Harry “Haywire Mac” McClintock
KFRC Radio, San Francisco
Harry “Haywire Mac” McClintock hosted a daily children’s program on KFRC called “Mac and his Gang.” Mac’s homespun manners and cowboy ballads quickly became popular among the Bay Area’s young crowd. His comic western band, Mac and his Haywire Orchestry (photo, lower left), was frequently heard on KFRC’s variety programs.
Born in Knoxville, Tenn., in 1882, he ran away from home at fourteen, catching a freight train to New Orleans; railroading would be a continuing theme throughout his life and his music. By the time he turned twenty, having set foot on every continent except Antarctica, he found himself on the Pacific Coast, working as a brakeman on trains and as an organizer for the radical Industrial Workers of the World union — the so-called “Wobblies” — while at the same time carving out a sideline career as a singer and comedian as “Haywire Mac.”
At the age of 43, settled down in San Francisco with a fulltime job working on the railroad — and a wife who was the daughter of a locomotive engineer — he first appeared on KFRC in his adopted hometown, playing his own works and many of the traditional songs he had learned during his many travels, including “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum.”
In later years, “Haywire Mac” became a well-known recording star, and he appeared in several motion pictures in minor roles. His own version of his most famous composition, “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” was included in the soundtrack of the motion picture “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (2000), which starred George Clooney.
After retiring with a full brakeman’s union pension, Harry McClintock died in San Francisco in 1957.
Oh the buzzin’ of the bees
In the cigarette trees
Near the soda water fountain
At the lemonade springs
Where the bluebird sings
On the big rock candy mountain
PHOTOGRAPHS: (Top) from “Stars Of The Radio,” 1932 Edition; (center right) from the Bay Area Radio Museum Collection; and (bottom right) from the John Schneider Collection.