Border Radio: The Big Jukebox in the Sky

'Border Radio: The Big Jukebox in the Sky' was as eclectic as the border radio culture it re-created, but one couldn't avoid feeling overstuffed by evening's end

Rick Trevino
Rick Trevino

The Border Radio: The Big Juke Box in the Sky

Paramount Theatre, Sept. 17

There was plenty of toe-tapping music, thigh-slapping laughter, and good old-fashioned fun at the premiere of The Border Radio: The Big Juke Box in the Sky. The production, the first in Texas Folklife Resources' proposed Border Radio Show series, was as eclectic as the border radio culture it re-created. This was both its strength and weakness. As an expanded version of earlier productions, Border Radio was much like partaking in a potluck supper. There were so many delicious choices, one couldn't avoid feeling overstuffed by evening's end.

Following the format of the book Border Radio (by Bill Crawford and Gene Fowler, who also wrote the show's script), the TFR production provided a wide menu of Texas musical traditions from country & western to rock & roll. A special treat of the evening was hearing original pitchman and cowboy crooner Dallas "Nevada Slim" Turner. The 78-year-old re-created pitches for Gas-Be-Gone and Peruna – a curiously nondescript remedy for just about anything that ails you. Turner also sang "Cowboys, Horses, and Dogs," which captured the bygone spirit of cowboy culture and perhaps the golden age of border radio as well. ("There isn't a cowboy, horse, or a dog that kids can look up to today.") The show began to feel bloated when it turned to extended performances of radio evangelists, politician Pappy "Pass the Biscuits" O'Daniel, and the legendary Wolfman Jack – the latter well played by Rick Perkins. Stuffed into the second act, it was just too much of a good thing.

Headlining as the show's special guests was the "so pretty it hurts" Rick Trevino. He was superb, as were old-time conjunto masters Ernesto Guerra and Mario Saenz Sr., La Joya High School's Mariachi Los Coyotes, and the incomparable Miss Lavelle White. However, the show's foundation was the house band, the Hillbilly Caballeros, led by musical director Mike Maddux. Darcie Deaville was exceptional on fiddle, guitar, and backup vocals, as was "La Voz de la Frontera," Clemencia Zapata on drums and percussion. Zapata also offered some of the show's narration, introduced performers, and lent her vocal talent.

Future Border Radio shows will feature Texas songbirds, Western swing pioneers, the legacy of the legendary Carter Family, rhythm and blues, rock en Español, singing cowboys, honky-tonk, and gospel. If the first of the Border Radio series is any indication, these future shows should not be missed.

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Border Radio:The Big Jukebox in the Sky, Border Radio, Bill Crawford, Gene Fowler, Dallas Nevada Slim Turner, Cowboys, Horses, and Dogs, Pappy Pass the Biscuits O'Daniel, Wolfman Jack, Rick Perkins, Rick Treviño, Ernesto Guerra, Mario Saenz, Sr., La Joya High School, Mariachi Los Coyotes, Miss Lavelle White, Hillbilly Caballeros, Mike Maddux

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