Remembering Wolfman Jack

Stories and info about those no longer involved in the industry

Remembering Wolfman Jack

Postby jon » Sat Aug 06, 2016 1:29 pm

Remembering Wolfman Jack
That's the first visual image I ever saw of Wolfman Jack. In April 1967, in a barber shop window in San Diego and a few months earlier, adorning a 1967 wall calendar. The wall belonged to fellow Burnaby DX'er, Eric Floden, and was right next to his DX equipment. That afternoon though, the conversation was about "Wolfman Smith", a new DJ doing late evenings on KJR, frequently lapsing into a credible Wolfman Jack impression. Knowing nothing about him, Eric told me he was the guy who did the song "Walter Wart", which we had both heard on CFUN and KJR. But that's another story.

In the previous couple of months, I had already heard a fair bit of Wolfman on the air on XERB-1090, during the quieter spots in the evening classical music of KING-1090 in Seattle, with the radio positioned to "null out" KING as much as possible. Eric had been listening to Wolfman long before I had even heard of him, late at night on the station where the Wolfman Jack character began: XERF. Despite being near Mexican border with Texas, XERF's 250,000 watts made the station listenable when nulling CHUB from Nanaimo.

At his peak, after moving from a San Diego suburb to Hollywood, Wolfman was heard on the air with 14 hours a day of unique programming, on 50,000 watt XERB-1090 in Rosarito, SW of Tijuana, on the West Coast, 150,000 watt XEG-1050 in Monterey, West of the Southern tip of Texas, and 250,000 watt XERF-1570 in Ciudad Acuna, North of Monterey, on the Texas border.

Fast forward to Today and, over the last month, I have heard, from here in Edmonton, all three of those stations, even though XEG and XERF are now "only" 100,000 watts and broadcast in Spanish. XERB is still broadcasting in English with the same 50,000 watts, but with new call letters: XEPRS. The call letter change came with the change in control of the station when Wolfman's 5 year contract for all the air time expired in 1971. Wolfman had protected the rights to the XERB "brand" in the U.S., forcing the owners to change the call letters. With a huge debt racked up building a video studio, Wolfman found himself with no income, so he continued working as an employee at XEPRS for a few months.

Robert Weston Smith, Wolfman's real name, influenced a lot of radio announcers in those early years on the air on the "Border Blasters". XERF was hard to miss all across the Canadian Prairies during the 1960s, with no U.S. station on the air at night on the frequency, and no Canadian stations at all in the Prairies on 1570.
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