Buffalo’s Willis Conover

       By Steve Cichon

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

Willis Conover with Louis Armstrong, in the VOA studios in Washington.

When Benny Goodman wanted to quote a jazz expert, Willis Conover was the man he quoted. In 1960, The Courier-Express called the Kenmore High alum Conover “the most popular disc jockey in the world.” But even then, no one in Buffalo—or even the USA—had heard of him.

With 30 million people listening to his program every day, Conover was the definitive voice of American Jazz all around the world on The Voice of America– a federal-government operated series of shortwave radio stations beamed everywhere but our part of North America.

Through the years, his hometown had quick tastes of Conover’s abilities– like a series produced by John Hunt on WBFO in 1980, showcasing the man and the music he loved.

But mostly, the kid from Villa Avenue who attended Bennett and Kenmore High Schools and became the man described by President Carter as “devoted… to the story of American music” and called “the world’s most popular American” has gone mostly forgotten in the city he considered home.

Buffalo’s Willis Conover, Voice of America

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.