Ode To “Wolfman Jack”

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By: Victoria Levinger Seven Lakes News

As a teenager on clear nights my husband Rick grew up listening to the celebrated DJ Wolfman Jack  at night which was broadcast nationwide.  This is the basis for his favorite movie American Graffiti. 

Host of America‘s first syndicated rock-and-roll radio program Bob Smith, aka Wolfman Jack, is one of radio‘s legendary figures. In his autobiography Wolfman recounts his childhood passion for the black music ignored by mainstream radio in the 1950‘s, his lowly beginnings as an ad rep for a small station in Norfolk, VA., and the wild story of his career as a radio DJ near the Mexican border, a career initiated by a wild west-style shootout with one of the station‘s owners.

At the age of 16, his love for radio grew as he listened daily to Alan Freed, the ultimate DJ of New York.  While hanging around outside the theater, Smith was noticed and received a big break, he not only met Freed, he also got a job as a “gofer” at the Paramount.  The rest is history.

In late 1961, Smith moved his family to Shreveport, Louisiana where he began working at KCIJ.   In 1963, it was in Shreveport that Bob Smith created the Wolfman Jack character and had the idea to get the new Wolfman Jack Show on the powerful Mexican radio station, XERF, a massive 250,000 watt station with a signal that covered all of North America.

In 1966, Smith, now living as Wolfman Jack 24/7, moved his family and business operations to Los Angeles.  By this time, The Wolfman Jack Radio Show, had been on XERF for nearly 5 years and was now also on XERF’s pop

ular 100,000 watt sister station, XERB, which covered the entire west coast of the U.S.  

In 1970, without warning, the Mexican Government took both XERF and XERB back and suddenly Wolfman Jack was off-the-air, without a job, or any regular income.  

However, in 1972, his luck began to change when he was hired to be the announcer, interviewer and co-host of NBC-TV’s late-night music series, “The Midnight Special.”  In 1973, George Lucas, who grew up in Northern California, as a fan listening to Wolfman’s show on XERB, cast Wolfman Jack in his classic film “American Graffiti”, which was a huge hit.  

As a gift, George Lucas gave Wolfman a small percentage of Graffiti’s profits.

On July 1, 1995, Wolfman Jack died of a heart attack at his home in Belvidere, North Carolina.  That day, he finished broadcasting what would be his last Wolfman Jack Radio Show from The Hard Rock Cafe in Washington, D.C.  

About 5 years after his death, Wolfman Jack Licensing was formed and began to digitize Wolfman’s radio show tapes. From Wolfman’s vast, personal radio show tape archive, WJ Licensing has produced multiple digital original Wolfman Jack Shows that are currently being distributed to radio stations all over the USA and Internationally.

The Wolfman Jack Radio Show is still on the air, every night, somewhere in the world!

By: Victoria Levinger

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