You could hear almost anything on border radio-cures for cancer, a promise
of sexual rejuvenation, a ticket to salvation, fortune-telling, your favorite
country singing star, or "outlawed" rock and roll music offered by the
notorious Wolfman Jack.
Border Radio is the fascinating, colorful story of the powerful
radio stations just across the Mexican border that commanded a nationwide
audience from the 1930s through the 1960s. Their signals were beamed to
the United States with more than 500,000 watts, and they could be heard
on AM stations all across the country and even in South America, Japan,
and Germany. Primarily owned by American broadcasting wildcatters, these
stations influenced American culture for generations. Border stations were
among the first to popularize hillbilly, country-western, Mexican ranchera,
and rock and roll music. Many famous recording stars and personalities reached
their first audience by performing or having their music played on these
powerful border stations-the Carter Family. Johnny Horton, Bob Wills, and
Border stations offered their listeners a solution to almost any ailment,
physical or spiritual, that could possibly befall mankind. Crazy Water Crystals
helped "a sluggish system," and Kolorbak eliminated the gray hair that
would "cheat you out of your job and cause you a lot of worry." Perhaps the
most famous pitch of all was the goat-gland transplant surgery promoted by
Dr. J.R. Brinkley from his XERA radio station in Villa Acuna. Thousands of
men flocked to his hospital in Del Rio to hopes of re vitalizing a diminished
sex drive. "A man is only as old as his glands." exhorted Dr. Brinkley
to his many listeners.
Border broadcasters pioneered direct sales advertising and helped prove
the power of radio as an effective political tool. The border blasters
were among the first to provide preachers with farreaching aerial pulpits,
helping to build the foundation of today's electronic church.
Border Radio is a unique chronicle of an important segment of
American broadcasting history.
About the Authors
Gene Fowler is a playwright, actor, and Cultural historian.
His plays include The Rio Grande Gland Rush, Desperado Estates, Eureka Rapture,
and Big El's Best Friend. He contributed material to the long-running show
In the West, and also performed in it. His interest in Southwestern media
goes back to the day of his birth in 1950, when his photograph appeared on
his father's Dallas-based television variety show Coffee Time.
Bill Crawford is a video producer, writer, and a former
radio announcer. He produced several programs for cable television, including
the award-winning omedy children's show The Joe Show, and The International
Fishing Show. Harvard educated, he served his broadcasting apprenticeship
at an "easy listening" station in Midland, Texas. Crawford produced the music
video, "Gomer Pyle is God," as well as news clips for MTV. He grew
up in New York.
Both authors reside in Austin, Texas.