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Jon Michaels - Sioux Falls DJ - Wolfman Jack - American Graffiti Movie

by Jon Michaels

The American Graffiti movie about the cruising baby-boom generation set in 1962 seemed like the story of my life. (cruising had a different definition back then). When the movie came out in 1973, I was working at night on KISD-AM radio (now KWSN 1230) giving dedications and eating popsicles.

My first car was a 1931 Model A Victoria with a 350 horse 392-Hemi engine. Cruising the "loop" in Sioux Falls was my high school life. In 1962 you could fill your tank for five bucks and I swear you could spot the chrome ring around the red light on top of the police car from two blocks away at night. The Sioux Falls Police actually had a hopped up 1956 Ford squad car with an "Interceptor" engine to try to keep up with us. It may seem funny to today's teens but back then the police had to follow you for a few blocks to validate you were speeding. I can say it today because of the statute of limitations that we had a quarter mile drag strip marked-out on Interstate 229 just west of the Minnesota Avenue on-ramp (until Thunder Valley opened up near Marion, SD). You would see us at the gas station at 33rd and Minnesota lowering the air pressure in our back tires for a better grip. Also hard to believe today is that there was hardly any traffic on I-229 at night.There were only 90,000 people in all of Minnehaha County in 1970. The main loop was up and down Minnesota Avenue from the Barrel Drive-In or the A&W Root Beer stand across the street and west on 12th to Bob's Drive-In.

KISD-AM was the major Rock N Roll station in the 60's (until Lord Douglas came to KELO-AM at night).I would broadcast from our curbside studio window on Main Street across from the North Western Bank on Main and 8th (the bank with the famous neon KELO Weather Ball). We would cruise listening to Dick Bionde on WLS, Chicago, and could sometimes catch the Wolfman on K double A Y,Little Rock, or KOMA in Omaha. We could only get those stations at night with our AM radio antennas pushed all the way up.

KISD-AM brought the Wolfman in to promote change of the Limelight live entertainment bar into Nite City Disco. We paid around $2,000 for his one night appearance (about $15,000 in today's money). TheWolfman came into the station and asked me which pot controlled the microphone and turntables and instantly proceeded to do a two hour live show.

The Wolfman's real name is Bob Smith...REALLY IT IS. He was a super great guy.About two in the morning at the 24 hour Nickel Plate restaurant downtown (there were two Nickel Plates back then), the Wolfman was chomping burgers with me and Miss South Dakota, Ginger Thompson. Ginger was actually the daughter of the original owner of KISD-AM.The Wolfman was talking about how some Arabs were going to fund a TV show for him. Ginger had thatdeer-in-the-headlightslook so I stayed until we all went home. She thanked me recently for that. The Midnight Special later became the Wolfman Jack Midnight Special and a Canadian produced "The Wolfman Jack Show" tv episodes came a couple years later.

In retrospect, the Wolfman was flying from New York to Los Angeles every week for radio shows on both coasts plus the Midnight Special TV show. He also had a studio in hisBelvidere, North Carolina hometo be able to be with his family a bit more. I also played a two hour weekly produced Wolfman Jack radio show every weekend when I was with Armed Forces Radio in Guam (1971-1973). Wolfman loved being a DJ with all his heart...it gave out when he was only 57.

American Graffiti forever