A 1938 Johnson City Press-Chronicle newspaper advertisement contained these words: “They’re Plum Nuts - Frank and Mack - The Boys From Way Up Thar - As Batty As A Belfrey - The Craziest Pair in the State - With Their Big Troupe of 15 Entertainers.
“Sponsored by the Optimist Club - Benefit for Underprivileged Boys - Junior High School Auditorium - Monday and Tuesday - 7:30 P.M. - Admission 40 Cents.” This event included a variety of acts: a team of Hawaiian entertainers, a girl accordionist, the world’s smallest jug band, an imitator and the headliner comedians, Frank and Mack.
A relative of mine, the late Jennie Bowman Cain, former vaudeville performer, was the “girl accordionist” mentioned in the ad, having once sang, yodeled and played accordion with the dynamic duo.
Local automobile dealer, J. Norton Arney, chaired the committee that arranged for the two shows. Tickets for Junior High School’s big 1000-seat auditorium were sold at Anderson Drug Store, Snyder-Jones Pharmacy and Sterchi Brothers Furniture Store.
Joe Wallen of Johnson City recalls the early 1940s when he routinely attended Frank and Mack concerts. “I always timed my visits [to see my two sisters in Kingsport] so I would be there during the big 4th of July Carnival. Going to see the Frank and Mack Show was one of the highlights of my trip. Grocery merchants would pay you five cents for every milk bottle you brought in. I paid my way to everything I saw and bought at the carnival with revenue from milk bottle sales.”
Joe recalled Taylor: “Frank played a push whistle of sorts, and Mack would finish the jokes that Frank set up for him.” Wallen was acquainted with Mack, having worked with him at the First National Bank in Kingsport in 1953: "Mack was a natural comedian. He wore a red wig and had red freckles painted on his face. He was barefooted and always had a string tied around one of his big toes.”
Another Press-Chronicle clipping told of Frank Taylor and his Novelty Jug Band receiving $25 as top winner of a series of talent contests held at the Strand Theatre in Bristol. The Ross Trio won $15 for second place; Jennie Bowman received $10 for third. Taylor and his group, which included Mack and fiddler T.T. Beggerley, were invited to compete in Nashville’s Tri-State (Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky) Amateur Contest, sponsored by Crescent Amusement Company. The event was broadcast over WSM radio.
The clipping further stated: “Frank Taylor and his Jug Band took the audience by storm with their comedy, jokes and mountain music. More that five encores were necessary before the audience would let them go.” The Tri-State winner received a trip to New York to audition on Fred Allen’s popular CBS radio program, Town Hall Tonight.
Joe Wallen did something very thoughtful for Mack shortly before the comedian died in 1999: “I learned that he wanted to hear the old song, ‘When It's Lamp Lighting Time in the Valley,’ but couldn't find the song. “I [sent him] a Jimmy Wakely recording of it. I was told that Mack really enjoyed hearing the old song again. Mack was one of Kingsport's finest citizens.”