View blog reactions Waiting for Speedway Fowler: Clap for the Wolfman

Sunday, July 02, 2006


Clap for the Wolfman

When was the last time you thought about Wolfman Jack?

No, honestly.

Probably around the time he died, right?

Like maybe 10 years ago?

Look, I'm not claiming to be the valiant keeper of any flame. Like most people, I remember Jack from The Midnight Special, American Graffiti, and his syndicated radio show.

WCOD, out of Hyannis, used to broadcast his weekend show and I remember tooling around town, mildly bemused by the Wolfman's ability to skate along the edge between coolness and total sell-out. Like Elvis, the Wolfman himself was never as cool as his legacy. He was pretty hokey, and yet, sorta cool at the same time. And because his persona was so cartoonish, it actually made him more authentic. It was a strange dichotomy.

And yet, by today's standards, Wolfman Jack was an artiste.

When I was younger, deejays were real personalities. You had Charles Laquidara, Steve Carradine, B.J. Dean, Karen Grace, Pete Sawyer on WMVY with his unparalleled oldies show, Austin in Boston, and even Mike and Cousin on WOKQ back when I was in college in New Hampshire. I didn't even listen to Sunny Joe White, but whenever I stopped momentarily on his spot on the dial, you knew you were listening to a real presence on the airwaves. These were people for whom radio wasn't only a job, it was an art.

Now, what do we have? Delilah?


Good god, how far we've fallen. We don't even have actual deejays anymore. They've all been replaced with redneck talk show hosts or generic, pleasant-sounding people sitting in studios in Fort Worth or Manassas recording bumper tracks. (I was going to say Bakersfield, but I realized that the very existence of Buck Owens makes anything coming out of Bakersfield okay in my book).

I mean, I know it's only radio... but radio used to mean something. It was comforting knowing Mike Malone was out there, kicking down the doors and spinning raw music. I liked Jeff Starr's weirdness.

The last real talent around here, Frank Foley, a guy who deserves a national audience just on the basis of his ability to make funny on his feet, has been replaced by one more sputtering ranting political wanker.

Still, there's hope. People are discovering podcasting as the new outlet for their passion. And the personalities are shining through. CC Chapman, Cheryl Waters, Miami Steve and others are the kind of folks for whom radio once provided a home. It's good to know they're still out there.

Jocks programming their own stuff are an American tradition.

They're a rare breed, but, like the now-blight-resistant Chestnut tree, the reports of their death have been greatly exaggerated.

Next time you hear one of them, think of the Wolfman.

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