Robert Smith was probably America's most celebrated disc jockey. You know him as Wolfman Jack. Each week as twenty-five million viewers watched Midnight Special, they saw the Wolfman. Some 100 million people in more than 43 countries tuned in to hear Wolfman Jack's weekly radio show. He had songs written about him by Todd Rundgren, Leon Russell, Taj Mahal and The Guess Who. You might also remember Wolfman Jack in American Graffiti.
We take great pride in presenting a 1980 interview with Wolfman Jack.
Q - The Midnight Special has undergone a change in its format. Some people like it, some don't. What are your feelings about it?
A - I think it's a lot more interesting. We do something that just keeps improving. We're keeping what the people want. We get good groups and we've got better vidoetapes than anybody else, I think. We were the first to do the Top 10 countdown, then Solid Gold picked it up.
Q - There are some groups who refuse to do TV because of sound considerations. How does the show handle the sound problem?
A - We do the best we can, you know. The Midnight Special has a recording studio built in, at the NBC Studios where we tape. We record the show on a 16-track machine. We prefer the artists "live." We don't want them to lip-sync. If they do, it's because they want to.
Q - Because you're so well known, do you ever feel like you're in a powerful, influential position?
A - I think Johnny Carson said it best, I'm here to entertain. I'm not abusing the airwaves. I want to give the people what is happening. We try to stay with what's happening on the show. We believe in what's happening out there. We're not there to create something that doesn't exist. There are no favors on that show. If you're a star, you deserve to be on TV. I wouldn't want to be in the position of picking out who's gonna be on the show and what songs are going to be used in the Top 10 countdown.
Q - Who picks out the songs to be used in your radio program?
A - That's all computerized out.
Q - How many people can fit in the Midnight Special studio?
A - Between 500 and 700 people. We can squeeze in 750 if we have 'em standing.
Q - Besides Dick Clark and yourself, I don't know of any other disc jockeys who've managed to have your kind of success. What does it take to reach the level of a Wolfman Jack?
A - It takes a lot of perseverance. Dick believes in people, he takes care of people. You have to give back more than you make.
Q - Are you happy with the kind of musical talent that's around today?
A - Oh yeah, there's so many young people comin' out today with a wealth of talent.
Q - Was '73 the year when everything came together for you?
A - That was the year when things really started poppin'. I was on WNBC Radio in New York; co-hosting the Midnight Special on NBC TV. American Graffiti was out. The Guess Who's "Clap for the Wolfman" was a Top 5 hit in the charts, actually Top 3, and it even went to number 1 for a week.
Q - What's been the most memorable event in your life so far?
A - Probably the shoot out at XERF. That's a whole different story. We'll keep 'em hanging on that one till next time.