The Golden Age of All Night Radio

I invite you to flash back to the 1950’s through the 1970’s , a time well before the internet, Facebook, Twitter, and media streaming.

frankPicture yourself driving down the road late at night when between 11:05 PM to 5:30AM, Franklyn MacCormack, and his memorable All Night Meister Brau Showcase would waft through your car radio. He could effortlessly  put you to sleep while you were at home or behind the wheel. MacCormack smoothly  interspersed romantic on-air poetry readings with great music from years past.

Please read on and actually hear his voice. There are just some people we cannot forget or throw away

pcThe radio station’s call letters,  WGN, 720 kHz (on the AM dial), stood for the then owner, Chicago Tribune “World’s Greatest Newspaper”. During the nighttime hours, you could hear WGN most anywhere in the Midwest and even farther on a clear night.

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Early programming on WGN  included live music,  the Saturday night Barn Dance, political debates, comedy routines, and some of radio’s first sporting event broadcasts.barndance1-500w Preston Sellers, the WGN staff organist would play the studio organ to fill time throughout  the day. Organ music on the radio was common and quite popular in the 1940s.

152300268954580b12b810cOrion Samuelson and his partner Max Armstrong brought farmers the noon report, and the daily price of pork bellies. WGN was best known for the Chicago Cubs, great hosts like Wally Phillips, Bob Collins, Paul Harvey and many more.

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But the golden voice came on the air at 11pm.

Franklyn MacCormack (birth name was Franklin H. McCormick) was born March 8, 1906, in Waterloo, Iowa and became an outstanding American radio personality from the 1930s into the 1970s. MacCormack hosted the All Night Meister Brau Showcase on WGN from 1959 until the day he died in 1971.

MacCormack read romantic and sentimental poetry and played classical, easy jazz, big band, Broadway music and stuff from the 20’s and 30’s.

Each nightly show opened with his distinctive signature, the music of “Melody of Love” followed by his reading of the poem “Why Do I Love You,” written by Mary Carolyn Davies poem .

“Why do I love you?   I love you not only for what you are but for what I am when I’m with you. I love you not only for what you’ve made of yourself, but for what you’re making of me. I love you for ignoring the possibilities of the fool in me and for laying firm hold of the possibilities for good in me. Why do I love you?   I love you for closing your eyes to the dischords and for adding to the music in me by worshipful listening. I love you because you’re helping to make of the lumber of my life, Not a tavern but a temple. And out of the words of my everyday,  not a reproach but a song. I love you because you have done more than any creed to make me happy. You have done it without a word,  without a touch without a sign. You have done it just by being yourself, and after all perhaps that’s what love means.”

And then Franklyn would introduce himself in his slow relaxed baritone voice that one person described as warm molasses:

“I’m Franklyn MacCormack, and that’s my calling card. So nice to have you here on a night like this, when we can share a dream together as the night grows late.”

images0X1BXW2HNow turn up your speakers and click on the link tlisten to his voice for yourself

Franklyn MacCormack, “your host and companion” entertained us from 11:05pm to 5:30am six nights a week.  In 1961, the WGN radio and television stations moved to a new studio facility on West Bradley Place not far from Lane Tech High School . It was there where he became ill during his broadcast on June 12, 1971, and and died. We lost that golden voice that night. Franklyn MacCormack was buried Elm Lawn Cemetery.

There are those who you keep in your heart, a best friend that moved away, a classmate you grew up with or that great voice on all night radio. Some things and people including Franklyn MacCormack you just keep,  at a time when everything is new, flashy and improved.   My friend Father Barton  wisely reminds us that we just don’t throw away special people.

If you remember Franklyn, or even if you have just met him for the first time in this story, please leave a comment.

11 thoughts on “The Golden Age of All Night Radio”

  1. In 1961 I graduated from eighth grade. My name sake, godmother and Aunt Nin bought me a turquoise transistor radio. My time at my grandparents that summer was filled with music from WGN 500 miles away. Night time was the only time I could get clear receiving. I remember that voice well not a bad trick since I have hear nothing in 35 years.

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  2. I was in upstate New York at Cornell university and listened for many hours for the only connection I had with my home town Chicago, Hearing his voice brings a tear of nostalgia to my eye.

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  3. What about “Chicago Ed” ? He was the one that I remember
    He TRULY was a Chicagoan through and through ! And his food drive
    Haven’t listened to WGN P.M. radio since he became ill and left

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  4. Thank you for this beautiful memory of the man and the music that amplified the love I felt when returning home from precious dates during my high school years.

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