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November 13, 2021

Jimmy Mack - Indy’s version of Dick Clark

Jimmy Mack photo signed by Dick ClarkWhen Indianapolis–based TV and radio personality Jimmy Mack recently passed away at the  age of 99, many tributes referred to him as "Indy's own Dick Clark". That's because during the 1960s and late '50s, Jimmy Mack was the popular host of teen dance shows "Bandstand 13" and "Teen Twirl" that were modeled after Dick Clark's American Bandstand.

Jimmy Mack (whose real name was Jimmy McDowell) also was a well–known disc jockey and appeared at concert venues to play records before nationally known groups performed in Indiana. Sometimes Jimmy, who eventually was inducted into the Indiana Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame, did brief, on–location interviews with headliners like Sonny and Cher. Then he broadcast the footage on "Bandstand 13", which aired on Channel 13 (then WLWI, now WTHR) from 1965 through 1969 and typically featured local bands.

But there were many dimensions to Jimmy Mack's life beyond his broadcast career, which included "Teens & Tunes", a radio show that began in 1958, as did the "Teen Twirl" TV show on WISH/Channel 8. Jimmy was a veteran of World War II who was in London on V–E Day because he had been singing and recording with a band of U.S. Army soldiers. At Camp Atterbury in Indiana for Army training, Jimmy had helped organize the touring Gable Gators Band.

During our show, we will explore a range of aspects of the colorful life and career of Jimmy Mack, who died in October. Nelson will be joined by one of Jimmy's daughters, singer Robyn McDowell, who moved from Indy a few years ago to Tarpon Springs, Fla.

Robyn McDowellDuring her father's heyday on TV in Indianapolis in the late 1960s, Robyn and her sister, Bonnie Hinkle, were members of the Shy Ones, an all–female pop rock group that performed at college campuses and other venues. In 2016, when Jimmy Mack was 94 years old, he and Robyn were among our guests on a Hoosier History Live show about "Rock and Roll across 1960s Indiana".

During his World War II service in the Army, Jimmy was assigned to work at a military hospital in England where the patients included Army Air Force pilots and crew members who had been flying dangerous missions over enemy territory. An oral interview with Jimmy about his war experiences is featured in the book WW II Duty, Honor, Country: The Memories of Those Who Were There, an anthology about Hoosiers involved in the conflict. The book's co–author, Indianapolis teacher Steve Hardwick, is expected to phone in during our show and share insights about Jimmy.

Gable Gators BandSo is Indianapolis–based writer Kara Kavensky, who has been organizing thousands of letters sent during World War II between Jimmy and his wife, Peggy, who died in 2009. Peggy McDowell was a singer and a producer with Jimmy of several of the Indianapolis radio shows that he hosted during the 1950s. He also was well–known for his starring roles at Footlite Musicals and in other community theater productions.

But his greatest fame in central Indiana undoubtedly derived from "Bandstand 13" and other teen dance and band–focused programs that resulted in local comparisons to Dick Clark. On American Bandstand, the long–running national showcase for pop music performers and teen dancers, Dick Clark even interviewed Jimmy Mack by phone in 1968.

Images of Jimmy Mack with daughter Robyn and wife Peg.


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Nelson and Molly at Indiana Bicentennial banquetHoosier History Live does not just simply "happen". Every month we have fixed costs to maintain, including updating our website, keeping our newsletter current, creating our weekly podcasts, and maintaining social media. We also must pay for skilled editing, as well as for website and newsletter software costs.

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