Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wolfman Jack - Howlin' atcha!

It's the summer of 1968. I'm driving my beautifully gorgeous midnight blue 1964 Chevy Impala SS (convertible) across the Arizona desert. (Remember my Route 66 post?) The stars are shining down from a velvet sky, and Wolfman Jack is accompanying me every mile of the way. His gravelly voice comes out of my radio speakers strong and clear from XERB — the Mighty 1090 in Hollywood, California. The Mamas and the Papas are filling the night air with Dedicated to the One I Love. Does it get any better than that? I think not.

But the radio icon forever known as Wolfman Jack started his career long before that summer night. Born Robert Weston Smith on January 21, 1938, in Brooklyn, he was the younger of two children. In order to keep him out of trouble (why does this not surprise me?) his father bought him a transoceanic radio, and Robert became an avid fan of R&B music. After graduating from the National Academy of Broadcasting in 1960, he donned the DJ moniker of “Daddy Jules” at WYOU-AM in Newport News, Virginia. A change in the station's format dictated a change in name, and when the station switched to “beautiful music,” Robert became known as “Roger Gordon and Music in Good Taste.”

In 1961, he married Lucy “Lou” Lamb. (How appropriate is that?). Then in 1962 he moved to KCIJ-AM, a country music station, as the station manager and morning DJ, “Big Smith with the Records.” He first began to develop his alter ego while at KCIJ.

After that, he moved south of the border to XERF-AM with a 250,000 watt signal (five times the limit imposed on U.S. stations) coming out of Mexico that was capable of being picked up across the United States. This boosted (border blaster) signal reached a much larger listening audience and blanketed North America and even Europe and the Soviet Union. The power of the station’s reach, along with his unique delivery, helped Wolfman Jack achieve recognition worldwide in a short time.

According to Wikipedia:

That station continues to broadcast today with the call sign XERB. XERB also had an office in the rear of a small strip mall on Third Avenue in Chula Vista, California. It was not unlike the small broadcast studio depicted in the film, American Graffiti. It was located only 10 minutes from the Tijuana-San Diego border crossing. It was rumored that The Wolfman actually broadcast from this location during the early to mid-sixties. Smith left Mexico after eight months and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to run station KUXL. Missing the excitement, however, he returned to border radio to run XERB, and opened an office on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles n January 1966.

On July 1, 1995, Wolfman Jack died of a heart attack in Belvidere, North Carolina, the day after broadcasting his last live radio program syndicated from Planet Hollywood in Washington, D.C. That night, he said, "I can't wait to get home and give Lou a hug, I haven't missed her this much in years." Wolfman had been on the road, promoting his new autobiography Have Mercy, The Confession of the Original Party Animal, about his early career and parties with celebrities. "He walked up the driveway, went in to hug his wife and then just fell over," said Lonnie Napier, vice president of Wolfman Jack Entertainment.

There’s a great deal more info at Wikipedia, if you’d like to know more. Also, his old radio shows are still being broadcast online. Here’s a link to a great site that will give you a schedule of the stations that are airing his shows if you’d like to take a trip down memory lane and remember when. WOLFMAN RADIO.

1 comment:

Hey Viv ! said...

Thanks for the link to Wolfman Jack radio. I'm checking it out now.