|Ciudad, Acuña, Mexico|
|Looking toward Villa Acuna, Mexico from International Bridge at Del Rio, Texas.|
Bob had moved from Shreveport, Louisiana (where he had been spinning country music at station KCIJ) to Del Rio, Texas to be radio personality Wolfman Jack in 1964 but, after eight months of living in the border town with it's hot semi-arid steppe climate he and his family moved back to Louisiana where he returned to work at KCIJ. The Wolfman Jack Show continued on XERF through taped broadcasts. He would record his shows in the Shreveport studios and mail them down to XERF in Ciudad, Acuña where they were broadcast at Wolfman's regular time: Midnight to 4 A.M.
Soon after, Smith and his family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he managed a 1,000 watt, daytime-only station, KUXL 1540-AM for owner, Marvin Kosofsky. The morning hours at KUXL were filled with pre-paid religious and ethnic programming but during the afternoons it had the distinction of being the only local radio station that catered to the black community with R & B music. Ironically, of all the employees at KUXL, the most famous voice belonged to someone whose voice did not air locally. Kosofsky once explained, "Robert W. Smith, A.K.A. 'Wolfman Jack' was the manager and the rhythm and blues program was conducted by a disc jockey called 'Preacher Paul.' [Ralph Hull]"
|Early Publicity pic circa 1964|
|1965 live recording sold over the air on XERF|
The fascinating book, Border Radio gives a glimpse of what it was like back in Wolfman's early days on XERF, "Between the white-hot rhythm and blues of James Brown and Johnny Otis and the jazz of Count Basie, the Wolfman grunted, groaned, and howled an endless stream of exotic exhortations, such as, “Wherever ya are, and whatever ya doin', I wancha ta lay ya hands on da raydeeooo, lay back wid me, and squeeze ma knobs. We gonna feeel it ta-night!"
Nobody contributed more to the Wolfman legend than Smith himself. In his biography, Smith says he took over station XERF from armed banditos. The story is now known as the "Border Radio Shoot-out Saga." The semi-mythical tale involves lawsuits, shootouts, and armed takeovers. How much is true we may never know. However, the anecdote is so intriguing that it makes Wolfman's memoirs worth reading just for the chapter where he recounts the story.
In the early days (1964-72) Wolfman Jack worked hard to keep his true identity a mystery and Mexico helped provide cover for his valuable mystique. He did not grant interviews or allow pictures to be taken of him. A long-time Wolfman friend and fan, Jeff Dunas, told Creem Magazine, "You were always wondering who he really was, what where...I would call the station and ask about Wolfman and they would tell me he was eight feet tall and they kept him in a special room, or that no one has ever seen him, or he was all differnt colors... When I wanted to talk to him, Dunas recalled, "I would always have to wait two hours to get through... Every kid has his own Wolfman Jack in his head, no two are alike..."
|The wizard behind the curtain|
While working at KUXL Wolfman approached the US representative for Mexican station, XERB and sold him on the idea of a R&B format to replace its then, music staple of Country & Western. Two of the radio personalities at KUXL; Art Hoehn a.k.a. "Fat Daddy Washington," (1/23/1939 - 3/12/2011) and Ralph Hull a.k.a. "Preacher Paul Anthony" helped Wolfman take over station XERB 1090, located across the California border on Mexico's Baja peninsula, at Rosarito Beach, near Tijuana. They operated the "Big X" from Minneapolis initially, then relocated to Southern California in 1966. A bartender turned DJ named Ray Moss from KUXL made the journey to XERB, too.
The first XERB office was a pink stucco building at 8228 Sunset Blvd. They soon found a better location and moved everything to a building he and Marvin Kosofsky bought located at 4007 West 6th Street near Western Ave. Wolfman converted the downstairs into a 16-track recording studio. He'd record his shows a day ahead of time on several reel-to-reel tapes. One tape had commercials on it, another had music with Wolfman introductions, while another tape had recordings of phone calls. The tapes were transported by bus, across the border to Rosarito, Mexico with directions on how to put the show together. Mexican engineers/operators such as Gabriel Esquivel, Adolfo Tejeda, & Ernesto Madueno would blend the tapes of music, commercials, phone calls, etc. and broadcast the assembled show from the XERB, 50,000-watt transmitter, giving listeners the impression that they were hearing a live show.
In 1966 XERB was initially advertised as exclusively an R & B station but eventually the station's format became more inclusive of mainstream rock. Regardless, Wolfman's show was always an awesome roller-coaster ride as he snarled, cackled, and blasted Soul, R&B, Oldies, and whatever he felt like playing on the spur of the moment. Part of the fun of the Wolfman Jack Show on XERB included his interactions with listeners who would call in. Usually before they could make a record request the Wolfman would tease them. Often times he'd interrupt them by growling, or by making kissing or farting noises. Other times he'd speak in romantic tones:
|One of many mega-oldies record packages sold over the air|
"They made up one of these here, one of these crazy calendars, for me, baby. One of these psychedelic calendars. Got a picture of da Wolfman on it right smack in the middle of a big LSD capsule, baby. One of these psychedelic jobs. You gonna blow yer mind when you see this here calendar, baby. You gonna looove it ta death! Have mercy! If you ain't got yer calendar yet, you better get cha' one in the mail right now, tonight while its fresh on yer mind...This is what the calendar look like, baby it's red and green and blue and yella... Got all the important birthdays on it. Got the drinkin' days, and the sleepin' days, and this that and the other thing. You won't believe it when you see the calendar, baby. It's all yours for just a dollar. Send one dollar cash, check, or money order to: Wolfman Jack Calendar, X-E-R-B, Hollywood, California!"
Some preachers like Brother Henderson paid for a regular spot that was thinly disguised as a gospel music show. His program called "Glory Bound Train" was typically on Monday thru Saturday from 6:00 am to 10:00 am and again for another two hours before Wolfman's show at 9:00 pm. Brother Henderson and other radio proselytizers like Reverend A.A. Allen were real hustlers making enormous amounts of money selling salvation through bibles and anything from "The Lord's Last Supper" tablecloths to "Lord's Prayer Coins" with the likeness of Jesus on them. Wolfman once joked that the radio preachers were selling Jesus all day while he was selling sin at night. "Hallelujah!" Because they had such a large following and made so much money, the radio evangelists were never too hesitant about paying huge fees for airtime. Some eccentric preachers like Reverend Ike would pay for their spots a year in advance. He would drive up to the XERB office in his Cadillac and walk in with a brown paper bag filled with one hundred dollar bills to pay for his airtime.
|A map of the border between California & Mexico|
Early XERB program schedules show that there were only three other radio shows besides Wolfman's 9:00 pm to 3:00 am show that broadcast from the station. They were: Fat "Daddy" Washington from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, The Nazz from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm, and Ol' Joe Soul who took over after Wolfman's show, in the early morning hours of 3:00 am to 6:00 am. The fate of these DJs at XERB was not good. After a year or so, they either left or were let-go. For example, program director, Ralph Hull (The Nazz) was fired in 1967 over programming conflicts with Wolfman. Around the same time Art Hoehn a.k.a. Fat Daddy Washington returned to Minnesota to work for MPR. Lonnie Napier recalls that by the time he had begun to work for Wolfman in 1970, the only real radio show at the station was Wolfman's show. "He was on during the day from 3:00 to 6:00, and then again at night from around 10:00 pm to 1:00 am. The rest of it was all sold block programming," he said. The time was sold to a lot of preachers and a company called Turfcraft who would buy [horse] racing results from across the country and then a radio personality such as, Leo Herbert or Polo Jaquez (sp?) would announce them by recreating certain races.
Above: Both sides of a book of matches advertising the station's frequent broadcasting of racing results.
|SUPER SOUL 21 SURVEY circa April 1970.|
XERB's weekly SOUL survey eventually included both R & B and Rock & Roll records.
ALL GOOD THINGS
GOT TO COME TO AN END
|XERB studio & transmitter site in Rosarito, B.C., (Mexico).|
Wolfman Jack was making loads of money at XERB. According to his biography, by 1971 he was making a profit of almost $50,000 a month. The Mexican company executives that had been leasing XERB for a monthly fee noticed this and got greedy. They wanted to throw him out and make all the money themselves. So, the owners bribed Mexican officials into politically squeezing Wolfman off the air. The Mexican government did this by passing a law that stated there could be no more Pentecostal or religious programming on Mexican airwaves. Without the profits from selling airtime to the preachers, the station could make very little money. The majority of profits Wolfman received from selling local advertising was in the form of trade-outs for items such as cars, clothing and furniture rather than actual cash. So, there was no way he could continue to make monetary payments to the owners each month. “That was it. In one stroke they cleaned out 80 percent of all the money we were expecting to make,” Wolfman said in his biography. So, he and business partner, Marvin Kosofsky had to turn control of the station back over to the Mexican owners.
|Comic Book drawn by Dan Koffman, 1970|
|The sign on the XEPRS entrance as it looks today.|
A $15.00 donation will give you unlimited access to tons of airchecks featuring celebrity DJs including Wolfman Jack: