Obituary from the Chicago Tribune June 13, 1971
Franklyn MacCormack Dies; Veteran of Midnight Radio Show
Franklyn MacCormack whose quiet blend of soft music, nostalgic poetry and tranquil patter had filled the air for the city’s night people since 1959, died yesterday after suffering a heart attack during his WGN All-Night Showcase.
His listeners ranged from misty-eyed teen-agers returning from dates to policemen on stakeouts who relaxed to his “quiet hour tones designed to tie memories to.” Between musical selections he read from his mythical “book of memories,” offering poetry, homilies and homespun advice.
Friday night he became ill about an hour into his all-night show and was taken from the WGN studios at 2501 W. Bradley Pl., to Loretto Hospital, where he died early yesterday afternoon. It was his second heart attack in nine months.
Started in 1933
A veteran of 46 years in show business, the tall Scotsman had been well known on Chicago radio since 1933. He developed his technique of lacing music with poetry while announcing in his native Waterloo, Ia.
He later was to explain the idea was born one night when network programs were stopped by a breakdown and “in a panic” the young announcer grabbed a book of poems from a nearby desk and began to read.
His reading led to sales of millions of records, publication of several volumes of collected poetry and, since 1967, several stage performances at the Civic Opera House called “An Evening with Franklyn MacCormack.” One of his best known achievements was his collaboration with Wayne King, waltz musician, on “Melody of Love,” in which he recited the sentimental favorite “Why Do I Love You?”
Praised by Quaal
Ward L. Quaal, president of WGN Continental Broadcasting Company, called MacCormack “a natural talent and one of the truly great performers of broadcasting’s first 50 years. It has been my good fortune to have been associated with him as a talent as well as in a management capacity for more than 30 years. He cannot be replaced.”
Mr. MacCormack was born March 8, 1906 in Waterloo, one of five children. After high school he joined a stock company in Joliet and reached Chicago in 1933, where he first appeared in radio dramas. Eventually his career evolved into announcing and he started the syndicated “Showcase” program in 1959. Surviving is his widow Barbara Carlson, who was his secretary for several years before they were married in in 1961. The MacCormacks lived in Lake Zurich. Private funeral services will be held and relatives ask that in lieu of flowers donations be made to Mr. MacCormack’s favorite charity, the Dixon State School, Dixon.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF FRANKLYN MacCORMACK
who passed from time into Eternity, Saturday, June 12th, 1971, at Loretto Hospital, Chicago, Illinois.
In addition to his beloved wife, Barbara, and others of his family, he leaves a hollow emptiness on air waves that can never be filled by mortal men. He has also left a legacy in sincerity of purpose, that will echo down the corridors of time, so long as memories last. Carrying out far beyond the memories of time will be the influence he has made upon those whose lives his gentle voice has touched, then bounded and rebounded to children and their children’s children.
No one who ever listened to his “Torch Hour” — with the same sincerity in which it was given — came away quite the same person he was when the “Hour” began.
Even in death, his selfless sincerity rings true, with the request that memorials be made to those less fortunate than himself, “The Dixon School for the Mentally Retarded.”
May his soul forever rest in the Master’s Eternity, in the blissful peace that he has brought to others, that he may reap the sam love of God, that he has sown in the garden of our hearts.
WHY WE LOVE YOU
Why do we love you —
We love you not only for what you were,
but for what we were when we were with you.
We love you, not only for what you have
made of yourself, but for what you were
making of us.
We love you for ignoring the possibilities
of the fool in us and for laying firm hold
of the possibilities of good in us.
We love you for closing your eyes to the
discord in us, and adding to the music
in us by worshipful speaking.
We love you because you were helping us to
make the lumber of our lives, not a tavern,
but a temple, and of the words of our everyday,
not a reproach, but a song.
We love you because you have done more than
any creed to make us happy.
You have done it with many words, but without a
touch, without a sign.
You have done it by just being yourself.
Perhaps, after all, that is what love means.
(Adapted from Mary Carolyn Davies Poem)
Way We Were
A Look At Chicago’s Past/By Bob Hughes
from the Chicago Sun-Times September 1, 1985
The voice that was pure poetry for all-night radio
Why do I love you?
I love you not only for what you are, but for
what I am when I am with you.
I love you not only for what you have made of
yourself, but for what you are making of me.
I love you for ignoring the possibilities of the
fool in me . . .
This poem by Mary Carolyn Davies was a favorite of many who fell into troubled sleep and awoke to find they’d left the radio on and Franklyn MacCormack was presenting his “All-Night Showcase.”
It’s been more than 14 years since the voice of MacCormack was heard regularly on the radio, but many still miss him. No one has been found to replace him.
MacCormack’s show was for years the top-rated all-night broadcast in Chicago, and on WGN, a clear-channel station, he reached all 50 states, plus Canada and Mexico.
He was in no way a rock’n’roll deejay, nor did he play much jazz, swing, country and western or pop music. He featured nostalgia, show tunes, sentimental music and poetry readings. His listeners were the lonely all-night people — truck drivers, teenagers just home from a date, students, policemen on stakeouts, mothers up for 2 a.m. feeding, taxi drivers, hotel night clerks, nurses.
The music he played was “designed to tie memories to,” and his commentary was designed to be a kind that “won’t insult the listener’s intelligence.”
But it was MacCormack’s manner with callers — only his part of conversation went over the air — that established him as a gentleman and a confident for the pre-dawn legions.
There were announcers and actors perhaps who could read poetry more beautifully, more mellifluously than MacCormack, but he had a quality that was instantly recognizable to nighttime listeners: sincerity. There was nothing forced or phony in his presentation. He touched the deepest emotions of his audience when he read “An Old Sweetheart of Mine,” by James Whitcomb Riley, “How Do I Love Thee?” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Rudyard Kipling’s “If,” William Cullen Bryant’s “Thanatopsis,” or “The Face Upon the Floor,” Hugh Antoine D’Arcy’s mournful tale of an artist who takes to drink after his lover leaves him for the fair-haired boy in one of his portraits.
MacCormack, born in Waterloo, Ia., on March 8, 1906, was the son of a railroad engineer who was killed in a train wreck 10 years later. Young MacCormack graduated from high school in 1925 and joined an acting company in Joliet. He moved on to radio and was working in Waterloo as a staff announcer when an emergency arose. MacCormack recalled the incident in a newspaper interview during his “Showcase” years:
“One evening, about 10 o’clock, trouble developed on the network, and I was stuck with nothing to fill in. I noticed a book of poetry on a studio table and did the only thing I could think of. I grabbed the book and began to read.”
“The next day the station was swamped by telephone callers demanding more of the readings. Within a week, I had my own program.”
MacCormack joined WBBM in Chicago in 1933, and after six successful years left the station to freelance. During the next 14 years, he made commercial films, radio and television shows, and collaborated with orchestra leader Wayne King on the record “Melody of Love,” which sold more than 4 million copies. It featured the poem by Davies, “Why Do I Love You?” over the music of Hans Engleman.
In 1959 MacCormack brought his “All Night Showcase” to WGN six nights a week. Sponsored by Meister Brau, it reigned from 11:05 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. for almost 13 years. many of the poetic selections he read on the air were from an anthology he published, “The Old Book of Memories.”
Then on June 12, 1971, MacCormack suffered a heart attack on the air and died the next day. The “night light” that brought inspiration, hope, comfort, tranquility, human contact and recollections to hundreds of thousands of listeners for so many years had been turned off.