“Dr.” John Brinkley A Father of Conservative Talk Radio
John Richard (nee Romulus) Brinkley (1885-1941) was a Kansas based quack with an operation to sell. For $750 he restored a man’s virility by surgically implanting goat "glands" in his scrotum. Though you might have your legs tightly crossed as you read this, many men who found that they couldn’t rise to the occasion eagerly opened themselves up to “Dr.” Brinkley’s helping hands. Selling the promise of sexual potency to our forefathers, he made a very large fortune. There seems to have been a lot of that wrong with Kansas.
Flush with the kind of respectability that much money buys, Dr. Brinkley took a trip to the west coast and received the praise of the LA Times . While there he got a look at the paper's radio operation and saw its potential for his sort of business, stupid he wasn’t. Back home in Kansas he set himself up with a transmitter. Soon Dr. Brinkley had a path breaking medicine show promoting his practice complete with gospel tinged country music* and helpful advice to listeners who wrote in. His advice came in the form of drugs identified by number and bought from a chain of mail order drug stores linked to Dr. Brinkley.
Hearing a recording of his voice on a Public Radio International program recently, it was entirely familiar. The phrasing, pitch, accent and content reminds you of most of the right-wing pitch men you’ve ever heard. Paul Harvey could have been his son.
Now, even if the authorities might cast a mild eye on someone with the sort of trade he engaged in, there was one thing that went beyond endurance in that more innocent age, he advertised. “Dr.” Brinkley ran afoul of the AMA in the form of Dr. Morris Fishbein who got his license to practice in Kansas revoked. The Federal Radio Commission revoking his broadcast license was probably even more of a blow. Not being willing to take it lying down, he ran an lost two campaigns for governor in an attempt to change the licensing board but fled for the more fertile opportunities that Texas promised.
Eventually even Texas was forced to discourage Dr. Brinkley’s stabile medicine show. But he was far from over. He saw that Mexico, furious with the transmission policies of the U.S. government, might allow him to set up an enormous broadcast facility pointed North. Have I mentioned that he wasn’t stupid? Unregulated, clear channel, boarder, radio was born in all its gaudy, dishonest and bizarre corruption. This is where he sold radio time to Nazis, forcing the U.S. government to finally negotiate better transmission agreements with the Mexican government to get them to shut down the Nazi loving radio Doctor.
Modern, unregulated cable TV, which will sell anything, not having been born yet, “Dr” Brinkley ended badly in lawsuits, other legal trouble, bankruptcy and death.
So, we have it. A huckster with dodgy credentials selling a bogus sex operation to ignorant people through pop music, attempting political manipulation to allow him to further swindle people and renting himself out for the promotion of Nazis. The model of conservative talk radio.
* A song played on the PRI program praising the sexual habits of buck goats apparently figured heavily in the repertoire of his house band. Being a farm boy myself and having once kept goats, including a breeding buck, I’ve got to tell you that while indeed sexually relentless, they are about the stupidest, smelliest and most obnoxious animals in the barnyard. If Dr. Brinkley’s customers were familiar with buck goats their willingness to have the operation says something far more than I care to think about in detail.
Wikipedia has an article about “Dr. Brinkley”. I leaned on it along with my notes of the PRI program to produce this piece.
Posted also today on olvlzl