Bill+Mack pic

broadcasting ’50s

bill mack broadcasting

and today…

Williams Smith was born in 1932 in east Texas Panhandle in the old Route ’66 stop-spot of Shamrock, Texas and while as a teenager he entered the music industry, he could hardly have known that 79 years later he would still be working as one of USAs most respected Country music Djs.

Texas Shamrock

Shamrock in red


250px-Wichita_County_WichitaFalls

Wichita Falls, north east Texas

Whilst attending Shamrock High School, the young Bill formed his first band (in which he played guitar and harmonica). When he went on to the West Texas State College, he took up a part-time job at the local KEVA radio station. By the age of 19 he was the news director at KLYN in Amarillo and it was whilst emceeing the ‘Old Hadacol Western Barn Dance’ on KWFT-TV (Wichita Falls) that he secured a recording contract with Imperial records in 1951. When not spinning discs over the radio Bill was one of those tireless fellows who took part in various regional country caravans and worked hard promoting other artists as well as country music in general.

Around this time he changed his name to Bill Mack. « Crazy Baby Boogie » became his debut release (# 8114, July 1951) for the Imperial’s 8000 Hillbilly series.

It was his eight release for Imperial, « Play My Boogie » (# 8174, January 1953), that really shook the dance floors this same year. This has since become his most sought after Imperial release, even rarer as 45 rpm.

imperial 8174 mack play boogie

Imperial 8167 was released in the late fall of 1952 and featured « Ain’t It A Shame » and « When the Sun Goes Down« . The latter gets an almost gospel touch… Had backup singers been brought in it, it might have crossed over into the realm of a hokey hymn. It does show the roots of what might be the greatest record Bill ever sang on, « Loneliest Fool In Town« , which was recorded for Starday while Bill was working in Lubbock. On « Ain’t It A Shame« , Mack really nails the feeling of dejection and loss… sad, sad, and broken hearted. Even the piano and steel cry. Cut at Nesman studios in Wichita Falls? He also came close to capturing the blue-collar aggression of primal rockabilly on tunes like « Sue-Suzie Boogie » (# 8278, October 1954).

imperial 8167 mack ain't it a shameimp 8114 wedding blues


After sixteen releases over a three years period, Mack decided it was time to move on. Nearly two months before George Jones released his now famous « Rock It » under the guise of ‘Thumper Jones‘ (Starday 240), Bill Mack cut his first record for Pappy Daily in Beaumont, Texas : the highly acclaimed double-sided « Fat Woman »/ »Kitty Kat » (Starday 231, March 1956). Great Rockabilly, which Mack had two follow-ups in the same vein up : « Cat Just Got In Town » (# 252, July 1956) – « Cat music » was very popular at that time in Texas : see my article elsewhere in the site on the subject – and the jumping « It’s Saturday Night » (# 280, January 1957).   starday 231 fatstarday 252 bill mackst 280 it's

57 bill mack starday 280


Nevertheless, although pursuing an artist’s career, Mack never gave up spinning records. In 1956, he took up a day job once more as a DJ at KWFT-TV in Wichita Falls, Texas. His ‘Big Six Jamboree‘ show became very popular locally.

1958 saw him release a song for Starday, that was later to become a huge it for him. The self-penned « Blue » (# 360, April 1958) was recorded with the help of Mack in 1997 by LeAnn Rimes. It made her a star and earned him a Grammy for « The Country Song Of The Year ».

The last issue on the label, « Loneliest Fool In Town » (Starday 453, September 1959) is really impressive because of its feel… so much heartbreak. So much loss. So much hurt. But the « I » of the song has accepted that he’s « sorrow bound ». That’s his lot for this life… or at the very least this night or this week. Flipside was a good rendition of the often performed traditional, «Johnny’s Gal Frankie ».  starday 453


Throughout his long career, Bill Mack has run up an impressive roster of hits for artists such as George Jones, Dean Martin, Jerry Lee Lewis (« Drinking Champagne »), Connie Smith ( « Clinging To A Saving Hand »)and Ray Price.

MACK PHOTO 2

The Killer & Bill Mack! c.sy Tony Biggs


In 1959, he followed Pappy Daily on his new ‘D’ label in Houston. Several of the Starday roster also joined Daily in this new venture. Mack had two releases for the label : « Johnny’s Back In Town » (# 1125) and « Waitin’ For The River To Rise » (# 1176) between 1960 and 1961. More on MGM (3 releases, several songs leased from ‘D’) from 1961 to 1964, namely « You’re Not The Kind » (# 13015), before switching to United Artists in 1962.

D 1125 bill mack john's back in town


mgm 13015 bill mack you're not the kind shah 303 ht band

By the mid 1960s he had moved on to the Shah label in Fort Worth,and it was here that he joined the Fort Worth-Dallas Metroplex WBAP and began broadcasting as a DJ in the twilight hours, to w

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awake at that time of the day. The 50,000 watt signal this station produced enabled Mack’s show to be aired right across the United States, and so giving him a huge audience catchment area. It didn’t take him long to build up a huge following of truckers, pilots and shift-workers with the ‘Open Road’ show.


He scored a minor hit with « Ladonna » for the Hickory label in 1970 and the following year he published his autobiography.

Bill Mack has become the most awarded DJ in Country music throughout the USA. Inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, Texas Country Music Disk Jockey Hall of Fame (1999). Received the ‘Media’ award from the Grand Ole Opry (2000).

Today Bill still goes out live in the twilight hours on his ‘Country Crossroads‘ radio show, as well as also hosting the ‘Country Crossroads’ cable TV show since 1993.

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Most of the text above was taken from the excellent self-published Tony Bigg‘s book « Cowboys, Honky Tonks & Hepcats » (reproduced with permission). Additions from westex.com (Imperial and Starday), rockabilly.nl {Blackcat Rockabilly site} (biography to Bill Mack) and bopping’s Editor. Many label pictures lent by England’s Tony Biggs: thanx to him!

Bill Mack has a recent CD, well-worth checking on the web (he has his own site). There is no currently available issue of his ’50s recordings. Once Hillbilly Researcher’s Big Al Turner in Britain reissued all of Mack’s Imperial output, although the CD was custom pressed and nearly unavailable. The Starday sides do appear from time to time on various artists’ compilations. And that’s it.

For a discography, see the « discography » section, taken from excellent Praguefrank site.