Bob Heater was the voice of hot summer nights cruising the Belt Highway in the 1970s. He was Dave “Superfly” Knight then, an AM radio disc jockey for KKJO.
You could see him sitting in front of the huge glass radio station window with his curly afro and huge smile as you drove down the highway.
Bob saw everything from behind that window — friends driving by, streakers running by the window and drag racers — while playing the soundtrack for it all with Eric Clapton, the Spinners and other hitmakers of the day.
Since he worked the night shift from 6 p.m. to midnight at the radio station, Bob picked the name Knight out of a phone book. As Dave Knight, he interviewed everyone from Charlton Heston to Barbara Mandrell. He once rode in a limo with Wolfman Jack while the Wolfman smoked a big joint.
He was part of a phony promotion for a streaking contest, which brought more gawkers to the station than contestants.
When Bob died this past Saturday, he took the voice of those long ago summer nights with him. As a TV anchor for News-Press NOW and in local commercial voice-overs, his resonant and clear baritone served as the voice of St. Joseph. His was also the voice you heard delivering the prompts whenever you called the News-Press offices, a voice that put you at ease because you knew it so well.
My wife and I were in Kansas City eating ribs at Gates BBQ when a friend called and asked us if what she heard was true. “Bob Heater had died.”
I did not know at the time if it was true or not, but I hoped it was a rumor. I did not want it to be true.
I called Bob’s best friend, Lanny Mears, and he told me it was a very sad day for him, and yes, it was true his friend Bob Heater had died that morning.
Yes, the legendary voice was gone. The voice that introduced the hits of the 1970s and the voice that delivered the evening news on News-Press NOW. It was the same voice that comforted the grieving when he worked a short while at Meierhoffer Funeral Home and Crematory as a family pre-need counselor.
I asked Bob once how he developed that voice. Was it a learned effort or a natural occurrence? He told me he honestly didn’t know. He had the familiar resonant voice as a teen reading the school reports on the small radio station inside Benton High School.
It’s a voice I’ll miss here in the newsroom. The laugh when he shared a joke or told a story. Whether as a disc jockey, a funeral counselor or a news anchor, Bob was a true professional dedicated to whatever he did.
In 30 years working here at the newspaper, I’ve seen a few editors, reporters and artists die. It always leaves a void that lingers for awhile, even after the vacant position gets replaced
The void created by the Superfly’s passing will be felt beyond the newsroom. It leaves a huge hole in the city and in our hearts.