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Wolfman Jack 7/1995

wolfman-jackJuly 1, 1995 – Wolfman Jack was born Robert Weston Smith on January 21st 1938 in Brooklyn, New York.

He got his big break when he became a “gofer” at Paramount and began his radio career in 1960 at WYOU in Newport News, Virginia, where he developed his first radio name, Daddy Jules, a tribute to the influence that black DJs had on him in his formative years such as Dr. Jive, Jockey Jack, Professor Bob and Sugar Daddy. He was a fan of disc jockey Alan Freed, the ultimate deejay of New York radio, who helped to turn African-American rhythm and blues into Caucasian rock and roll music. Freed originally called himself the Moondog after New York City street musician Moondog. Freed both adopted this name and used a recorded howl to give his early broadcasts a unique character.

He moved to KCIJ in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he first came up with the idea of the Wolfman Jack character. The Wolfman’s adaptation of the Moondog theme was to call himself Wolfman Jack and add his own sound effects. The character was based in part on the manner and style of bluesman Howlin’ Wolf. With the nickname Wolfman Jack he attempted to mask his true identity to create public interest in his radio character. His energy and style produced a barrage of listeners. When after opening a dance club, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross on his lawn, he decided to relocate to Mexico.

He found national fame from 1964 to 1966 for the (then) 250,000 watt radio station XERF (1570 AM) in Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, Mexico, just across the river from Del Rio, Texas. The station was credited for reaching an audience traveling from New York to Los Angeles without ever losing connection.

People were wondering who he actually was, and artists such as Leon Russell, Todd Rundgren, Freddie King and the Guess Who produced chart hits about the radio personality “Wolfman Jack”. The person behind Wolfman Jack was revealed in George Lucas’ 1973 Academy Award-winning film, American Graffiti. Although the mystery was solved, he continued to be a success, hosting NBC-TV’s The Midnight Special. He made more than 80 television appearances and was an actor in American Graffiti (1973), Motel Hell (1980) and Diana Ross: Red Hot Rhythm and Blues (1987).

Wolfman Jack was also an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church, where he was officially known as and nicknamed “Reverend Jack”.

He made his final syndicated radio broadcast from a Planet Hollywood restaurant in Washington, DC, on Friday Night, June 30, 1995.

He entered his house, hugged his wife, said “Oh, it is so good to be home!” and literally died of a heart attack in his wife’s arms on the morning of July 1, 1995. He was 56.
“Wolfman Jack” was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1996.

Famous for his gravelly voice, he credited it for his success, saying, “It’s kept meat and potatoes on the table for years for Wolfman and Wolfwoman. A couple of shots of whiskey helps it. I’ve got that nice raspy sound.”

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