Monday, January 12, 2015

Mac Odell the WLAC Dream Interpreter

Odell McLeod was known by his stage name Mac Odell. He was a country and gospel singer who wrote a number of tunes performed by the Stanley Brothers, Roy Acuff, Hank Williams, and Flatt & Scruggs to name a few. But he was also a frequent radio performer. He sold song books, harmonicas, and even live baby chicks. He also was a radio "Dream Interpreter." (see above) Nobody does that anymore either.

Born in 1916 in Roanoke, Alabama, Mac first played on the radio as "Harmonica Mac" at the age of 12. According to a biography in Bluegrass Unlimited he later added mandolin, guitar, banjo, piano, and vocals to his act. But that would have been in 1928.  There is one AM station local to Roanoke but WELR-AM didn't sign on until 1952. Back in 1928, the whole state of Alabama only had 5 radio stations: WAPI, WBRD, WKBC, WJBY, and WIBZ. It is not recorded where his debut occurred but I favor WKBC. Regardless by 1934 he was performing on WWL-AM in New Orleans with Slim Bassett as Mac & Slim. More here.

After Odell  married Addie Wood in 1940 they became a husband and wife team "Mac and Little Addie." They were played for Suppertime Frolic show on WJJD-AM until the start of World War II. During the war, McLeod was a factory worker, btu continued songwriting. After the end of the war in 1948, they went to Nashville and began performing at 1510 WLAC-AM  still under the brand Mac and Little Addie. Some sources describe him as leaving the station in 1952, but he was still using the callsign in his advertisements as late as 1959. This includes a classified ad  in the February 1959 issue of Popular Mechanics offering to write songs to peoples poems. Odell was on Mercury Records label from 1949 until 1952, leaving then to join King Records, where he cut a few more sides.

 In 1957 (or 1959) McLeod moved to Benton Harbor, MI where he ran a signage business. In the late 1970s, he began songwriting again and wrote and recorded for the label Folk Variety in Germany. In the 1980s he was sort of rediscovered and with Addie he traveled to the Netherlands for a gospel tour. He died in 2003.