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About The Artist
Harry Kirby McClintock, sometimes known as "Haywire Mac" or simply "Mac," had a varied and likely adventurous life and who spent his middle years as a radio and recording artist.
He spent those years singing a wide range of cowboy and humorous novelty numbers, but was probably best known for songs about hobos. A Knoxville native who left home to wander in his teens, his travels seemingly took him to exciting locales around the globe, but he eventually settled in California where he lived for a half century.
McClintock's years of travel spent largely as a merchant seaman took him to South Africa during the Boer Wars, China during the Boxer Rebellion, the Philippines during the Spanish-American War, and England during the Coronation of Edward VII, as well as Australia and Argentina.
Eventually he settled in California in 1903 where he worked most often as a brakeman or switchman for the Southern Pacific Railroad.
After his 1914 marriage to a train engineer's daughter and the 1917 birth of a daughter, he became more settled.
In 1925, he added radio to his resume with regular programs at KFRC and in 1928 singing on Victor discs. While his initial numbers were cowboy songs, "Hallelujah! I'm a Bum" and "The Bum Song" made his reputation. Some of his efforts were released under the name of Mac's Haywire Orchestra.
He placed a second hobo classic on disc some months later with "In the Big Rock Candy Mountains" which was used on the soundtrack of the movie O Brother Where Art Thou.
He continued with Victor through 1931 although with the passage of time he turned increasingly to comedy numbers.
In July of 1938, KFRC promoted a show called the "Blue Monday Jamboree" on the Don Lee owned station that would feature all KFRC artists. It was to broadcast Monday nights between 9:00 and 10:00pm. The station was claiming that it was the only west coast program "...that has managed by hook, crook, or kilocycle to become an institution. It has taken its place along with marriage, "Skippy," the one-way street, the Pacific Ocean, aloofness to the eighteenth amendment and storis about the traveling man as part and parcel of American life on the Pacific Coast."
The variety show included comedy, novelty musical presentations and soloists "who would shine on any program." "Mac" as he was known then had his "department" all to himself. He "...specializes in hay-wire tunes and old tunes, the older the better. He has made more friends and phonograph records than any other radio artists on the Pacific Coast." His "hay-wire orchestra" included Bill Kelley and Cecil Wright.Other acts on the show included: Harrison Holloway, the manager of KFRC and ringmaster of the Jamboree. The article goes on "down in the basement we find the comedians." It might be noted that the characters and characterizations might not be viewed through the modern policitally correct prism.
Moving up to the 'next floor' are the vocalists it seems.
Moving to the 'jazz department' we find:
He stepped away from KFRC for a bit, but in November 1933, news reports show that he was back on the air at KFRC with a 15 minute program. It noted that his "haywire orchestra" was a "pioneer in the (radio) field" and "achieved a popularity rarely equalled before the microphone.
In 1938, he moved to Los Angeles, re-recorded his four most remembered songs for Decca, and apparently tried his hand in films, but with little success.
Mostly he worked as a night watchman. Eventually, he returned to San Francisco, still sang on occasion, and did some recordings released on Folkways.
At his death he received a Masonic funeral.
After "In the Big Rock Candy Mountains" was revived in the movie soundtrack, most of his old recordings came out again on the BACM label in Great Britain.
Harry married the former Bessie K. Smith on September 8, 1917 in Utah. She was born January 25, 1899 in Utah and died on December 16, 1980. The couple had one daughter, Joan.
Credits & Sources