Madcap Canuck deejay John Francis “Jack” Cullen, who befriended Bob Hope and was blacklisted by Frank Sinatra for a bootleg recording, died of heart failure April 27 in Vancouver at 80.
Cullen was best known during five decades at CKNW as host of lateshow “Owl Prowl” until canceled in 1999. He continued as a nostalgia act in his last years.
Vancouver native served in the Canadian navy as a wireless operator in World War II, then enrolled at the Sprott-Shaw School of Commerce and Radio in Vancouver and was hired at CKNW in 1949. He made his mark as “the irreverent rebel in radio,” disc jockey Red Robinson said. “You tuned in because you didn’t know what the hell he was going to do.” He also interviewed virtually every entertainer who came to town.
Jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong was so charmed by Cullen that he authorized the official release of a bootleg recording Cullen made of him in 1951. Cullen also charmed Nat King Cole with reminiscences of Cole’s career start.
Cullen also surreptitiously taped performances by Harry Belafonte, the Beatles and Sinatra to play on his show, leading to chastisement by the American Federation of Musicians, and why Sinatra wouldn’t do an interview with him.
Cullen was married twice and had four children.