CRUISIN' 1962



PEG: Eddie, you're getting to be a real DRAG! EDDIE: I got things to do...

Russ "Weird Beard" Knight
KLIF, Dallas
Increase Records INCM 2007
Released June 1970

SIDE ONE (22:20): KLIF News Headlines Peppermint Twist -- Joey Dee & The Starlighters (1:54) Soldier Boy -- The Shirelles (2:40) KLIF Summer Spectacular I Need Your Lovin' -- Don Gardner & Dee Dee Ford (2:57) This Knight's Bullseye Hey Baby -- Bruce Channel (2:14) KLIF Master Control Let Me In -- The Sensations (2:53) Skyland Chrysler commercial Johnny Angel -- Shelley Fabares (2:05) KLIF station ID SIDE TWO (20:11): Duke of Earl -- Gene Chandler (2:13) You'll Lose a Good Thing -- Barbara Lynn (2:25) Gillette commercial The Wanderer -- Dion (2:40) KLIF E.S.P. promo Goodbye Cruel World -- James Darren (2:19) Flying High in the Dallas Sky Sealed With A Kiss -- Brian Hyland (2:38) KLIF DJ Trading Stamp promo Locomotion -- Little Eva (2:12)


Resume/Where Is He Now?

Russ Knight was the "Weird Beard" on the air at KLIF in the early 60's. Real name: Russel Lee Moore. Russ had a degree from SMU in Drama and at one time had the highest ratings ever achieved in nighttime radio in Dallas, a 62 share! Russ was one of the first night jock showmen. He intertwined bits and schtick into his delivery and included requests and dedications from the phone. His was a SHOW! He called himself "the Saviour of Dallas radio".

Russ remained with McLendon after leaving KLIF in 1964 landing the night show on KILT in Houston. In the summer of 1966, Russ and KLIF's night jock Bob McCord traded shifts. Russ came up from KILT in Houston and McCord went to KILT. As it turned out McCord stayed in Houston and the "Weird Beard" was back at KLIF for a while in the summer of '66! Knight did stops in several northern major markets and was heard doing talk radio in the Washington D.C. area a few years ago, and is now living in Poplar Bluff, MO, dabbling occasionally in voice work for syndication. In the early 70's, he was featured on the popular "Cruisin'" Series albums which featured various DJ's and radio stations from across the U.S. "Cruisin' '62" featured KLIF and Russ Knight. Although a recreation of his glory days at KLIF, it was a true representation of a typical "Weird Beard" show.
Many thanks and a tip of the Cruisin' cap to Steve Eberhardt and the "History of KLIF Radio 1190, Dallas" Site! Thanks, Steve!

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 "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 up 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 (surf boards, 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 Kruschev down, telling him to take his missles out of Cuba, or else. Congress investigated The Fabulous Frauds of Billie Sol Estes. The Soviets orbited two cosmonauts in two spaceships, 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.

On Forty-fifth Street in New York in 1962 there was a twist club called the Peppermint Lounge and the house band was billed as Joey Dee and the Starliters. So naturally one of the fastest-selling songs of the year was Joey Dee's Peppermint Twist. The odd thing about the twist madness was everyone had a hit before the craze died except for the man who had created it, Hank Ballard (and the Midnighters). Not only that, Chubby Checker had had a Number One song with The Twist not one, but two years ('60 and '62).

Soldier Boy was the fourth million-seller for the Shirelles, four young girls from Passaic, New Jersey. Like many others sung by the girls of pop, it is a pledge of love and fidelity. It was written by their manager (and founder of Scepter Records), Florence Greenberg, and one of the top rock composers, Luther Dixon.

By 1962, more than half of the acts recording were producing their own material; Greenberg and Dixon notwithstanding, the demand for songwriters was being weakened by the increasing number of composers who also performed. Don gardner was one of the writers of I Need Your Lovin". He sang it with Dee Dee Ford.

Similarly, Bruce Channel was one of the composers of his first million-seller, Hey Baby. He was, like Elvis Presley and several other successful recording artists, a graduate of "The Louisiana Hayride," one of the South's country and western radio and television shows.

In the early Sixties, many of the new vocal groups picked their names from a long list of superlatives. Thus we had - besides the Miracles, the Marvelettes, and later the Four Tops and the Supremes - the Sensations. Their hit in 1962: Let Me In.

Shelley Fabares, a neice of Nanette Fabray, came to pop music from television and film, where she'd appeared first on a Frank Sinatra show (in 1953), later played Donna Reed's daughter, and was featured in several "Rock Pretty Baby" type flicks. Johnny Angel was her first record, cut when she was nineteen.

Gene Chandler was known as the Duke of Earl in '62, making personal appearances in a long flowing cape and a monocle, and his first record (released within ten days of his signing a record contract) was called just that, Duke of Earl. The song had a lively, infectious beat, but its lyric hardly matched the wardrobe in originality.

Another original composition sung by the writer was You'll Lose a Good Thing by Barbara Lynn. It was released on the Jamie label, one of several small but important R&B companies in Philadelphia. (Incidental intelligence: The song was published by Dandelion and Crazy Cajun Music, among the earliest publishing companies that went for the bizarre name.)

Dion (last name: DiMucci) was the featured singer with the Belmonts from 1957 to 1960, when he went out as a soloist. His high, sad voice captured the feel of adolescence precisely in the Fifties and began to blend with folk in 1962 when he recorded The Wanderer.

Goodbye Cruel World was too bouncy, too danceable to be the maudlin farewell it hinted at being. Its singer, James Darren, had made his film debut three years earlier in "Rumble on the Docks" and was making records in '62 between beach bunny and surfing flicks. Perhaps Cruel World really was the story behind one of his surfing wipeouts. Who knows?

When Brian Hyland recorded Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini he was signed (believe it or not) to Sammy Kaye. He also was categorized as a singer whose appeal was, essentially, pre-pubescent. Sealed With A Kiss took its title from something teenaged girls wrote on envelopes containing love letters and as a song title it did little to change Hyland's image.

1962 was a dancing year an if you weren't twisting the night away, perhaps you were doing The Locomotion, a song that had been written for Little Eva (Eva Narcissus Boyd) by Gerry Goffin and his wife Carole King. They formed one of the most prolific and successful of songwriting teams of the perios and had met Little Eva when she came to baby-sit for them. Of such stuff stardom is made.
-Jerry Hopkins

CRUISIN' THE FIFTIES & SIXTIES: A History of Rock and Roll Radio. Conceived and recreated by: Ron Jacobs/Production and Research: Ellen Johnson and Jere Alan Brian/Engineering: John Horton/Art Direction: Paul Gruwell/Cover Art: Mike Royer/All selections are the original performances as released on the following labels: ABC Paramount: Brian Hyland/Argo: The Sensations/Checker: Gene Chandler/Colpix: James Darren, Shelley Fabares/Dimension: Little Eva/Fury: Don Gardner and Dee Dee Ford/Jamie: Barbara Lynn/Laurie: Dion/Roulette: Joey Dee & the Starliters/Scepter: the Shirelles/Smash: Bruce Channel/Special thanks to: Ken Dowe, KLIF Radio/KLIF Jingles copyright PAMS, Inc. Produced by Increase Records, a division of Watermark, Inc., Los Angeles, California. 1970 Increase Records.

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