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Bill Mack (1929–2020), country music’s “Midnight Cowboy” DJ

by Linnea Crowther

Bill Mack was a singer-songwriter and disc jockey known for his “Midnight Cowboy Trucking Show,” popular with country music fans and long-haul truckers nationwide.

The midnight cowboy

Mack began working as a DJ on the overnight shift at WBAP-AM in Fort Worth in 1969, playing country music favorites and interviewing stars on his show. As a clear channel station – one that didn’t share its frequency with any other stations – WBAP could be heard far and wide across about half of the country. Mack’s show became a favorite of truckers, who could continue to hear it for hundreds of miles as they drove through the night. It was a listener who dubbed him “Midnight Cowboy,” and that became the name of his show. Once called “The Country Roads Show,” it was later “U.S. 1 Trucking Show” and “Midnight Cowboy Trucking Show.” In later years, Mack moved to XM Satellite Radio, becoming a star of its Open Road channel.

Songwriter

In addition to his DJ career, Mack was also a singer and songwriter. His best-known song was “Blue,” which he wrote and recorded in 1958. Mack offered the song to Patsy Cline (1932 – 1963) shortly before her death, hoping the superstar could make it a hit, but she died before she had a chance to record it. The song later had a chance to shine when 13-year-old LeAnn Rimes recorded it in 1996. Her version went multi-platinum and earned Mack a Grammy Award for Best Country Song.

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Mack on his show’s popularity

“I get tired but then every once in a while I get a good laugh. There was this guy from Fort Worth about four years ago who was out drinkin’ on Saturday night and he smashed into a parked car. The po­lice hauled him downtown. He said he was entitled to one phone call and the cops said sure. He called me and re­quested ‘A Boy Named Sue.’ The cops called back and they were laughing.” —from a 1975 interview with Texas Monthly

Tributes to Bill Mack

Full obituary: The New York Times

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