"Hello there. Welcome to the old study. Won't you come in? So nice to have you here on a night like this, when we can share a dream together as the night grows late."
Franklyn MacCormack, born March 8, 1906, was "your host and companion" of the "All Night Showcase" on WBBM and WGN (720 AM) radio in Chicago from 1959 until his death on (on the air) June 12, 1971. It was sponsored by Meister Brau and aired from 11:05pm to 5:30am six nights a week. The show was also known as the Meisterbrau Showcase and included the Torch Hour. It was a great late night show. He interspersed moody, contemplative music with poetry that he read. I often listened to him late at night when I lived in Illinois growing up. (His name is often misspelled as Franklin McCormack or Franklin Mac Cormack or Franklin McCormick.)
Pete writes: "We would drive around until his show ended in the wee hours, listening to his amazing stories, poetry readings and incredible segues into commercials: "Have you ever held a beautiful woman in your arms, kissed her tenderly and then looked deep into her eyes? Well that's the same feeling you get when you take a long refreshing drink from an ice-cold Meisterbrau beer." He played great jazz and easy listening, a lot that you'd recognize, and stuff from the 20's and 30's that you couldn't hear or get anywhere. He knew stories about every performer and had met all the greats. I listened to him religiously until he died on the air. I can hear his deep baritone in my mind right now, his slow relaxed delivery and his easygoing talk."
|LPs Featuring Franklyn MacCormack|
|The Torch Is Burning (Liberty LRP 7086, 1958). This LP is fairly easy to find at used record stores, perhaps because of its cheesecake cover. LP and CD dealers David Edwards and Mike Callahan write" "LRP-3086(mono)/LST-7086(stereo) - The Torch is Burning - Franklyn MacCormack  Franklyn was an all-night deejay in Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s. He was best known for reading poetry over schmaltzy instrumentals at 4 in the morning. Why Do I Love You/Where Or When/Smoke Gets In Your Eyes/All Or Nothing At All/I Get Along Without You Very Well/I'll Be Seeing You/I'll Remember April/My One And Only Love/Easy Come Easy Go Love/Love You So/You Go To My Head/Put Your Dreams Away"|
|An Evening with Franklyn MacCormack (IRC 3311, 1965) in stereo, with organ accompaniment by Adele Scott. Track listing: Why Do I Love You, Because You Love Me, Alone, Good Night Son, My Lonely Heart, Beyond the Brightest Star, I Cannot Be Alone, The Time To Remember, Dreams, When the World Was Young, This Is All I Ask, September Song.|
|Another Evening With Franklyn MacCormack (IRC 3315, 1965). Track listing: Autumn Leaves, Are You Lonesome Tonight, As time goes by, Lonesome that’s all, You’re nobody until somebody loves you, I remember you, Last gift, A father’s prayer, You’d be so nice to come home to, For all we know, and The face on the barroom floor.|
|Franklyn MacCormack - Vagabond's House (Torch Records TST-100, 1971) After his death, Torch Records put out at least one set of readings. "Volume 1. Franklyn MacCormack recites the Don Blandings Immortal Classic The Vagabond's House and Farewell to Vagabond's House. Plus Carl Sigman's Love Story and Rod McKuen & Jacques Brel's If You Go Away. Guitars by Earl Backus and Pat Ferreri, vibes by Frank Rullo."|
|10" LP (33rpm) Featuring Franklyn MacCormack|
|Melody of Love (Why I Love You) (MGM)|
|8-Track Tape Featuring Franklyn MacCormack|
|Vagabond's House / Farewell To Vagabond's House (1974 Torch Record Company)|
|45s Featuring Franklyn MacCormack|
|?/The Shepherds and The Angel (EP201) - narrator: Franklyn Mac Cormack - organist: Harold Turner|
|The Resurrection/Thanksgiving and The Shepherd Psalm (EP202) - narrator: Franklyn Mac Cormack - organist: Harold Turner|
|Peaceful Interlude with Franklyn MacCormack. Side 1: a. "Why Do I Love You?" b. "Because You Love Me" Side 2: a. "The Sweetheart Wife" b. "A Father's Prayer". Circa 1950s.|
|Some 45rpm recordings from Australia can be found at 45cat.|
|78s Featuring Franklyn MacCormack|
|None But The Lonely Heart/Melody of Love (RCA Victor 27713), Franklyn MacCormack and Wayne King.|
|I Like Christmas / My New Year's Wish For You (MGM 50009), Franklyn MacCormack with Herbert Foote at the Organ.|
|Recitation by Franklyn MacCormack, with Wayne King and his Orchestra (RCA Victor 27911, 1941) has "Because You Love Me" with musical background "Meditation" and "The Day is Done" with musical background of the same name.|
|"Are You Lonesome Tonight?" - MGM 78|
"Dedication; Träumerei" (20-2492 RCA Victor)
Wayne King and his Orchestra w/Franklyn MacCormack recitation on Dedication.
"Dedication" is the Robert Schumann art song "Widmung" from 1840. The words come from an untitled poem by Friedrich Rückert in the German langauge. Franklyn MacCormack recites an English translation that begins "Thou art my soul and thou my heart."
|I will add more if I find more.|
|Books by Franklyn MacCormack|
|Why I Love You, And Other Poems From My Old Book of Memories, published by John C. Winston Co., Philadelphia, 1948. Hardcover, 245 pages. It has many poems categorized by theme. The poems were not written by Franklyn MacCormack, merely collected by him.|
|This paperback edition of Pages From My Old Book of Memories was published by Carl Mack Books, Chicago, 1963. 245 pages.|
Directory of Vinyl Record Dealers (your best bet would be one in the Chicago area)
The Chicago company "Metro Golden Memories" which formerly sold tapes of Franklyn MacCormack performing, appears to have gone out of business. However, Tom Scanlon writes: "I have found another source for two of the tapes that were mentioned on this web site. "An hour with Franklyn MacCormack" and "The Last Remote from the Aragon." I called WGN's switchboard and was referred to the Museum of Broadcast Communication in Chicago. www.museum.tv and 312-629-6038 for the gift shop. I lived in Chicago from 1958-1969 and used to listen to the All Night Meister Brau Showcase when travelling late at night with my parents. I feel very fortunate to have obtained both of the tapes."
Also Dave Studebaker writes: FYI: Franklyn MacCormack recordings on CD are available from nostalgiadigest.com, Chuck Schaden's web replacement for the Metro Golden Memories storefront.
Right-click and Save Target As to make a copy on your computer. It's best if you have a high-speed Internet connection. If you have only a telephone modem, it will take a long time to download each MP3 file.
Dick Marr writes: One night I recall Franklyn providing advance notice that he would be doing Vagabond's House during The Torch Hour and suggesting that listeners might want to get their tape recorders ready. I think that is the night I taped it. Franklyn knew Don personally and, as I recall, had permission from Don's estate to do the Vagabond's House program about once every 5 months. Years ago I came across a book entitled "West of the Sunset," by Don Blanding and still have it. It contains the three poems on the recording as well as many other poems by Don. Since it doesn't cost me anything to send copies of my recordings via the internet, I have decided I'm willing to share them with anyone. If you wish to state that on your web site and provide my email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) you are welcome to do so. Or maybe I should look into getting a web site.
Gary Theroux writes: Like so many others growing up in the Midwest in the late 1960s, I listened to a lot of radio, the medium that not only shaped a lot of my own career (as a broadcaster myself) but my perceptions of the world. l particularly grew to cherish the kind of radio you’d listen to in your car right up until the moment you pulled into your driveway and shut the ignition off. The motor would stop, but then you’d click the radio back on – because you were afraid that if you didn’t, you’d miss something. Franklyn’s broadcasts were like that – compulsive radio – that you simply could not turn away from for fear of missing a magic moment and breaking the spell. It was MacCormack’s show that introduced me to the wealth of wonderful music I’d been born too late to know about the first time around.
One memorable night he even interviewed the leader of the first superstar band in recording history, Paul Whiteman (who, of course, I’d never heard of before). That interview alone got me wondering about what else I had missed, being born when I was – and began a lifetime of entertainment history research and discovery. I wound up creating, writing and producing radio and TV documentaries on that very subject for CBS, PBS, Disney and others. And, as the 20-year Music & Entertainment Editor of Reader’s Digest, I compiled and produced more than 300 archival CD box sets spotlighting all aspects of music and entertainment history. One of my favorite collections, the CD box set “Memories Of You,” was not only structured just like “The All Night Meister Brau Showcase,” it even included -- in stereo -- most of the tracks from Franklyn’s 1958 “The Torch Is Burning” LP. Capitol Records, which owns those Liberty masters, couldn’t believe it when I asked to license McCormack material – which no one else had ever inquired about before! The ensuring artist royalties on those tracks had to be held in escrow – because Capitol had no idea if any of FM’s heirs existed to accept the money! But that album -- my tribute to Franklyn MacCormack – was the closest I could come to re-creating the magic he held millions of us spellbound by every night he was on over WGN.
Don Kobes writes "I first heard Don Blanding's poetry while in Iowa City, as a young boy. Franklyn McCormack would read "Vagabond's House" and other Blanding poetry on his WGN, late night, Chicago show."
Harley Carden writes: "A man named Franklyn McCormack,with a voice like warm molasses would quote poems about loneliness and heartbreak while discreet violins whispered in the background. We would sit rapt and breathless as Franklyn quoted the title poem, "Down the valley of a thousand yesterdays flow the bright, cool waters of Moon river . . . on and down, carrying you to . . . ."
[I think he's referring to the WLW radio show in Cincinnati "Moon River". Did Franklyn McCormick narrate this WLW show as well as the Chicago one? The announcer Peter Grant is generally credited as doing Moon River. This is just speculation on my part, but it's interesting to note that WGN personalities Wally Phillips and Bob Bell came over from WLW in 1956. Or, I could have it backwards - the Moon River show may be based on Franklyn's earlier work. I also heard that there was a similar show in Seattle years ago called "Reflections" that was hosted by Dave Ballard on KIXI (still there at AM 880 - the FM side became KJR). Ed White writes to tell of a Canadian DJ whose work was very similar to MacCormack named Paul Reid.]
Ellie Macko writes: "I used to listen to him when he was broadcasting in the 50's. I do a local live TV show in our little town, and I used him as a trivia question. My question was: he would open with his very husky voice with Wayne King in the background and say: "This is Franklyn McCormack coming to you from top of the -------- building." Do you happen to know what building it was? It is not the WGN bldg, or Wrigley Bldg, or Tribune bldg. I had so many callers, and no one can remember. In the past I even called Chicago to check, no one seemed to know."
More from Ellie Macko:
"I found something WGN is doing for their Diamond Anniversay. Guess what it is- on Franklyn. Even pictures. Perhaps it would be of interest to some of his fans. It is certainly a lovely tribute to him. Quite a story. I also emailed my trivia question. From their article it seems like his show was at WGN, but there may have been times he did it from some place else. We will see." Click here for the WGN article
Larry Fick wrote:
Just a word of thanks and great appreciation. I can't express enough what I feel in my heart to hear the words of Franklyn MacCormack and the poem "Why Do I Love You". The recording my dad once bought back in the (I believe) 1940's, of Franklyn and Wayne King's "Melody of Love", made my dad cry. This same song and narration has touched my soul the same way.
Here are some specific poems Franklyn MacCormack was known to read on his show:
I also received a letter from Peggy J. Simmons about Franklyn's poetry and how it affected her life.
Chuck Ford writes: I grew up about 60 miles west of Chicago (DeKalb) and was a regular listener to Franklyn's Saturday night program almost from its inception. I was in college in those early years of the program and remember fondly listening to Franklyn weave his magic spells in the wee hours of the morning while coming home from a date. I was enthralled by his readings of works like "Vagabond House" "Manhattan Tower" and "House by the Side of the Road". I especially enjoyed his "Curtain Call" hour from 12:00 to 1:00 when he played music from the 20s and 30s. It wasn't just the great recordings by people like Al Jolson, Sophie Tucker, Paul Whiteman, Ted Lewis, The Coon-Sanders Nighthawks, Gene Austin, Ruth Etting, Kate Smith and Bing Crosby. It was the little antidotes he related about the artists being featured. He made the whole experience more alive and exciting. It allowed you to relate more to the music because you knew something about the performar and the era in which it was performed.
Years later I tried without success to encourage the station managers of several stations playing nostalgia music to have their announcers do the same, but they just couldn't see it -- "people don't want to hear that kind of stuff, they just want to listen to the music". I also have a friend who was fired for doing just that on his show and the management didn't like it. Franklyn MacCormack was a very unique personality and it was a great loss when he passed away.
Darrell Holmquist writes: As our family's radio sets were perpetually tuned to WGN in the late 50's and through the 60's, it was no huge accident that I acquired a taste for the "Magic of Music" and the "Meister Brau Showcase" as I was either finishing school work or reclining in bed. When the 11 PM news would end (and the Cubs weren't playing a night game on the West Coast), I'd wait for the announcer to say, "And now, Mr. Franklyn MacCormack". The violins and the sax would fall into Melody of Love, gently accompanied by Mr. MacCormack's lines. Much of the time, I never made it through the theme song. On occasions when I did, I always wondered what it would be like to be awake and hear the entire show "from now until 5:30 tomorrow morning". It's cruelly ironic that Mr. MacCormack died just two weeks after I turned 21, the age at which I could legally begin to make decisions by myself. It's now 30 years later and I still wish that I could turn on the radio some balmy summer night and hear THAT voice just one more time. How about, "The curtain is up and the show is on; music from 'My Fair Lady.....''"?
Paul Englund writes: "Franklyn's theme song "Why Do I Love You" has been going thru my head all day, so I went online looking to see if I could find it available somewhere. I grew up in Moline, and, being a night person, listened to Franklyn on WGN regularly. "I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you." "It's Midnight in The Windy City, and the torch is burning." Those were the days (or nights, rather). They don't play music like that anymore."
Susan writes: I believe he broadcast from the top of the Prudential building--there weren't that many high rises at the time and it was the tallest and was a tourist attraction. Other notable buildings were the Allerton Hotel with the Tip Top Tap--my parents favorite romantic restaurant-- and the Edgewater Beach Hotel tho I think that was torn down in the early 1960's. He was an icon--I listened to him along with my grandmother--it's surprising he's not remembered more.
Lobo writes: My family was discussing Franklyn MacCormack over the Christmas dinner table and I said I'd check the Internet. I was glad to find your page, but disappointed not to find the quote I was seeking. He used to start ... or maybe end .. his show by saying "The moon is young and the night is made of music," or something to that effect. Do you know what if that was part of a poem or just an intro or exit line? I listened to him in Minnesota in the 60s. Thanks!
Patricia Poling writes: "I cannot thank you enough for posting information on Franklyn MacCormack's recordings. I have an old lp of Vagabond House that is very scratchy and have tried for years to find another copy of some sort. My father would play that lp for us as children and I have such fond memories of those times. I just cannot express my gratitude to someone who has fulfilled a dream of finding a good recording. For years I could not imagine how a voice as Franklyn MacCormack's could be lost and there not be some fans out there. My sincere thanks again."
Pamela Brown writes: "I was a student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in the late 60's. I discovered Franklyn Mac Cormack's show when pulling "all-nighters," and became addicted. My senior year I had a single room, and it was so comforting on those snowy winter nights to listen to the poetry and beautiful musical selections of the Meisterbrau Showcase. I graduated from the University in 1969, moved back east, and sadly was unable to locate Franklyn's show in the D.C. area. I didn't know until just now, when I discovered your website, that this wonderful man died only two years after I left college. I hope he has a big following. I'm also wondering if he left a family. There is definitely an audience for this type of show."
Hal Vickery posted this on Usenet: "The night people I remember on WGN were Franklyn MacCormack who used to play a pretty wide variety of music on his show, including some light classical music. He was on through the '60s until he died after one of his programs. He was replaced by Cliff Mercer who maintained the same format until Miller Brewing bought the Peter Hand brewery and Meister Brau Beer was no more. I was hoping that might jog my memory as to who replaced Mercer. I think it might have been Paul Rogers, but I won't swear to it. Mike Rapchak did a Saturday night show for several years in the '70s and '80s. He played a lot of big band music on that show.
Daryl Jannuzzi writes: WGN wooed John Doremus from the WAIT morning show as permanent overnight host at WGN after Cliff Mercer in late 1971 or '72. He didn't last all that long (maybe just 2 or 3 years). There might have been someone else after him until Ed Schwartz came over from WIND. Bill Buckley replaced John Doremus on WAIT.
Aug H. Schwiesow writes: My fond memories of Franklyn go way back to the early 1940s when he was an announcer for the "Jack Armstrong, the all American Boy" Later he had a 15 minute segment on WGN at about 3:00 PM and we would listen to him as often as we could. I have four of his records and would like to see a CD produced with these recordings.
In the mid 1950s I became a police officer and can tell you that most of us listened to Franklyn during the early morning hours. Franklyn had a friend who owned a bakery in Des Plaines, IL at that time. He was known to us as "Herman the German" and occasionally Franklyn would stop into the police stations along his route back home to Forest Lake.
I am privileged to own two watches that belonged to Franklyn, both engraved on the case. One is the watch that he wore when he flew his AT-6; the other is a watch presented to him in 1969 by a suburban police department. These are prized possessions of mine. We also have a pocket watch and a . 22 rifle that was a part of Franklyn's collection.
I knew Paul Crumb who was an engineer at WGN for many years and also knew him as a member of the IL Chapter of the Silver Wings, a pilots organization. In my conversations with Paul I found it unbelievable that WGN did not retain any of Franklyn's broadcasts in its archives.
As I am meandering thru my 70+ years I count my blessings that I can recall many of Franklyn's 40 years of broadcasting. I believe he passed on in June of 1971 about the time that I graduated from a nine month course in police administration. Franklyn Mac Cormack's magic continues to provide me with many wonderful memories.
George Kellogg writes: Back in 1963, I obtained a "Melody of Love" album dedicated and signed (twice) by FM. I had just broken up with Louise and never gave it to her. I ran across it the other day and looked up FM on the internet. People seem to be moved by his efforts. Since Louise liked him so much, I found her name and address on the net so I will send it to her after 39 years.
Dale Johnson writes: In the late 1980's I broadcast "The Big Band Show" from WHSM in Hayward, Wisconsin every Sunday evening from 7 PM until 11 Pm. While the first three hours were dedicated to specific years of the big band era or a particular artist, the last hour was reserved for my version of "The Torch Hour" which was dedicated to Franklyn. I played a number of his well known recitations at first and later began to do them live, myself. My show has a number one Arbitratron rating in threee states while I had it and until I moved to Florida where I am at present. Franklyn along with WGN personalities Wally Phillips and "Uncle Bobby" were inspirations to me along with several of the WIND (Chicago) personalities such as Howard Miller and Jay Trompeter.
John T. Johnson writes:
I echo all the sentiments shared by others. I can still picture myself in bed, late at night, with the katydids humming outside, and the incomparable voice of Franklyn MacCormack coming through my hand-sized Philco transistor radio. I grew up in the farming community of Ashkum, IL, just south of Kankakee. It was F.M. that introduced me to the beauty and listening joy of Broadway musicals, not to mention an early appreciation for poetry. I'm now 52, but the memories still linger. Thanks again. If there's never been a F.M. 'reunion' of sorts, maybe one can be started! I would be there, in Chicago.
Pam Beckhorn writes: We have about half a dozen hand written music scores of "Melody of Love". Several copies of the poem "Why do I love you". Some religious-type flyers (think they were the Torch) but am not certain. Will look again. Also have quite a few of the show's schedules in the early 40's when he was with Wayne King. Some hand written notes in the schedules...things like that. There's a huge photograph of Mr. MacCormack and a number of hand-written letters from a woman named Madeline M. Meyer, from Akron, Ohio, who signed her correspondence as "Mad". None of the music scores are signed, and, since I can't read music, I don't know yet if they are different versions or what. However, I've become quite interested and I'd love to find out more about Mr. MacCormack and his life. He must have been quite a wonderful human being.
Frank Losos writes: I was born in 1945. Grew up on a farm 60 miles south of Chicago in Wilmington, IL. We didn't have much money and had to rely on our own resources. My hobby was building radios, crystal sets. I recall climbing up the creaky stairs in our old farmhouse one cold February night, attaching the grounding clip onto an old, creaky, cast-iron bed and tuning in WGN radio. I was astounded to hear this warm, vibrant voice opening his show with the lines "... the torch is burning ...", then reciting poety to romantic background music. I was hooked. Favorite selections "Why do I love you ..." and "Vagabond's House". Thirty five years later I was sorting through selections in a used book store and discovered the greatest find of my life, a silver and blue hard-cover copy of poety by Don Blanding, featuring "Vagabond's House" and other selections. The memories flooded back and I was once again that 10-year old boy caught in the spell of the "Golden Throated Meister" himself. Thank you for preserving these memories with your web-site. Those of us who have been touched by the magic of Franklyn MacCormack will preserve his memory as long as we live. What an astounding individual.
John Dahlberg of Rockford, Illinois writes:
I'm 56 years old now and with loving memories, think
back to the time when I listened to The All Night
Meister Brau showcase religiously. Remember, "Come in,
come in, won't you, to the old study". I listened to
him while just a kid. I don't remember really when I
first discovered him...just glad I did. I grew up in
Rockford Illinois and in 1968 joined the Rockford
Police dept. The night shift was special because I
could listen to him till 5:30 a.m. I admit I hated
getting calls to have to respond to. It took away
listening time for goodness sake! It was such a sad
time when he passed away (6/13/71). But I have his
records and tapes from MGM in Chicago which all get
listened to frequently. One of my most valued
treasures is an autographed 33 rmp album. A friend of
mine just last year gave me his copy of the Little
Book of Memories.
Is there any information as to where his grave is? I
would love to visit it and pay me respects, even after
all these years.
[Good idea - if anyone has access to archives of Chicago newspapers, you should be able to find this out from his obituary - let me know if you do find out. --Richard]
Michael from Shiny Around The Edges writes: Franklyn MacCormack is still having an influence on people, in particular, my sadcore band, shiny around the edges! In the band, we utilize a sample of "Why do I Love You" from THE TORCH IS BURNING LP in one of our songs to great effect . In fact, we have so fallen in awe of THE TORCH IS BURNING LP, we named our EP, "why do i love you." All of this stems from my wife, our band's singer, who saw the LP in the trash (!!!) by our apartment (in Los Angeles) and rescued it - having no idea what it was. We had a DJ friend make a CD of the record (with static, pops, and all - neat) and we couldn't stop listening to it for days. After some research, we found the site and learned more about this great radio personality. We often times play the CD over the house PA before we go on stage as well.
Carol Phillipps writes: I remember him when he read poetry late-nite on WLW in Cincinnati. I was a teenager, and should have been asleep, but often tuned in. The program was called Moon River, and the opening began with him reading that poem: "Moon River...an enchanged white ribbon, twined in the hair of night...", with soft music playing in the background. Those were nice memories...
Larry Pontius writes: I spent many late nights during the late 40's-early 50's in Jacksonville, Illinois listening to a radio program I remember as Moon River, in my big old dark bedroom with only dim shadows from the small light of my little bedside radio, volume low so my big brother wouldn't make me turn off the radio so he could get to sleep. Several years ago I heard a famous singer/actress who told her interviewer she once worked on this Moon River program. She spent some time describing it and it was this program for sure. Can't remember the her name. Does anyone know who this is?
Sue Shannon writes: When I was a little girl,back in the late 50's and thru the 60's , I lived next door to him. I called him uncle Mack. I moved away from Forest Lake Ill., in 1969. Reading your web site brought back so many memories, My mother passed away in 2000,she was very good friends with mack and his wife Barbara. My mother had all his albums and you can bet I'm going to find out if her husband still has them.
Yostie writes: At 58, I listened to Franklyn thoughout the '60s and into the '70s. He epitomized sophistication in my mind. Today, when creating CDs from my music collection, I often find myself doing three versions of a standard back-to-back-to-back with a male vocalist, an instrumental version and a female vocalist performing the same song. My buddies during high school and college used to ride around the countryside drinking beer and listening to Franklyn. I always regarded his announcement that "Meister Brau Bock is back" as being the first real harbinger of spring. His hour of classical music first introduced me to the wonders of serious music. I would certainly love to find a CD of his "The Torch Is Burning" album.
Jon Stanton writes: Like many of the people that have posted I too am in my mid 50's and listened to FM. Here's a funny story for you...In the 60's I attended the Chicago Conservatoty college at 64 E VanBuren. On the 11th floor was a recording studio. I was talking to the owner one day and he told me about a session he had produced with FM. I don't know if he pre-recorded some of his poetry sessions for WGN but he surely mesmerized everyone in the recording studio. After he was done (FM) he took a deep sigh and asked "Where can a guy get a beer around here?" Temporarily bursting everyones romantic bubble.
Bob O'Halloran writes: I had the pleasure of knowing Mac. I first met him through a friend of mine (Rocco Greco). He used to play Rocco's records all the time. I went to work at a rock station (WYNR) as the side kick for Dick Kemp The Wild Child. I used to sit with Mac in the studio at 2501 W. Bradley Place after leaving WYNR. I remember Carl Grayson and Mac both had big black Cadillacs and Mac would joke that his was always the clean one. He used to have guests at night from all walks of life. He had a stroke about 8 or 10 months before his death that only effected his speech. He was able with therapy to regain his speech. The doctors did not want him to return to work too soon but he was determined. He passed away just after the show began. I was told that a record was on and when the engineer asked what he wanted next he saw that he had collapsed at his desk. He had a son (probably in his early 20's) at the time of his death. He was a big guy and seemed to love western style jewelry. I also remember him having his little fridge in the studio stocked with his personal supply. I was told that his wife did not want any of his material to be released or at least any pre-recorded parts of his show. He was a great person who was never too good to sit and talk with anybody. The story about him doing a recording session then asking where he could get a cold beer was just what you would expect of him.
Phil in Santa Fe writes: Doing some chicago network and his name just popped into my mind, with the half-lost memory of that 'voice' and those 'stories.' I listened to him from 1959 to 1962, when in high school there. late a night with the radio real low so my mother wouldn't hear. Don't know how many days I fell asleep in one class or another. It was the sheer exotic-ness of the program in the button-down 1950's that captivated me. It was unreal--literally. I thought at the time that his use of poetry from the pre-war (and even pre- 1900) era was a deliberate attempt to connect with the memories of folks in their sixties. retired, but had this vision of their youth he could hook in to. He wove a spell for them I am sure, lulling them (and us) into accepting the end of their lives and spreading a balm over the approaching eternal night.
There also seems to be some mystery about the man, his life and biography. Tape decks were around and someone must have recorded him. Hope the reels turn up. I'm just plain going to have to get his records until I get that one piece I remember. Thanks for the memories.
Andrew Schrag writes: Last night, Franklyn MacCormack came sailing through my mind. It was such a warm feeling to remember how Franklyn could visually draw such a warm images for his listeners. He had a way of describing the evening's program that made you feel warm and fuzzy like a new blanket that you wanted to wrap yourself in. He always set a relaxing mood with his warm and disarming voice. His inviting voice , selection in poetry touched the mind and soul, while his selection in music captured my heart and mind. As a young teenager living in Cedar Falls, Iowa, I would find myself laying awake in the dark listening to his voice until I feel asleep.
Larry Drill writes: I listened to Franklyn in 1969 and 1970 when I went to the University of Chicago. Do you know of the saying that he always used that went something like: " Enjoy life, enjoy living and have more than enough to drink " This is WGN a clear channel from Chicago. Thanks for the memories.
Michael/Shemp writes: As a kid in chicago area I had many nights to hear him on the radio and my mother was a friend of his and I got to meet him on the air and at his home. Now I am 45 and I wish I could here him the the radio again. I have a picture of him and a record with his signature so you see I was a fan . with that said I just wanted you to know that is a nice thing to find this site with all this info as to not forget a great man and host of a show long time off the air! Also I would like to say I was listening the last night he was on the air it was a sad night for me and my family.
Ed Forrester writes: I was attending college in Valparaiso IN, (50 miles east of Chicago) in the 60's "The torch is burning" was a requisite part of my dating habits. No date was complete without a little Why Do I Love You, read at midnight. As one who grew up in Chicago, the memories were strong of this man. He did have a way of making all seem well by given you a moment of quiet reflection, adulation of life and a respect for others that doesn't exist today as it did then, or at least as I remember it. Perhaps even more so than with Johnny Mathis, Franklyn's poetry was a man's best friend with the ladies. I often quote, Why Do I Love You, to a younger generation, most are in awe of it, but do not fully comprehend the signifignance of it both as poetry and as a "brand" of a great man who brought a smile and introspection to a generation of people.
Oscar Peterson writes: I lived up in northern Wisconsin (Eau Claire) and as a boy in the early 1950s used to listen to Franklyn on my crystal set, if I could get the cat-whisker just right. What a thrill and what a program, especially for a lonely kid. I still remember the Vagabond's House and Why Do I Love You that he used to read. Wonderful stuff. Only if we had this sort of quality programming today.
John Giammarrusco Jr. writes: I happened upon Mr. MacCormack's show late one night and I was hooked! I wasn't really into that era of music but the combination of his poetry, his soothing voice and the music in the background helped put me at ease. I can still remember opening my bedroom window, proping up my radio next to the outside screen and laying back in bed in total relaxation. There always seemed to be a gentle breeze that accompanied this nightly routine. I listened for years after that...never growing tired of listening to this wonderful man.
John Giammarrusco Jr. writes: Phil Schuman writes: I too, used to listen to him at night.... falling asleep and not able to get up for school :) At times, I used to think he actually was at the concert hall with 2 seats on the isle - and yes the lead-ins to the commercials were just blending with the other prose and settings.
Paula Koval writes: It was 1962 or 1963 and I had my trusty Zenith clock radio and a wee tiny transistor radio. I used to stay awake late, listening to whatever I could get on the radio through the earphone that came with my radio. The first thing I recall hearing from any distance was on WGN, a clear channel station in Chicago where the time is ... and the temperature at Tribune Tower is... Franklyn MacCormack is my first memory of a radio personality. I was 12 when I first heard his recitation during "Melody of Love" by Wayne King, my dad's favorite bandleader. That was 43 years ago. I wrote to Mr. MacCormack and in the letter I included a map from a Lackawanna Railroad timetable to show him where Scranton, PA was located. I received a warmly-written letter from him as I listened and went "into the night..." He was something to hear. I also heard his recitation on one of Wayne King's albums, "Melody of Love," I think. I am surprised that no one mentioned his narration of the Longines Symphonette Society special recording called "I Remember Radio." It began with an audio clip of Calvin Coolidge taking the oath of office in 1921. I wish I could find a copy of it.
Dick C. Kinney writes: I was a student at the Univ. of Arkansas in Fayetteville, AR 61-65. I am sure Fayetteville was right on the edge of the stations range, but I could pick up his show most nights. I still have one of his records that I purchase about 1962. He was very relaxing to listen to while studying late at night.
Tim Greaves writes: I was in college in Memphis from 62-66, and as a night-owl, lay awake many a night listening to Mr. F M "Music til Dawn- the Meister Brau Showcase". I thought the poetry aspect of the show was great and remember paticularly his recitation one night of "Nancy Hanks". Delilah is trying to emulate him, it appears, but maybe not knowingly.
Paul Hayes writes: I seem to remember that occasionally I would hear a reading of a poem that started something like: "I have forgotten you, I never think of you, except....". Then it would go on to list all of the times and ways a love had been remembered. Any idea what that might have been? I'm here in Boston Massachusetts and while in college a long time ago I would pick up the wgn broadcast late at night and frequently would stay up much later than I should to hear MacCormack's readings.
Joseph C. Kopf of Escondido, California writes: I can recall listening to Franklyn MacCormack in the late 1950s in Toronto, Canada. At that time, late in the evening, if my memory serves me correctly, I listened to a program called The Magic of Music with Franklyn MacCormack. But I can find no reference to this program on your website. Is my memory playing tricks on me?
Bob Shotola writes: When I was going to high school and college I would frequently end my day and finally fall asleep with Franklyn McCormick. The era was the mid 1960s. Franklyn would, I think, end his program with a beautiful recitation of Desiderata. Does anyone remember this? It always made me feel ready for the next day.
Bill Green writes: I am a big fan of Franklyn Mccormack. At one point I had his eight track.
Bob Jones writes: At 78 I am so glad I thought to put in the search box, Franklyn Mc McCormack. I was in Sullivan High School, in Rogers Park, Chicago 1943-1948. I too listened every night. Once on a date with Joan Besserdick we went to see him broadcast after a movie at the Chicago Theater in the loop. Seems we went to the Merchandise Mart to see him. Oh what the world had then. Sweetness & tendernes. I remember his wonderful voice saying the " and it has 9,9999 drops of pure goodness"
James Tevis writes about the All Night Masterbrau Show Case: I was stationed at Great Lakes, Illinois from 1962 to 1966. I stood midnight to 4 AM Navy Watches and listened to Franklyn Mccormack each time I had a watch. Listening to his program with his poetry and music just made the time pass so pleasantly. It was really great the way he would play several versions of the same tune or song in a row. I remember Franklyn mentioning a fellow named "Lenny" who was there at the station to assist him with the turntable and looking up and filing the music albums. Franklyn was one in millions.
Jean Mahrous writes: I was a faithful listener to "The Torch Hour" while living in Madison, WI in the 1960's. Although I had to get up early for work, I tried never to miss a night. The Vagabond's House" and "Farewell to Vagabond's House" were my favorites.
Dexter VanHoozen writes: I remember seeing him at the bar in the Shore Club at Lake Geneva many times. At the last minute he would go out and drive to Chicago and go on the air without missing a beat. I wish I had a recording do his rendition of "Are You Lonely Tonight".
Dan Rockett from North Carolina writes: I recall so vividly the impressions this man made upon me. It was the early sixties, and I was at a lost for "connecting" in society. He put my heart at ease and helped me understand the loneliness I experienced at the time. I had to listen to the show in my car in order to pick up the signal, so I rode around a lot at night while going to college. He was my companion in soul, while searching for someone to share my life with. I miss his delivery and unique talent of connecting with listeners.
Garrisson Keillor, is about the only one left in the same league as this icon of radio. My heart goes out to him and his memory. Please bring back "The Torch Hour", "this is the quiet time of the evening....."
Marty Heidke writes: I am the Naturalist at Mirror Lake State Park near the Wisconsin Dells. MLSP recently acquired 100 acres of property including the Ishnalla resort. Growing up, in the 50's and 60's, I can remember Franklyn MacCormack broadcasting a couple of weeks each summer from the Dells. My memory says it was from Ishnalla. Is my memory correct?
Michele Thomas writes: I remember Franklyn MacCormack with much fondness. My mother would have him on the radio and I heard him quote "How Do I Love Thee?' many times. I loved his show mostly because my mom did. I loved to see her be so serenely happy to be hearing him. We listened in Union City and Corry PA back in the 60's. My love of poetry started because of his reading. I write poetry too. It was so comforting to me to read all the comments here from others whose lives were touched by this wonderful man.
S.J. writes: I would force myself to stay awake alone and in the dark, in my bedroom, listening to that beautiful, hypnotic voice. I somehow, at an early age, developed an awareness of a wide variety of musical genres that my parents did not listen to. I think it was Franklyn MacCormack who introduced me to Sigmund Romberg and Franz Lehar, helping to lay an early foundation for my love of classical music. Am I remembering correctly? Did he play classical music, too? I have a distinct impression of listening to The Student Prince with Franklyn MacCormack. "Overhead the moon is beaming...."
Didn't he broadcast from the top of the Allerton Hotel? Somehow I have an association of that building with him.
I remember, maybe incorrectly, that at midnight he'd say "Welcome to the Torch Hour. The torch is lit" or something like that. Very romantic.
Paul K. Brubaker, Sr. writes: As many of the others, I too have fond and powerful memories of Franklyn MacCormack.
When it first aired, I believe it was called "The Reserve Showcase" because Peter Hand produced a quality beer called Reserve Beer. After a year or so, it became "The Meister Brau Showcase". (Miller now produces Reserve Lager, and Meister Brau Lite is now Miller Lite.)
I was doing some work for a friend whom I've known since I was four. We graduated from highschool in 1959. We were reminiscing about school and friends as we worked. He mentioned listening to "The Meister Brau Showcase" when he was dating, and I also did. I worked the midnite shift a lot in those days and was a devout listener to Franklyn MacCormack from 1959 until he died. That was a very sad nite.
The Torch Hour was always my favorite part of the show. I have the words to "The Vagabond's House". I would dearly love to have the words to "Farewell to Vagabond's House."
It would be wonderful if someone could compile the "Complete Works of Franklyn MacCormack".
("Vagabond's House" was written by the poet Don Blanding --ed.)
Bob McMullen writes:
I attended university in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada from 1961- 1964 and remember listening to a wonderful radio show from Chicago .... probably MacCormack's. The announcer's voice, material and presentation would transport me to another world as I often sat up late writing essays, and in those days, really writing them.
I found your website today when I was search for information about this show. My one question is that I distinctly remember the announcer saying something like: "The lamp is lit" or something like that. Does this phrase mean anything to you
(This phrase introduced the Torch Hour. --ed.)
Dakbraz writes: I used to live in Wisconsin and was wondering if the Ishnala restaurant still existe . It's still there. For a few weeks each Summer WGN broadcast his program from there . He always talked about how beautiful it was there. That site reminded me of Franklyn and his summer broadcasts from Wisconsin Dells. It seems like yesterday ..... listening to him and his poetry and music. Where do the years go ?
Artie Monk writes:
Comin' on 40 years later, I can still hear him. Back in the late 60's and early 70's, I was in my mid-twenties then. There was a period of time back then when I sometimes had trouble sleeping. A friend gave me one of those small transistor radios with and earplug. I just thought I'd make use of it to listen to some soft music to help me sleep. But, somehow, I tuned in to WGN and heard this unbelievably soothing voice, reciting
"How Do I Love Thee", over a background of soft, relaxing music. I didn't fall asleep that night, at least not for a while. I was instantly hooked! I could have listened to that guy forever!
Needless to say, I almost felt guilty, in a sense, because I used his program from then on, almost as if it were a narcotic. Not only did I love his recitations, but even his quiet, fascinating intermittent banter. It seemed as if I were in a cozy room with a few close friends, being delighted and honored to have him amongst us.
I was living in a western suburb at the time, and shortly before I found myself moving back to my home state of NY, a friend gave me a copy of "My Old Book of Memories" to take with me. I still have it!
Ron Russell writes (whole letter here): Before becoming a firefighter in Chicago in 1965 I had spent many nights in Chicago fire houses (as what is commonly known as the fire fan). As you may or may not know it is, or at least was the procedure and every firehouse to maintain a watch all night. These watches were broken up into our periods starting from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. As I'm sure you know at that time in the late 50s and early 60s all (5) of the TV stations put the test pattern up at either 11:30 p.m. or 12:30 a.m. after which there was nothing but the radio. As a result thereof I spent many a night in a firehouse listening to the Meisterbrau (phonetic) showcase. During these many hours spent on watch I experienced many of Franklyn's narrations as well as many other of his very talented performances. I further remember many nights sitting in the car for next to 10 or 15 minutes after arriving home just to listen to more of Franklyn's work. I couldn't count the number of times I fell asleep with him on the radio at home. I believe one of my favorites is the Melody of Love (narrated), followed closely by the face of the barroom floor.
I also remember Franklyn appearing with his midnight show at at what I remember as being the downtowner motel in Lake Delton. I wonder if you have any information on those appearances. As a result of the numerous shows I attended I had the opportunity on many occasions to meet and speak with Franklyn. I remember on a couple of occasions while I had a date out in the late night he would send a hello over the air to us (on rare occasions). Needless to say above and beyond his artistic capabilities he was a very impressive individual and the very intelligent person.
David Langley writes: During the summer and fall of 1965, in the Kenwood district of Minneapolis, I used to buy a six-pack or two of Meister Brau, a beer advertized by Franklyn on his show. It had to be special-ordered in the Minneapolis market. I talked the owner of the Franklyn-Nicolet Liquor Store to buy a few cases. I guess my group was the only customers for the beer because when he ran out I couldn’t get it anymore.
When I had a date I would buy a six-pack of the magical elixir. Once back at my apartment we used to listen to Franklyn MacCormack on a new Hewett-Packard Console stereo. The WGN sound helped me appear hip and aware to the young ladies who came to my place to listen to the radio and sip the beer that was not commonly available in Minnesota. We used to paint on wood by candle-light. It is enjoyable to hear that sound again.Larry Ellis Reid writes: Listening closely to "The Torch Hour" segment featured on the website from June 27, 1965, you'll note where Mr. MacCormack, just over halfway into the hour ("1:32 and a half," to be exact), mentions that he's originating the show that week from Uphoff's Motel in Wisconsin Dells; he also gives due credit to Tommy Bartlett, the longtime Wisconsin Dells waterski show impresario (1914-1998), and puts in a plug for Bartlett's waterski show before the Meister Brau spot. (MacCormack and Bartlett were close friends, it turns out, from when the latter did radio and TV shows out of Chicago, in particular the popular Welcome Travelers from the College Inn Restaurant of the Sherman Hotel for Procter & Gamble.) Uphoff's later became the Kahler Inn - Wisconsin Dells, and still later, Inn of the Dells; today, it's known as the Copa Cabana Resort Hotel and Suites.
Bill Anderson writes: For the past several years I've always wished that I could hear that opening music, that began at 11:05 on WGN and his voice announcing the MB showcase. I used to live in Bloomington, Illinois and would listen to WGN all the time.
Sabrina Holida writes:
I grew up in Chicago. As a little girl, I remember listening to Frankyln MacCormack. I loved hearing him read poetry. I still remember the "Vagabond's House" and "The Face On The Bar room Floor." A little later on, my brother gave me a book of poetry and those two poems were in the book. I have often thought of trying to find some recordings of his, just to hear his voice read those poems again. If you know of any send me the URL.
This page has some: Franklyn MacCormack recordings. -ed.
Marty Wittrock writes:
I was a young kid of 7 - 10 years (between 1967 to 1970) when my Grandfather, Ralph J. Brown (of Davenport, Iowa), would take us to the walk-up attic (where all his guns and reloading stuff were), light up the kerosene lamps, turn off the lights, and gather a large contingent of our family joining him on warm summer nights listening to Frank's shows from WGN by the glow of an old Buick 12V radio attached to a set of batteries that were kept on trickle charge at all times. We'd sit up in the attic as warm as it was, but with a waft of cool summer breeze coming through the window of the attic amidst the glow of those kerosene lamps, eating sardines, crackers, and cheese while we listened to the shows into the wee hours of the morning. We did this (almost religiously) for three years up until one night when a different announcer was on the air that night than what we were used to hearing on those Saturday nights that we'd listen to the show - Frank MacCormack. We heard the announcer say that Frank had died that week and we were all crestfallen, not knowing what the future would bring for those shows that we'd grown to love so much. Well, we knew that it wouldn't last.... But the memories, especially the MP3s that you have on your site brought back a lot of good memories to me. It's been A LONG time, but the memories listening to those MP3s of Frank's shows just flooded back.
I'm sending you an attached photo of that old Buick radio that we used to listen to those shows. I own it now (amongst my Grandfather's worldly goods) and hope some day that I can turn it back on, and hopefully have one of Frank's shows playing once again.
Sandra Berry writes: While hunting for a recording of Dedication, recited by Franklyn MacCormack, I came across your wonderful web page tribute to him. I did find a recording to listen to, so I am sure it is his voice I remember from the early 1940's (I was born in 1941) when I was about 3 years old. My mother had the 78 RPM record and I loved it. She bought it for Traumerei, on the reverse side, but I always begged her to play Dedication for me. Amazing how a person so young can be touched by a voice, and music, and the words like that in Dedication. ("Thou art my soul and thou my heart Thou art my joy and sorrow art, Thou art my world for life adoring, my heav'n soaring, ....")
It is a Robert Schumann piece. His voice is so wonderful, and brings back So many memories of listening to all the old records, and the radio as a child.
Norman Nickisson writes: My father had a old 78 with a recording called “My New Years Wish To You” and if my memory serves me well I think the name Franklyn MacCormack appeared on the record. Do you know if he had a poem with this title? I am looking for a transcript of this poem. [here]
Ken Holmes writes: I only heard Franklyn a couple of times in 1970 or early in 1971. When all of the variables were just right, I listened to him in Wharton Texas. I was deeply impressed by him. I remember only the sound of his voice and the feeling I got listening to him read and speak. The old study was a warm and inviting place. I didn't know I was able to tune in so near the end of his life.
Ann Carter writes: I was introduced to his radio program by a fellow I was dating at the time. We would be driving back to Milwaukee from Chicago and it was late at night and the radio would be on and "Melody of Love" would come across the radio.
Tom Brodersen writes: During the late 60's and early 70's, I was a young radio announcer, though I was still in high school. I was greatly influenced by Franklyn, and was, in fact, something of a protege. I read poetry and did readings over "candlelight and wine" music on my evening show, which was on WKVI radio in Knox, Indiana, about 75 miles out of Chicago. My father and I visited Franklyn many times at WGN, and he most graciously welcomed us into the studio. I interviewed him on cassette tape for use on my show once. He told me a story about when he was a young radio announcer, I think he said in Iowa somewhere. He was asked to serve as the host at a local event, where he was supposed to introduce a politician, Senator "Capper." As sometimes happens to young announcers, his mind went blank as he started the intro, and he ended up introducing him as "Senator CRAPPER." I think he said he was looking for a job after that.
My father was a homicide detective for the Chicago police department, working the midnight shift through much of the 60's. Franklyn was very popular with all the guys on midnights. One night they had a murder suspect escape by climbing out the second floor window, and down a telephone pole. His name was Tyrone something. The story made it to the news, and at either 3 or 4 AM Franklyn read the news story, then took a long pause before calling out "Tyrone, Tyrone, come back home. Everybody's looking for you!"
I remember when Franklyn died in 1971. I was a senior in high school. I heard about the bad news during the day, and made sure to be in my car to listen, in grief and disbelief, as they did the show without him. Cliff Mercer took over the show in the short term, and then John Doremus, sponsored by (Talman Federal Savings) took the all night show, but he didn't like working the all-night shift, and left after several years. I'm not aware that Paul Rogers ever did the show.
Jane & Jon Stoffel write: 1, I don't think Franklyn ever did the "Moon River" show on WLW, Cincinnati; that was always Peter Grant, I think; 2, the celebrity who mentioned having sung on "Moon River" in her younger days was no doubt Rosemary Clooney, who, as a young girl, sang duets with her sister, Betty (George's mother). "Moon River" was, in itself, a magical radio experience, and coupling it, in reference, to "The Meisterbrau Showcase" seems only logical. The Clooney sisters would usually do a soft duet to Fritz Kreisler's "Caprice Viennoise" as Grant did his final ".....flow on, Moon River, to the sea." segue out.
Hal Bilodeau writes:
I was the lucky recipient of an AIWA transistor radio for Christmas back in 1964, when I was just 7 years old. It was shortly after that I discovered Franklyn MacCormack. The volume on the radio was kept quite low so I wouldn't get busted by my parents for listening so late at night. I have found memories of listening to F.M. during warm summer evenings. The radio was kept on the window sill which was right next to my bed. A close school chum also liked Franklyn. He made some recordings of F.M.'s shows in the late 60's and gave a few to me. Unfortunately they are long gone. My mom met Franklyn in the mid 60's. She was working at Walsh Stationers on Madison Avenue. Franklyn walked in looking for a brief case. Mom instantly recognized that beautiful voice. He was extremely nice to her, a real down to earth guy. A part of both my friend and I died that night of June 13th, 1971. I have missed him ever since. There will never be another like him.
Jere Joiner writes:
Let me add my 2 cents to this wonderful list of Mac tributes. I am a 78-year-old retired cop living in Colorado. But when I was a young uniform in Shreveport, Louisiana, working the midnight shift, I would listen to WGN in Chicago whenever it was rainy. (WGN's signal would not reach that far south on clear nights.) Mac's "Torch Hour" hooked me forever and I never forgot him or the poems he recited. I also bought his book (Pages From My Old Book of Memories), which I still have.
An interesting aside: in my retirement a few years ago I wrote a column for a local newspaper and included one of the poems from Pages. Being a good journalist, I gave attribution to the "woman" who wrote the poem back in the 1920s. A week or so later I got a letter from a fellow in a tiny mountain town about 40 miles away saying his GRANDFATHER would have appreciated seeing one of his poems in my column. I called the fellow to let him know there must be some mistake, that the poem had been written by a woman.
"Ah, yes," he said, "but that was my grandfather's pen name! You see, my grandfather wrote under a pseudonym!"
I thought -- Who would have thought an 90-year-old poem from a book written 40 years ago would ring someone's bell in a state 1000 miles from where the book was published? I also couldn't help thinking it certainly pays to give attribution when quoting something someone else wrote!
Allen Palmer writes: Do you remember when he would move his show up to Lake Geneva during the summer for a few weeks?
"And so it's time to put the dreams and the books away for another night. Thank you so very much for joining me. It's always so nice to have you."
If you have more information about Franklyn MacCormack, please email me. --Richard Gillmann