Bill Mack’s broadcast career spans more than 50 years.
For many years trucking radio personalities have been close in-cab friends of solitary truckers as they trek across the country.
From local programs at remote stations to late-night shows in major markets to the celestial broadcasts of satellite radio, these mike jockeys serve their loyal listeners with useful information and much-appreciated entertainment.
On the following pages, you’ll get to know today’s radio legends – Bill Mack, Larry Shannon, the Truckin’ Bozo and Dave Nemo – as well as pioneers like Charlie Douglas and Mike Hoyer.
SADDLED WITH SUCCESS
Radio’s top cowboy gallops right along
Bill Mack’s interest in radio began in his hometown of Shamrock, Texas. It also was there that he first became acquainted with truck drivers and their lifestyle. He’s parlayed inspiration from pre-television radio programs and a mutual respect shared with truckers into a long and successful broadcast career.
But Mack is more than a well-known and beloved disc jockey. He also is a singer, promoter, Grammy-winning songwriter, author, columnist and close confidant to countless celebrities in the country music industry. Mack is a man who moves about with ease in almost every social circle, but he is most at home when on the air chatting with his loyal listeners.
“The truckers have been there since the beginning,” Mack says. “I have the utmost respect for truckers and many, many of them are close friends.”
Mack’s nickname was given to him by a Minnesota trucker in 1969 when he called in on Mack’s midnight-5 a.m. show. It was Mack’s first night on the 50,000-watt Fort Worth AM station WBAP. “The caller said, ‘Looks like we’ve got us a midnight cowboy,’” Mack says. “For the next three decades I was known as Midnight Cowboy.”
Today, Mack goes by the Satellite Cowboy, an appropriate moniker for his afternoon trucking show (Open Road channel 171) on XM Satellite Radio.
The early years
He was born Bill Mack Smith during the Great Depression in the tiny Texas Panhandle town of Shamrock along Route 66. His father Ernest was a truck driver and later a truckstop owner. His mother Irene was a devoted homemaker.
Mack, who has a younger brother named Clois, spins warm and humorous tales of growing up in a loving family in his autobiography, Bill Mack’s Memories From the Trenches of Broadcasting.
Starting when he was about 5 years old, Mack often rode with his dad on his trucking route, delivering cottonseed and later fuel. “It was a hot and dirty job,” Mack says. “My dad’s old truck, of course, didn’t have an air conditioner – no truck back then did – and the dust would come in the window and cover us. My mother would send along wet towels, and my dad would wipe the grit off my face.”
Later, his father bought a service station where Mack did odd chores like sweeping and hosing off the driveway. When Ernest took control of the Bumper-to-Bumper, the town’s only truckstop, Mack fixed flat tires and did other jobs.