Wolfman Jack died in 1995, but in some ways he is very much alive.
He’s still heard on XM Radio, on 14 terrestrial stations in the U.S., and in two overseas.
Why? Because the Wolfman’s gravelly voice is, to many, many Americans, the sound of an era. He defined the music, he defined the times. He was it, baby.
Politically the Wolfman (born Bob Smith (sorry)) represented excess, specifically the excess of the 1960s. He began his career when that excess seemed innocent, and kept on the side of "do your own thing" well beyond the era.
He was, in fact, an integral part of the radio establishment of his time, not anti-establishment at all. He was, in the end, a record-spinner, doing what his bosses told him to do, a man with a limited talent, on loan to us.
So who’s Wolfman Jack now?
Limbaugh, like Wolfman Jack, began his career long before today’s era of Republican Excess, but no one represents it more thoroughly, from his words to his lifestyle.
And he works the same medium, radio.
There is something about radio, an intimacy you don’t get in other media. Once you can see the characters, holding our attention becomes much harder. In his autobiography, Every Sunday Night at Seven, Jack Benny wrote of how much more difficult it is to pull off a half-hour weekly TV show than a radio show. In radio, all he needed was a sound to evoke his beloved Maxwell car. On TV he actually had to find a car.
So one person can do a lot more radio than TV. This makes them far more familiar with their audience than any TV character. It means they can manipulate their audience more thoroughly, get deeper into their souls, gain more of their love and (as in the case of parents from the Wolfman Jack era) more of their contempt as well.
See how the game is played? Analogies aren’t perfect, but they can be a lot of fun.
So next week, on The 1966 Game:
Who’s Bob Hope now?