Robert Weston Smith was born January 21, 1938 in Brooklyn New York. He became better known as Wolfman Jack, when he adopted that name while broadcasting on KCIJ, a country and western radio station. located in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1962.
Part of the inspiration for the Wolfman Jack personna was derived from the style of bluesman Howlin’ Wolf. His love of horror films also influenced him in becoming Wolfman while he picked up the Jack part of his name from hipster lingo, which commonly mentioned Jack.
Wolfman Jack moved to XERF a powerful 250,000 watts station in Mexico. U.S. radio stations were limited to only 50,000 watts. A car driving from New York to California reportedly would never lose the station during the trip.
After eight months in Mexico, Wolfman Jack was managing a Minneapolis radio station, while still sending his tapes to XERF for broadcast in Mexico. He then moved to Los Angeles in 1966 and sent his tapes to another border blasting station XERB in Rosarito Beach, Mexico.
His popularity was so widespread that artists like Freddy King, Todd Rundgren and Guess Who wrote songs about the Wolfman. George Lucas a film-maker was a Wolfman Jack fan and included a scene in his movie American Graffitti with Richard Dreyfuss walking into his radio station. The Wolfman pretends to not be the Wolfman in this scene:
He was the regular announcer on the Midnight Special on the NBC television network. He is seen on Midnight Special, while the Guess Who sing a song about the Wolfman.
Wolfman Jack died on July 1, 1995 in Belvidere, North Carolina from a massive heart attack. He reportedly had just finished a promotional tour for a book, when he arrived home and died in his wife’s arms.
Music had changed after 1962 and Wolfman Jack said the happy music ended in 1962. Music became a part of the war protests of the 60’s and he longed for the days of happy songs like Short Fat Fanny, as he chose this song to illustrate a happier type of music.
One last clip that lets you hear Wolfman Jack in action: