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800 XEROK / Mexico

Composite: 800 XEROK Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua | 1974

John Long (WAVZ) was the Programming genius behind this short lived but fantastic Top 40 format, leased from the Mexican government on XEROK. Located just across the Rio Grande, this station was a ‘Superpower’ AM like none other.

Actually, the real history of this ‘Border Blaster’, as it was called, starts in the early 1940s. The original call letters were XELO. In 1941, the station’s high-power transmitter was custom built, efficiently stepping the power up to 150,000 watts. While this is nothing by comparison to Powell Crosley’s WLW Cincinnati and it’s 500,000 watt transmitter, it is enough to make it easily the most powerful AM station in North America.

In 1972, A group of American investors leased out XELO and launched a Top 40 format. The call letters were changed to XEROK, and the station took on the slogans, “X-Rock 80” and “The Sun City Streaker”. John Long was called in to program the station.

Having a radio station in Mexico presented some unique challenges to the Programmer and his staff. The only solution available, due to the impracticability of jocks crossing the border from USA to Mexico for daily radio shows, was to record them ahead of time, which they did in a studio building in El Paso, TX. The jocks would record the shows in real time, as if they were in the actual station, then play them back at exactly the same time the next day at the station. The tapes were sent to Juarez by courrier. Later, in the early 1980s, a Studio-Transmitter Link (STL) Linked the station and its American studios, allowing for live broadcasting.

The top 40 format is said to have survived into the early to mid 1980s, but we don’t have a date as to when the lease arrangement ended. We do know it was sometime around when one of the El Paso rock stations took over as the number one station in that city. The demise of AM top 40 even happened at the most powerful one in North America.

Heard on this composite: John Long, Christopher Hayes, Eric Chase, Bill Stevens and the hits of 1974!

800 El Paso Juarez Chiuhana XEROK X-Rock 80

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48 Comments


  1. Working at XEROK 80 was a very challenging experience. Since it was a 24 hour delay you really couldn’t talk about anything topical such as scores from the local games. Call in contests were impossible. No weather. No phoners. It had to be all about the music and we certainly did a great job of delivering. I was on the air from 10-2 at night when that flame thrower was heard everywhere that CKLW wasn’t!

    One other thing. In John’s office he had a DX’ers map with push pins showing all of the locations where XEROK has been heard. It wasn’t a map of the USA. It was a map of the world. Verified listening in South America, Africa, Hawaii and even as far away as Viet Nam.

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    • Pat, you were there? I confess, this is another case of I found out about XEROK by doing this website. I got into radio in 1980, at 17 years old. I missed X Rock, and never could have heard it anyway, living in Massachusetts in the shadow of CKLW. What I wouldn’t give for a time machine. Or some more airchecks of this station.

      Everything about this station is great. The jingle package was one of the best around – same one used at KCBQ San Diego (I got very lucky, Rich Brother Robbin personally handed me a tape of jingles and him on KCBQ.. so I’ve got some hi quality stuff out there somewhere). Anyway. Pat, please, more stories about your time at this amazing station, please!

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    • I was there mid 70’s. we had the largest audience ever till satellite radio came on the air. i remember no time or weather, but i remember phones. since we played the same thing over and over requests were always played. the phones were always tied to what was actually on the air.

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  2. John Long is a really nice guy and was a good jock as well. He’s the President of the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame, of which I am a life voting member. Not only on X ROCK and WAVZ, John also had time on WQXI, WFOX and WZGC (Z93)here in Atlanta and others that I can’t remember. He’s a personal friend as well.

    Karl

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  3. Wait…. I don’t think he worked at Z93. Sorry…I think goofed up on that info !

    Karl

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  4. The reason a STL or phone line couldn’t be established between the studio and transmitter was due to the Brinkley Act. John R Brinkley is worth a Google search for what he did at XER and XERA forty years earlier. Long story short, to get Brinkley off the air, mostly for his endorsement of Hitler, the US Government passed the law prohibiting broadcast originating from the US being fed directly to foreign transmitters. The way around this law was to either air a broadcast recorded or broadcast from the country where the transmitter was located. XEROK did broadcast the last few years live from the transmitter but beyond that tapes were delivered daily. The Brinkley Act has been relaxed over the years. XETV received a waiver mostly due to live events on any network they aired. Prior to that network programming was aired via tape parallel to network feeds.

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    • I hadn’t ever heard about his endorsement of Hitler, but it was common knowledge that “Doc” Brinkley had a station in Kansas that ran afoul of both the FCC and the AMA by offering goat gland surgeries to help men stay potent longer. His solution was to rise above the purview of both organizations by leasing a border blaster in Mexico that had a further reach than even his Kansas station. He moved his operations to Texas, close to the Mexican border, In order to retaliate, the two organizations spearheaded the Brinkley Act, as you describe.

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      • it allowed us to tape our friday shows on thursdays, and drive around and listen to ourselves on fridays. I rarely did that but it was fun having the option.

        it also allowed xerok to have an audience that spanned most of the west part of america. ppl in smaller markets that didnt have their own stations listened. we got requests from every state west of the Mississippi.

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  5. Wow. I spent my teenage years in Alamogordo and 1974 was my graduation year. Loving X-Rok80 was definitely not hip at the time so I never admitted it. The playlist was outrageously tight for its day. I remember listening at work, and in an eight hour day hearing the top hits 3 or 4 times. Hearing this aircheck brings a tear to my eye. When they changed format it was like losing a childhood friend. Never had the opportunity to work there but I did the next best thing. Eventually I moved to Tijuana and got my border blasting jollies at XTRA, the Mighty 690. Nothing in this world can compare to the feeling you get when you put that kind of Amplitude Modulated wattage behind your voice. What a blast. The only thing I ever did that came close to giving me a similar sense of power was riding an elephant.

    Reply

  6. I was at XROk80 in the mid 70’s as Don Cook, I did evenings. since it was recorded you could record friday on thursday and drive around and listen to yourself the next day. Jim Tabor came to me and bought me away to go to KENT, then i went back to dallas KNUs. It was a fun ride.

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  7. XEROK-80 Geez, I remember listening to that station way back before high school. Then it was KLAQ 95.5. I went back and forth, but I love classic, metal, country. Weird combination, but when you grew up on all kinds of music, anything you listen to as a kid, it was appreciated.

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    • john long got it off the ground, but his crew left to open another station. they hired the program director from KGRT las cruces and he hired me in the to 10pm slot. they coasted from there. i left and went to KINT fm for awhile. all the dj’s there were gay except me, so i didnt last that long, i went back to dallas. sometimes i run into ppl that remember.

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  8. The Christopher Hayes mentioned above spelled his name H-a-z-e. Minor detail, but maybe he cares. I was there in ’74 and worked for the El Paso newspapers. XEROK invited Wolfman Jack to come to town for a shift or two and offered his services to voice local spots. He cut one for me promoting the El Paso Times and El Paso Herald-Post and it won an industry award. As far as I know after 30+ years in newspaper marketing, that was the only instance of a spot voice by the great Wolfman.

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  9. Steve West, thank you and thank you for what you’re doing here. Another station of note in this days was KINT-FM, which was bought by Jim Taber and to which he brought a few jocks and the general format of KLIF in Dallas. The station sounded great but it could never crack a great rating because the market was generally locked up by KHEY, a country station owned by the millionaire Fred Hervey of Circle K fame.

    Reply

    • i was one of the jocks tabor bought from xrok, i did evenings for them for quite awhile. everyone who worked there was gay except me. I was let go and went back to KNUS99 in Dallas.

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      • Do you remember Jim Kelly? I ran with him for a while back and forth across the border. And that sales manager, Something Ashworth, who looked like Snidely Whiplash? Taber was a very high-energy guy who died far too young.

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        • i remember the name jim kelly, but cant put a face to it. How did Tabor die?? I’m guessing aids.

          Reply

          • Taber died of brain cancer in 1993, age 52.


        • Hey Joe – Did you by chance work with Randy Robins when he was at KNUS ??? He is a good friend who I was in radio with at WQXI Atlanta and we still talk once a week and have lunch together from time to time.

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          • I was at KNUS on and off thru the 70’s, I don’t remember a randy robins. I quit radio from KNUS99, big decision.


  10. When i was teenager i listened the best radio station on am 150,000 watts the most to power of North america in this border juarez Mexico but i dont know why they leave the recorders about xerok thanks Luis Tobias

    Reply

    • it was against the law to broadcast live, so we recorded the day before and played it the next day from Mexico. On fridays we could listen to our whole shows because we recorded them the day before. I was Don cook.

      Reply

  11. Actually, the owner of the highly successful KHEY was Jim Phillips. Fred Hervey owned KSET. The two Ashworth’s at Taber’s KINT was Chuck Ashworth, the GSM and his son, Clay Ashworth as seller. I worked weekends at XEROK and eventually with Jhani Kaye at KINT.

    Reply

  12. Chuck Whatley, you voiced the very first spot I wrote for the El Paso Times in 1974. You were at KELP with Bruce Brown and Dieter Jester, correct?

    Reply

    • I was hired at XEROK after John Long and then went to KINT98. I never worked at KELP. I remember your name for some reason. very familiar.

      Reply

      • Sorry. It was for sure a Whatley. I hung around a little with Dave Kelly in the KINT early days. In El Paso only two years. Spent almost all the work life in newspapers around the country.

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    • Joe,

      I worKed at KELP FROM 71-73 doing weekends/swing while going to New Mexico St. Worked with Bruce and Dieter. Ray Potter was PD, Nick Rice mornings, Bruce and Shaun Holly middays, Randy Reynolds PMD and John Weitz 7-mid and Guy Phillips also worked weekends. KELP peaked with a 32 share in 1973.

      Reply

      • it was KINT until 1979 then became KELP in the early 80’s. I believe Potter was PD in las cruces till he went to XEROK in the mid 70’s, he was my program director at XEROK before I was bought by Tabor and went to KINT. Potter was at KGRT in cruces when i grew up there. do i have any of that right ??

        Reply

        • I got to El Paso in April, 1974, so I just missed you, Don Cook. Bruce and Dieter were doing mornings, with Dieter the eye in the sky traffic reporter. (Which to this day I found hilarious because at the time there was one freeway to report on El Paso.) XEROK was really taking off about that time and had bumped KELP from the throne. I also recall that KHEY was piling up numbers with the country format and KTSM-FM was using the Drake-Chenault Solid Gold or Hit Parade automated formats. “Stereo one hundred…KTSM FM, El Paso.”

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  13. There’s a great book out there called “Border Radio.” Probably for sale on amazon.com although I read a public library copy. It is good work and traces the history of border blasters with a particular emphasis on Dr. Brinkley. All the big stations are covered…XERF, XERB for sure and including XTRA, which was Gordon McLendon’s foray into the first all-news radio station ever out of Tijuana. I remember it as a teenage kid. They ripped and read the AP wire and as I recall had no real local news staff. Their jingle said “Extra news over Los Angeles.”

    Reply

    • I worked for McCendon at KNUS 99 in dallas for quite a while, then for Bart the son on a sales project. I’ll look for that book, thank you!!

      Reply

  14. Rocco, are you the dude from 1190 KEZY in Anaheim?

    Reply

  15. Man-O-Man! Did I hit the jackpot here!! Wow!! Where to start?!? Grew up in Roswell New Mexico 200 miles from El Paso. Everything is 200 miles from Roswell. Lubbock Tx. 200 miles east and north, Albuquerque 200 miles north and west. El Paso 200 miles west and south. I my hometown (Roswell NM) we got ONE station at night: KOMA 1520 am Oklahoma City. ONLY THING.. My earliest trips to El Paso (I was 14 in 1960) were to “see the girls” Hee Hee and drink dollar-a-shot tequila at the Lone Star Bar, Juarez. I always listened to KELP. Killer station! Didn’t think of or know any other station. Started Radio career Aug 64 in Roswell, Country Music, then La Mesa (Meesa) Slayton and Lubbock Tx. to play the Hits. Got to know Charlie Russell KELP, he offered me job but I got drafted US Army To serve in Vietnam (was there 1968). Charlie Russell promised me a job when I got back (end of 68) but Charlie had moved on to KHEY and stayed 30 years!! EVERY person I knew moved on while I was in Southeast Asia. My connection to El Paso/Juarez is deep. Got married in Juarez (1965) and did US Army boot camp at Ft. Bliss. Sorry I never heard XEROK. I do know Christopher Haze he started and programmed the EAGLE in Ft. Worth. I’m a freak for that place! God Bless KGRT (K-Great) Las Cruces, and everyone and everything in that part of the country. John Mack Flanagan
    [email protected]

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  16. OMG! Reading this takes me way back. I remember KINT and KELP while I spent one year at NMSU in Las Cruces. As a matter of fact, I think both Ron Hamilton and I (along with Guy Phillips) worked at the campus station (KRWG) that year. I remember Ron working “big time” in El Paso. Those were the days!

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    • Fred Morton, I certainly remember you. To set the record straight; Guy Phillips was and is the “big time” player doing mornings in St Louis on Y98 since the early 80s. I went the sales and management/ownership route and am no longer in the business. What about you?

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  17. Memory Music Bank! That was another special and great section of X ROCK 80. For the people to the southern side of the Rio Grande: this radio station featured lots of innovations, beginning with the music itself, the MMB–what a great way of remembering oldies! Even though there are, and had been great R&R radio stations in Mexico, it was very enjoyable listening to this one. Its Excellent DJ·s, their very clear pronunciation, the funny and concise way of presenting songs together with commercials, the gentle voice and yet fancy way to say XEROK, Juarez, México by the woman announcing it, And the music (of course), made you tune in your radio on 800 KHZ AM. Lots of people will always remember you Dear X Rock 80 Team!

    Reply

    • Your welcome! it was strange to us because we couldn’t to the weather or time since it didn’t play till the next day.

      Reply

  18. back in the 70s xerok was my favorite…loved Philip and Wall…then there was super 60 on the dial

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    • my name was Don Cook, do you remember me on air at XEROK or KINT98? I have nothing from back then to remember that time in my life.

      Reply

  19. I don’t recall you, but i’m I heard you, I listen all the time. Steve Crosno is the only other jock I remember. Was in my teens back then.

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  20. Finest rock station ever. I grew up listening to XEROK 80. I was listening to John Long.

    Reply

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