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.



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.

.Wally Phillipsharvey-paul


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.

30 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.


    1. Two voices influenced my life growing up on a farm 60 miles southwest of Chicago….Orion Samuelson and Franklin
      McCormick! Our family had Orion’s Ag Market updates and The Noon Show on everyday and every night I would do homework late into the next day as Franklin’s show urged me forward! My love of classical music started with his program. I loved all aspects of his program. Today is December 8, 2020 and I just read an article announcing Orion’s retirement from WGN after 60 years. Two great voices and Radio pioneers were Franklin and Orion! I will be forever grateful and appreciative for their gifts!


    2. My Parents owned the old building that we lived in. It had 4 small rental apartments that we rented weekly. There was always work to be done, new paint, new linoleum, you name it. We would listen to Frankly MacCormack and the All Night Meister Brau Showcase while we worked late into the night and early morning, after we closed our little corner store at 11:30PM each night. Soothing music. Those times, even though we were working and exhausted from the 7 day a week routine, are some of my fondest memories of my early childhood. The sounds of our nights working together were provided in part by Franklin MacCormack and the All Night Meister Brau Showcase on WGN Radio in Chicago.


    3. Great rembrance Mimi. Mine was similar in a way but very different in many other ways. As a child growing up in the mean streets of Chicago, one of six siblings, my Father who was an over the road, materials, big rig driver would occasionally invite (command) one of his boys to take a trip with him. I hated, almost, every minute of the journey. My Dad was a very angry and abusive parent and husband, but the one thing I cherished after a long trip from Chicago to Muskegon, MI and back was the ride home where Jim ( my Dad ) who loved his big Chrysler Imperial LeBaron with it’s wiz boom bang stereo system would tune in to WGN’s Meister Brow Showcase with Franklin McCormick. That program put an eternal stamp on my heart. While listening on the way home, life was peaceful, tranquil, hopeful and loving. Franklin McCormick softened the hardest heart ( Jim ) and blessed a young boy forever.


  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.


  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


  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.


  5. Just discovered your blog tonite. Its funny, as I was listening to Franklyn McCormack recorded programs last night for several hours. Good for destressing with all of this corona virus business.


  6. I listened to him in my dark bedroom when I was supposed to be asleep. I didn’t know why then, I was 13 or so, but his voice, the music he played always seemed to put a sweet topping to my Sunday evening listening.


  7. I don’t know if there are any historical societies or the like who might be interested, but I have Franklin’s desk from his radio days in Chicago. It is in pretty rough shape but still solid and definitely restorable. It was disassembled with the intent to be refinished but was never completed. It has been stored in pieces in a dry place so it is in rather good shape. Feel free to contact me if anyone might be interested.


  8. In 1968, I worked in a bakery and mixed breads from midnight until 5 am. Franklyn was always on. He helped through many a long night.


  9. Growjng up a Post-War child, I prefer that to “Baby Boomer”, all of the men had PTSD, and all of the women worked. My parents fought constantly, except when Franklin McCormack came on the radio at night. The lights dimmed, the voices went soft, and Franklin made magic. The “night” became a place where peace, love, and respect filled the room with a warm glow. Thank God for all of that.


  10. Franklyn’s voice remains your companion through the late night hours, starting at 11:00 p.m., Eastern, on WZQR Gold (www.WZQR.FM). Folks who live here on SW Florida’s Pine Island can listen on 100.7 FM. I credit Franklyn, Wally Phillips, Eddie Hubbard, and my dear friend and neighbor, Dick Lashbrook (all WGN personalities) with kindling my interest in radio broadcasting starting when I was 12 years old in the late 1950s. Please join me as we take a step back in time to listen to radio presented in a manner similar to that heard yesteryear. Thank you for this wonderful blog filled with memories!


  11. Listener to him during my teenage years. Gave me so much, comfort, and helped me earn to read e joy poetry and feel its .eating.
    Thank you for helping me remember


  12. I absolutely loved listening to Franklyn MacCormack at night as a young man; those many years ago. I later named a used bookstore of mine: “Rare Books at Vagabond’s House.” Unfortunately the business didn’t last……


  13. Franklyn was a significant influence in my life. I started listening to the All-Night Showcase while attending New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, Ill. The school operated a ten-Watt educational FM station. I tried out for an announcing job, got it, and thus began my career in broadcasting that continues to this day. WGN fans will be happy to know we’ve recreated Franklyn’s late night program. It airs from 11:05 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., Eastern, each night, on WZQR.FM’s Big Band internet station. Join us in “The Old Study” for pleasant memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Franklin McCormick and his all night Maestro showcase was very soothing to me during my college Years at Northern Illinois university.


  15. I grew up as. a small boy in Wisconsin with Franklin listening to him on night radio. Such soothing music, voice , and words. I miss those days. I thank him, WLS, Tribune, for the gift and memories. I also remember Wally. Phillips, Rus Harrington, and others who gave me so much spirit and joy. WGN, ALWAYS CLASSY.


  16. I would round up the girls living on my dorm floor at 11 and we would all sit on the hallway floor and listen to Franklyn’s opening reading of How Do I Love You before we’d retire to our rooms to study or sleep. His voice was perfect for radio! Warm , wonderful memories of WGN.


Leave a Reply to Ronald J. Riml Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: