American Graffiti and Wolfman Jack

There are times when I have seen a movie years ago, and then when re-viewing it years later, see it with a new appreciation. American Graffiti is one of those movies. It helped that I recently saw this program on YouTube, The Making of American Graffiti.

It was only director George Lucas’ second movie, and he had a terrible time just convincing the studio to make it. They balked, and only until he got Francis Coppola on board. Coppola had just finished making what would be known as one of the best films in history. And he and producer Albert Ruddy had their own trials in making that movie.

Lucas hired young actors who in time would become famous in their own right, and when he was done after only a month or so of filming, Universal Studios didn’t know what to do with it. As Lucas explained in the documentary it was pioneering in several aspects. I’ll let you watch the documentary for that. And he made that entire movie for the unbelievable sum of $700,000 or so. He said in the documentary that if you had invested in that movie it would have had one of the most profitable returns in movie history.

Anyway, while cruising the strip in ’62 was just a bit before my time (the only age-appropriate character I could relate to was Mackenzie Phillips’ in ’62 – the culture rang a bell. And something reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend last week.

In discussing the state of Rock n Roll she said that from the 60s most groups sang with such muddled enunciations that their English was not understandable. Which, upon reflection, and with a few exceptions like the Beach Boys, I’d have to agree. But, she maintained, all of the lyrics from the 50s – and early 60s – was understandable.

As he explained in the documentary, all of the music in that movie was picked by George Lucas from his own record collection. This is before the era of mp3 files and streaming!

And Wolfman Jack was featured prominently playing from the cars cruising on that strip. And what you heard was actual recordings of “The Wolfman“.

He really was part of teenage culture in the 50s and 60s.

At night, broadcasting from a Mexican station just outside Tijuana, he could be heard as far away as Alaska and Louisiana on the mighty 1090, XERB.

If I remember correctly, unencumbered by our FCC rules, XERB broadcasted at 500,000 watts. The most a station can have here – by FCC approval – is 50,000 watts on the AM Band.

Anyway, if you listen to some of his broadcasts, you know that he had a unique voice persona. In watching this movie again and listening to The Wolfman, I was reminded of an incident that that caused him to lose all of that voice control, and laugh for a good 30 seconds.

He would take calls from listeners and play them on the air.

And one listener called and sounded exactly like The Wolfman. It was as if The Wolfman had a doppelganger.

I listen to his radio voice, and don’t know how he did it. Much less 2 people!

It was the only time I heard him lose his composure on the radio.

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