Today marks the one year anniversary of the death of a Mid-South legend, larger-than-life Radio Personality John “Bad Dog” McCormack. Here is a tribute I wrote when I heard of his passing. He is truly missed.
If, when we’re standing before God, the amount of good we do with our lives, and the amount of joy and happiness that we are able to bring to this world of pain is brought up, then, Thursday afternoon, the Pearly Gates shook with the infectious laughter of one giant of a man.
John “Bad Dog” McCormack lost his long battle with AML late Thursday Afternoon at Methodist University Hospital in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. Bad Dog was an on-air personality for 22 years at WEGR Rock 103, a Classic Rock Station.
Bad Dog began as a part of the Wake-up Crew with Tim Spencer and Bev Hart. Dog was basically a 14-year-old kid in a man’s body. He was a natural-born prankster, and became known for his creation of “The Twilight Phone,” an anonymous prank call he would make to unsuspecting citizens.
In one memorable call, he impersonated an Apartment Manager, calling a guy who dumped his fiance’s dead pet Piranhas into the apartment lake, claiming that they came back to life and the poor sap had to reimburse the apartment $2,8000 for draining and restocking the lake. And then, there was Bad Dog”s possibly most famous call, where he talked to an older gentleman named Mr. Lannum, impersonating a collector attempting to collect on a past-due cable bill. Mr. Lannum went ballistic, cussing a blue streak that is still talked of in hushed tones to this day, 20 tears later:
When he finally clued the individuals in to whom they had been talking to, each one of them eventually forgave him, because, after all, it was Bad Dog.
Another routine that Bad Dog came up with, was remarkable. In a city known for racial polarization, he came up with the idea of numbering their show’s Black listeners, thinking that actual black listeners would be few and far between. Well, Bad Dog received a big surprise.
The routine became very popular among Memphis’ Black Community, as people called in to talk to Bad Dog. He would make up a hilarious “oath” for the listener to say, and from then on, whenever this individual would call in to talk about the subject of the day, they would self-identify as Black Listener Number So-and-So. Everyone loved Bad Dog.
However, the most incredible thing that this man accomplished during his time with us started when he, Spencer, and Hart decided to begin a yearly Radiothon in support of St. Jude Hospital’s Ronald McDonald House.
Over the last 20 years, Bad Dog and his co-workers have raised over $7 million dollars to help build and maintain the refuge for cancer-stricken kids and their families, so they could have some semblance of normal life while they undergo treatment at St. Jude.
Bad Dog McCormack was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia in late October 2009. He was still working mornings, though his new partner was Ric Chetter. Clear Channel Communications, in their infinite wisdom, had split up the popular Wake Up Crew in November of 2006, firing Newsperson Bev Hart, and, eventually moving Rock 103 Program Director Tim Spencer to mid-days.
Bad Dog continued to work as he underwent treatment, as he felt that this was the best medicine for him and was what God had called him to do. His courage in the face of his own mortality was an inspiration to the entire Mid-South, as his barrel-house laugh continued to reverberate through the car speakers of the Mid-South every morning. He also continued to work the annual Rock103 Radiothon, letting nothing stand in his way of helping the kids.
Bad Dog underwent a bone marrow transplant in November of 2010. He seemed to be doing better, and, in December, an online poll of Memphians voted him The Most Noteworthy Memphian of the Year.
On February 10-11th, Bad Dog was at the mic, around the clock, for the 20th Annual Rock103 Radiothon. When it was over, he announced that more Leukemia had been found. He remained upbeat, and said that this was just par for the course.
Meanwhile, Clear Channel Communications, again in its infinite wisdom, fired Ric Chetter, and moved Bad Dog and Tim Spencer to afternoons, while bringing in a morning show named Free Beer and Hot Wings, 5 guys syndicated out of the Great White North, whose humor about hockey games is about as relevant to the Mid-South as hunting moose.
Bad Dog took this change in his usual good-natured stride, happy to be back with his old partner-in-crime, Tim.
Then, last Thursday, Bad Dog took a turn for the worse. He was rushed to Methodist University Hospital in Downtown Memphis, where he passed away from an aneurysm, brought about by his Leukemia.
In an interview with the Commercial Appeal, Bad Dog made this comment about his battle against Leukemia and his love for the kids at St. Jude:
When I see what they are going through, I have no reason to complain. They are so young and have so much pain. I’ve lived a blessed life. If I died tomorrow, I’d go with a smile on my face.
He also, in his usual big-hearted, gentle way, left a statement to be released after his death:
I have gone to be with God and he is holding me tightly and I am surrounded by many of the Ronald McDonald’s House kids. Do not say you have lost a friend… One is only lost when you don’t know where they are… you know where I am. I thank each and every one of you for your support and prayers. I love all of you and that will never go away. When you are having a bad day… think of my laugh or a Twilight phone or the time we met. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow, make every day great, be the spiritual leader of your family. May peace be with you. Your friend, Bad Dog.
John”Bad Dog” McCormack, 55, leaves behind his two sons, Buck and Tucker, a huge family, and thousands of fans.
As one of those fans, please allow me to say thank you, Bad Dog, for brightening up a lot of dreary mornings.
A sign currently on display outside a local jewelry store says it all:
BAD DOG MADE MEMPHIS A BETTER PLACE.