember your father through the cruising albums. I still listen to them
    Thanks for the info on the great Russ the weird beard knight
    From
    Wetherby
    U.K.

    Regards
    Mike rawson

  19. January 8, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    Mr. Knight, I read you father’s testimony to the Warren Commission. I was impressed with the way he handled himself and his determination that he was understood clearly and that some things, like the script that Jack Ruby wanted him to look with the commercials in it be included in his testimony.
    I am wondering if I could ask you some questions. I have been studying the assassination of President Kennedy for over 35 years. I think that Jack Ruby was a very credible witness and that there is much more he would have told if only he had been allowed to go to Washington, D.C. as he requested. Rather than the small time strip club owner that he is portrayed to be he seems to have been involved in much more than the Carousel Club in Dallas.
    I am wondering about some things that I have uncovered in my research.

    Have you heard that Jack Ruby had connections at Reprise Records? He told at least one artist that he could get them a contract there. And, newspaper columnist Dorothy Kilgallen gained the only private interview with Jack Ruby by telling him that she had a message to deliver to him from someone at Reprise Records. She died shortly after this right before she released a book on the Kennedy assassination.

    Do you know anything about the Top Ten music store in Dallas?Dallas Police Officer J. D. Tippit was in there and used their phone only minutes before he was murdered.

    Do you know anything about a movie called Naughty Dallas that featured some of Jack Ruby’s strippers. It has been suggested that Lee Harvey Oswald was seen in the uncut version of the movie.

    Have you ever heard about a booth that Jack Ruby had at the Texas State Fair called How Hollywood Makes Movies? This was in the weeks leading up to the assassination of President Kennedy.

    Thank you, Steven Uanna

    • January 13, 2016 at 11:09 am

      Sorry, Mr. Uanna, I don’t have any answers to your questions. I never questioned my father closely about Ruby. I’ll ask my mother if she has any recollections about this, but she never liked Ruby to begin with.

  20. Jack Wall
    January 19, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    Steven,
    Although it’s been a few years, I just wanted to offer my belated condolences regarding the passing of your dad. I lost my dad last November and it is still very surreal.
    I wanted to share an anecdote regarding Russ.
    Back in 1964, I was a sophomore at Spring Branch High School in Houston. I was a nerd but developed a “secret identity” and called myself Jack the Ripper. I even had a side kick named Billy the Kid.
    One night as we were driving around Houston listening to your dad on KILT, we got a wild hair and decide to try to get into the station. In those days, on the weekend night shift, only your dad was there. He answered the phones takin requests, and send shout outs to many of the callers. We were lucky enough to get through and off the air, he told us to “come on down to the station”.
    As it happened we were right outside. We banged on the door but the phones were ringing off the wall and he just couldn’t get free.
    Billy and I were looking around and saw a large sign (4×8 sheet of plywood on 10′ 4x4s and so we uprooted the sign, leaned it against the side of the building next to the broadcast booth. We climbed up the sign and stood on top of it. I remember Russ had his back to the window so I just rested my chin on the brick window sill and waited for him to turn back to the turntable to put on another record.
    Of course as soon as he turned back to the turntable he flipped on the mike and was live. Just then he caught my face out of the corner of his eye and shouted, “My God, there’s a giant in my window!”
    He raised the window and began to chat with us on the air. Of course he got our “stage names” as he called them and the name of our high school and then started asking us questions about events at the school.
    During those days, Spring Branch was a football power house so with all the gossip we knew and Billy being the head trainer for the team, it just turned into a pretty cool gig.
    From that time on until I graduated in 1966, Billy and i would hang out after our dates, and talk about our girlfriends and all the dirt going on at school. Who was getting swats from Mr. Skipper, the really old (55yrs.) librarian who was hitting on the football players.
    Your dad, made my high school years a treasure to me and I enjoyed knowing him.
    Thanks for sharing him with us all those years.
    Regards,
    Jack Wall

  21. February 24, 2016 at 11:26 am

    Mr. Knight, do you know anything about “The Cellar”, this was a counter culture night spot in Fort Worth, Texas run by Pat Kirkwood. Described as a hippy type (actually in 1963 it would be Beatnik type) music club. JFK’s Secret Service Agents were said to have partied there till the wee hours of the morning the day he was assassinated. Did your dad have any connection to the club or Pat Kirkwood. I think Jack Ruby did. Underground culture. Ruby catered to the establishments interest in it with his strippers. Pat Kirkwood apparently catered to the young forks. And…do you get around Dallas, Texas much? Have you heard about the Dallas Underground? The business establishments and tunnels under the streets of Dallas. Some assassination researchers believe that JKF’s assassins moved around through the tunnels and that there was a contingent of riot troops stationed in one section if things went wrong in Dealey Plaza. But, I have concluded that the carefully planned assassination had little chance of failure. There were some glitches. But nothing that was not managed and the skeptics in the American public did not become a majority for at least a decade after the assassination. I hope you don’t mind me asking this. Was your dad a skeptic? Thanks, Steve Uanna

  22. March 23, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    My sympathy, although tardy is sent to you today, as well as letting you know how much I enjoyed listening to your Dad.

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