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Joe Knight, radio personality

Joe Knight, shown in 1980 on WCBM
Joe Knight, shown in 1980 on WCBM (William Hotz, BALTIMORE SUN)

Joe Knight, a radio personality who was known to several generations of WFBR-AM and WCBM-AM listeners as "Joe Knight, the Knight of the Spinning Roundtable" during the golden age of Baltimore radio, died Saturday at Hope Hospice in Fort Myers, Fla., of complications from a broken hip. The former Lutherville resident was 87.

"I was just out of college in 1970 when I went to work at WFBR and got to know Joe Knight, who was doing the morning show. He was the consummate communicator and was always kind and humble," said Ron Matz, a veteran Baltimore radio personality who is now a WJZ-TV reporter.

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"I was so in awe of him, and everyone who ever worked with him admired him," said Mr. Matz. "He was my mentor and so gracious. I know we throw that word 'legend' around a great deal, but Joe Knight was a true radio legend in Baltimore."

"Joe was a terrific announcer and one of the best disc jockeys I've ever heard back in the days when songs had words," said Vince Bagli, retired WBAL-TV sports anchor.

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"Joe was a consummate professional as a broadcaster and as an ad writer and pitchman," said Dave Humphrey, former WCBM news anchor who was on the air from 1968 to 1985. "There are not many people in Baltimore radio that people remember, but Joe Knight is one of them."

The only son of Joseph Neidig, an oilman, and Nellie Neidig, Joseph Martin Neidig was born in El Dorado, Kan. Because of his father's work, he was raised in Great Bend, Kan., where he graduated from high school.

He began his radio career sweeping the floors of a Great Bend radio station, and when he was a senior in high school, he graduated to working weekends, announcing station breaks.

He continued in radio after enrolling at Kansas State University, where he was an announcer on the college station.

After leaving KSU in the late 1940s, Mr. Knight went to work on air at KFDA-AM in Amarillo, Texas, and then joined KRMG-AM in Tulsa, Okla., where he picked up his on-air name.

"When he was working at KRMG, the station manager said no one knew how to pronounce his name, 'So, from now on you're Joe Knight,' " said his wife of 58 years, the former Bobbie Baland, whom he met when working in Amarillo. "Because he was an only child, he never had his name legally changed to Joe Knight."

In addition to getting a new name while working at KRMG, he became known as "The Knight of the Spinning Roundtable."

From 1950 to 1952, he joined the Army and was an announcer for Armed Forces Network, where his show, "Night Watch," was heard throughout Europe.

In addition to emceeing shows, he also entertained the troops and worked with such notable celebrities as singer Vic Damone, composer Burt Bacharach and actor Danny Kaye.

After being discharged, Mr. Knight returned to KRMG. When the station's general manager, R.B. Jones Jr., came to WFBR in 1957, he brought "The Knight of the Spinning Roundtable" with him to Baltimore.

When he joined WFBR, Mr. Knight hosted "Melody Ballroom," and then moved up to being the voice of an afternoon drive-time show. In 1959, he began hosting "The Joe Knight Show" in the morning.

A feature of the show was the Bird Watching Society. Listeners were urged to call and report what birds were in their backyard or ask questions about attracting and feeding birds as well as identifying them.

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Mr. Knight, who said he knew nothing about birds, was given a guide to North American birds to help him.

"Knight soon found that a little ignorance was an asset. If he couldn't find the answer to a listener's question, all he had to do was wait. Before long other listeners would call in the answer," William Hyder, The Sun's radio critic, reported in a 1967 article.

Mr. Knight was also known for the stable of characters he created, among them Jack LaLarde, a takeoff on the physical fitness expert Jack LaLanne; Conrad Tweety, a bird watcher; and Mother Rancid.

"Many people often said Joe was 'a man of a thousand voices, and they all sounded like Joe Knight.' Even Joe agreed," said Mr. Humphrey. "One of his best voices was that of 'Maude Frickert' who was comedian Jonathan Winters' most memorable character."

In 1972, Mr. Knight left WFBR and joined "Morning Mayor" Lee Case on WCBM, forming what was at the time the only two-man radio program in Baltimore. He left in 1983 after the station switched to an all-talk format.

"He was totally unflappable, and I never saw him get out of sorts with anybody. He was a gracious gentleman," said Mr. Matz.

After leaving WCBM, he wrote and produced radio commercials for WYST-FM.

"He'd do what we called spec-spots or speculation commercials. You went back to him and within an hour or two he'd put together the commercial and the customer bought it. They were the best damn things," said Paul Kopelke, who worked in radio advertising sales for more than 30 years and lives in Hampden.

Mr. Knight also wrote and produced syndicated commercials for businesses all over the U.S.

Sam Lamantia, founder of the Ed Block Courage Awards, which raises money for abused children, was a close friend of Mr. Knight's.

"Joe was my first emcee when I came up with the idea in 1978, and he was great for what we were trying to do in those days. He was a big part of it," said Mr. Lamantia.

"He was so good and smooth when he was on stage. Even after he moved to Florida 20 years ago, he'd come up three days before the event, and we'd work on the script. He was such a good writer," he said. "We had a lot of fun, and the last time he emceed for me was in 2011."

Mr. Knight, who moved to Fort Myers 20 years ago, continued writing ads on a freelance basis for WJST-FM.

Reflecting on his career in radio, Mr. Knight told The Sun in a 1983 interview, "I've been very lucky. I've never been fired — I only looked for my first job."

He was a member of the New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers.

Services are private.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Knight is survived by two daughters, Kimberly Bostwick of Cockeysville and Lisa McCrosson of Fort Myers; and two grandchildren.

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