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Burton Cummings explained that the song began as a jam and was originally called "Clap For Napoleon." As they were appearing on NBC's Midnight Special
a few times in 1973 (they hosted the show in '74), they changed the lyric as a tribute to the show's host, the late Wolfman Jack
(real name: Robert Smith). Wolfman Jack even did a couple of live dates with the group, adding his trademark "vocal" rap, which was usually done live by Cummings. The Wolfman legend began in the 1960’s when the DJ manned an unregulated Mexican radio station with the capacity to transmit 250,000 watts of power. His husky voice howled across the United States after the midnight hour and inspired artists like Todd Rundgren ("Wolfman Jack") and the Grateful Dead ("Ramble on Rose"). (thanks, Barry Kesten - Bellmore, NY)
"Clap for the Wolfman" is featured on the band's 1974 album, Road Food. The song reached #4 on the charts in Canada and #6 in the US. It couldn't have come at a better time: A few years earlier, guitarist Randy Bachman left the band, leaving a trail of insults in his wake and striking what seemed like a lasting blow to the band's popularity. By the time the band was revived with the success of "Clap for the Wolfman" and "Star Baby," Burton Cummings still hadn't cooled off. According to an interview with Creem in 1975, he told a fan, "I hate the guy. He was down on the rest of us 'cause he thought we were blowing it with dope and all this ridiculous s--t. He was like some kind of Mormon or something."
Apparently, guitarists for the Guess Who have a short shelf life. Not long after Road Food was recorded, Kurt Winter and Don McDougal got their walking papers. "They were drunks. We got tired of babysitting them," Cummings said.
In his autobiography Have Mercy!: Confessions of the Original Rock 'n Roll Animal, Wolfman Jack singles out Burton Cummings for adding his name to the song and taking him on tour to promote it. According to the Toronto Sun, the Wolfman quit his job at WNBC (where he enjoyed "$350,000 - plus a secretary, a chauffeured limousine, a bodyguard, and a well-ventilated private room at Rockefeller Center for the smoking of dope in") to go on tour with The Guess Who.
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