Author James Lee Burke put this little piece of reminiscence up yesterday for some of his fans… worth a moment~~
Like William Wordsworth and Dave Robicheaux, when I feel the world is too much for us and that late and soon we lay waste to our powers getting and spending, I add greater weight to the weight borne by the wayfaring stranger who finds himself surrounded by the proselytes of irrationality and incoherence.
In moments like these I reflect on the eccentricities of the times in which I grew up, starting with radio stations XERF and XERA in Coahuila, Mexico, located just across the Rio Grande from Del Rio, Texas.
One of the sponsors was Dr. Romulus Brinkley, who specialized in the implantation of goat glands in men who suffered impotence. As a bonus,some of Brinkley’s procedures got rid of all the patient’s problems by simply killing the patient. (Brinkley’s father was a physician in the Confederate Army. You wonder why we lost the war?)
The Carter family broadcast from these stations, and so did Wolf Man Jack, who became a millionaire when he was twenty-one. Crack-brain preachers, faith healers, and con men of every stripe showed up on these stations along the Tex-Mex border, including the Black Panthers, white supremacists, vendors of baby chicks and aphrodisiacs and atomic-war survival booklets and glow-in-the-dark table cloths painted with the Last Supper. One fellow sold miracle photographs taken of Jesus in a vegetable garden.
I’m not making this up. My favorite Tex-Mex religious broadcaster (I’ll use a pseudonym so his relatives don’t sign on to our Facebook group) was Brother Zachariah, who would become so breathless in his tirades he would almost pass out at the microphone. But one Saturday night he went absolute crazy; you could hear the spittle flying from his mouth. At first I couldn’t understand what he was talking about. Then I remembered he often did collective faith healings at the end of his show.
“I’m being sued!” he shouted. “But it wasn’t my fault!”
He sounded like he had a garrote around his throat; you could hear him gasping for air. I still didn’t know what he was talking about. Then he said, “Just like I do every Saturday night, I told people to put their hands on the radio. How could I know that woman was washing dishes? It blowed her plumb out of her pantyhose!”
Remember Randy’s Record Shop, from Gatlinburg,Tennessee? You could hear his show all over the South. He’d kick off the show at midnight with Albert Ammons’ “Swanee River Boogie.” He sold a half million records a year over the air. How about Frantic Ernie Durham out of Detroit? His sponsor was Black Strap Molasses Laxative. Frantic Ernie would start his show with:
“Do you wake up in the morning with that fatty, constipated feeling? Do you have a hard knot in your bowels? Drink Black Strap Molasses Laxative! It will keep you reg’lar!”
How do you top that?
But my favorite fellow was a late-night Los Angeles DJ who was obviously manic and I’m sure used to wrap his head in tinfoil and stick it in a microwave to get a jump-start on the day. This is a paraphrase but pretty close to his machine-gun delivery:
“Hey, all you refugees from Hush Puppy Land, we’re kicking it off with the hippy-dippy from Mississippi, yes, indeed, Mr. Jimmie Reed, followed by that late and great secretary of state Mr. James Brown, and for all ‘yall up in the Fruit Bowl we got big, bad, bashful, blue-eyed, banjo-banging Buck Owens from Bakersville. It’s righteous, brother! Right on, California! Let’s Boogie, Children!”
Anyway, that’s the way it was back down the track, Jack. So when I have fears about our green republic and the ways of meretricious men and their venal enterprises, I remind myself that the names of the players may change but the script remains the same, that the race is not to the swift, that the earth abidth forever, and the sun also rises.
Ernest Hemingway certainly knew that, as did Sir John Newton did when he composed “Amazing Grace,” as did the unknown black slaves who passed down the haunting lyrics of “Wayfaring Stranger.”
All members of the Your Ladyship and Noble Mon Club keep it in E-major.
All the best,