Posted on Thu, Mar. 10, 2005
Famous careers cross in Cowtown
By Bud Kennedy
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
The most famous radio team in Fort Worth history is in town this week.
Bob Schieffer on news.
George Carlin as the Hippy-Dippy Weatherman.
OK, so they weren't co-anchors back in 1959. Schieffer was a roving radio news reporter for KXOL, a pioneer rock music station in a tiny studio on West Lancaster Avenue. About the time he was leaving for the Air Force, Carlin arrived as the night disc jockey.
It was a time before the assassination, before Watergate, before local TV news personalities or hit comedy careers.
Fort Worth was a booming city. But it also was a remarkably small town.
By night, the KXOL crowd went downtown to see Carlin working up his comedy act. He and another reporter, Jack Burns, teamed up in The Cellar nightclub to do a standup bit about a fake radio station, "Wonderful WINO."
The next time Burns & Carlin saw Fort Worth, they were stars fresh off the Tonight Show.
Schieffer mentioned Carlin in his book, This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You On TV.
On Saturday, Carlin returns for two shows at Bass Hall.
Tonight, Schieffer takes over as the CBS Evening News anchor.
This week, he told his students at the newly renamed Texas Christian University Schieffer School of Journalism how he started as a radio reporter chasing the "three 'R's' -- wrecks, rapes and robberies."
In the book, he told how KXOL hired him part-time in 1956 for $1 an hour. News director and Fort Worth Cats announcer Bill Hightower told Schieffer, a TCU sophomore, to look out the station window and describe the Fort Worth high school football stadium across Lancaster.
"I remember babbling on to the effect that it was big and gray," Schieffer wrote.
He got the job by saying he could type. "I couldn't."
Schieffer turned to radio after his first TV blooper -- as a North Side High School student doing a Foremost Dairies commercial on a Channel 5 youth show. Teen Times.
He was supposed to say, "That Foremost milk is surrre good."
"I did it perfectly," he wrote.
"Except to say, 'That Vandervoort's milk is surrre good.' "
He was obviously never going to be a big-time star like the show's host.
That was a college guy named Pat Boone.
Schieffer and his family lived first on Merritt Street in River Oaks, then on Williams Road in Benbrook.
On Sundays, they went to Ridglea Presbyterian Church on Camp Bowie Boulevard.
Sitting a few pews away was the congressman from Fort Worth, Jim Wright.
"I knew who the Schieffers were," Wright said Wednesday, after a day among the guests at the Schieffer School reception. "I remember the boys."
Bob's little brother, Tom, was an Arlington Heights High School student body president who went on to the Texas House, a partnership in the Texas Rangers and the ambassadorship to Australia.
In the choir -- or maybe in the church basement playing his guitar -- was a teen-age Air Force kid who would go on to singing stardom.
Then, he was John Deutschendorf. Later, he was known as John Denver.
In another pew sat a very young baseball player, the son of a local Chevrolet dealer.
That kid is now the new Texas secretary of state, Roger Williams.
Williams, Tom Schieffer's friend, remembers his older brother.
"When you're 8, and a guy who's 20 says hello and treats you with respect, that's what I call a friend," Williams said Wednesday.
"Then he goes on TV and becomes a star. But when he comes back, he's still your friend."
Both the Schieffer and Williams families shared a common Fort Worth bond in the 1950s and '60s: baseball. Bob Schieffer starred at North Side and played freshman baseball at TCU.
I haven't checked the Fort Worth Press newspaper archives, but some of Schieffer's best North Side games were probably covered by future novelists like Bud Shrake or Gary Cartwright, maybe Dan Jenkins.
Someone else destined for fame also lived on the west side of Fort Worth back then.
In September 1956, the month Schieffer started at KXOL, a high school sophomore named Lee and his mother, Marguerite, argued a lot in their rent house on Collinwood Avenue.
Years later, in 1963, Schieffer was a Star-Telegram reporter.
Marguerite called asking if anyone could take her to Dallas.
"Lady," Schieffer said, "this is not a taxi, and besides, the president has been shot."
"I know," Marguerite Oswald replied. "They think my son is the one who shot him."
It would become the biggest story ever for a star reporter from what must have been the very small town of Fort Worth.
Bud Kennedy's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. (817) 390-7538 email@example.com