American Graffiti Turns 40


American Graffiti was released on August 11, 1973 and in honor of its 40th anniversary, Cindy Howes pays tribute with WESA's Bob Studebaker. Set in 1962, the coming of age film directed by George Lucas featured one memorable night of California teenagers cruising in their classic cars while the backdrop of some of the best hits of the 50’s and 60’s played on their radios, courtesy of the legendary disc jockey, Wolfman Jack. The legacy of the film and its stellar soundtrack have made a lasting impression on audiences for decades. 

American Graffiti was a nostalgic portrait of the teenage life in the post—World War II baby boom generation.  The film features groups of teenagers and their adventures within a single night.  Aside from the cultural recognition and success, American Graffiti, is also one of the highest profiting films of all time.  In 1995, the Library of Congress selected American Graffiti for preservation in the National Film Registry, who deemed the film “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.”

The question that’s become affiliated with American Graffiti is “where were you in 62?”  The said question was actually used on a majority of the posters for American Graffiti.  With that being said, Cindy asked Bob where he was in 1962.  Bob explains the dog days of his adolescence and how his sister’s transistor radio gave him access to top 40 music that he grew to love.  “The songs [of American GraffitiI] were familiar to me,” adds Studebaker.

American Graffiti includes a magnitude past and current stars with names including Harrison Ford, Ron Howard, and Cindy Williams.  The film’s DJ, Wolfman Jack, too became a star after the release of American Graffiti, earning himself a show in the 70s.  Bob Studebaker recalls a day in which local personality, Porky Chedwick, who was similar DJ to Wolfman Jack, did a live broadcast at the now Benedum Theatre in Pittsburgh.  “About 3 in the afternoon he said he kids come on down.  They had to shut down Downtown Pittsburgh in 1961 cause there were like ten thousand kids.”

Although it has been forty years since the release of American Graffiti, the coming of age film is still remembered today.  Everyone from the director to the actors and actresses involved have moved on to become stars at their respected position.  The music of American Graffiti, like the film will continue to influence and be a part of American popular music and culture.

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