1920s, 1930s & 1940s
First considered little more than a novelty, radio grew into the greatest technological marvel of the time.In the 1930s, radio was the glittering queen of the entertainment world; no other cultural medium was as popular, as accessible and as keenly attuned to everyday life in America. Announcers wore tuxedos as they stood before huge circular microphones and intoned their dulcet announcements to millions.
WGR-AM signed on the air in May 1922 and soon was followed by WEBR (1924), WKBW (1926) and WBEN (1930).
In the 1940s, radio was the vital communications link between a nation at war overseas and the folks back on the home front, with CBS, NBC and the Mutual Radio Network providing reports from Europe and Asia. Amon the Buffalo radio personalities who established their bonafides during the pre-World War II period were CLINT BUEHLMAN, BOB SMITH, ROGER BAKER, JOE WESP and JOHN “OLD BONES” LASCELLES.
Buffalo also was a breeding ground for network radio talent, the most spectacular of whom may have been FRAN STRIKER, who created “The Lone Ranger” while working at WEBR in 1930.
The city became a five-station town in 1934 , when Roy Albertson founded WBNY. In 1947, Leon Wyszatycki signed on WWOL .
1950s and 1960s
With the skyrocketing post-war popularity of television, radio was forced to reinvent itself in order to survive. Live dramas, comedies, and adventure programs, were replaced by news, information and bright chatter between recorded music.
Catering to the growing teenage audience, BOB WELLS’s “Hi-Teen” show on WEBR became the model for DICK CLARK’s “American Bandstand.” GEORGE “HOUND DOG” LORENZ was one of the first white deejays in the nation to play “race music” on a daily basis. That black-oriented music soon became rock ‘n’ roll. In 1955 WWOL’s GUY KING (TOM CLAY) climbed atop a billboard in Shelton Square and played Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” until he was arrested by police.
In 1957, WBNY broke ground with a TOP 40 format that soon was to be further perfected by WKBW in 1958. With heavy promotion and the hiring of some of the most memorable personalities in Buffalo’s history, the 50,000-watt “KB” blazed a trail for rock ‘n’ roll through the late 1960s.
At “KB” and WBNY, the rock-jock rosters were dotted with the splendid talents of DAN NEAVERTH, TOM SHANNON, JOEY REYNOLDS, DICK BIONDI, PERRY ALLEN, LUCKY PIERRE, TOM CLAY, FRED KLESTINE, and RUSS “THE MOOSE” SYRACUSE.
WYSL-AM made a valiant effort to take on “KB” but never managed to topple the legendary giant.
Sports play-by-play became an enormous audience builder. The most popular such offering through the 1950s was Buffalo Bison Baseball on WGR, with the legendary BILL MAZER at the mike. Buffalo blossomed with other outstanding sports broadcast talent including CHUCK HEALY, RICK AZAR, DICK RIFENBURG and STAN BARRON. In the early 1960s VAN MILLER started an over 30 year reign as the voice of Buffalo Bills Football.
Buffalo also achieved landmark status with the talents of RAMBLIN’ LOU SCHRIVER who became one of the North’s best-known country music hosts and STAN JASINSKI presenting what many consider the finest ethnic programs ever produced with his pioneering “Polka Beehive.”
And Buffalo’s WUFO was among the nation’s most effervescent black-oriented stations, featuring such blockbuster talent as EDDIE O’JAY, FRANKIE CROCKER and SUNNY JIM KELSEY.
Late 1960s till Today
The Top 40 format suddenly no longer was king, as the audience began to fragment among various offshoots of rock ‘n’ roll. Meanwhile, the crystal- clear stereo sound of FM radio, gained favor with listeners, and a growing number of stations experimented with psychedelic, album rock, disco and classic rock formats.
Stations like WYSL-FM (later WPHD, WEDG), WBNY-FM (later WJYE), WGRQ-FM (later WGRF), WADV-FM (later WYRK), WBEN-FM (later WMJQ/WTSS), WWOL-FM (later WHTT) and WBLK-FM slowly eroded the listener base of AM radio.
Introduction of NHL hockey to the city in the early 70s brought the talents of the late TED DARLING to the airwaves. In later years RICK JEANNERET would share the press box along side JIM LORENTZ.
In the mid-1980s, such AM stations as WBEN, WGR and local public broadcasting station WEBR turned their focus back to news, information, talk and sports as the talk-radio phenomenon swept the nation.
Through it all, Buffalo most prominent talk master has been JOHN OTTO who began his career behind the WGR microphone nearly four decades ago.