Happy Retro New Year! It’s January 1968 … Again!
Ah, the good ol’ days … remember when 1st class postage raised from 5 cents to 6 cents? Oh, we were incensed!
At Blast from Your Past, we spend much time, in "remember when" pasts. There is a reason for that—the 1960s gave us the Golden Age of Rock and Roll Radio—and it’s still fun!
More than that, though, the era nurtured sweeping change, with music mirroring our attitudes. Mid-decade, radio chart Top Tens faded from Bubblegum Pop in ’61, ushering in girl-group sounds like “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” (The Shirelles) #1 at WIP/Philadelphia (January 23, 1961), to January 15, 1968’s #1 spinning at WLS/Chicago, “Bend Me, Shape Me” (American Breed).
Both love songs tugged at the heart strings, but “Tomorrow’s” violin strings were old school, compared to “Bend Me, Shape Me’s” heavy drumbeat and guitar riffs. An upbeat with a downbeat sound, reverberated through our growing pains as a new generation came to terms with war and discrimination. Musically, it lead us straight into the Heavy Metal era.
Heralding the mass manufacturing of portable, transistor models, Radio fought for its relevance, with the infamous boob tube. And like Rock and Roll, it proved Radio will never die. It simply shape-shifts into a different howling animal.
Which brings us to the animal we celebrate every January 21st, regardless of the year. Hint: Is it any wonder he was born under January’s Wolf Moon?!
Robert Weston Smith (January 21, 1938-July 1, 1995), self-described, “Original Rock & Roll Animal,” aka Wolfman Jack, turned a raucous 30 years old in 1968!
The iconic Radio personality is featured in the Blast from Your Past books, to which the series is dedicated. As a man, like all of us humans, Wolfman Jack had his foibles; as a howling Radio DJ and later, television host, he personified the innovation of broadcasting.
In January 1968, Wolfie and business partner, Mo Burton, enjoyed the fruits of their labors established in 1966, with a studio in Hollywood. Taping their shows stateside, they muscled their way over the airwaves of a powerful, towering Radio transmitter in Rosarito, Mexico. Olé!
From the San Diego border, to Canada and points far East, Wolfman’s crusty voice boomed over XERB/1090’s radio waves and lit rebellious fires in impressionable teens.
Wolfman’s XERB strayed from Rock & Roll, pushing funky and soulful to the top three on its Soul 30 chart, January 3, 1968: #1 “Boogaloo Down Broadway” (Fantastic Johnny C); #2 “Chain of Fools” (Aretha Franklin); #3 “If I Could Build My Whole World Around You” (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell).
How’s your Boogaloo? Can you dig it! Ah, lay a little Soul on me …Have Mercy!*
Still perfecting his Wolfman persona in 1968, his transformation called for learning to electrify live audiences, in gigs up and down California. Though most comfortable behind the mic, he enjoyed thrilling his listeners. “Most of his fans had ‛never seen anything freaky-deaky like this.’ It was a more exhilarating high for him than any hallucinatory could produce.”** Polishing his stage presence would serve Wolfman Jack well throughout the 1970s. Aoooowwwwwoooo!
As we strut into this 21st century New Year, take a moment or two for a January 1968 fun flashback, and Enjoy the Moment … Again!
Featured Radio Survey: WLS/Chicago hits the mark January 15, 1968, with a smiling image of BFYP DJ, Ron Riley, once briefly (and reluctantly) known as “Smiley Riley”—well before 1968, Ron lost the goofy personality name and was just a smiling, fun DJ. 50 Years Ago Ron rocked WLS! Were you listening? Recall that awesome day when …
Celebrate JANUARY 1968: 50 Years Ago and … Rock On!
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** From BFYP Book 2, The Swinging Sixties; Wolfman Jack Part 3.
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