In my home city of El Paso, there is a genre of music that was defined by one Steve Crosno, a longtime AM radio disc jockey who was at his pinnacle when I first learned of the pleasures of popular music.
FM radio was just catching on, and most cars were manufactured with only an AM radio.
These were glory days of super “clear channel” AM radio stations that blasted across the USA with 50,000 watts of power. This was the official FCC limit.
However, Crosno, whose radio studio was in El Paso, was actually broadcasting from XEROK-80 (simply known as X-ROK), which, because its signal was originating from across the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, was much more powerful. It was rumored that Crosno’s show could be heard as far north as Canada and to the Caribbean islands.
The year was 1970, and my older brother, Victor, had received a handheld AM transistor radio for Christmas. I was instantly curious about it. On most nights, I managed to take it to bed with me, where I would tune it to X-ROK, and, placing it under my pillow, would fall asleep while listening to Crosno. His show was as much about himself, his humor and senstitivity, as it was about the music.
Some of the hits at the time included The Delfonics’ “La La Means I Love You,” Sylvia’s “Pillow Talk,” and War’s “All Day Music.”
But my favorite, and I would never admit to this at the time, was a sappy song of teen angst called “I Wanted to Tell You” by Tony DeFranco and the DeFranco Family. I still happily play it in my head almost every day.
Between songs, Crosno would carry running dialogues with a myriad of sound clips from movies and television programs at a dizzying pace. He was a radio genius.
Crosno would end his radio show, to the best of my recollection, at 10 p.m. He would always say “I love you,” as he signed off, and I believed him. I would imagine his voice reverberating through the entire hemisphere, propelled by those untold thousands of watts of power of Mexican radio.
His last song of the night would play, to be replaced by Spanish-language music, which would eventually give rise to my appreciation of a different musical form.
Steve Crosno died last year.