Dr. John R. Brinkley & Radio XER/XERA
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 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 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
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.
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 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.
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