Bill Mack, the legendary Texas DJ, songwriter, and music promoter, died on July 31, 2020, at age 88 of Covid-19 and other conditions. His son, Billy Mack Smith, announced his dad’s death on social media Friday.
Like millions of Texans who grew up loving country music, I listened to WBAP AM 820 Radio’s Bill Mack. At least, any time I was able to stay up past midnight. His Midnight Cowboy Trucking Show didn’t just appeal to truckers. It was a must for anyone wanting to hear the latest and greatest country music. The first time I heard El Paso was on Bill Mack’s show, and Marty Robbins was with him in the studio.
The Midnight Cowboy featured country greats like Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams Jr., and Bob Wills. They all knew Bill Mack, and often dropped by his Fort Worth studio to talk about their latest records or concert tours. Mack made everyone, from his famous guests to his listeners, feel like they were visiting with an old friend.
Bill Mack Born in Shamrock, Texas
Photo: YouTube/Luck Farms
Bill Mack (born Bill Smith in 1932) grew up in Shamrock, Texas. The small West Texas town in the Panhandle now features a street named for their famous native son. He received numerous honors and accolades over his six decades-long career in music. In the 1950s he worked on several West Texas radio stations while also recording several singles, including “Play My Boogie.” He also promoted concerts in Wichita Falls, including one that featured talented newcomer Elvis Presley.
A member of Nashville’s Country Music DJ Hall of Fame, Bill Mack was named Country Music DJ of the Year over a 30-year period. He also was named Mr. DJ USA, and Texas’ Number One Country DJ. Bill joined the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and the Texas Country Music Disk Jockey Hall of Fame in 1999.
Drinking Champagne + Blue
Photo: YouTube/Orvil Morris
An excerpt from Texas Heritage Songwriters’ Association reads, in part, “Nobody in broadcasting has a more recognizable voice than Bill Mack.” They add, “…since 1969, broadcasting during the wee hours of the morning and keeping the world company with his music and chit-chat….(and winning) more awards than any other country music DJ in the world.”
As a songwriter, Mack’s work has been recorded by 60+ artists. He wrote “Drinking Champagne” in the mid-1960s, and it’s been played over one million times since then on radio and television. “Drinking Champagne” has been performed by such artists as Cal Smith, George Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Price, and even Dean Martin. George Strait’s version of the song was the most popular, earning Bill a Platinum Album in 1990.
But Mack’s biggest hit came when a 13-year-old North Texan, LeAnn Rimes, recorded his song, “Blue.” He had written the ballad in 1958, hoping Patsy Cline might record it. That song made young Ms. Rimes a star, and also won Grammy awards for both the songwriter and the singer. “Blue” was named “The Country Song of the Year in 1996.”
Two Mack Memoirs
Mack also wrote several memoirs, “Spins and Needles” in 1970 and “Memories from Broadcast Channels” in 2004. After leaving WBAP, he spent another decade broadcasting from Sirius XM Ch. 13.
Bill Mack’s son said his father had been suffering from dementia and was living in a memory care facility when he was diagnosed with coronavirus. Survivors include his wife, Cindy, of Fort Worth; their son Bill Mack Smith, three daughters, and numerous grandchildren.