Popularity of Tex-Mex keeps discs spinning at Walla Walla station

The music's fan base keeps Adan Escobar, who has seen plenty of changes since starting in radio in the 1980s, busy every Sunday afternoon.

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"i have got an offer from other radio stations to come and do my show over there, but I have been doing this show for a lot of years," says radio host Adan Escobar. "And I don't want to be under anybody else. I don't make money but I am happy."

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Power Tejano radio show host Adan Escobar introduces a Tex-Mex song on Saturday. the nearly 20-year-old radio show is produced live every Sunday in Walla Walla and airs on KHSS 100.7.

WALLA WALLA -- "OK. Name and phone number...Rachel? Otra vez...Corn or flour?... All right."

More than 20 times on Sunday afternoon Adan Escobar would ask the same series of question, but not always in the same language.

"OK. De harina or de maíz? Corn. ¬°ìrale! Gracias."

Usually the bilingual disc jockey spoke both English and Spanish, though the 51-year-old host of the Walla Walla-based Power Tejano show said nowadays he tends to talk more English than Spanish when on air.

"There are not a lot of radio stations that cater to the bilingual population, especially the younger generation that speaks more English than Spanish," he said.

From 1-6 p.m. Sunday, Escobar kept busy playing songs, running commercials and PSAs, and trying to finish his tortilla survey, which was actually part of a promotional drawing for a pair of tickets to the Michael Salgado performance in Pasco later this month.

"I have five more spaces. All I need from you is your name and phone number and what you like best. Corn or flour tortillas? De harina or de maíz?"

Taking requests and dedications, playing music, making sure commercials run, conducting phone-in contests, even doing an occasional live interview -- like the one that took place Sunday afternoon with Salgado -- in a cramped radio studio with a huge mike dangling in front of his face: You might say Escobar is a bit of a living anachronism.

A live radio disc jockey.

In a business dominated by satellite feeds, corporate play lists and BMI, Escobar is a literal lone star in the world of radio because his Latino music show is both live and all about Tex-Mex.

"Independent pretty much. I have got an offer from other radio stations to come and do my show over there, but I have been doing this show for a lot of years. And I don't want to be under anybody else. I don't make any money but I am happy," he said.

A maverick at heart, the Texas native still has to fill out his BMI play list.

Escobar got his start in radio in 1982, when he first started working for Latino radio stations in the Yakima area a few years after graduating from high school.

Those were the days of live radio broadcast of LPs, 45s and carts (a device similar to an eight-track cassette that was used to hold commercials, news, PSAs and other recorded material).

"I was so afraid at the beginning when the Internet came around. I thought the territorial radio stations in general were going to start dying out. But for some reason people still keep that tradition going because it is something they like," he said.

Today, instead of records Escobar is jockeying CDs, of which he has hundreds, perhaps thousands.

Cases of CDs, some in cardboard boxes, a few in professional carrying cases, but most in plastic bins, make it a hazard to walk through the small studio of KHSS-FM 100.7, located on the third floor of the American West Bank building downtown.

Adding to the cluttered floor were stationery supplies, left-over promotional material -- a maraca and Junior and Ichiro bobbleheads -- cleaning supplies, casette tapes, which he doesn't use much anymore, and a crucifix and picture of the Virgin Mary.

The latter two items were a reminder of the benefactor that provides Escobar with a free studio every Sunday afternoon.

As for the other six days and 19 hours of the week, KHSS is primarily a Catholic radio format.

"I try to also incorporate the Catholic faith into the program, if there is something going on," he said.

A few minutes later he ran a three-minute PSA announcing the recent beatification of Pope John Paul II.

"A lot of my audience are Catholic faith," he added.

Not only are they mostly Catholic, but they also love Tex-Mex, the accordion-led, quick, two-stepping country music that Escobar likes to point out is an American creation.

"Tejano music started in the revolution," said Escobar, who is a historian on the origins of the music. "Pancho Villa, he started kicking out the Europeans. So they started settling across the Rio Grande, and they brought their accordion music, especially in the Rio Grande Valley."

While in the studio, Escobar wore a red-and-white Cougars shirt, displaying his assimilation into the Pacific Northwest.

Escobar's cap, however, was adorned with red, white and blue rectangles and one lone star -- the Texas flag.

As for Cinco de Mayo, there are not many ties with the celebration of the 1862 revolt that led to the expulsion of the French government from Mexico.

Escobar did point out rather proudly that the general who led the successful battle for Puebla, Mexico, was from Goliad, Texas.

A few times during Escobar's Power Tejano show, an occasional non-Tejano song seemed to infiltrate the airwaves, as if creating yet another cultural revolt. One of these was a Freddy Fender song in English and no accordion.

"You know he got his start as a Tejano singer," Escobar said in defendse.

Escobar admitted that he will sometimes cross over and play groups like Los Lobos or Los Lonely Boys.

It should be noted that Los Lonely Boys is from Texas, and Los Lobos, from East Los Angeles, plays Tex-Mex.

"I mean if George Strait came to play in Walla Walla, I would play him because Tejano fans identify with country music, especially if he is from Texas." he said.

Strait is also from Texas.

So what type of tortillas are preferred by Texans?

Let's just say Escobar and his listeners prefer flour.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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