Val Verde County Historical Commission

Val Verde County Historical Commission

Radio Del Rio

Radio XER/XERA:  The World’s Most Powerful Broadcast Station

Dr. John R. Brinkley:  the Goat-Gland Man

The Carter Family:  The First Family of Country Music

Rose Dawn and Koran:  The Star Girl and The Acme of Psychic Genius

Radio XERF:  Paul Kallinger and Wolfman Jack

Dr. John R. Brinkley & Radio XER/XERA
The story of the world's most powerful radio station begins in 1917 with John R. Brinkley in Milford, Kansas. Dr. Brinkley was the great-grand-daddy and founder of border radio and one of the first commercial broadcasting successes. Brinkley became wealthy in Kansas performing a controversial "rejuvenation" operation in which he implanted slivers of goat glands into the human body. He advertised on radio saying, "A man is only as old as his glands” and was known by millions as “the Goat-Gland Man."
Brinkley came to Del Rio after the 1929 revocation of his radio license by the Federal Radio Commission and was banned from owning American radio stations because of his improper use of the airwaves. At the time advertising on the radio was illegal. He won a permit to broadcast from Mexico, and Del Rio community leaders suggested he build across the river in Villa Acuña (as Ciudad Acuña was once named).

Dr. John R. Brinkley
Dr. John R. Brinkley

In June 1931 he built Radio XER, later relicensed under call letters XERA. Whereas most radio stations in the United States broadcast over transmitters with about 1000 watts of power, XER increased power to an effective strength of one million watts: "the most powerful radio station in the world" at the time. In 1933, Brinkley closed his Kansas clinic and moved his operation to Del Rio. He bought and enlarged what is now the Brinkley Mansion on Qualia Drive. His broadcast tower was called the "Queen of the Air," his station, "The Sunshine Station Between the Nations." And every day Dr. Brinkley invited America to Del Rio "Where Summer Spends the Winter."

Brinkley moved from Del Rio in 1938 to open two hospitals in Little Rock, but continued operating XERA until the Mexican government closed the station in 1941. Brinkley by that time was very ill, and he died in 1942. The Brinkley Mansion still stands at 512 Qualia Drive in South Del Rio with two historical markers in front.

The Carter Family
The history of the Carter Family is nearly the origin of modern country music. A.P. Carter, wife Sara, and sister-in-law Maybelle performed the hillbilly music that was one of the roots of country music. The impact that the Carters had on country music is massive. As a result of their time and performances in Del Rio, the Carters became "Country’s First Family" and Maybelle "the Queen Mother of Country Music." They performed for three years on Radio XERA, from 1936 to 1939. The Carter Family generally opened with "Keep on the Sunny Side," a tune that, essentially, was their theme song and the most recognizable of their work.

The Carters' music reflects the early roots of country music. Gospel music was never far away, and the Carters alternated backcountry, revival style religious tunes with more standard, secular songs at will. Other songs reflected the times of the Great Depression and the First World War, experiences familiar to many of their audience. While in Del Rio, a new act formed: "The Carter Sisters and Mother Maybelle" included Maybelle's daughters in their earliest public performances.

The Carter Family
Top Row: A. P. Carter, Janette, Brother Bill, Sara, Maybelle,
Children: Hellen, Aneta, and June.

The most famous member of Maybelle's daughters was June Carter Cash. "Junebug" first performed professionally on Radio XERA and became well-regarded as a country music talent. Nevertheless, she is often remembered as Johnny Cash's wife. June co-wrote the fourth greatest country music song of all time, "Ring of Fire." In 1970 the Carter Family, Maybelle, Sara and the deceased A.P., were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.

Rose Dawn and Koran
William Perry Taylor was born in Dayton, Ohio, and his bride, Anna Morofsky Taylor, in Chicago. They went to Hollywood and got into show business. Anna became Rose Dawn who performed as a singer, showgirl and dancer--dancing at some of the hottest night spots. William became Koran, who worked "wonders of mental magic" and conjured the ghosts of the dearly departed. Each had a reasonably successful career, but then Rose Dawn got into astrology and the two of them came to Del Rio to perform and advertise on Brinkley's Radio XERA.

As the Star Girl, Rose Dawn developed astrological charts, reading them on the air and charging a dollar for each request, with hundreds of requests per day coming to her office on Pecan Street. She kicked off a whole industry of psychic hotlines, self-improvement books and the things that make up much of the modern media industry.

Radio XERF
In 1947 former associates of Dr. Brinkley won permits to open Brinkley's radio facility under the call letters XERF. The similarities to the old call letters and the station operators have caused many people to think XERF was a continuation of Brinkley's XERA, but it was not. XERF began broadcasting at "fifty thousand watts clear channel." Radio XERF had "great coverage of the entire USA" at 1570 AM on the dial, but only at night when the signal went on uninterrupted by other stations.

XERF featured announcer Paul Kallinger who came to Del Rio in 1948. Kallinger played country music and hosted celebrities including Eddie Arnold, Johnny Cash, Tex Ritter, and Ernest Tubb. Kallinger’s commitment to country music prompted his refusal to play Elvis Presley. During the 1950s and 1960s, Billboard Magazine rated him one of country's top five disk jockeys for eight consecutive years. In 1979 the Country Music Disk Jockey Hall of Fame inducted the "good neighbor along the way," and in 1999, so did the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. Kallinger died in 2001.

Robert Smith was a disk jockey from Brooklyn who once went by the handle "Moon Dog." In 1963 Smith came to XERF and hit the airwaves as "Wolfman Jack," playing rock-and-roll. He lived in Del Rio for a short time, but even after he moved on, he pre-recorded shows for the XERF broadcast. The Wolfman died in 1995.

The map of the radio personallies
The map of the markers for the radio personallies.

The Carter Family historical marker is placed in Star Park on North Main Street. Dr. Brinkley operated his clinic in the Roswell Hotel; Wolfman Jack lived in the Roswell when he first came to Del Rio. Rose Dawn’s offices were in the Pecan Street building that now houses Time Warner. Rose Dawn and Koran’s home sits on Griner Street opposite Canal Street. Brinkley’s Mansion is on Qualia Drive in South Del Rio.


Courtesy of the

Val Verde County Historical Commission