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Border Radio: Quacks, Yodelers, Pitchmen, Psychics, and Other Amazing Broadcasters of the American Airwaves, Revised Edition Paperback – March 15, 2002
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About the Author
Bill Crawford is a writer in Austin with an interest in Texas history.
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Top Customer Reviews
BORDER RADIO is a wonderful history of the border blaster stations. Fowler and Crawford have compiled an exhaustive history of the stations and personalities in a way that captures the flavor of the times. Some of the radio personalities, like the Goat Gland Doctor, were outright frauds, others, like Wolfman Jack, were the purveyors of the exciting, underground culture of rock-and-roll. All hawked their wares on the border stations, making an impression on American broadcasting, popular music, advertising and merchandising that is still felt today.
Superbly detailed, BORDER RADIO covers the evolution of the medium from the early days of the 1930s when hillbilly music and medical quacks ruled the airwaves, to its demise in the 1960s when television and broadcasting treaties silenced the border stations for good. If you love radio and Americana, you won't be able to put this book down. Highly recommended.
While most of us born later than the 1960's have probably never heard border radio, we nonetheless have at least heard of it thanks to ZZTop's classic "Heard It On The X". By Mexican law, all radio station call letters had to begin with the letter "X", hence the title. These stations were situated just across the U.S. - Mexican border and blasted the North American continent with as much as 500,000 or even a million watts! Perhaps the funniest part of the story is the anecdotes by people not far from the tower in southwest Texas near Del Rio, particularly who reported picking up transmissions off barbed wire fences, fillings in teeth and, in the last portion of the book that feautures the late Wolfman Jack, his recalling of birds flying too close to the towers and frying in mid-flight!
It's a wonderful history of preachers, the forerunners of today's televangelists, quack doctors, some genuine musical genius, including a young Bob Wills before founding the Texas Playboys and, of course, the Wolfman himself.
Claims of these AM radio giants being heard world-wide can truly be considered a direct ancestor to the world wide web, complete with its own spam in the form of wild commercials and hawking some truly bizarre health products, prayer cloths and just about everything under the sun.
"Border Radio . . . " is well researched and written with obvious great admiration for a lost chapter in broadcast history. A fine read.
Add in a few "psychics" and some country & western music and you have a formula that the legal stations in the US couldn't (or wouldn't) match. It was outlaw radio.
Go get this book, friends and neighbors, and keep those cards and letters coming in!
Although some of the political messages being broadcast were quite serious, the book focuses on the wackier side of border radio, devoting significant space to characters such as Dr. Brinkley who transplanted goat gonads into humans as a prostate cure, ex-vaudevillian Norman Baker whose downfall came when his mail-order clerks mixed up the shipments of pile salve and pills being sent to his listeners, and Pappy O'Daniel, a rich flour salesman and sponsor of "hillbilly music" radio programs who successfully ran for governor of Texas. The book also discusses lonely hearts clubs, radio psychics, and radio evangelists (clearly the precursors to today's televangelists).
After reading this book I was sorry that these stations were pretty much legislated out of business by the time I was old enough to tune in, and even more sorry that I couldn't even go visit the border towns mentioned - they sound like wonderful romantic places, but are more likely to be in the news these days for drug murders than anything else.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An enjoyable read. Fascinating look at a long gone part of radio historyPublished 3 months ago by Phillip Signey
I read the original version of this book many years ago and decided to get the expanded version on Kindle. It is very entertaining and factual. Read morePublished 17 months ago by James L. Adcox
Wonderful book. I was doing some research for a book of my own, and this one really tells the story. Read morePublished 21 months ago by BK19
A great read for real radio buffs. Things I knew and things I didn't know, about the great world of AM radio in the time frame of the 30's to the 60's. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Wayne Woollard
A treasure of fond memories for radio listeners living during the era of 1930s - 1960s and an interesting view to the past for younger generations.Published on December 15, 2013 by Glen49er
As I read Border Radio, I had to keep reminding myself that this really qualified as a scholarly history well sourced and footnoted. Read morePublished on July 3, 2011 by Richard M. Rollo
Border Radio chronicles the "quacks, yodelers, pitchmen, psychics and other amazing broadcasters" that populated the high-powered radio stations once arrayed just south of the... Read morePublished on March 10, 2009 by hyperbolium