Don Berns, one of Buffalo radio’s top 40 legends of the 1970s, died Sunday, March 1st.
Berns had posted on his Facebook page last week that he had a minor surgical procedure. According to friends, he complained about back and arm pain at dinner Saturday. Berns was found dead in his Toronto home from an apparent heart attack. He was in his 60s.
Berns lived in Toronto, where he continued to innovate and create. As Dr. Trance, he was considered the “Godfather of Toronto’s Rave Scene.” He acted in Toronto theater. And he continued to share his wit and humor with frequent postings on Facebook.
Berns arrived in Buffalo in fall 1970. He and Jack Armstrong were the two new voices of WKBW 1520AM. Berns hosted middays while Armstrong rocked Eastern America and Canada at night. Together, they brought new energy to KB. Berns’ trademark ending each day was “The Don Berns Show is a Dr. and Mrs. Berns production.”
Berns became KB music director and involved himself in the local music scene. He championed the group “Weekend.” His introduction of a concert by Big Wheelie and the Hubcaps is part of their live vinyl album.
Berns grew up in Hartford, Connecticut. He worked in the Providence, Hartford and Albany markets before arriving in Buffalo.
After nearly four years at KB, Berns stunned many of his listeners when he announced he would be joining album rock WPhD 103.3FM. He changed his high energy top 40 sound to the slower-paced delivery of “progressive” jocks of that era. But his time at WPhD was short. Soon after he started, the station’s owners changed formats to top 40, and Berns was back doing what he did so well. Berns stayed at WYSL AM/FM through 1975 and then left the Buffalo market for Dallas.
Berns had stints in San Diego, Kansas City and Pittsburgh before finally settling in Toronto. For many years, Berns was a personality on CFNY 102.1FM. He did voice over work, in addition to his dance parties and theater performances.
In 2003, Berns was the promo voice at KB when the station launched its oldies format.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced. Friends are said to be planning a memorial in the Toronto area on April 18th.