'Shivers down the backbone....'

MEMBERS UPLOADS

The WOLFMAN STORY

Extracts from

"Have Mercy" Confessions of the Original Rock'n'Roll Animal 
- by Wolfman Jack with Byron Laursen
Published by Warner Books, NY, USA c.1995
ISBN 0-446-51742-9.


These are chapters 7, 8 and 9

Chapter 7

It was December 1963. Mo had left to spend holiday time with his people in New York. Brandon and I were sitting around KCIJ on a Wednesday afternoon, running things. By now we had more than half of all the preachers from XERF on our station in Shreveport. We knew by then that a guy named Arturo Gonzales ran XERF, because that was who the preachers all did business with.

I came up with a totally irresponsible plan. "Let's grab the Wolfman Jack demo tape," I said, "and drive down to Mexico to see what XERF looks like. We'll get in touch with Arturo Gonzales and see if he'll cut some kind of deal with us to put Wolfman Jack on the air after mid- night. We'll take some money with us, have a good time
down in Mexico and maybe do the wamboozie with the girls down there." To my surprise, Brandon was excited enough to go along with the idea. When I told Lou I was ready to make a run at XERF, she said, "Go after it, darling." just like she's done throughout my career, she got behind me one hundred percent.

Thursday morning we put the Oldsmobile's top down, stuck the tape into a briefcase, and about $2,000 in our pockets. We took our shirts off to improve our tans, and started cutting a big diagonal across Texas, down to where the Pecos River runs into the Rio Grande, a six-hundred-mile run with nothing but sagebrush and cactuses and all kinds of rabbits running around the road. We were headed right for La Frontera, the old frontier, where guys like judge Roy Bean, Bigfoot Wallace, Jim Bowie, Sam Houston, and Pancho Villa all used to hang out.

It was dusk when we hit the Rio Grande. We crossed right on over the border to the Mexican side. There was Ciudad Acuna, one of the dirtiest little border towns in the world, the kind of community where anybody who still had all his own teeth was considered a pantywaist. It looked like Dodge City must've looked a hundred years before-high wooden sidewalks, no pavement, a street full of deep muddy ruts down the middle, thick dust on all sides. There was barbed wire and broken glass cemented into the tops of buildings and fences, kind of a low-tech frontier security system that got you wondering about the local crime rate.

We headed straight for Boys Town, a section of Ciudad Acuna that had about two dozen cantinas and fifteen or so brothels lined up on both sides of the street. That part of town was just buzzing, in a red-glowing, liquored-up sort of way. A lot of military boys were knocking around in their soldier and sailor suits. Local guys were swerving around in their cowboy boots, with pearl-handled pistols older than their granddaddies stuck in their belts. Mariachi bands were playing in the joints, or else out in the street. Drunks were slouched against the sides of the buildings, and everybody else was upstairs getting laid.

Boys Town was famous in every military base, high school locker room, and frat house in the whole state of Texas. Except for XERF, the town's economy was pretty much mattress-based.

Brandon and I started asking bartenders and other various folks how to get out to XERF. "You can't actually get there," people said. "There's no road." But after a while this old Mexican guy walked over and told us he had a cab. There were fifty or sixty random whiskers and a half-dozen knife scars on his face. He looked like a basset hound coming off a two-day Benzedrine trip. His pants looked like slept-in Korean War surplus. "Hey, for thirty dollars," he said, "I take you to the station."

We looked at him, then at each other. Even as roughed up as he looked, he actually seemed like an all-right guy, and we didn't cross the whole state of Texas to quit a few miles short, so I said, "Okay, let's go."

We locked up my car and parked it near the border crossing. We greased the guards a little bit to keep an eye on it. Then we jumped into the back seat of his cab, which was an old '49 Chevy fastback. Spare parts were sitting on the floor, an old clutch disc and some bent push rods, half wrapped in shop rags and Mexican newspapers.

Once we were out beyond the town there was no kind of road at all, just sand under the tires making this crispy noise, and pitch-black views out of every window. Our guy just kept driving on, the headlights bouncing all around the sand dunes, around the rocks, over some train tracks, past miles of scrub. Maybe half an hour went by.

"Hey, man," I said, "how do you know where you're goin'?"

"I know the way. We'll get you there."

I whispered to Brandon, "He's probably gonna take us out in the middle of the desert somewhere, kill us, and take all our money."
Suddenly there was a big red light blinking in the distance, just throbbing very high up in the sky.
In a couple more minutes we could see that it was a radio tower, XERF, the Promised Land. There wasn't much light on the scene, but we could make out two big buildings close by the tower. Stucco walls and redtile roofs. A dozen or so banged-up cars and trucks were parked around the station. All of their headlights were glowing.

"That's kind of strange," I thought.

Our driver pulled his Chevy up in front, shut off the motor, clicked off his lights, and told us he'd wait right there. We looked in the first building. There was a diesel generator in it that looked like a locomotive waiting for someone to bolt its wheels back on.
We walked over to the other building, which was the studio. There was a set of double doors. I opened one of them and heard the Reverend Bishop Sheldon preaching from a reel-to-reel tape machine. He had the whole hour between 11 p.m. and midnight.
just before going in the door I looked back at the old Chevy that had brought us to XERF. Its headlights were glowing just like the others.
Later on we learned what that was all about' So much energy rolled off that transmitter tower, it vibrated the filaments in headlights until they lit up. You could hold a fluorescent tube up to the tower and it would do the same thing. Any bird that flew too close while the power was on would seize up with a birdie heart attack and fall to the ground, dead as a stone. People working at the studio would get a kind of drug-free high for the first few hours. Then they'd start to get loopy and need to take a heavy nap. XERF had an atmosphere like no other radio station in the world.
Off to our right side we saw a tremendous transmitter. It took up about three quarters of the building - 250,000 watts of power requires a lot of room. Right next to it was a 50,000 watt transmitter that they kept as a standby.
The first studio was like a little lounge area. That seemed like the place where everybody was. The next studio was where the DJ would sit, then the next was the engineer's studio, where they had the turntables and tape machines.
Brandon and I walked into the lounge and found ourselves right in the middle of eighteen or twenty guys holding a big, important meeting. They didn't see us at first, so we just watched.
Even without knowing Spanish, we knew that something had these guys pissed off and scared. One of them spotted us. A good-looking young fellow. Mario Alfaro was his name. He was the only one who spoke much English.
"Hi," he said. "I'm Mario. What can we do for you?"
The others kept looking at us real suspiciously, so Mario led us out into the hallway.
"I'm Bob Smith," I told him, "and I just came in from Shreveport with my partner here, Larry Brandon. We want to talk to the owner of the station. We have this idea to put Wolfman Jack on the air, this disc jockey character who's like an animal. We want to put him on the air playin' rhythm and blues, and we want to do some mail-order business."

Alfaro filled us in. The owner wasnít around, we couldnít talk to him. A whole lot of heavy and complicated stuff was going down with the station, which was exactly what the meeting was all about. The station had fallen behind in paying wages and taxes, so the Mexican government had sent in a receiver-they call it an interventor down there-to take over the business and make sure the government got its back taxes paid. Only this interventor turned out to be a crooked, nasty son of a bitch. Went by the name of Montez. Wore a shiny iridescent green suit and a skinny black tie, with a permanent stain around his shirt collar where the pomade that melted off his hair ran down the back of his neck.
Under Montez, the guys who ran the station still weren't getting paid regularly. When they complained, thugs and pistoleros would rough them up. They didn't have any money or guns to fight back with, but they weren't willing to take any more abuse, either.
Some of them were voting to kill him.
Before I can tell you about what went down between nasty Montez and Mario and his boys, I've got to let you know how this whole one-of-a-kind XERF situation came together in the first place. I mean, you might wonder how the most powerful commercial radio station in the world happened to be out there in the middle of a Mexican desert, and how XERF became the site of my world premiere live performance as Wolfman jack.
Back in the early 1920s, commercial radio broadcasting was a new phenomenon across America. Almost overnight it became the hottest thing going. In the year between 1921 and 1922 alone, the United States went from having just eight commercial radio stations to nearly six hundred.
People were actually spending more on radios than any other kind of furniture or appliance, hundreds of millions of dollars annually. They bought big wooden table models and jukebox-sized, hunchback-looking floor models. Some of them had speakers, some just had airplane-style headsets. People would crowd two heads under one set of headphones, if they had to.
The whole family would get all clustered around the radio at night. They'd tune in anything that was on the air. Radio was the big-time excitement of the day. It could sell you soap, it could preach you the airwave gospel.
Radio really was a miracle, especially for lonely people out in the sticks.
One of the earliest stations in America was KFKB, which stood for "Kansas Folks Know Best." It broadcast from Milford, Kansas, a little south of the Nebraska border.
KFKB was owned by Dr. John Romulus Brinkley, a wildcatter out of that great, super-persuasive American tradition of snake oil salesmen. Brinkley did three oldtime religion broadcasts on KFKB every day, telling people to put two dollars in an envelope and write him about their medical problems. He'd read the letters on the air and then tell folks they'd get well with his special tonics, one dollar per bottle.
He backed up his wisdom with a 1914 diploma from the Eclectic Medical University of Kansas City. But, as you might guess, good ol' Eclectic was the kind of place that would certify just about anyone as a doctor, as long as they laid the right "tuition" on the President. Brinkley, at age nineteen, had earned his E.M.U. diploma in one month.
Once he got KFKB going, his biggest moneymaker was to preach that there would be more Christian babies in the world, and lots fewer cranky, out-of-sorts Christian mamas, if the men in the family just had more get-up-and-go under their Bible belts. More divine energy for spreading the faith, if you understand what I'm saying.
In 1919 he hired a PR guy to help get the word out.
"A man is only as old as his glands," Brinkley would say. "Come at once to the Brinkley Hospital before it is everlastingly too late."
Well, thousands of guys named Clem and Wilbur and Clarence drove up to the Brinkley Farm outside Milford, where big flocks of goats were penned up. Each customer would pick out a healthy-looking goat, then check into the Brinkley Hospital. The doctor would supposedly make a potion out of the goat's nutmeats, then slit open the patient's scrotum and insert the sauce.
Folks around Milford used to have a favorite joke: "'"Whatís the fastest thing on four legs?"
"A billygoat who just caught sight of Dr. Brinkley."
It wasn't just farmers that dug Brinkley's pitch. Rich Americans and Europeans of that time were already getting monkey gland injections in Switzerland, so the whole thing seemed scientific and upscale.
Harry Chandler, the owner of the Los Angeles Times, invited Brinkley out to L.A. in the early 1920s and even got him a special temporary permit to practice medicine in California. This took some heavy influence, because the American Medical Association hated Brinkley and his carnival jive with a passion. Chandler himself may have even gotten his own pills supercharged, but nobody knows for sure. At any rate, Brinkley did forty thousand bucks' worth of surgery for the high and mighty of L.A. society.
Chandler also owned a shiny, new radio station, which is where Brinkley got the idea to get started with KFKB.
Radio broadcasting in the 1920s was an anything-goes kind of situation. Some stations were so straitlaced, they wouldn't even play music that had saxophones in it. Others would air practically anything. The government finally decided to step in and create an agency to regulate radio.

The Federal Radio Commission, the forerunner of the FCC, came along in 1927. Brinkley was their first big target. KFKB got voted the most popular radio station in America in 1929, but by 1930 their license was yanked.
Brinkley and his fans got real mad. He ran as a write-in candidate for governor of Kansas and almost won. He actually had the most votes, but election officials threw out thousands of ballots because people had written "Doctor Brinkley" instead of the official ballot form of R. Brinkley. Across the state line in Oklahoma, where he wasn't even running, Brinkley came in first in several counties.
Being the owner of a station, of course, he had used radio as the cornerstone of his campaign. And he hopped all around the state in his private plane.
Those tactics impressed guys like Huey Long in Louisiana, the Kingfisher, and W. Lee "Pass the Biscuits, Pappy" O'Daniel in Texas, who each later became governor of their own state by running a Brinkley-style, radio-driven campaign.
To keep his radio scene going in spite of the Feds, Brinkley headed for Del Rio, Texas. According to what the old-timers around La Frontera told me, he took his wife across the Rio Grande and adopted two little boys from an orphanage in Ciudad Acuna.
Those boys were both less than ten years old at the time, but within a couple of days, they had themselves a license from the Mexican government to start up a brand-new radio station. It was a little unusual to award a major commercial license to a pair of youngsters who still had puberty to look forward to, but technically it was all legal.
The original call letters were XERA. Brinkley put up a 50,000 watt transmitter. Later on the government let him kick it to a half-million watts. If you lived in Del Rio or Ciudad Acuna, you didn't even need a radio to tune in XERA. Signals hummed right off telephone wires, barbed wire fences, and metal fillings in your teeth.
The reason they had so much power was because of a treaty between the U. S., Canada, and Mexico to regulate how many radio stations were out there, and how many watts they could use to send out their broadcasts. Since the States had lots of people, we got the right to have a large number of stations. But the power had to be kept low, so one station's signal wouldn't conflict with another one in a nearby locale; 50,000 watts was the top limit. Because Canada and Mexico had smaller populations spread out over great big geographical regions, they were allowed to license a small number of stations with super power. At night, these muscled-up signals could take a big bounce off the ionosphere, a layer of the atmosphere, and end up practically anywhere on Earth.
Patent medicine companies loved advertising on XERA because it reached the outlying areas where people didn't have doctors around and were ready to believe in home-remedy type cures. There was so much advertising, within five years Brinkley had two more Mexican stations, XEG and XENT. In 1938 he moved the Carter Family, America's "First Family of Country Music" and Johnny Cash's future in-laws, down to Del Rio. For a couple of years, they sang live on the radio, performing "Wildwood Flower," "Keep on the Sunny Side," "Lulu Walls," and all their other mountain music tunes for sponsors like Kolorbak Hair Dye and Peruna Tonic.
The goat gland business continued to be Brinkley's biggest gold mine. He operated now out of the top of the Del Rio Hotel, charging as much as a thousand dollars per scrotum overhaul. He wore big diamond rings on each hand, diamond pins on his lapels, diamonds on his
cufflinks. He lived in a great big mansion, he had private airplanes, a fleet of cars, a couple of yachts, and some Texas oil wells.
The local goats didn't have much to be happy about, but thousands of new customers had fresh stitches in their nut sacks and a love song in their hearts.
Of course, sooner or later the whole thing had to go down the tubes. First the AMA sued Brinkley and won. Then he lost a number of courtroom wrangles with some angry ex-patients. By the early 1940s he was filing for bankruptcy. The Mexican government shut XERA down and Brinkley kicked the bucket not long after.
Time went on and some of the people who'd been associated with XERA wanted to get it rolling again. One of them, Arturo Gonzales, was very ambitious. He had even holed himself up with books and became a self-taught international lawyer. He learned everything by mail order, passed the bar exams and all that stuff.
With the help of some American financial backers, he got the station going again, this time under the letters XERF.
Gonzales grew into quite a figure. He always wore very well tailored Western clothes and a perfect Stetson and rode around in a brown Cadillac limousine. His cousin was the chief of police, his brother was the mayor, and Gonzales became the undisputed Godfather of Del Rio, Texas. He had the biggest El Rancho Grande, a two thousand-acre spread, with a huge, palatial hacienda, and lots of people on his payroll.
Around 1956, Gonzales made a deal with RCA to bring in a monster, quarter-million-watt transmitter, identical to what they had sold the U.S. government for aiming Voice of America broadcasts at Russia.
The price of this transmitter was equal to the wattage
it delivered: a quarter-million dollars. The driver tubes alone were worth a fortune. A driver tube is sort of like the amplifier in your home stereo system. At a normal station, they might be about three feet tall. XERF's were water-cooled, made with platinum, and stood almost seven feet.
Once he had that 250,000 watt reach, at 1570 on the AM dial, his main source of income came from selling fifteen-minute and half-hour chunks of XERF time to those crazy preachers from all over the United States. Their tapes were lined up from about seven o'clock in the evening until twelve midnight, one after another. They pulled in bread like you can't believe. When the sun got low in the sky, it was Paul Kallinger, "Your Good Neighbor Along the Way," playing an hour's worth of country music. Then "The World Tomorrow" started the religious programming off. When the sun was completely down, along would come C.W. Burpo, then J. Charles Jessup, Reverend A.A. Allen, J. Harold Smith. They usually finished up the evening with Reverend Bishop Sheldon, who had a big church up in Philadelphia.
Gonzales noticed, gradually, that every time he raised the rates on the preachers, they complained a little but they always had the bread to go along. Nobody ever dropped out. It didn't take him long to realize the preachers were making beaucoup cash. So the next step was figuring a way to get himself a deeper cut.
Well, the way it was told to me, he got together with each of the preachers and proposed a one-time deal: "Reverend, if you give me one million dollars, cash, I'll give you a lifetime contract. In other words, you will hold exclusive title to your current time slot on XERF. You will never make another payment. That time will be yours for the rest of your life."
It sounded great. They could recoup the million within a few months: it would be pure gravy from then on out. For a lifetime!
In the contracts he wrote up with the preachers, Gonzales put a small clause down at the bottom, saying that everything became null and void if XERF ever got taken over by the Mexican government.
Just a technicality, right? The station runs great. Who's worried about them taking it over? In Mexico they give out licenses for about twenty years, and they renew them right away almost without question. They don't do much checking up.

All the preachers signed on the dotted line.
Gonzales wound up with several million bucks in his hands. He built his magnificent El Rancho Grande and still had plenty left over. There's all kinds of crazy stories about what he did with the rest of the cash. Some people say he bought property all over the world. Some say he buried the cash in a secret location on his ranch.
Anyway, soon thereafter the station fell behind on its taxes and wages.
Gonzales ran the radio station like everything was normal. A couple of years went by without incident. But when the unpaid taxes eventually got up around half a million dollars, the government folks down in Mexico City started paying attention.
Mexico is a very socialistic country. They need those taxes to provide medical and dental care and lots of other services. They sent the station some letters, which were ignored. Then they definitely got mad. "Listen," they said, "you have forced us to put the station in the hands of an interventor. He will run XERF until enough profits have been generated to pay off this tax debt."
That's when that evil guy, Montez, came into the picture. He was the officially named interventor. But here comes the kicker: Plenty of cash had been
spread around in Mexico City, guaranteeing Montez the interventor job. The very first thing Montez did was to hire Gonzales as XERF's U.S. representative, in charge of handling business with the preachers. Gonzales humbly took his Stetson in hand and told all the preachers how sorry he was about their million-dollar contracts suddenly becoming worthless. But if they wanted to stay on the air, they had to start sending money again. There was nothing he could do about it, those government people had him over a barrel. And by the way, the price was now double what it used to be.
XERF was the preachers' lifeblood, probably 95 percent of their incomes. They had no choice. Every one of the preachers sued Gonzales, of course, but with all his international law training he didn't have much trouble keeping them at armís length.
Montez was now making over a hundred and thousand a month from the preachers. Out of that, one or two grand would go to the tax people, just enough to keep the regulators off their backs.
The scam could have worked for eight or ten years. Raise the prices a little bit now and then. Pay off the taxes very slowly. Then let Gonzales step back in for a fresh start.
As things moved along, Montez apparently got too greedy for long-term thinking. He started nicking a few bucks here and there, trying to stretch out his end of the deal. He slacked off paying the workers. He didn't care if programs got played, or if the station got behind on fuel bills for the generator, or if the insurance payments were allowed to slide. Montez just basically let things swing in the breeze while he kept more and more money for himself. Gonzales wasn't in a position to do much about it.

And that was the moment in history that Brandon and I stumbled upon. We had landed in the middle of the luckiest moment of our lives.
All the workers were owed back wages. Their old cars were all funky, beat up, and falling apart. Some guys had babies on the way. Some of them had family members needing medical care. Everybody was at their limit. And when they protested, Montez sent his men down to beat the shit out of them.
This was a massive opportunity. "Listen," I told Alfaro, "why don't you guys appoint your own receiver if this guy is such a crook, y'know? Send somebody to Mexico City and get it all straightened out. That way they won't be screwin' you."
"We have no money," he said, "and we would need a U.S. representative to deal with the preachers."
"Here I am," I said. "Here I am, man. They sent me down here from heaven. All you gotta do is let me be the representative. I'll call the preachers. I'll get them to send the money to us instead of Montez. You guys run the station, and we'll have a deal. It'll all be legal and everything. "
Brandon and I went with Alfaro to each guy and started talking Mextex, promising to straighten out their problems, trying to make them start believing in us. Then we sat down to talk some serious business.
These guys had a union. That could pull a lot of weight with the government. In spite of all the corruption and bribery stuff, Mexico is very much for the workers. A union-backed guy would have a good chance of replacing Montez, especially since the back taxes were still looming large.
Pulling off this interventor switch would take some organizing, which Alfaro and his buddies could do. They put forth Fernando Ramos, the head of their union.
Fernando was on the elderly side, and in Mexico you've usually got to have some years under your belt before you get any status. He was the perfect choice. It would also take thousands in ready cash to get the job done. Brandon could get the money by sticking his hand in the KCIJ till-hopefully putting it all back before Mo could find out, because we'd get our lungs ripped out if he ever knew.
On top of that, pulling off this big manoeuvre was going to take some stupid impetuousness, blind luck, and shameless double-crossing.
That's where I came in.

End of chapter 7

Chapter 8


If there's any talent I've got, it's for really getting across how excited and enthusiastic I am. That's something you just can't fake. Well, Mario was not only the sole English speaker among XERF's workers, he was also somebody the other guys respected a lot and somebody who could really communicate enthusiasm in his own right.

Mario, Larry, and I and all the rest of the guys hashed out details and promises all night long, with no time for sleep. Some wanted to trust us, some were very doubtful. They already knew that Montez was a heavy. Throwing in with us might expose them to even more of a big risk. But it also gave them a chance to get their dignity back. The only chance they had, in fact. By the time the sun came up on Friday, Larry and I had a solid deal with the union.

Brandon went to the bank in Del Rio and wrote a countercheck for fifteen grand on KCIJ's Shreveport account. Praying, all the time, that this scheme would come through in time to put all that money back. Next, Alfaro put us together with two bright young lawyers in Ciudad Acuna. They understood the problem. After some discreet phone calls, they said they wanted to spread a few thousand bucks around in Mexico City, with guys higher up than the ones who had been greased before. Enough grease in the right parts of the machinery could swing legal control of the station over to the workers' union.

Of course if it didn't work, we could all end up in a very deep, funked-up condition for a long, long time. Getting caught was a definite consideration. Montez was not going to like two brash out-of-towners stepping on the toes of his custom-made snakeskin boots, trying to pry the deed to his gold mine out of his hands. It didn't matter that this was 1963, the dawn of the electronic age and all that. Ciudad Acuna was nothing but a frontier town. Complicated hassles down there often got worked out with simple, direct bullets.

Mo, on the other hand, was not the kind of guy who, upon learning that a partner had misappropriated his hard-earned funds, would laugh the whole thing off. We could end up as guests of the state of Louisiana, up at Angola, learning traditional chain gang songs from the original artists.

I always wanted to have soul, but I never wanted to go that far to get it.

Still, the union guys and the lawyers sounded like they knew what was happening. I was dying to get on the station anyway. If I could just get on for one night, 1 didn't care if I went down in flames and took good-hearted, almost-innocent Larry Brandon with me.

So be it.

The lawyers took about six thousand bucks, Fernando Ramos put on his freshest shirt -peach, with gray stripes and a black collar - and all three of our emissaries boarded a flight to Mexico City. Brandon and I took charge of the local scene.

One advantage of growing up in Brooklyn is that you learn to hustle real good, and to line up your protection early. It's either that or get kicked around all the time.
By mid-morning Larry and I were over a couple plates of huevos rancheros and two strong mugs of Cafe Bustelo, figuring out how we might guard the station once folks got wise to our maneuvers and tried to grab it back. There was no telling how long it would take the lawyers to do their thing in Mexico City, but we still had nearly five grand in our pockets.

We rounded up two of our new compadres, Mario and another guy, then rented a truck and took off in the direction of San Antonio. The plan was to ring the station with barbed wire and sandbags, make it look like we meant business, and back up the impressive decorations with enough firepower that nobody would want to bother us.

San Antonio was due east, more than two hours' drive. As soon as we reached its outskirts, we grabbed a phone book and found out where all the feed and seed stores were. Our first move was to purchase hundreds of burlap bags. There was plenty of sand in the Coahuila desert to fill them. Then we made a circuit of all the local army-navy stores and bought massive amounts of guns and ammunition.

Nobody ever asked us what we were doing. In Texas at that time, you could buy all that kind of stuff you wanted.

In one store we found a hairy-looking 60-millimeter machine gun left over from World War Two, sitting on a big tripod with its muzzle sticking way out. I pictured Montez and his boys out there on the dunes, checking out the station with their spyglasses and spotting this ugly mother on the roof.

"Larry, " I said, "this'll scare the shit right out of 'em."

The storekeeper couldn't legally sell a machine gun in working condition, so there was no firing pin. But by a strange coincidence, he happened to have a friend down the road who had the right firing pin and two thousand rounds of ammo for immediate sale. No questions asked, of course.

Besides our 60-millimeter beauty, we wound up with a couple dozen .30-.30 rifles, which the guys called "treinta-treintas," and enough Smith and Wesson revolvers to give each guy in the crew a pair, plus enough holsters, bandoleros, and barbed wire fencing to stage a range war.

Around noon on Saturday we met up with the rest of the station workers behind an abandoned motel on the outskirts of Del Rio. Each guy took some of the firearms and crawled under their car. Somebody who had brought a spool of wire from the station cut off two-foot lengths and handed them to the guys so they could wire the rifles and pistols up around frame members and axles. The machine gun had to go in pieces. One guy took the tripod, one guy took the barrel, another guy took the rest.
Brandon and I crossed the border with nothing but burlap bags in the truck. The Mexican border patrol checked us out with a fine-tooth comb. All the local guys, who had ammo under their seats and guns below the floorboards, cruised through with a smile and a wave.

As soon as we reached the station, everybody started filling sandbags. People in Mexico have a different style of working. At first it looks like they're going slow, but they hit a moderate pace and then they go for hours without slacking up. Little by little, our guys got the entire station circled with a sandbag barricade. Then they strung barbed wire over the top, plus a wire with naked light bulbs every two or three feet.

Last of all they put that machine gun up on the roof behind its own ring of sandbags, a true "piece de resistance".

With that accomplished, each guy got his own rifle and pair of six-guns. They dug it completely. They started walking patrols with their bandoleros criss-crossed on their chests and their treinta-treintas slung over their shoulders, sometimes with the barrel pointing up, sometimes with the barrel pointing down, whatever looked and felt cool to them at the time.

Me and Brandon savored the moment, a pair of Robin Hoods with their band of Merry Mexicans.

We drove back across the border and checked into the Del Rio Hotel. After a couple of heavily needed baths, we turned our attention to the preachers. It was money time.

Because I'd hustled their business for KCIJ in Shreveport, I had phone numbers for all of them. I grabbed a phone and started working my list again, this time for a whole new cause.

"Hello, this is Reverend J. Charles Jessup of Gulfport, Mississippi, isn't it?"

"It is. And who am I speaking to, sir?"

"Reverend Jessup, you remember me. This is Bob Smith."

"Well, how are you, Reverend Smith? Praise the Lord."

"Praise the Lord, Reverend Jessup. How're you doing? I wanted to tell you that we got a new thing going and I'm in control now of radio station XERF here down in Del Rio, Texas. You know, where you're on the air from eight to eight-fifteen every night, Reverend Jessup? Oh, yeah. You love that XERF, don'tcha, man. It gets around. Well, about this time slot you've been enjoying ... Listen Reverend, we just took over the station. We're the new American representatives. And I figure that your program is worth about four thousand dollars a month. You must be paying at least that much. I don't have the contracts in front of me at this moment, but I can tell you that we're going through a terrible repossession time here. We have to break new ground on the rates. We're going up to eight thousand a month. In order to stay on the air, you're gonna have to send us, in the next couple of days, at least four months in advance. Of course, that will be thirty-two thousand dollars, all in cash. We're not set up in our offices here just yet, so you'll have to send it here to the Western Union office in Del Rio, Texas."

"Excuse me, son? I didn't get all of that. Would you tell me that again?"

"Reverend Jessup, if you don't get the cash money to Western Union for four months in advance, right away, y'understand, I'm gonna have to take you off the air and put somebody else in your place."

"Now hold on there! I've paid Arturo Gonzales two months in advance already. How much money do you people want from me down there? You keep squeezing me dry!"

"No, no. Mr. Gonzales doesn't run the station anymore. I'm Bob Smith, and I'm running the show down here now. I have to get the money by Monday, serious business here, Reverend, or we're gonna take you off the air."

"Well, son, I think you're really putting me on. I'll have to talk with Mr. Gonzales. Good day to you!" Click. I called them all. Each one turned me down just like that. The next thing they probably did was to call Gonzales. I guarantee you, he didn't know what was going on. Who the hell is this guy calling the preachers, telling them he's taken over? Who would do that?

He probably figured it was either some idiot, or else some new scam by Montez.

Next I found a little record shop there in Del Rio and I rifled through their bins looking for good sides. It wasn't any record collector's paradise, but I did manage to find four LPs that were all right: one each by James Brown, B.B. King, Lowell Fulson, and Elmore James.

By now Brandon had conceded that his Ivy League look didn't go over in Mexico. He threw his jacket and tie into the back seat of the car and undid the buttons on his collar points. I handed him the records and we drove out to XERF just in time to watch the crew fire up the generator for that night's broadcast.

That's when I got to know Archie, the engineer in charge of the generator, and when I got a real sense of what this station meant to all the guys who worked at it.
This crew was responsible for the most powerful radio signal in the world, and they really respected that.

Archie looked like a Mexican version of Pee-Wee Herman, a real short, skinny guy. But when you touched his muscles, he felt like he was made out of metal. The generator he had charge of was a monster with pistons on it as big around as dinner plates. Archie would get up inside and adjust stuff, then tell his assistant to throw the switch. just as the engine began to go "Cha-dowm-dowm, chung chung chung chung chungchungchung," he would jump out from behind all the moving cranks and flywheels and gears. If he had been about half an inch wider or half a second slower, he would've gotten his ears chopped off every night.

Archie's generator was off in its own building, but when you sat in the soundproofed studio in the other building, it vibrated the seat of your chair. You could hear it growling very faintly in the background.

The engineer for the transmitter was a guy by the name of Pedro. He had a sharply trimmed 1940s-style mustache and wore a mesh stingy-brim hat with a silver and black striped band. The transmitter was his baby. Pedro kept it sparkling clean. You could just about eat off the tops of the driver tubes.

He was a classic tubehead kind of a guy, always had his shirt pockets stuffed with little wires, circuit testers, and electronic whatever-the-hells. He kept a soldering gun stuck in his pants pocket and a tiny screwdriver behind his ear, too. Nearly every time you saw Pedro, he was busily doing little private, mysterious things with the tubes. He'd put this one over here and take that one over there and tweak it just a little bit, polish it with a special cloth, then run little tests on all the nearby circuits.

In Mexico they don't have the money to be always going out and buying new machinery. Anybody that can keep old equipment running like new is a very honored and valuable guy. Somebody that we would just call "mechanic" they call "maestro."

Out at XERF, the maestros were married to their machines, and they were some of the proudest men in that part of the country.

When the transmitter went on at six o'clock, the crew did their nightly ritual. They brought out a big pot and started charcoal burning in it and they just sat in the sand around the glowing coals like a tribe of Indians, just listening at full crank to whatever was on the air. The whole air was humming, the transmitter, the tower. The generator was rumbling the walls and the ground. The little red light was blinking up on top of the tower, about three hundred feet up, and birds were flying around, trying to cram in a few last beakfuls of insects before the sun went down. Every couple of minutes another bird winged in too close to the tower and flamed out.

They ran some Spanish-language thing up to seven o'clock, then Paul Kallinger, "your good neighbor along the way," who I used to listen to up in Brooklyn. Then came the preachers' time slots.

In towns and cities all across America, all those preachers were kicking back, expecting to hear their prerecorded tapes roll. Instead, I opened XERF's mike at seven o'clock and came on with "Aaaooooooooo! All rigbt, baby. Have mercy! Good golly, Miss Molly! This is the Wolfman Jack Show, baby. We gonna par-ty tonite! We down here in Del Rio Texas, the land of the dun-keys."

In the background I was playing a great blues instrumental called "Jivin' Around," by Ernie Freeman, off my demo tape. He was the same guy who hit the Top 10 back in 1957 with a song called "Raunchy." So with Freeman's band cooking behind my rap, I continued, "I gotta tell you, baby, the old Wolfman gonna make you feeeeel good. Gonna get down! Gonna make you feel it tonite!"

I was nervous as hell, but I was a lot more pumped up than I was scared. I hadn't slept in a couple of days. I know I did some weird stuff that night, probably the strangest I ever did in my life. There weren't any commercials to cut to, so I had to rap my head off. It was just me and the tunes: "Here's Elmore James and his funky-funky slide guitar. Makes me want to get naked every time I hear it, baby. I'm runnin' around naked in the studio right now, beatin' my chest. And I wantcha ta reach over to that radio, darlin', right now, and grab my knobs. Aaaoooooo!"

Mario Alfaro was running the board, Brandon kept looking out across the desert, half expecting some posse to roll in and blow us all away. I was in a state of totally adrenalized, twenty-five-year-old, feelin'-like-pure-Godhead glory. The Wolfman had busted out into the world. I knew, down to my toes, that from then on I would do whatever it was gonna take to keep the Wolfman running wild, for all time.
Millions of people were out there, listening to my craziness. It was like I could feel their vibrations coming back to me through the air. Not many people have ever been on that trip. Not many people ever get to feel what I felt that night. The energy off that transmitter alone almost levitated me off the ground, made me feel like I was high on grass and everything else. The sensation of a whole world of listeners out there, beyond the desert, digging something wilder than they'd ever heard before, gave my head a spin that has kept it reeling to this very day.

I ran the mike from seven at night to four in the morning, at which time a Spanish program took over until sign-off at seven in the morning. All night long, grabbing tacos and Mexican beer and shots of tequila while the records played, just floating. What a time!

Sunday morning, knowing we had freaked out thousands of people nationwide, Brandon and I returned to the Del Rio Hotel and got a long, deep sleep.
Three o'clock on Monday afternoon found us parked in front of a street-side pay phone located one door down from the Del Rio branch of Western Union.
I commenced to work the list again.

"Reverend Allen? Hey, this is Bob Smith down here in Del Rio, Texas. You didn't hear yourself on the radio last night, didja Reverend?"

"No, I didn't! "Who was that crazy animal playing that devil music?"

"That was Wolfman Jack. We brought him in from Mexico City. He used to be in porno flicks down there and he just loves doin' radio. He's the only thing I can afford right now. That's what I'm gonna do if I don't get the money here this instant. You'll be off the air for another night, Reverend. And by next week someone else is gonna replace you in that time slot. Have you got a piece of paper? Here's the number for Western Union . . . "

"But, sir . . ."

"Hold it a minute, Reverend Allen. Write this number down or you're not going to be on the air tonight."

"Yessir, Reverend Smith. It is 'Reverend,' isn't it?"

"No, man, just Bob Smith."

"Well, Mr. Smith, what is that number?"

"Here it comes.... And go down to your local Western Union office and give them thirty-two thousand in cash. It'll probably cost you another thousand to send it, but what's a thousand dollars between friends, right? Send it down so I get the cash immediately, 'cause I need the money, brother. And if I get it, you'll be back on the air tonight."

In less than half an hour the first currency was coming through. Meanwhile, I had called two more preachers. Bing! Another thirty-two grand, then another.

I was working that pay phone for all it was worth, in fact, more than it was worth-when a black Ford cop car pulled up behind my Oldsmobile. The guy got out, left his red light on, and came walking our way. Brandon was busy packing bundles of money into the car's trunk. I was standing there with a grip on the pay phone, sweating like a mule, not wearing any shirt, just sneakers, Levi's, and a pair of shades.

The cop walked up to me just as I had gotten Reverend Jessup ready to come on board.
"Excuse me, son."

"Excuse me, Officer, I'm on the telephone. Yes, Reverend, if you can send that right away. Here, I'll give you the number ... I'll be right with you, Officer ... Send that right here to the Western Union office, in cash . . . Love that cash, Officer, y'know what I mean? ... Okay, Reverend, thank you very much. Goodbye. Yes, Officer, can I help you?"

"Somebody says you're moving a whole lot of money into your trunk, son."

"Well, you see, we're running the radio station now, Sheriff. You know, XERF? And I'm collecting from the preachers. We're gonna immediately put it in the bank over there, so don't worry about anything. As a matter of fact, if you could stay around and protect us - just shut your light off so we don't attract a crowd."

He looked a little bewildered for a second. There wasn't any apparent reason to run me in, but he still couldn't figure out what the hell my program was.

"Here, Officer," I said, tucking two sharply folded C-notes into his shirt pocket. The guy smiled and tapped it down into place, then stepped back into his squad car and drove away.

That set the style for me. From that day on, I carried bunches of large bills with me. Whenever I talked to somebody, I'd tuck a hundred or two in their pocket first. We got to know each other real good, real fast.

Meanwhile, the preachers were tapping Western Union so hard that the Del Rio bank had to bring over more cash. By 5:30, when the office shut down for the day, the Oldsmobile was packing over $350,000. A little risky, but we didn't have any intention of throwing it into the local bank. For all we knew, Gonzales could get some cousin who was a judge to freeze the account.

Mo had returned to Shreveport over the weekend. I called and tried to tell him what had gone down, and what a huge opportunity we had in our hands. But right when I got to the part about drawing off KCU funds, he completely lost his mind.
"You what? You stole money? I'm sending two leg breakers down there to drag you thieving bastards back. You're fired, you son of a bitch!"
"Yeah? Well, that's fine, Mo. Because this is the deal of a lifetime, and I was gonna cut you in. So fuck you very much!"
I hung up and said to Brandon, "You're gonna have to talk to him later, man. He wants to kill me."
I was rattled. Mo had fired me before, but this time it got me where I lived. Behind all the exhaustion, and all the chances we'd been taking, I started to worry about my family.
What if I just let them down? What was I going to do, how was I going to keep my two little babies fed and clothed, with a decent place to sleep? just crazy thinking like that. But in the meantime, all those bucks were piled behind the back seat, waiting for us to tap in to their mystic powers.
Brandon rented a dark blue Cadillac sedan. We transferred most of the money into his trunk and he headed back to Shreveport to see if he could do anything to improve Mo's emotional state. I turned back and drove the rest of the money out to XERF. By now the border guards were getting used to me, so they waved me through.
When I arrived, all the guys working at the station and all the guys sitting around the fire came up to the car. I led them around to the back and stroked the taillights, wiping off the desert dust. Then I took out my keys and popped open the trunk. They went absolutely bananas. The greenbacks were practically gleaming. All of a sudden the insane gringos who had dropped in on their scene, the guys they weren't sure about hooking up with, were the greatest combination to hit town since Viva and Zapata.
Even today, a few bucks is a good day's wages for most folks in Mexico. A salmon pink Olds Starfire convertible stuffed with American currency out in the desert was enough to create a religious transformation.
Then I started taking care of some of the promises I'd made. "Esse, you can't keep that beat-up old car running any longer. Take this and get yourself something better, man."
"Hey, Ernesto, they tell me your new baby's gonna arrive any day now. Here's a thousand dollars, man. Buy yourself a new playpen and some pretty clothes. And somethin' nice for your wife, too."
I gave everybody a grand. I said, "You're gonna like this arrangement a whole lot better than the old one."
Then we threw a big party.
Pedro, besides being a great engineer, was also a monster talent when it came to barbecuing goats. He set some guys to digging a big pit in the sand and he started roasting four or five choice cabritos. Somebody went to Boys Town and came back with a car full of fine-looking hookers in tight party dresses with ruffles and flounces, which created even more of a festive atmosphere around the old station. Some Federales happening by on horseback joined the party. We had a great time on into the night. The preachers' tapes were rolling. The big XERF was cooking. I got on the mike at midnight. "It's time! Baby gonna find out your Wolfman gonna blow your mind. He ain't gonna blow your nose, he gonna blow your miiind! B.B. King himself gonna sing to ya all about that Sweet Little Angel of his. He just looooves the way she spread her wings! You hang in there, now. It's all happening on The Wolfman Jack Show, on XERF from Del Rio, Texas! "
The next day we called all the preachers. Everybody was happy again. As long as they kept making money off that station, they didn't care who the hell they were paying. To them, a few thousand more was nothing but a burp.
Larry Brandon deposited the money we'd made, gave Mo his stack back with considerable interest, and we all became friends again.
With Mo calmed down, there was still one corner of the situation to be dealt with. I had a feeling that we'd be hearing from them real soon.
I ran the mike from seven at night to four in the morning, at which time a Spanish program took over until sign-off at seven in the morning. All night long, grabbing tacos and Mexican beer and shots of tequila while the records played, just floating. What a time!

Sunday morning, knowing we had freaked out thousands of people nationwide, Brandon and I returned to the Del Rio Hotel and got a long, deep sleep.
Three o'clock on Monday afternoon found us parked in front of a street-side pay phone located one door down from the Del Rio branch of Western Union.
I commenced to work the list again.

"Reverend Allen? Hey, this is Bob Smith down here in Del Rio, Texas. You didn't hear yourself on the radio last night, didja Reverend?"

"No, I didn't! "Who was that crazy animal playing that devil music?"

"That was Wolfman Jack. We brought him in from Mexico City. He used to be in porno flicks down there and he just loves doin' radio. He's the only thing I can afford right now. That's what I'm gonna do if I don't get the money here this instant. You'll be off the air for another night, Reverend. And by next week someone else is gonna replace you in that time slot. Have you got a piece of paper? Here's the number for Western Union . . . "

"But, sir . . ."

"Hold it a minute, Reverend Allen. Write this number down or you're not going to be on the air tonight."

"Yessir, Reverend Smith. It is 'Reverend,' isn't it?"

"No, man, just Bob Smith."

"Well, Mr. Smith, what is that number?"

"Here it comes.... And go down to your local Western Union office and give them thirty-two thousand in cash. It'll probably cost you another thousand to send it, but what's a thousand dollars between friends, right? Send it down so I get the cash immediately, 'cause I need the money, brother. And if I get it, you'll be back on the air tonight."

In less than half an hour the first currency was coming through. Meanwhile, I had called two more preachers. Bing! Another thirty-two grand, then another.

I was working that pay phone for all it was worth, in fact, more than it was worth-when a black Ford cop car pulled up behind my Oldsmobile. The guy got out, left his red light on, and came walking our way. Brandon was busy packing bundles of money into the car's trunk. I was standing there with a grip on the pay phone, sweating like a mule, not wearing any shirt, just sneakers, Levi's, and a pair of shades.

The cop walked up to me just as I had gotten Reverend Jessup ready to come on board.
"Excuse me, son."

"Excuse me, Officer, I'm on the telephone. Yes, Reverend, if you can send that right away. Here, I'll give you the number ... I'll be right with you, Officer ... Send that right here to the Western Union office, in cash . . . Love that cash, Officer, y'know what I mean? ... Okay, Reverend, thank you very much. Goodbye. Yes, Officer, can I help you?"

"Somebody says you're moving a whole lot of money into your trunk, son."

"Well, you see, we're running the radio station now, Sheriff. You know, XERF? And I'm collecting from the preachers. We're gonna immediately put it in the bank over there, so don't worry about anything. As a matter of fact, if you could stay around and protect us - just shut your light off so we don't attract a crowd."

He looked a little bewildered for a second. There wasn't any apparent reason to run me in, but he still couldn't figure out what the hell my program was.

"Here, Officer," I said, tucking two sharply folded C-notes into his shirt pocket. The guy smiled and tapped it down into place, then stepped back into his squad car and drove away.

That set the style for me. From that day on, I carried bunches of large bills with me. Whenever I talked to somebody, I'd tuck a hundred or two in their pocket first. We got to know each other real good, real fast.

Meanwhile, the preachers were tapping Western Union so hard that the Del Rio bank had to bring over more cash. By 5:30, when the office shut down for the day, the Oldsmobile was packing over $350,000. A little risky, but we didn't have any intention of throwing it into the local bank. For all we knew, Gonzales could get some cousin who was a judge to freeze the account.

Mo had returned to Shreveport over the weekend. I called and tried to tell him what had gone down, and what a huge opportunity we had in our hands. But right when I got to the part about drawing off KCU funds, he completely lost his mind.

"You what? You stole money? I'm sending two leg breakers down there to drag you thieving bastards back. You're fired, you son of a bitch!"

"Yeah? Well, that's fine, Mo. Because this is the deal of a lifetime, and I was gonna cut you in. So fuck you very much!"

I hung up and said to Brandon, "You're gonna have to talk to him later, man. He wants to kill me."

I was rattled. Mo had fired me before, but this time it got me where I lived. Behind all the exhaustion, and all the chances we'd been taking, I started to worry about my family.

What if I just let them down? What was I going to do, how was I going to keep my two little babies fed and clothed, with a decent place to sleep? Just crazy thinking like that. But in the meantime, all those bucks were piled behind the back seat, waiting for us to tap in to their mystic powers.

Brandon rented a dark blue Cadillac sedan. We transferred most of the money into his trunk and he headed back to Shreveport to see if he could do anything to improve Mo's emotional state. I turned back and drove the rest of the money out to XERF. By now the border guards were getting used to me, so they waved me through.

When I arrived, all the guys working at the station and all the guys sitting around the fire came up to the car. I led them around to the back and stroked the taillights, wiping off the desert dust. Then I took out my keys and popped open the trunk. They went absolutely bananas. The greenbacks were practically gleaming. All of a sudden the insane gringos who had dropped in on their scene, the guys they weren't sure about hooking up with, were the greatest combination to hit town since Viva and Zapata.

Even today, a few bucks is a good day's wages for most folks in Mexico. A salmon pink Olds Starfire convertible stuffed with American currency out in the desert was enough to create a religious transformation.

Then I started taking care of some of the promises I'd made. "Esse, you can't keep that beat-up old car running any longer. Take this and get yourself something better, man."

"Hey, Ernesto, they tell me your new baby's gonna arrive any day now. Here's a thousand dollars, man. Buy yourself a new playpen and some pretty clothes. And somethin' nice for your wife, too."

I gave everybody a grand. I said, "You're gonna like this arrangement a whole lot better than the old one."

Then we threw a big party.

Pedro, besides being a great engineer, was also a monster talent when it came to barbecuing goats. He set some guys to digging a big pit in the sand and he started roasting four or five choice cabritos. Somebody went to Boys Town and came back with a car full of fine-looking hookers in tight party dresses with ruffles and flounces, which created even more of a festive atmosphere around the old station. Some Federales happening by on horseback joined the party. We had a great time on into the night. The preachers' tapes were rolling. The big XERF was cooking. I got on the mike at midnight. 

"It's time! Baby gonna find out your Wolfman gonna blow your mind. He ain't gonna blow your nose, he gonna blow your miiind! B.B. King himself gonna sing to ya all about that Sweet Little Angel of his. He just looooves the way she spread her wings! You hang in there, now. It's all happening on The Wolfman Jack Show, on XERF from Del Rio, Texas!"

The next day we called all the preachers. Everybody was happy again. As long as they kept making money off that station, they didn't care who the hell they were paying. To them, a few thousand more was nothing but a burp.

Larry Brandon deposited the money we'd made, gave Mo his stack back with considerable interest, and we all became friends again.

With Mo calmed down, there was still one corner of the situation to be dealt with. I had a feeling that we'd be hearing from them real soon.

END OF CHAPTER 8
Chapter 9

The cash was coming in, but Fernando Ramos and the lawyers still hadn't nailed down the government approval in Mexico City. Until that happened, until we were officially declared to be legit, I was a bandit.

Fortunately, the guys soon came flying back with all the right papers and signatures in hand. By the Tuesday following the debut of The Wolfman Jack Sbow, we were respectable citizens again.

In the meantime, we had not heard a word from either Montez or Arturo Gonzales yet. 

So we just kept cooking along. On trips to Ciudad Acuna I traveled with four bodyguards. All of us wore crossed bandoleros over our chests, an accessory that can turn any old outfit into a very exciting fashion statement.

I kept up my habit of stuffing C-notes into the pockets of people I met. It's an expensive way to start a friendship, but it sure turns you into the life of the party real fast. Since I was an upstart in foreign territory, I wanted to have as many friends as possible. It had also really helped when we divvied up some of the loot with the radio station's workers. Everybody in town was either related to one of those guys, or else lived next door to their cousin. I decided to become known as a generous young man. Like my Uncle Tony mightíve done.

There wasn't any phone out at the station. In all the hustle, I hadn't talked to my wife in a long time. Finally, after nearly a week, I got through to Shreveport.

"I have to come down and see all this for myself," Lou said.

"I dunno, baby. We've got legal control and all, but it could still be dangerous for you here."

She insisted, strong-willed woman that she is. And me, selfish bastard that I am, began thinking how long it had been since the two of us had gotten up close and personal in bed together. We have always had a passionate thing between us.

Lou drove down alone, all the way from Shreveport. She arrived just about an hour before I was supposed to drive out to the station for my midnight show. Her fine young body got my mind spinning. I couldn't wait to get her up in the hotel and start making love. The Del Rio Hotel was built of wood, with five floors that all opened onto a central balcony. Lou thought that was great. It reminded her of a movie set. "I feel just like a dance-hall girl," she said, "going upstairs with a cowboy."

Two flights of stairs later we were alone, stripped down, having a great time and telling the world about it, while XERF played low in the background. I'd almost forgotten how great it could feel. But all of a sudden, in the midst of one of the pretaped religious shows, we heard the sound of bullets ricocheting off walls. Somebody out at XERF opened the mike. I recognized Mario Alfaro's voice, shouting, "Pistoleros! Ayudanos! Pistoleros!"

Lou said, "What the hell are they doin'?" 

I didn't say anything. I reached over, grabbed the radio dial, and turned it all the way up: Pyyingggg! "Pistoleros! Ayudanos! "

"They're shooting up the radio station," I said. "They're trying to kill my boys!"
"Oh my God!"

I grabbed for my boots. "Stay right here," I said. "I gotta do something about this. Where's my money?" I pulled on my clothes, grabbed about thirty hundred-dollar bills out of the dresser, and said, "I'll see you later, baby."

Lou didn't try to hold me back, she knew I had to protect this opportunity. Part of me kind of wished she would've tried, though. I was a lot more scared than I wanted her to know.

I drove straight for Mario Alfaro's house, which was on a dirt street around the corner from the main stem. We had a major stash of guns and ammo there. Mario's wife was frantic. News travels fast on a quarter-million watts. Everybody in Ciudad Acuna knew that there was a shootout going on. I scooped up all the artillery and went out into the streets, laying cash on anybody who would help me. It took a couple of hours to get enough people together. Most of the townspeople didn't want to risk their necks.
Finally, four or five of Mario's cousins and several of Archie's friends joined in and we were all ready to go. Between us we had half a dozen pickups, four junked out old cars, a garbage truck, and a couple of motorcycles. This was the brigade that was going to rescue XERF.

I led everyone out across the dunes in the dark, through the passes, out to the transmitter. The top was down on the Olds Starfire. A taped Wolfman show was playing, but the guys kept switching on the mike to let us know that bullets were still flying.

As we got close to the station, we all started honking our horns, whooping, firing shots into the night sky. I was clutching the Olds's steering wheel in one hand and trying to lift myself out of the seat so I could shoot over the top of the wraparound windshield. In our headlights, we saw about twenty men on horses riding outside the circle of sandbags and barbed wire, like Indians circling a wagon train in a Western movie, shooting in at our guys - who were crouched in doorways and behind window frames shooting out.

The big machine gun was silent. That guy in San Antonio had sold us the wrong firing pin, so the most fearsome piece in our arsenal had only gotten off four rounds before it jammed up and became useless.

Seeing our ramshackle mobile attack force, the riders reined in their horses and started wheeling around, splitting up in confusion. The men inside the station had been under barrage for two or three hours by now, trying to keep the pistoleros at bay without using up all their ammo. Now they picked up fresh courage. They swung the station door open a crack wider and started popping more and more rounds at the bandits. Four guys darted out and scurried to positions behind the sandbags. The pistoleros checked out the changing situation and all of a sudden split in all directions as fast as their ponies could go, twisting around in their saddles and shooting back at us as they made off into the desert.

We stopped all the cars and trucks and let the pistoleros ride off. Everybody in the posse and in the station just cooled out for a few beats. Nobody riding with me had been hit, but a couple of workers in the station had taken creases. Meanwhile, two of the bandits were lying out beyond our barricades, still as rocks, with their faces in the sand. Both were dead. One had a crater in the back of his head big enough to hold a golf ball. The other one was gut-shot.

We packed our wounded guys into the back of an old green van that belonged to the station, and somebody drove them to the hospital in town. Around daybreak the Federales finally arrived, almost as if they'd been waiting for a winner to emerge before coming on the scene.

From the back of a jeep they took out a folding table and two chairs. They set themselves up a little field desk and the commandante began to conduct a hearing.

Mario Alfaro saved my life that morning. We had all kinds of illegal, smuggled-in firearms, including that nasty looking but worthless machine gun. The Federales didn't speak any English, so Mario had to take over. All I could do was smile and slip the last remaining C-notes to the commandante when Mario gave me the sign.

After examining the two dead pistoleros, the Federales agreed that the one with a hole in the back of his head was accidentally shot by his compadres. It wasn't clear who had tagged the other guy, but the conclusion arose that no charges needed to be filed.

Smiles all around.

"Our business is done here, Senor Wolfman, and much good health to you."

The word that spread around Ciudad Acuna over the next few days was that Montez was behind the shootout. Gonzales was lawyer enough to know that since we now held the papers to the station he had to deal with us straight up. First he tried intimidating us with demands to inspect our books, and with threats of lawsuits, but that phase didn't last long.

Pretty soon his communications got real friendly. Nothing was ever said about the shootout. He only referred to it in a sideways kind of way, saying he regretted the problems we had been experiencing with Senor Montez and his "unprofessional behavior."
Gonzales still held some good cards in this poker game. He knew that we had to keep our promises and pay off the station's tax debt on a steady basis. Once we did that, he'd be running XERF again. In the meantime, getting rid of greedy old Montez was probably a bonus.

So everybody was now reasonably happy. Except for Montez, who was still pissed off enough to want me dead. For his pride if nothing else.

So everybody was now reasonably happy. Except for Montez, who was still pissed off enough to want me dead. For his pride if nothing else.

A week went by. I came back to the hotel one night, and the desk clerk did this funny thing. I stepped up to the counter and slipped him five bucks, asking for messages.
"Nothing for you tonight, Senor Wolfman," he said. But as he spoke the words, he pointed the first finger of his right hand toward the outside corner of his right eye. Then he lightly touched the skin and pulled it down a fraction of an inch, so a bigger area of the white of his eye became visible.
I thought he had some kind of weird tic. I hadn't been down below the border long enough to know that he was flashing me a message in sign language. Any Mexican could tell you what it meant- "LOOK OUT!"

I went up to my room, kicked off my boots, clicked on the TV and lay back on top of my bed. Then the phone rang. It was the desk clerk, talking in a whisper: "Senor Wolfman, watch out! Montez! I couldn't tell you before. He's been waiting down here for you. He's going up the stairs now."

I grabbed a revolver, latched the skinny little chain across the door, turned out all the lights and crawled under my bed. Footsteps came slowly up the hall. They stopped. A second passed, then the door crunched. The chain ripped out of the woodwork. Light from the hallway showed me a heavy black boot attached to a flash of iridescent green pants leg.

Next I saw muzzle flares from two guns and heard the bullets thumping. Wood splintered and glass shattered as shots sprayed across the bed, the chairs, the mirrors, the lamps.

I kept my head low, looking up just enough to sense where he stood, and counted how many shots he took. During the shooting, he stepped a little ways inside and the door swung shut behind him, completely cutting off the light. Neither one of us could see a thing. When he'd squeezed off twelve rounds, I fired two in his general direction. All of a sudden I heard him yell " Cabron! " and some other Mexican swear words that I hadn't learned yet.

The door opened again, and slammed shut real quickly. The next thing I heard was quick but uneven steps going down the hallway. And then total quiet. Nobody ever came out of their rooms to see what had happened.

I never saw Montez again. He sort of vanished from the region, at least as far as any of the cantina bartenders and bordello owners knew when I asked them. But that didn't mean he had given up.

Three days after that pistol jamboree in the hotel I was driving the old panel truck out to the radio station, a little before midnight. Eight guys were riding along, in the seats and in the cargo space, headed out to relieve the first shift.

Halfway across the desert, just after we went over the railroad tracks, we came through a space between two hills. All of a sudden, quick bursts of rifle fire on both sides. Something burned, right at the tip of my nose, like a hot match-head had been pressed there. I tromped on the gas pedal. A bullet pinged against the van, real close. We were bouncing over rocks, fishtailing in the desert sand, almost out of control, but I didn't back off the accelerator until we'd gotten inside the ring of sandbags.

I've still got a little crease on the end of my nose from that first bullet. The second one dug into the back side of the van's door frame, six inches behind where my head had been. We counted two more hits on the back doors.

Nobody knows what eventually happened to Montez, but those were his last shots. 
Between my spreading money left and right, and the influence Gonzales had all the way down to the bedrock, Montez didn't have many friends left in Ciudad Acuna.
It had been a hairy ride, but now I felt safe enough to find a place for the family and actually take up residence in Del Rio.

We moved into a big house that actually was where Gonzales had lived before he stung the preachers for those millions and established his big Rancho Grande. And we tried to blend in a little with the community. We were invited to become partners in a thriving local bordello, but before I could start daydreaming about what my ownership privileges might be, Lou nixed the idea.

As it turned out, we didn't stay very long in Del Rio. Maybe just eight months. It wasn't the most comfortable or cosmopolitan place after all. One day an elderly Mexican peasant walked up to our front door, rang the bell, and silently handed Lou a fresh-killed goat wrapped in Mexican newspapers. We took that for an unfriendly sign from somebody. But while we were there, we were sitting right on top of the most powerful clear channel in the world. I had the non-stop mouth I was born with, the rap styles a generation of crazed hipster jocks had fed into my head, and the world's finest rhythm and blues music within easy reach in my record bins. Everything right in place to realize XERF's full potential-cash, check, or money order.

XERF was moving a ton of mail-order stuff off the Wolfman show. Pretty soon I had to hire a couple of women just to open the envelopes. Checks went into one pile, money orders into another, cash in the middle of the table.

There was the Wolfman Jack Official Roach Clip. "What you do, friends, you get ready with this clip, which features the likeness of the ol' Wolfman himself, and you catch those speedy little buggers by the hind legs as they run across the floor."

There were Florex tablets, which were guaranteed to give you a whole lot more romantic dash. On a trial basis, we had a thousand bottles of them packaged, with a hundred pills per bottle.

"Yeah, Wolfman Jack with you, baby. You won't believe what your Wolfman got for you now. Oh, my gracious. It's sittin' right here in front of me. It's called Florex. F-L-O-R-E-X. It's a little pill here. There's a hundred of them here in the bottle. If you give a little pill to that one that you love so much ... Y'know, maybe the marriage is getting a little stale in the naughty department. Well, one of these pills in mama's orange juice ... She's gonna want to take it, y'understand.

"I've got a letter here from Thomas Edney and he says, 'Wolfman, I received your bottle of Florex and I got so excited that night I proceeded to take at least two or three pills. I gave my mama two or three pills. And I've got to tell you, it has never been as good as it is now in my whole life."

At first those pills sold gradually. Then I hired a lovely young black woman who had a sultry voice to match her looks. She recorded the exact same pitch, adding a few words directly to the ladies about how much romance these marvellous pills would bring back into their lives. "Your husband will be bringing you flowers every day, just because you ordered this bottle of Florex." 
I
After that woman's voice went on the air, we were selling those pills almost as fast as the factory in Mexico City could make them.

Of course, Florex wasn't anything but a little sugar coating wrapped around plain old aspirin tablets. But that didn't keep people from ordering them over and over again, and sending me page after smoking page of firsthand testimony to their spicy powers. 

We bought 'em for $1.50 a bottle and sold them for $3.95, so there wasn't really any huge profit in them. Mostly, it was fun to think about people feeling their oats and making it with each other instead of fighting or complaining all the time. It was kind of a Dr. Brinkley trip, except I didn't have to slice the nuts off any poor billygoats to do it.

Eventually the Feds told me: "Stop advertising these pills. They're worthless." Right about that time we had ordered fifteen thousand more bottles. I thought we were going to get stuck. But that sexy woman's voice had made such a lasting impression, and people were having such a good time being convinced that Florex made their blood run as hot and horny as a teenager's, we sold out all of those last fifteen thousand bottles without even having to advertise.

The WolfmanJack Show had all kinds of record packages, too. These were my favorite item. I really went to pains finding great records that were obscure. Even if you're a real oldies freak and listen to your local oldies stations all the time, you may not know that there's so much more. Lots of these oldies stations emphasize the candy-ass side of early rock 'n' roll. But it was that more playful, naughty, dangerous, stimulating music that originally caused kids to stay up past midnight and play that radio so low that their parents couldn't hear. That's what it's all about!

I tried to uncover a little bit of that spicy history in every record package, with great but lesser-known tunes that would get people excited all over again, like for instance "Buick '59" by the Medallions, "Blue Light Boogie" by Louis Jordan, "Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean," by Ruth Brown, and "The Things That I Used to Do," by Guitar Slim. It goes so deep.

Of all the mail-order stuff we used to pitch, maybe the craziest was the baby chicks. My rap went like this:
"Friends and neighbors ... If you're not raising your own little chicken farm in your backyard, then you're just not takin' advantage of a real opportunity! I mean, this could grow into somethin' BIG!

"All you need to start is one hundred tiny little baby chicks. And the Wolfman's gonna send 'em out to you. Straight to you' doorstep from Red Top Chicks. just think about it. They give you food in the winter, feathers all the time, and fill your whole life with hours and hours of fun and companionship. You can talk to them, take 'em for walks in the park, and give them all cute little names! I mean, chickens have feeling too, y'know.

"All it takes to get your chicken farm started is a measly three dollars and ninety-five cents. Cash, check, or money order.

"But that's not ALL I'm puttin' in the offer. Send in your order today and I'll send you ABSOLUTELY FREE a life-sized, autographed picture of me that glows in the dark!just close your eyes and imagine the fun-time inspirations your whole family can have sittin' around in a dark room together, watching me glow for you!"

And I truly was glowing in those days on XERF, because I was a young buck doing my thing right where I always wanted to be, hitting the airwaves with gale-force blues, rhythm and blues, and the most soulful rock 'n' roll, all sent your way through the treetop-tall platinum-coated driver tubes of the most powerful commercial station on the planet.
XERF was my own personal "Rocket 88". 

I was riding in style, baby, cruising nationwide.

END OF CHAPTER 9


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