It is with great sorrow that the Bay Area Radio Museum and Hall of Fame notes the passing of John Mack Flanagan, one of the greatest voices in broadcasting and a member of BARHOF’s Class of 2017. John passed away on Saturday (March 31) after bravely battling a series of health issues for the past few years. He was 71 years old.
John arrived in the Bay Area in the 1970s after a radio odyssey that began on August 15, 1964 — a date that was etched in his memory — and which had taken him from his native New Mexico to Texas and Arizona, interrupted by a two-year stint in the Army spent mostly on the air in Vietnam.
Throughout John’s career, with all the stops along the way, he was accompanied by his childhood sweetheart and the love of his life, Joann, to whom he was married for more than fifty years. She survives him, along with their daughter, Kelly, and their granddaughter, Dylan.
On John’s Facebook page, Kelly posted the following:
I wanted to let all of his friends and former Radio colleagues know that he crossed over peacefully yesterday. I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate all of the concern and prayers you’ve shown for him over this last year, it means so much to me.
After his stellar run at KFRC, John entertained listeners on KRQR, KWSS, KIOI, KSFO/KYA-FM, second-generation KFRC-FM and 98.1 K-Big. In addition to being honored as “the people’s choice” for the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame in 2017, his radio work also led to his induction into the National Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in 2016.
Beyond his career on the air, John was an internationally-recognized expert on “B Western” movies, the genre of low-budget Hollywood cowboy films and serials popular from the 1920s through the 1950s. His passion for and expertise in the subject led to a popular series of podcasts, “The Church of the Hollywood B Cowboy,” in which he traced the history of performers including Rex Allen, Hoot Gibson, Whip Wilson and Johnny Mack Brown. (John was named for the latter star, a fact that he frequently and proudly pointed out.)
In 2015, John chronicled his life and times in his memoir, “Tight & Bright: A Disk Jockey-Vietnam Memoir,” in which he told the story of growing up under less-than-ideal circumstances in New Mexico, his dream of becoming the next Elvis, and finding his voice behind a microphone.
Two weeks before his passing, John appeared as a panelist for a Broadcast Legends program in South San Francisco that featured him and three other Bay Area radio luminaries — Steve Dini, Michael Bennett, and Dan Ethen — discussing their service in Vietnam, for which John was honored with the Distinguished Service Award.
“It’s hard to believe,” he told the audience. “You sit here in South City and somewhere back in your head, it’s this place and the sounds, the deaths, the stuff you saw. You can’t believe it, but it happened.”
John Mack Flanagan on KFRC (February 1, 1978):
John Mack Flanagan makes a special guest appearance on 93/KHJ, Los Angeles’ legendary Boss Radio station (August 16, 1975):
John Mack Flanagan on KFRC (January 17, 1977):