LEGEND OF THE WOLF
WOLFMAN JACK, America’s most famous disc-jockey, is now probably even better known over here for his pivotal role in “American Graffiti” than for his shows on AFN. When he came to London last week to appear on Capital Radio it was my privilege to work closely with him (that’s us clowning for the cameras, right), and thus I was able to find out about a lot of his tricks.
When recording his syndicated shows, carried by hundreds of radio stations worldwide, the Wolf merely sits down with a running order list and puts his voice links on tape, without any music, leaving three second gaps between each link. An engineer then records the master tape. playing the records, running in the pre-recorded links, and slotting in other relevant “bits” that are already on cart, like the famous wolf howls (actually, a coyote). This explains why on the two “American Graffiti” albums the Wolf often crashes the vocals – he had no control!
Possibly the greatest surprise when watching the Wolfman at work is to see that all his incredible raps are in fact read from books. Wherever they go, he and his manager, Don Kelley, note down anything that inspires them. Don is then able to flip through piles of thick notebooks until he finds something apt for the music and mood of the moment. which the Wolf then transforms into a rap that sounds totally spontaneous. He also uses the notebooks to whap in time with the beat when rockin’ to Little Richard!
To change from his normal speaking voice into his maniacal radio style, the Wolf goes into a wheezing chuckle that gradually intensifies until it bursts out into his much copied growling rasp – which is full of amazing resonances. Even when wearing cans, at the mike he often puts a hand over one ear in traditional announcer’s fashion. A true AM jock, he likes lots of EQ, and sits well back while ranting and raving.
As well as radio shows, there are Wolfman Jack discos, syndicated on tape to locations that he and Don Kelley control. Because these are mainly in hotels, the music that they very carefully programme for each hour-long tape is angled to get bashful business men onto the floor, and each tape follows an almost scientifically proven formula. This includes a healthy quota of really big oldies, with one Latin cut per hour.
As well as all this the Wolf is the main presenter of America’s long-running “Midnight Special ‘ Rock show, plus he has his own lavish touring stage show that choreographs the history of Rock ‘n Roll radio, plus he’s had numerous songs written about him, plus . . . like I said, he’s the World’s most famous DJ.
From Peter Dunn: Coppercoins Country Club, Nr Haverfordwest, Pemb’s): Useful as a nice happy party record, MEL BLANC I Taut I Taw A Puddy Tat (MfP Surprise Surprise FP 27) is especially good if just the main Tweety Pie verse is cut in, for unexpected shock effect. This and many more party goodies of a silly nature are available on cheap kiddies discs in places like W. H. Smith & Son – they’re worth trying.
NATALIE COLE: This Will Be (Capitol CL 15834)
Nat “King” Cole’s daughter is a merry young soul on this happy stamper (reviewed last week as an import), which much like Barbara Acklin’s Love Makes A Woman really does move like the clappers! Hopefully modern dancers can cope with the fact that it actually swings . . . and how! My fave of the month, if not year.
INNERVISION: Honey Baby (Be Mine) (Private Stock PVT 17)
An instantly catchy bass line makes the purposeful yet gentle rhythmic drive that fronts some impassioned harmonies and should win friends in a hurry. In fact, I’ve a hunch this could hit.
THE FATBACK BAND: Yum, Yum (Gimme Some) / Trompin’ (Polydor 2066590).
A lip-smacking treat for funky folk, this bouncy thumper may seem monotonous to others as the bass predominates in a very repetitive way. Spirited flip. Continue reading “August 30, 1975: Natalie Cole, Innervision, Fatback Band, Chocolate Milk, Esther Phillips”