Born Bill Smith, Shamrock, Texas
A country broadcaster since the late 1940s, Bill Mack, a.k.a. the Midnight Cowboy, also enjoyed success as a singer, songwriter, and producer. While still in his teens, Bill Mack formed a band (in which he played guitar and harmonica) to play dances at Shamrock High School. He majored in speech at West Texas State College and worked for radio KEVA during his student years. At 19, he was news-director for radio KLYN in Amarillo. Bill got his first break of his multi-faceted career in Wichita Falls, Texas, where his own show 'The Big Six Jamboree' played over KWFT-TV in the early 50s. He emceed 'The Old Hadocol Western Barn Dance' on KWFT-TV and in 1951 this led to a contract with Imperial Records. Mack cut a neat CD-sized bundle of 30 tracks for Imperial and came close to capturing the blue-collar aggression of primal rockabilly on tunes like "Sue-Suzie Boogie" and the 1952 piano- drenched "Play My Boogie" (Imperial 8174). Stints in broadcasting co-existed with further recordings for Starday ("Kitty Cat" and "Cat's Just Got in Town" represent Texas rockabilly at its best), Philips, United Artists, MGM and a host of smaller labels. He signed with Hickory in 1970 and had an almost hit with 'Ladonna'. This, and other Hickory and MGM sides, were gathered up on the Discus album, 'Best Of Bill Mack (If There Is Such A Thing)'. His best known songs include 'Clinging To A Saving Hand' (Connie Smith) and 'Drinking Champagne' (Cal Smith, Jerry Lee Lewis, George Strait). In March 1969, Mack joined Fort Worth's WBAP which beamed its 50,000 watt, clear channel signal all over the USA and was probably the most listened to country station of them all. Mack's all-night 'Open Road' show attracted a fanatical audience of truckers, airline pilots and country enter- tainers. 'Country Music Magazine' called him the last real radio star. In 1982 he was elected to the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame. His autobiography, 'Spins And Needles', was published by Travis Press in New York in 1970 (now out of print).
In 1959, Mack wrote the song "Blue" and recorded it for Starday. In 1996 it was a # 1 hit for LeAnn Rimes, a 13 year old spring chicken with the voice of a 30 year old. Mack encouraged the much-seized upon media hook that the song was intended for Patsy Cline who never got to record it (though lots of people had including Roy Drusky, Kathryn Pitt, Polly Stevens and yodelling Kenny Roberts). Mack, who keeps on truckin' at WBAP, finally picked up a country song Grammy Award for "Blue" in 1997. (Adapted from Bill Millar's sleeve notes for the CD "That'll Flat Git It, Vol. 12", Bear Family BCD 16102. "Play My Boogie" is on that CD.) Bill's "Cat's Just Got In Town" (Starday 252) is on "Rockabilly Shakeout" (Ace CDCHD 191). Book: Bill Mack with Tom Carter, Memories from the microphone. Nashville : Rutledge Hill Press, 2001.
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