A Personal Reflection on a Faith Filled Funnyman, John "Bad Dog" McCormack (1955-2011) | People
John "Bad Dog" McCormack brightened the lives of countless radio listeners in his decades on the air at WEGR Rock 103. The morning drive DJ/funny man, 55, died of complications associated with leukemia at Methodist University Hospital on Thursday, March 10, 2011. He was an old friend. A strange confluence of events led this reporter to John's death bed. After lunchtime Thursday, I had been summoned to the hospital to see about another friend who had been admitted to ICU earlier in the day. As I entered the hospital elevator to ride to the 4th floor, I first read the text messages about Bad Dog's suddenly worsening health. He had been on Rock 103's air the day before, rocking on through yet another broadcast shift from his hospital bed! The man was an absolute profile in courage throughout his two year battle with cancer. Even though he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2009, underwent a bone marrow transplant and had survived a series of setbacks, Bad Dog appeared on Rock 103 everyday he had the strength to share his amazing sense of humor. When the hospital elevator door opened at the ICU level, I was greeted warmly by Bad Dog's family and radio colleagues lining the hallway. I visited with John's family members and then went to check on my other pal in ICU. Turns out he was well enough to be released and had been discharged from the hospital. Then I stood at a distance and witnessed John's family surround his bed. An Episcopal priest from John's Holy Communion parish on Walnut Grove Rd. led an impassioned prayer. I was running late for work. But it dawned on me that it may have been meant for me to be present at this sacred moment near the time of my friend's passing. When the family stepped into the hallway, John's devoted brother Tim invited me to go inside and say a farewell. I stood alone at John's bedside, offered a prayer and touched his hand. John was somewhere between Heaven and Earth at that moment. There was no response. I finally went to work at Action News 5 and made our team aware of John's critical condition. We prepared an obituary in case of his passing. The 5 o'clock broadcast began. Our News Director, Tracey Rogers, entered the Action News 5 studio shortly after receiving word that John had, indeed, passed away. Reporting his death was one of the most difficult stories I've had to deliver live on the air. But I am so grateful for the series of events of this strange day that allowed our team to have an appropriate tribute at the ready literally moments after John died. Our story reflected back on John's heroic efforts with so many others on behalf of Ronald McDonald House as well as his battle with cancer.
John was one of the funniest persons ever on Memphis radio. He could imitate the voice of the late University of Memphis football coach Billy "Spook" Murphy with uncanny accuracy. Early in Bad Dog's career, Coach Murphy contacted the DJ and asked him to stop the on-air imitation. The story goes that Bad Dog simply called Murphy back while impersonating the voice of former Memphis Mayor Henry Loeb and in Loeb's voice, encouraged Murphy to allow McCormack to imitate him. Murphy thought he was talking to the real Mayor Loeb, took the bait hook, line and sinker and agreed to the deal...but only if McCormack would call him and request permission. John hung up the phone and dialed Murphy again. Using his normal voice, Bad Dog asked the coach if he'd permit the imitation. Murphy agreed! Bad Dog tried his luck on the stand up circuit in Los Angeles where he made ends meet working by day as a FedEx courier. Somehow, he managed to get on to the Tonight Show set while in beautiful downtown Burbank and sat in Johnny Carson's chair. Given the chance, he would have been a hit. But John returned to Memphis and became the focal point of morning radio comedy with Tim Spencer and Bev Hart on Rock 103's Wake Up Crew. The team started the Rock 103 Radiothon for Ronald McDonald House twenty years ago and raised millions of dollars to help house children and families in treatment at nearby St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Even though he was facing his own battle with cancer in February 2011, the DJ powered through his final all night radio blitz and despite a Memphis snowstorm, raised hundreds of thousands for Ronald McDonald House. Throughout his illness, John reminded his listeners of his faith in God. After passing from this life, many of us gathered at John's favorite watering hole, Alex's Tavern, owned and operated by John's dear friend, classmate and baseball teammate, Rocky Kasaftes. One of those present, Beth Edwards, wife of Bad Dog's accountant Leo Edwards, told the story of how Bad Dog gave a motivational speech to her 12 year old daughter and her classmates at St. Louis School on White Station Road within the last month. Beth said Bad Dog told the girls, "live your life with J-O-Y. J stands for Jesus, keep him first. O stands for others: take care of them next. Y stands for yourself. Keep that last and you'll live your life with JOY."
In a farewell Facebook message John wrote and gave to his dear friend and Radiothon collaborator Ken Van Vranken of Los Angeles in the event of his passing, John sent this endearing message to his many fans: "I have gone to be with God and he is holding me tightly and I am surrounded by many of the Ronald McDonald 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 call 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."
Thank you, dear friend, for all the fun and all the laughs and for keeping the faith.