3101 Dancy Street
Austin, Texas 78722
Writer and performer Gene Fowler is the author, co-author, or co-editor of thirteen books, including Border Radio: Quacks, Yodelers, Pitchmen, Psychics, and Other Amazing Broadcasters of the American Airwaves (1988); Crazy Water: The Story of Mineral Wells and Other Texas Health Resorts (1991); Mystic Healers and Medicine Shows: Blazing Trails to Wellness in the Old West and Beyond (1997); and Mavericks: A Gallery of Texas Characters (2008). He has performed throughout Texas and in Albuquerque, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Toledo, and Washington, DC, and his plays have been produced in New York City, San Francisco, Louisville, Houston, Dallas, and Austin, among other cities. He has also written for publications including Texas Highways, True West, Texas Books in Review, and the San Antonio Express-News. He has a B.A. in English from The University of Texas at Austin.
This talk focuses on the history and folklore of the cultural phenomenon known as border radio. Sometimes called “outlaw X” stations or “borderblasters,” the border radio stations were American broadcasting outlets that set up high-powered transmitters on Mexican soil, just across the border. Broadcasting from the early 1930s to the mid-1980s, the border stations hosted a colorful cast of personalities and influenced American musical tastes, medical trends, political campaign styles, religious programming, advertising, and sexual mores.
This program looks at the activities of several colorful Texans in the context of folk artists who worked in the wide-ranging medium of performance art. The mavericks profiled include Commodore Basil Muse Hatfield, beloved prophet of the Trinity River; the "bewhiskered dervish" Cyclone Davis Jr., a poet-politician who ran for everything but was only elected the 1906 mayor of Rotan; Depression-era Big Bend ambassador/roadside performer Bobcat Carter; Governor Willie, chief executive of the East Texas Oil Field, who staged flamboyant, make-believe political campaigns in the 1930s; and Madam Candelaria, reputed survivor of the Alamo siege, who thrilled thousands of San Antonio residents and visitors, and confounded countless historians, with dramatic accounts of the battle until her death in 1899.
This talk looks at the lives and careers of brothers R. G. and G. R. Milling, folk healers active in North Texas in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Older brother R. G., known as “the Indian Adept” and “the Long-Haired Doctor,” employed (and taught many other practitioners) his own magnetic-healing system that combined massage, faith healing, hypnotism, and showmanship. Both brothers persisted in their ministrations to a grateful public despite repeated arrests for practicing medicine without a license. Sometimes called a “rubbing doctor,” younger brother G. R. was shot to death in Glen Rose in 1914, perhaps by the angry husband of a female patient.
This talk addresses what might be regarded as the history of alternative medicine in Texas, beginning with Native American practices and Cabeza de Vaca. It encompasses faith healers, herbal practitioners, homeopaths, mineral water treatments, medicine shows, magnetic healing, and other methodologies. The tone of the presentation is designed to remind listeners that, while these treatments may seem a bit off the wall, medical history is filled with instances in which a new theory was initially regarded as quackery and later hailed as a significant breakthrough.