Wolfman Jack, the rock 'n' roll disc jockey whose gravelly voice and wolf howls made him one of the nation's most recognizable voices, died Saturday of a heart attack. He was 57.
The Wolfman, whose real name was Robert Smith, collapsed at his home, said Lonnie Napier, vice president of Wolfman Jack Entertainment. He had just completed a 20-day trip to promote his new book Have Mercy, The Confession of the Original Party Animal, about his early career.
"He walked up the driveway, went in to hug his wife and then just fell over," said Napier from the Wolfman's home, about 120 miles east of Raleigh.
A fixture in U.S. radio since the 1960s, the Wolfman gained fame by playing himself in George Lucas' 1973 movie American Graffiti, when America saw the face that went with the voice.
"It took the Wolfman from a cult figure to the rank of American flag and apple pie," he once said.
The Wolfman's name came from a trend of the '50s, when disc jockeys took nicknames such as "Moondog" or "Hound Dog." He enjoyed horror movies, so he took the name Wolfman.
Todd Rundgren, the Guess Who, Leon Russell and Freddie King all wrote songs about him.
After American Graffiti, the Wolfman appeared in more than 40 network TV shows. He also had his own syndicated TV show, The Wolfman Jack Show; served as host for eight years on TV's The Midnight Special; and in the 1980s, became host of Rock 'n' Roll Palace on The Nashville Network.
Survivors are his wife, Lou Lamb Smith; daughter, Joy Rene Smith, 33; and son, Tod Weston Smith, 31.