Wolfman Jack was born January 21, 1938 and passed away on July 1, 1995.
Robert Weston Smith, known as Wolfman Jack was a gravelly voiced American disc jockey, famous in the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1973, he appeared in director George Lucas’ second feature film, American Graffiti, as himself. His broadcasts tie the film together, and Richard Dreyfuss’s 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 extreme financial success of American Graffiti provided him with a regular income for life. He also appeared in the film’s 1979 sequel, More American Graffiti, though only through voice-overs.
Subsequently, Smith appeared in several television shows as Wolfman Jack. They included The Odd Couple; What’s Happening!!; Vega$; Wonder Woman; Hollywood Squares; Married… with Children; Emergency!; 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 promoted Clearasil and Olympia beer in radio and TV commercials in the 1970s. In the 1980s he promoted the “Rebel” Honda motorcycle in television commercials.
Listening to Wolfman Jack’s broadcasting influenced Jim Morrison’s lyrics for The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat) song. He is also mentioned in the Grateful Dead song, “Ramble On Rose”: “Just like Crazy Otto/Just like Wolfman Jack/Sittin’ plush with a royal flush/Aces back to back.”
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?; the single version of the track includes a shouted talk-over intro by the Wolfman but on the album version Rundgren performs that part himself. 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 song “Did You Boogie (With Your Baby)” by Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids (Billboard HOT 100 peak #29 in October 1976) and an imitation of him is featured as a cameo in “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” by Sugarloaf (Billboard HOT 100 peak #9 in March 1975). In September 1975, Wolfman Jack appeared on stage with the Stampeders (singing “Hit the Road Jack”) as a warm-up act for the Beach Boys at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, Canada and that same year he also performed “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” with Sugarloaf on The Midnight Special.
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 Fair grounds, 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 1975-80, Wolfman Jack hosted Halloween Haunt at Knott’s Berry Farm, which transforms itself into Knott’s Scary Farm each year for Halloween. It is the most successful special event of any theme park in the country, and has often sold out.
In 1980 he took the small role of Reverend Billy in the cult horror comedy film Motel Hell.
From 1980 to 1982 Wolfman Jack voiced the intro to the cartoon The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang airing Saturday mornings on ABC.
In 1984 Wolfman Jack voiced a cartoon version of himself for the short-lived DIC Entertainment cartoon Wolf Rock TV (aka Wolf Rock Power Hour) airing Saturday mornings on ABC.
In 1985, Wolfman Jack’s voice is heard several times in the ABC made for TV Halloween movie, The Midnight Hour. Jack recorded several bits for the movie and is seen at the beginning of the movie as an extra. The song “Clap for the Wolfman” is heard during the movie as well.
In 1986, Wolfman Jack appeared as the “High Rama Lama” in the CBS animated special Garfield in Paradise
In 1987, Wolfman Jack appeared as himself in the music video for Joe Walsh’s hit single, “The Radio Song”, which was featured on his eighth studio solo album, Got Any Gum?.
In 1988, he was the host “Little Darlin’s Rock and Roll Palace”, a rock and roll show on The Nashville Network, 2 seasons recorded in Kissimee, Florida at little Darlin’s Rock and Roll Palace. Third season recorded in Nashville and Baltimore. The shows featured house band Rockin Robin backing the greatest artists of the 50′ and 60’s. The Coasters, Shirelles, Lou Christie Tommy Roe, Del Shannon, Roger McGuinn and many others.
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 1991, “Little Darlin’s Rock and Roll Palace” in Kissimee, Florida renamed the club as “Wolfman Jack’s Rock and Roll Palace”. The New Year’s Eve grand opening featured, Joe Walsh, Melaine, Lester Chambers, The Impressions and Rockin Robin.
Wolfman Jack played himself in an episode of Married… with Children (“Ship Happens, part 1the “) that first aired in February 1995.
Have Mercy: Confessions of the Original Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal, Wolfman’s autobiography, was published in 1995 to stellar reviews in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Kirkus Reviews, which said it “Reads like a collaboration between Mark Twain and Sergio Leone…” His co-author was Byron Laursen.
Twitter: Jim Kirkwood Jr
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