Born Robert Weston Smith, “Wolfman Jack” (or just “The Wolfman”) was perhaps best known for his exciting broadcasts in the 1960s at XERF Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, beginning in 1963. That was his first taste of Mexican radio and after a few months of that, he returned to the States to program little KUXL in Minneapolis, but nothing there could fulfill the excitement of running a 250,000 watt ‘border blaster’ station, so it was back to Mexico, this time to run 1090 XERB. Rosarito, where the actual transmitter was located, was said to be a 10 minute drive to the U.S. border crossing at Tijuana and it was rumored that Wolfman did his shows from Mexco, but fact is, when he did shows on XERB, he actually recorded them ahead of time from an office he opened in Los Angeles and the tapes were sent south of the border for airplay. And, XERB, while a Mexican station beaming it’s programming to Southern California, was no border ‘blaster’. Yet, even with a top output of only 50kw, at 1090, it’s directional signal due north (to protect KAAY Little Rock*) covered all of the Los Angeles and San Diego metro area like a blanket, along with all the ships at sea and beyond, at night.
Those were the conditions under which Wolfman Jack first became famous. It is this station upon which the movie American Graffiti was based. Wolfman would stay at XERB until 1971, when the Mexican government changed their broadcasting regulations, banning Protestant preachers and their ministries – and the subsequent revenue they were generating – from Mexican stations which were located in a predominantly Catholic region. With the loss of funding, XERBs days as an English language rocker for Southern California were doomed.
Wolfman arrived in New York in 1973 to do the night show on 66 WNBC, competing with Cousin Bruce Morrow at WABC. That lasted about 10 months until Morrow was lured away from WABC.. to do the WNBC night show! And the rest, as they say, is history.
* See corrections in comments below.
This recording is from Wolfman’s second year at XERB, sometime in 1967.