Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It's Da' WOOFMAN BABY!!





 Wolfman Jack in the CHUM main studio
Hear Pat read this entry 

Bob Smith. alias Wolfman Jack, worked at CHUM for awhile in the 70's. He was quite the character as you might imagine!

Smitty grew up in Brooklyn, and was a huge fan of “Moondog” Alan Freed. The “Wolfman” part of the name came from Bob's love of horror films, the “Jack” from hip phrases of the time such as “Hit the road, Jack .” He based his gravely voice on Howlin' Wolf's singing style.  Smitty began his radio career in Newport News, VA as "Roger Gordon and Music in Good Taste."  I'm guessing THIS particular segment of Da' Woofman's career was somehow missing from his official resume.   


Smitty's alter ego Wolfman Jack began to emerge at KCIJ in Shreveport, LA, and Wolfman hit his stride in the early sixties when he took his act south of the border to XERB in Rosorito Beach, Mexico, a 100,000 watt flame thrower which could be heard in the US from coast to coast.  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!" At one point the Federales decided they wanted a part of the action and, according to Wolf, came down to the station to let him know.  He told me he drove them off with a shotgun!

You never knew what to believe from him, but he sure told a great story.  Hell, they were probably true come to think about it!

Smitty came to CHUM on the heels of his groundbreaking role in “American Graffiti,” a movie in which he basically played himself.   He was constantly accompanied by his manager, who objected strenuously to us calling him “Smitty.”  We couldn't have cared less.

Hey Smitty, how's it goin'?”
Call him Wolf or Wolfman please!”
Yeah, yeah, f*#k you! How's it goin' Smitty?”
Fine, man fine. Ever-ting goin' jus fine hee hee hee...”

He would cross the border with an unopened pack of Kools.  He'd unwrap the damned pack and there would be 20, perfectly rolled joints inside.  He must've had his own cigarette wrapping machine, and a stash of phony tax stamps!  When he was on the air the place smelled like an opium den, and the smoke was so thick you couldn't see your hand in front of your face.  One time Sandee and her sister went on a food run for Wolfie.  His manager ordered 3 or 5 burgers, a bunch of fries, a couple of cokes, etc, etc.  She said it looked like they were hungry back there.  He answered "Oh, these aren't for us, they're all for Wolf."  When he got the munchies, he REALLY got the munchies.

Typical Wolfman phone bit:

"Hiya baby"
"Hiya Wolfman"
"Hey baby, are your peaches sweet?"
"Yeah Wolfman, they sure are"
"Hey baby, how old are you?"
"13"
"13!!!!!!!. BYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEE!!!! HAH, HAH, HAH... OOOOOOOOOOWWWOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!.."

Wolf was the exact opposite of his on-air persona.  Listening to him on the air you'd have thought he was an old letch, but he was happily married and devoted to "Mrs Wolf," Lucy "Lou" Lamb who he married in 1961.  They had two children.  He was thoroughly engaging, and once you got to know him, he'd open up a bit.  Sometimes he and Lou would get into a tiff and, after about a dozen joints, he'd sit you down for a heart to heart which he'd start off by saying something along the lines of  “Me and the old lady been havin' our troubles lately...”  When he did that, you could be sure you'd be sitting there for a looooong time.

He had an absolutely wicked sense of humor, and would crack up helplessly whenever something funny would happen.   John Tucker was his operator.   John had a long beard and scraggly hair... he looked like a deranged mountain man.  Mary Cribari worked the phones for the show and recalls coming into the control room, and Tucker grabbing and tickling her.  Yes folks, these were PRE PC times.  She remembers Smitty's voice blaring out of the squawk box...

Unhand her you heathen swine!!!... HAWWW, HAWWW, HAWWW, HAWWW... unhand that innocent little girl you pervert!!!  HAWWW, HAWWW, HAWWW, HAWWW... “ 


Once I had him appear at one of my 50's dances at an outside venue in Oshawa, ON.  We had Farthead go up to the roof of a building across the street to man the huge spotlight we'd brought in.  Wolf had told Randy to be sure and keep the light right on him when he performed “Clap For The Wolfman.”  Now if there was one thing you DIDN'T do, is tell Randy how to do his job.  Randy kept the spotlight on him all right... focused to a 6 inch wide circle right on his crotch!! 

Smitty was a great guy, and we all got along with him famously.  He didn't stay with the station long, however. American Graffiti had made him a household name.  It wasn't long before TV called, and Wolf found himself televised coast to coast hosting the “Midnight Special.”  He went on to do a number of TV shows, radio specials and even a cartoon called “The Wolf Rock Power Hour”

He died of a heart attack some years ago returning home from the road promoting his new autobiography "Have Mercy!: Confessions of the Original Rock 'N' Roll Animal." He got out of the limo to hug Lou, and dropped dead right there in his drive way.

It's a shame, he was a great guy. HAH, HAH, HAH... OOOOOOOOWWWOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!.."



01/06/2012  Mary Cribari adds... 

Awesome story Pat!  I remember him coming through the doors at Chum with an entourage of women, he was never alone.  Being 16 and totally naive, I had no idea that they were "paid help” I thought they were his friends travelling with him until I found otherwise.  I could tell you many crazy stories about "Wolfi" but I can tell you one thing, he always looked after me, he would freak when anyone tried to touch me and that I truly appreciated.  Mary Cribari

5 comments:

  1. I heard his first show on Sunday NIght Graffiti. He had Mike Love on as a guest. I assumed he was recorded on the Sundays that followed because the show sounded canned, even to a high school kid. At CKLC in Kingston we ran the Wolfman show from reel to reel tape.

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  2. We actually did run his show from tape toward the end of his time at CHUM. He was too busy to travel to Toronto at the time.

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  3. Scott, I was asked to write Wolfman's local material -- all the stuff he'd be saying about the Eaton Centre and the Yonge Street Strip and the Maple Leafs. But in order to write it I had to say it out loud -- his act was all about rhythm. One Saturday afternoon on the weekend Wolfman was coming to town my new bride Lynne arrived home from shopping to see me sitting in front of our bedroom mirror yelling, "Ya baby, dis is da Wolfman..." I can still see the self doubt that flickered across her face. The Wolfman was a great guy, loved a good joke, and once asked me to move to L.A. and write for him. I stayed at CHUM. He died the same day as my father, on July 1, 1995.

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  4. Thanks larry, I never knew that he used our writers. He ALWAYS had that loose leaf book in front of him though... I'm assuming everything that constituted Wolfman Jack was in there. Like I said, he was very different in real life than on the air

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  5. Hey all you "Wolfman" friends and Fans! Big fan as well...Probably never of listened to Am radio if Wolfman wasn't the DJ.Got a question I recently bought a 1973 red Trans Am..was told it had some Wolfman history have not been able to find this to be true? except that the last owner was an ex dis jockey in San Diego area...Solana beach area where I purchased the car.If anyone has any info at all??? please email me at: WantedClassicCars@gmail.com....Thank You, David

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