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Raymond Knight
and His Cuckoos
Born:  February 12, 1899
Died:  February 12, 1953
WSM Grand Ole Opry
KUKU New York, NY

About The Artist

In the summer of 1934, WSM seemed to forgo the traditional music heard on the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights. Radio logs published indicate the Opry program was on WSM from 8:00pm to 12:00pm (midnight).

One such act was Raymond Knight and his Cuckoos airing from the fictitious radio station KUKU. However, unlike other network shows, his portion began at 8:00pm on June 23, 1934. The start date coincided with a new program series called "A. C. Spark Plug Derby." The Raymond Knight show was moved by NBC from Wednesday nights to Saturday nights. He appeared for 12 consecutive weeks with the last show being on September 8, 1934. The late night acts seen in 1934 were mostly big dance bands of that era. Mr. Knight and his gang of Cuckoos were more into comedy with some pun-filled twists. It should be noted that WSM had aired one of his previous series of shows on Wednesday nights earlier in 1934.

He was born Willard Raymond Knight in Salem, Massachusetts in 1899. His parents were William and Frances Knight. His father was a dentist.

An article touting their new A. C. Spark Plug Derby series on NBC included some details about the show and group. Raymond Knight with his "troupe of burlesquers will return with their bag of nonsense" in their show. NBC Radio City had a new studio where the show would originate from each Wednesday evening and a repeat performance for west coast listeners. "The Cuckoos will be off to the races of original sketches by Knight, pattered after the mad mixtures which came from Station KUKU in the early days of Ambrose J. Weems, the voice from the diaphragm, but with many new features."

He sent out this promotional missive to a newspaper in Wisconsin. "Raymond Knight, who often finds hidden meanings in his fan letters, reads all his mail in the Central Park Zoo. He says it's easier to read between the lions." (Fill in your own groans.) "... The Cuckoo Hour is the oldest network comedy program on the air. Ray Knight says if his scripts were laid end to end and broadcast for a sausage company instead of a spark plug manuafacturer, they would cover a multitude of skins." (You are entitled to another groan.)

WSM Radio Log - June 23, 1934 - Raymond Knight and his Cuckoos - Grand Ole Opry
WSM Radio Log - September 8, 1934 - Raymond Knight and his Cuckoos - Grand Ole Opry

Picture - Raymond Knight - Radio Guide - May 1932
Promo Ad - Spark Plug Derby - Raymond Knight and his Cuckoos - WSM - March 1934

Promo Ad - Hickok Program Photo - Joe Rines - Phillips Carlin - Raymond Knight - June 1930
Raymond Knight - Man In The Mirror - January 1934
Photo - Raymond Knight - January 1935
Book Cover - The Story of Wheatenaville - Raymond Knight - 1934

The best way to tell Raymond's story is perhaps to just include snippets of his humorous ways and writings. Here are some examples from our research.

Columnist Dorothy Doran wrote of a publicity note she received from Raymond. She wrote that his letterhead still reads "Button, Button, Hoosgutta, Button and Smith, Press Agents to end all Press Agents, exclusive publicity representatives for Raymond Knight." She notes the first item in his note is "Ray Knight says that a rolling stone may gather no moss, but it certainly costs plenty when they operate on you to remove it."

Tower Radio - Raymond Knight - Hoboken Hillbillies - October 1934 The next item she says read, "Raymond Knight's name in French is Ramon Chevalier, in Spanish it is Ramondo Caballero, andin his home town it is mud. Speaking of caviar, Ray Knight will eat only that which comes from fish who are graduates of the College of Physicians and Sturgeons."

Ray mentions that a statistician may have only one son, but he must have more than one data. And dat's data. She goes on. "Ray recently auditioned a fan dancer for the Cuckoo Hour, but did not engage her as she was no great shakes." Ray went on,. "Ray Knight sas that the grass may grow greener in the other fellow's yard but that's because he puts up "keep off the grass signs." Finally, she quotes Ray, "Ray also rises to remarke that if a dog bites a man that's not news, but if a South African antelope with a buffalo's head and a horse's tale bites a man, that's gnus."

During 1934, there was an ongoing promotion with the A. C. Spark Plug company - it was called the "Spark Club Derby." It was heavily promoted around the country in various newspapers. The ensemble that was a part of it appears to have been: Mrs. Pennyfeather, Mary McCoy; Jack Arthur; Mary Hopple; Sally Belle Cox (the baby cry girl) and the Sparklers Quartet which was four guys named Carl Mathieu; Walter Scanlon; Paul Parks and James Stanley. Robert Armbruster lead the orchestra for the show.

Mr. Knight wrote a bit of a humor column ("Microphonies") for Tower Radio magazine. Here is a snippet or two (or maybe three) from his August 1934 column. In this column, he imagines a day of "Knight" on the air.

9:30-10:00—Sports Broadcast
This space is sponsored by the Bushwick Bat Co., makers of baseball bats, belfry bats and eyelash bats. Do you have bats in your belfry? Are they Bushwick Bats? Can you face your wife at 3 a. m. without batting an eyelash? Do you bat your eyelashes without Bushwick Bats? Send in your solution to this puzzle and see where it gets you.

12:00 - 12:15 — Poetry Hour
There is nothing like poetry on the air, unless it is the absence of poetry on the air. Miss Eugenia Skidmore recently read this touching little piece on the air. in honor of potted plant day at the little mothers' Sewing and Hemstitching Club of East Orange, N. J.

"Life Is Like an Anemone"
Life is like an anemone—
It sprouts, it grows, it flowers,
Its color is slightly lemony,
It stays that way for hours and hours.

Life is like an anemone—
It flowers, it blooms, it droops;
Some masculine, and some feminy,
Some are tall, others stoops—
Life is like an anemone.

Life is like an anemone—
It droops, it fades, it withers,
And then like those stars, the Gemini,
It goes somewhere, yon or hithers—
Life is like an anemone.

12:00 Midnight — Sign Off
This column has come to you through the courtesy of Smidgett, Garfinkle and Plotz, makers of "FFFT," the insecticide which gets its man. Simply scatter a little FFFT wherever insects are, and f -f -f -ft! they're gone. FFFT may be eaten by children ... without danger to their parents. Take the cover off the bottom of a can of FFFT and mail it to us, and the FFFT will undoubtedly fall out of the can.

Raymond Knight - Reflections - January 1934

Or this snippet from a column he wrote in January 1934 about meeting himself in the mirror and pausing for reflection.

From January 1934:

"Paging Raymond Knight . . . Paging Raymond Knight . . ." the boy's voice rang through the hotel corridor. The lobby was instantly electrified! (Twelve Edison men working day and night for three days had done it.) Curiosity got the better of me and I followed "Buttons" as we call him. I had a longing to see this Raymond Knight, whom I had heard on the air for these many years.

Up one corridor and down the other, through the salle a manger, across the salle a patica, into the reading room, the writing room, the aritmetic room, I followed Buttons. Then he began calling "Raymond Knight, Raymond Knight, who's got the Raymond Knight?" And suddenly we heard a mocking voice echo, "Buttons, Buttons, who's got the Buttons." I raced around the corner and suddenly confronted — a mirror.

There he was at last, the man millions hear and never see — the mad wag of the air waves — the man who has been declared a tonic for the radio audience. (The Germans call him Herr Tonic.) I was as excited as a boy out of school, and for the rest of the interview I was beside myself.

A quote from his column in 1934: "You know the blues singer. She has a husky voice, a svelte figure and can make a mike (microphone) whimpoer with one sad song."

And what about this snippet from his "Microphonies" column of November 1934? He writes a snippet for a fictitious comedy duo for a radio program. You may end up shaking your head.

9:00 - 9:15 — Amos and Annie — Comedy Duo

Amos: Did you know i bought a camel?
Annie: I didn't even know you smoked.
Amos: well, i did to carry stuff across the desert.
Annie: what desert?
Amos: Sahara.
Annie: A swell actress.
Amos: Actress?
Annie: Sure — Sahara Bernhardt.
Amos: Skip it!
Annie: What happened to your camel?
Amos: I loaded him with chopped cabbage and he collapsed.
Annie: What made him collapse?
Amos: That was the slaw that broke the camel's back.

Raymond Knight died on his 54th birthday, February 12, 1953, from a chronic ailment. At the time of his passing, he was writing scripts for the "Bob and Ray" programs on both radio and television. His obituary noted some of the programs he made popular — "Wheatenaville Sketches," "Kuku Hour," "Good Morning, It's Knight," and "The Joke's On You." He had attended Boston University where he earned a law degree in 1920. But after two years, he decided to further his interest in drama. He joined NBC in 1928 in the continuity department. He had been married more than once. His obituary indicated he was survived by his wife, Lee and two daughters, Colony and Shannon.

Raymond Knight - Cartoon sketch - November 1931
Photo - Raymond Knight and Feathered Friend - February 1935

Radio Guide Cover - March 19-25, 1933 - Raymond Knight - KUKU

Credits & Sources

  • The Life Of The Party Being An Intimate As Well As Indiscreet Autobiography Of Professor Ambrose J. Weems; Raymond Knight; March 25, 1933; The Radio Guide; Radio Guide, Inc.; Chicago, IL
  • Ray Knight Brightens Day With His 'Nutty' Radio Publicity Note; Dorothy Doran (Journal Radio Editor); The Akron Beacon-Journal; Akron, OH
  • Who's Who In Humor - Raymond Knight, Radio Funmaker and Creator of the Cuckoo Hour, Meets Himself In A Mirror and Pauses For Reflection...; Raymond Knight; January 28, 1934; The Billings Gazette; Billings, MT
  • Ray Uses Large Company; June 9, 1934; Buffalo Evening News; Buffalo, NY
  • The Radio Parade; June 17, 1934; The Philadelphia Inquirer; Philadelphia, PA
  • Microphonies; Raymond Knight; August 1934; Tower Radio; Tower Magazines, Inc.; Chicago, IL
  • Microphonies; Raymond Knight; November 1934; Tower Radio; Tower Magazines, Inc.; Chicago, IL
  • Cuckoos Off To Races In Spark Plug Derby; March 25, 1934; Radio Wave; Tulsa, OK
  • The Baron and Others On WIBA; April 18, 1934; The Capital Times; Madison, WI
  • Raymond Knight, Radio-TV Creator; February 13, 1953; Brooklyn Daily Eagle; Brooklyn, NY

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