Listen to Wolfman
Robert Weston Smith (21 January 1938 – 1 July 1995) was
a gravelly-voiced, American disc jockey who became world famous in the 1960s
and 1970s under the stage name of Wolfman Jack.
Born in Brooklyn, Smith was a fan of disc jockey Alan Freed who helped to turn African American rhythm and blues into 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. Smith'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.
In 1962, 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 at Ciudad Acuña in Mexico. It was here that Wolfman Jack invented his own style of border blasting by turning the airwaves into one long infomercial featuring music and off-the-wall products....
Film, television, and music career
In the early days, Wolfman Jack made sporadic public appearances, usually as an Master of Ceremonies (MC) for rock bands at local Los Angeles, California clubs. At each appearance he looked a little different because Smith hadn't decided on what "The Wolfman" should look like. Early pictures show him with a goatee; however, sometimes he combed his straight hair forward and added dark makeup to look somewhat "ethnic." Other times he had a big afro wig and large sunglasses covering his eyes. It wasn't until he appeared in the 1969 film A Session with the Committee (a montage of skits by the seminal comedy troupe The Committee) that mainstream America got a good look at Wolfman Jack.
In 1973 he appeared in director George Lucas' second feature film, American Graffiti, as himself. His broadcasts tie the film together, and a main character catches a glimpse of the mysterious Wolfman in a pivotal scene. In gratitude for Wolfman Jack's participation, Lucas gave him a fraction of a "point" -- the division of the profits from a film -- and the massive financial success of American Graffiti provided him with a regular income for life.
Subsequently, Smith appeared in several television shows as Wolfman Jack. They included The Odd Couple; What's Happening!!; Vega$; Hollywood Squares; Married… with Children; and Galactica 1980. He was the regular announcer and occasional host for The Midnight Special on NBC from 1973 to 1981. He was also the host of his self-titled variety series, The Wolfman Jack Show, which was produced in Canada by CBC Television in 1976, and syndicated to stations in the US.
He helped promote Clearasil in radio and TV commercials in the '70s. In the '80s he promoted the Honda motorcycle the "Rebel" in television commercials.
He also furnished his voice in The Guess Who's 1974 tribute, the top 40 hit single, "Clap for the Wolfman." A few years earlier, Todd Rundgren recorded a similar tribute, "Wolfman Jack", on the album Something/Anything?. Canadian band The Stampeders also released a cover of "Hit the Road Jack" in 1975 featuring Wolfman Jack; the storyline of the song involved a man named "Cornelius" calling Jack on the phone, telling him the story of how his girlfriend had thrown him out of the house, and trying to persuade Jack to let him come and stay with him (at this point, Jack ended the call). His voice is also featured in the songs "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" by Sugarloaf and "Did You Boogie With Your Baby (In the Back Row of the Movie Show?)" by Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids.
A clip of a 1970s radio advertisement featuring Wolfman Jack urging registration with the United States Selective Service (aka "the draft") is incorporated into the Depeche Mode cover of the song "Route 66". Those radio advertisements were extracted from half hour radio programs that were distributed to radio stations across the country. His syndicated music radio series was sponsored by the United States Air Force, designed as a weekly program-length public service infomercial to promote the benefits of joining the Air Force. The series ran from 1971 until 1977.
In July 1974 Wolfman Jack was the MC for the Ozark Music Festival at the Missouri State Fairgrounds, a huge three-day rock festival with an estimated attendance of 350,000 people, making it one of the largest music events in history.
In 1989, he provided the narration for the US version of the arcade game DJ Boy. His voice was not used in the home version of the game, due to memory limitations.
In 2008, Lou Lamb Smith released "Wolfman Jack: Greatest Bits & Ringtones" on CD featuring clips used in the syndicated Wolfman Jack Radio Program.
 Radio Caroline
When the one surviving ship in what had originally been a pirate radio network of Radio Caroline North and Radio Caroline South sank in 1980, a search began to find a replacement. Due to the laws passed in the UK in 1967, it became necessary for the sales operation to be situated in the US. For a time the manager of Wolfman Jack acted as the West Coast agent for the planned new Radio Caroline.
As a part of this process Wolfman Jack was set to deliver the morning shows on the new station. To that end Wolfman Jack did record a number of programs which were never aired due to the failure of the station to come on air according to schedule. (It eventually returned from a new ship in 1983 which remained at sea until 1990.) Today those tapes are traded among collectors of his work.
Wolfman Jack died of a heart attack in Belvidere, North Carolina, on July 1, 1995, age 57. The day before his death, he had finished broadcasting his last live radio program, a weekly program nationally syndicated from Planet Hollywood in downtown Washington, D.C. Wolfman Jack said that night, "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!. When he got home, he entered his house, hugged his wife, said "Oh, it is so good to be home!", and died in his wife's arms.
His business, Wolfman Jack Productions (based in Hertford, North Carolina), is still listed in the local telephone book.
In the show Upright Citizens Brigade, Episode 03x01, "Costumes", a woman puts Wolfman Jack novelty bells on everything in the house.
In the Ray Stevens song "The Moonlight Special," Wolfman Jack is parodied as Mr. Sheepdog.
In the song "Wolfman" on the Adam Sandler album Shhh...Don't Tell, a man pretends to be Wolfman Jack because he is in denial about his sexuality.
On the Canadian children's show The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, the show's creator Billy Van played "The Wolfman", a lycanthropic disc jockey (a literal "wolf-man") for radio station EECH, with a voice and mannerism clearly modeled after Wolfman Jack.
A Wolfman Jack functionary ("Wolfguy Jack") appears as the owner of a 1950's-themed diner in the Simpsons episode "Take My Wife, Sleaze". The business closes after a week. As he locks the door for the last time, he complains that doing the voice hurts his throat.
Johnny Thunder, the radio station DJ from That '70s Show, is based on Wolfman Jack.
Sesame Street released a video compilation of rock songs (most were parodies of actual rock hits modified, of course, for preschoolers) hosted by "Jackman Wolf", an anthropomorphic purple wolf who always wore sunglasses.
Gene Simmons character in the 1986 Horror Movie Trick or Treat, "Nuke" is said to be based on "The Wolfman" as well.
A memorial was dedicated to the Wolfman's memory at Del Rio, Texas, where he first began his career in radio AM station XERF.
Wolfman Jack was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1996.
In addition, Wolfman Jack's widow, Lou Lamb Smith, has released a one- to two-hour syndicated program built from what were thought to be "lost" archives and airchecks of his shows. The airchecks used in the shows date from the 1960s all the way up to his death in the 1990s. About a dozen oldies-oriented stations in the United States and Canada have picked up the show, and air times for the show vary by station.
Beginning on October 31, 2005, a 1960s-themed channel, "The 60s on 6" on XM Satellite Radio, began airing a regular program utilizing airchecks from Wolfman Jack's older syndicated shows. The first show was broadcast in October and was Halloween themed. The promotion for it was the announcement of a Halloween show so special that they were bringing someone back from the dead. It ended with a squeakly coffin opening and then the voice of the Wolfman saying, (paraphrased) "Hi everyone, it's the Wolfman and I am back. Be sure to join me for a very special ghoulish show this Halloween night". After that Halloween show, Wolfman's show was a nightly regular on XM's '60s channel. The XM show currently airs one hour per week at 11 PM Eastern Time and five hours on Sunday night at 7 PM Eastern Time.
As of December 2007, there are also several terrestrial radio affiliates carrying restored versions of Wolfman Jack's programs, with original air dates ranging from the 1970s up until his death in 1995 (one replayed episode, for instance, featured Wolfman Jack discussing the O. J. Simpson murder case). These programs were restored by Douglas Allen Wedge and syndicated between October 2004 and January 2006 by the San Diego, California-based Astor Broadcast Group. These programs are now syndicated by Lou Lamb Smith through Wolfman Jack Licensing based in Hollywood, California and London, UK-based Blue Revolution (see link below).
"Mad Dog," a DJ in the 2005 Activision PC Videogame The Movies, is based on Wolfman Jack.
In the film Six-String Samurai, the disc jockey heard on the radio several times throughout the film is voiced by Keith Mortimer but is obviously based on Wolfman Jack.
He was a Minister with the Universal Life Church. He is mentioned in the song "Ramble on Rose" by Grateful Dead.