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.

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Around El Paso on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 19, 2009, is a time to remember one of the greatest African-American leaders of our time. But the day is also about commemorating what he stood for: freedom for all people. Monday afternoon I drove down to the non-profit organization, Dame la Mano, and saw some images that reflected the spirit of the day. As I was getting back into my car, I saw a group of children playing in the street. They weren’t playing ball or some of the typical street games. They were gathered playing the traditional Mexican bingo game called LOTERIA. I couldn’t resist. The sun danced perfectly off road warming the small breeze that blew down the street, and so I sat down next to Kimberly and said, “Yo quiero jugar.” The looked at me kinda strange. I’m sure they thought, “Que hace esta señora?” But I played a couple of rounds of LOTERIA with Kimberly, Emmanuel, Caleb, Hillary, and Adan. “El pescado. La pera. El boracho. La dama. El diablito. La muerte. El arbol. La chalupa. El pajaro. El sol. La luna. La corona.”

Getting in my car and driving north to go home, I came upon a group of students and community members who were painting a mural on the wall of small grocery store in Segundo Barrio. They are working on a series of murals in Segundo called Heroes de Segundo Barrio. This day, they were working on the mural of El Paso DJ, Steve Crosno. The muralists were Ruben Velez, Eddie Velez, Albert Calzada, Jesus, Jerry Calvio, and Kimberly. .

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Chicken Fat and Booze: Rest in Peace, Steve Crosno

Chicken fat and booze. That was my favorite line when Steve Crosno was a powerhouse on El Paso radio, and he used it often in his efforts to make us laugh. For example, someone would ask: “What’s for lunch at El Paso Tech?” The response was Crosno’s clip: “Chicken Fat and Booze.” And, boy, I cracked up.


He would get into arguments with children, who would often come out on top by putting Crosno down. For example, a little girl’s voice would say: “Steve Crosno is so dumb.” Another voice would chime in: “How dumb is he?” The response would be something like: “Well, he thinks that a Quarterback is a refund.” Or words to that effect. You know, the jokes were corny, but the way Steve said them, they became hilarious.

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