Robert Weston Smith, known as Wolfman Jack (January 21, 1938 – July 1, 1995) was a gravelly voiced American disc jockey, famous in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1960, he began working as "Daddy Jules" at WYOU in Newport News, Virginia. When the station format changed to "beautiful music", Smith became known as "Roger Gordon and Music in Good Taste". In 1962, he moved to country music station KCIJ/1050 in Shreveport, Louisiana as the station manager and morning disc jockey, "Big Smith with the Records".
In 1963, Smith took his act to the border when the Inter-American Radio Advertising's Ramon Bosquez hired him and sent him to the studio and transmitter site of XERF-AM at Ciudad Acuña in Mexico, a station whose high-powered border blaster signal could be picked up across much of the United States. It was at XERF that Smith developed his signature style (with phrases like "Who's this on the Wolfman telephone?") and widespread fame. The border stations made money by renting time to Pentecostal preachers and psychics, and by taking 50 percent of the profit from anything sold by mail order. The Wolfman did pitches for dog food, weight-loss pills, weight-gain pills, rose bushes, and baby chicks. There was even a pill called Florex, which was supposed to enhance one's sex drive. "Some zing for your ling nuts," the Wolfman would say.
That sales pitch was typical of Wolfman Jack's growling, exuberant on-air style. In the spirit of his character name, he would punctuate his banter with howls, while urging his listeners to "get naked" or "lay your hands on the radio and squeeze my knobs". Part of the persona was his nocturnal anonymity; listeners from coast to coast had no idea how to recognize the face behind the voice that said things like "Wolfman plays the best records in the business, and then he eats 'em!"
In 1971, the Mexican government decided that its overwhelmingly Roman Catholic citizens should not be subjected to proselytizing and banned the Pentecostal preachers from the radio, taking away 80 percent of XERB's revenue. He then moved to station KDAY 1580 in Los Angeles, which could only pay him a fraction of his former XERB income. However, Smith capitalized on his fame by editing his old XERB tapes and selling them to radio stations everywhere, inventing rock and roll radio syndication. He also appeared on Armed Forces Radio from 1970 to 1986. At his peak, Wolfman Jack was heard on more than 2,000 radio stations in fifty-three countries. (read more on wikipedia)
Links To Peel
"I used to listen to several of those Mexican radio stations when I lived in Texas in the 1960s, notably XERB and XERF. On one of them, Wolfman Jack used to broadcast and his voice howling in in the middle of the night from Mexico was as eerie a thing as there ever was. And he played some amazing music... when I was driving around with my mates, drinking Country Club malt liquor and listening to his voice cracking out from Mexico, it was really fantastic." (26 November 2002)
Wolfman Jack came to the attention of British radio listeners in the early 1970s, when his syndicated shows were carried by AFN (American Forces Network) in Germany and could be heard on medium wave in the UK. On one 1972 show he interviewed Captain Beefheart. He also made an appearance in the 1973 hit film American Graffiti, which Peel had liked because, as he later put it in Margrave Of The Marshes (p. 399), he had led an "American Graffiti style life" in his early years in the US, working and living in Dallas, Texas. Wolfman Jack was also mentioned in song lyrics by bands Peel played, like the Doors and the Grateful Dead. All this made him a fashionable name in the '70s, but Peel was aware of him long before.
After Wolfman Jack died of a heart attack in July 1995, John Peel paid tribute to his fellow DJ. On his 07 July 1995 show, Peel mentioned how Wolfman Jack's show was a joy for him, while driving in America with friends and girlfriend. Peel also didn't mind Wolfman Jack talking through the records. Peel also mentioned that he got a tape of excerpts of Wolfman Jack from XERB, which he then played on the show as a tribute:
"I used to listen to him a lot when I was driving around with my mates and my girlfriend Nancy Bowling and Wolfman Jack was a constant in our lives at the time, he would play astonishing... it was such a great programme, he would howl and talk all the way through the records and somehow it didn't matter."
In Margrave Of The Marshes (Corgi edition, p192), Peel also describes a memorable experience of hearing Elmore James's "Stranger Blues" while driving through rural America, and surmises that he may have been listening to Wolfman Jack's show at the time.