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Wolfman Jack: An Early Top 40 Pioneer

In Tribute

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WNBC-AM Publicity Photo with Soupy Sales, Don Imus, Howard Stern and Wolfman Jack

WNBC-AM Publicity Photo with Soupy Sales, Don Imus, Howard Stern and Wolfman Jack

Photo: WNBC-AM/New York
On July 1st, 1995, Wolfman Jack, had just returned home from a book promotion tour when he collapsed at his home in Belvidere, North Carolina and died of a heart attack. The Wolfman was 57...according to the calendar...but probably still 17 if you had asked him.

Robert Smith was the real name behind what became one of the most famous radio personalities in the history of broadcasting. But, if he had stayed Robert Smith, chances are we might have never known him at all. True to the magic which radio offers, Smith was able to reach within himself and pull out the Wolfman. And, once he did, the Wolfman never wanted to go back inside.

As Robert Smith faded away...the Wolfman came to the forefront and howled and laughed, answered phones and played old vinyl 45 rpm records,made appearances and signed autographs, met with record promoters and met with kids. During the early years when Top 40 Radio was the lifeline and anthem for teenagers, The Wolfman made a special mark on American Society and on Radio.

If we remember anything about the man who once was Robert Smith and who later was kissed by Radio and turned into a froggy-throated prince named the Wolfman, it should be this: Dare to be different and dare to follow your instincts. There are NO standards of entertainment you MUST follow. But, DO follow your guts. Be willing to step out from the crowd. Don't always look before you leap. Forget convention. It's better to ask forgiveness than permission. Don't just stand there...Make something happen.

I never met the Wolfman..but I knew him all the same. I guess that's the mark of a great Radio Personality. Somehow, I don't think he'd mind too much if I called him my friend. So, if you get a chance, think a good thought for my friend - just a guy from Brooklyn who howled at the U.S. from a Mexican station named XERF-AM and made a little bit of history by having a lot of fun and just being a disc- jockey. See ya, Wolf.

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