The early rock ‘n’ roll history of Buffalo’s very own 1230am

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

1230am signs on

When 1230 am officially signed on in 1956, WNIA was promised to be “as revolutionary to radio as color was to television.”

WNIA, 1956

The record library here in our Genesee Street studios boasted more than 10-thousand recordings.

From early on, 1230am was “a home for top tunes” as J. Don Schlaerth put it in the pages of the Courier Express, who wrote, “as a new station with lots of peppy music, the ratings began to jiggle.”

WNIA control room. (Dennis Majewicz photo)

Sixty years ago, it was a difficult decision for a radio station to play rock ‘n’ roll music full-time, like WECK does now.

In 1957, Gordon Brown, owner, WNIA, told The Courier-Express, “We play the top 100 tunes half of the time and the old standards the other half of the time. I think people like the sweet popular music as well as rock ‘n’ roll. We’ve had terrific results in the popular music field. We also like to play some soft music to help the housewife work around the house.”

WNIA Founder Gordon Brown, remembered in his hometown Democrat & Chronicle in 1979.
Tom Donahue, 7th grade

A few years after the station first signed on, a group of local singers—all high school students– at WAY Radio productions sang the jingles you can hear in the piece linked above.

One of those singers was Tom Donahue.

That means his voice has now been heard professionally on the station for more than 50 years.


Mike Melody, Tommy Thomas, and Jerry Jack…

We’re continuing to talk about the early rock ‘n’ roll history here at 1230am.

There were dozens of young disc jockeys who played the hits here at Buffalo’s upstart rock ‘n’ roll station.

Dozens of DJs– but only 4 or 5 names.

Station founder Gordon Brown insisted that the disc jockeys at the radio stations he owned use those on-air handles instead of their own.

He felt the stock jock names gave a more consistent sound even as the DJs changed rapidly, it was always Mike Melody and Jerry Jack.

WNIA’s on air schedule

6 AM to Noon – Tommy Thomas
Noon to 6:30 – Jerry Jack
6:30 to 12:30 AM – Mike Melody

Brown died in 1977, and the station was sold. Since then, the disc jockeys you’ve heard on WECK didn’t necessarily have to use their own names– but they didn’t have to be Mike Melody or Mac McGuire, either.

WNIA poster created from original WNIA art by Steve Cichon.

Midnight Mood & Be Big…. 

We continue our week long look back at the early rock ‘n’ roll history of 1230am.

It’s one of the most requested songs as people reminisce about radio in Buffalo in the 50s and 60s.

It was the 1230 theme song for years, Richard Maltby’s Midnight Mood would play every night at midnight… that’s a tradition we continue now at WECK each night as the clock strikes twelve.

WNIA was a quirky station. The daily noon time Catholic prayers were bookended by rock ‘n’ roll music.

And if you listened to the station at all in those days, you probably remember that you should be big… be a builder.

THE IMPRESSION YOUR FRIENDS AND OTHERS HAVE OF YOU IS BASED ON WHAT YOU DO…TO TEACH…
TO CREATE… TO ACCOMPLISH… OR TO BUILD, WHETHER YOU DIG THE TRENCH FOR THE FOUNDATION
FOR A BUILDING; WHETHER YOU LAY THE LAST BRICK ON ITS TOP; WHETHER YOU WORK WITH A PICK
AND SHOVEL OR WITH THE TOOLS AND MACHINES, OR IN THE OFFICE,OR SELL THE PRODUCTS OR SERVICES
OF INDUSTRY; WHETHER YOU GROW, PREPARE OR HARVEST THE VERY FOOD WE EAT… WHETHER YOU ARE A
HOMEBUILDER RAISING,TEACHING OR EDUCATING YOUR FAMILY OR OTHERS HOW TO BE COME A BUILDER…
NO MATTER WHAT YOU ARE OR WHAT YOU DO, IF YOU ARE A BUILDER, YOU ARE ONE TO BE LONG REMEMBERED.
THOSE WHO ATTEMPTED TO DESTROY THE PYRAMIDS OF EGYPT WERE DESPISED AND SOON FORGOTTEN…THOSE
THOUSANDS WHO LABORED TO BUILD THEM WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN………. BE BIG…… BE A BUILDER
–as transcribed at http://www.flynnflam.com/wsay/bbbb.html, a website dedicated to remembering WNIA’s sister station, WSAY, in Rochester.

The minute long diatribe, punctuated with the slogan BE BIG, BE A BUILDER, was the brainchild of station owner Gordon Brown.

It was a reaction to the war protests of the late 60s, and now its a well-remembered part of Buffalo’s broadcasting history.


Listening to the Archives

Mac McGuire, Tommy Thomas, Mike Melody, and Jerry Jack all holding court in the Make Believe Ballroom during the 50s, 60s and 70s.

The call letters WNIA originally stood for “NIAGARA.”

When the station was sold in 1977, the new call letters, WECK were selected to represent another Buffalo institution.

WECK sticker, late 1970s.

From WNIA to WECK

This week we’ve been looking back at the history of 1230am…

For 20 years, tiny WNIA had a powerhouse sized influence on rock ‘n’ roll radio in Buffalo, from the same ranch house we broadcast from on Genesee Street.

From Mike Melody’s “Make Believe Ball Room,” to “Be Big… BE A BUILDER,” to Richard Maltby’s “Midnight Mood,”  WNIA and 1230am were very much a part of the tapestry that made up life as a teenager in Buffalo in the 50s and 60s.

By the late 70s, those days were over, the station was sold. WNIA became WECK.

The Roll that rocks. Get it? WECK Roll?

Anyway, 1230 grew up with those 50s and 60s rock ‘n’ rollers and was spinning the disco tunes with DJs like Frankie Nestro.

After years of “Music of Your Life,” then talk for a while, we’re now back to our roots as Buffalo’s home for Good Times, and Great Oldies…

Buffalo’s Very Own WECK.

The Golden Age of Kids’ TV in Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

We’ve been taking a look back at the local kids shows we’ve watched through the years on Buffalo TV.

We go channel by channel, show by show, describing some of the favorites and adding photos when a photo is available.

Sadly, no video exists of most of these shows… but the memories live on.

Channel 4

Of course Buffalo Bob Smith was a local guy, and his national Howdy Doody Show was one of the most popular shows on TV anywhere in the late 40 and early 50s.

But along with Howdy Doody, Buffalo’s first TV station, WBEN-TV Channel 4, brought Buffalo’s first locally created kids’ shows.

MORE: Remembering WBEN-TV’s Visit With Santa (And Forgetful the Elf)

Mike Mearian

Uncle Mike and pal Buttons, WBEN-TV, 1956

Starting in 1954, one of the most popular shows on Channel 4 was Mike Mearian’s “Children’s Theater,” which featured the host as either Uncle Mike or Captain Mike when they played Popeye cartoons.

Buttons and Uncle Mike Mearian, WBEN-TV

Mike’s faithful puppet sidekick Buttons, was a marionette operated by Ellen Knetchel and voiced by Mearian.

The 1956 Sylvania TV Award nominations described Uncle Mike this way:

“Mr. Mearian’s genius as a humorist plus the best available children’s cartoons add up to youthful entertainment fun that is always in the best of taste.”

 

Captain Mike Mearian & Buttons the Cabin Boy

Virgil Booth

Virgil Booth at the Buffalo Zoo,

There was also Mr Bumble’s Curiosity Shop. WBEN Announcer Virgil Booth was Mr. Bumbles. Booth also hosted regular kids shows as himself from the with Clayton Freiheit at Buffalo Zoo and Ellsworth Jaeger at the Buffalo Museum of Science. he also hosted cartoons through the years as Channel 4’s baggagemaster.

The soft-spoken announcer on WBEN’s Luncheon Club recently retired as Ch. 4’s baggagemaster and opened Mr. Bumble’s Old Curiosity Shop– filled with items bound to attract young viewers.

Mr. Bumbles takes about 30 minutes putting on makeup and costume each Saturday afternoon. He becomes a man in his 70s who uses the language of children to heighten their inquisitiveness during the 5 to 6 PM Saturday program.

Virgil Booth at the Buffalo Museum of Science.

 

Jerry Brick

Uncle Jerry Brick, WBEN-TV

Uncle Jerry Brick– who was the floor manager of the Meet the Millers Show during the week, hosted a Sunday morning kids talent show through the 50s and 60s that introduced more than 2,000 talented youngsters on Channel 4.

The show was described in the paper this way:  TV cameras capture priceless expressions of visiting tots as Jerry asks questions during the outing.

Bob & Ellen Knechtel

They created and operated the puppets and marionettes seen on Channel 4 from the 1940s through the 1970s.


Channel 7’s Kids Shows

Rocketship 7

Dave Thomas & Mr. Beeper

When Dave Thomas wasn’t hosting Dialing for Dollars with Nolan Johannes and Liz Dribben, he was palling around with Promo The Robot and Mr. Beeper.

Rocketship 7 was a must watch for many Buffalo kids through the 60s and 70s, before Dave Thomas blasted off for a new job in Philadelphia in 1978.

Dave Thomas and Promo the Robot on Rocketship 7

And Dave Thomas wasn’t the only Dialing for Dollars connection to Rocketship 7. It was relatively easy for Dave to change from his Rocketship 7 jumpsuit into his “count and amount” clothes, but it was a little more difficult for another cast member on both shows.

Dave Thomas, Banaszak, Nolan Johannes and Jimmy Edwin on Dialing For Dollars.

Johnny and Jimmy were the house band on Dialing for Dollars, and Johnny Banaszak had a quick change between his back-to-back gigs, too. He quickly had to shed the Promo the Robot suit and grab his accordion. He was not only the man inside the suit, but also the voice of Promo as well.

Commander Tom

Another salubrious kids show on Channel 7 starred All-American weatherman Tom Jolls as Commander Tom– who took to TV wearing the bright red jacket of a Canadian Mountie.

Commander Tom, Dust Mop, and the rest of the crew on the Commander Tom Show,.

He performed with his puppet pals which early on, were mostly made from his kids’ old stuffed animals.

Some of those puppets, which the Commander voiced himself, included Matty the Mod, a young and energetic, though not too bright alligator; Cecily Fripple, a sensitive and gentle thing of questionable age who tries to recapture her glorious past; and last but not least, Dustmop, the faithful watchdog of Central Command, who is spite of his old age and failing eyesight, is the brave protectorate of the entire cast.

The Jungle Jay Show

Jungle Jay Nelson

Jay Nelson was a disc jockey on WKBW Radio, but is perhaps best remembered as the host of Channel 7’s Jungle Jay Show.

He wore a pith helmet and a leopard print jacket while playing old Tarzan clips when kids got home from school.

The shtick was so popular that even after he left Buffalo for his native Canada to work at CHUM Radio in Toronto, he continued calling himself Jungle Jay, and continued wearing the pith helmet. The show was just as popular north of the border as it was in Western New York.


Channel 2

Channel 2 has had a few popular locally produced kids’ shows through the years.

Maybe most popular was Channel 2’s weatherman Bob Lawrence as Captain Bob.

Puppeteer Jim Menke worked on Channel 2’s Captain Bob Show as well as on Channel 17’s Mr. Whatnot program,

He did local cut-ins during two wildly different programs.

At first, he entertained kids during Channel 2’s playback of old 1930s Three Stooges shorts.

Captain Bob also hosted the local presentation of The Mickey Mouse Club afternoons in the late 50s and early 60s.

Jim Menke was the puppeteer during the Captain Bob Show, and later he brought his puppet Corky to the Mr. Whatnot Show on Channel 17.

Mr. Whatnot, with Jack Paupst in title role, was locally produced by WNED-TV, Channel 17.

Another Channel 2 kids show that was as much a commercial as it was entertainment hit Buffalo TVs in 1960 with the opening of Fantasy Island.

Buckskin Joe at Fantasy Island on Channel 2, WGR-TV.

Buckskin Joe was the host of what looked like a TV version of Fantasy Island’s Wild West Show. Buckskin Joe was actually Clyde Farnan, the General Manager of the amusement park.

He was joined on TV by Marshall Rick, Annie Oakley, Little Bo Peep, and bad guys like Cactus Pete and Black Bart– who was also Fantasy Island’s business manager Harvey Benatovich.

Checkers and Can Can was a short-lived locally produced WGR-TV show featuring Checkers the Clown and Can-Can the tin man.

Checkers & Can Can 1960

Romper Room & Bozo

a 1969 ad for Romper Room on Ch.2. This show was produced in New York City.

Back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, there were probably a dozen different versions of Romper Room you may have seen on Buffalo television screens.

There were nationally syndicated versions, as well as shows that were produced in Toronto and Hamilton.

But on two different occasions, for short periods of time, there were Buffalo-produced Romper Room shows as well.

Channel 7 aired a local version of Romper Room for the first few years the station was on the air.

Miss Mary was the first local host. Her real name was Cele Klein, and she’d been a veteran soap opera actress. The show would get 150 letters a day from kids across WNY and Southern Ontario.

She handed her magic mirror over to Miss Sally Klein, who was around for about a year, then Miss Binnie Liebermann, who was hosting the show when the local version was cancelled in 1962– “clobbered” in the ratings, according to Channel 7, by Uncle Mike Mearian on Channel 4.

Another local version of Romper Room came in 1971 when Channel 29 first signed on the air. Miss Elaine Murphy was the host.

Channel 29 also had another live local version of a national show that appeared in local versions all around the country.

Fancis Stack as Bozo the Clown on WUTV, TV-29.

Young Buffalonians had watched Bozo the Clown productions from Chicago and Boston and watched Bozo cartoons– but the only locally produced Bozo’s Big Top was on WUTV starting in 1971 and starred local clown Francis Stack as Bozo.


Canadian TV

We’ve been looking at local kids TV over the past week, and while they weren’t 2,4, or 7, most of us spent plenty of time watching 5,9, and 11, because there were plenty of Canadian Kids shows we loved.

Mr. Dressup and his tickle trunk filled with costumes for him and puppets Casey and Finnegan was an iconic program airing on CBC for more than 40 years.

Mr. Dressup, Casey, and Finnegan sit on the tickle trunk.

Also on Channel 5 for a long time, The Friendly Giant was there every morning if you looked up… waaaaay up.

The Friendly Giant and Jerome the Giraffe

There was a rocker for someone who liked to rock, Jerome the Giraffe and Rusty the Rooster.

Channel 9 in Toronto gave us the Uncle Bobby Show. Bobby Ash was an old British vaudevillian, who was joined by Traffic Officer John, Meredith Cutting, “the Singing Policeman;” Cy Leonard, “the ventriloquist;” and of course… Bimbo the Birthday Clown.

Uncle Bobby (standing) and Cy Leonard, CFTO-TV.

And if you have any recollection of learning French on Sesame Street— you watched that on Canadian TV, too. In the US, Sesame Street has always taught Spanish.

Goldie Gardner, right, WNED-TV.

Of course you probably watched both– especially if you also remember Goldie Gardner asking you to bring your parents to the TV, as she did on Channel 17 for decades.

Uncle Bobby and Bimbo the Birthday Clown

The Kids Shows of Channel 7

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This week we’re looking at some of the great kids shows we grew up with in Buffalo, and two great ones from Channel 7.

Rocketship 7

When Dave Thomas wasn’t hosting Dialing for Dollars with Nolan Johannes and Liz Dribben, he was palling around with Promo The Robot and Mr. Beeper.
Rocketship 7 was a must watch for many Buffalo kids through the 60s and 70s, before Dave Thomas blasted off for a new job in Philadelphia in 1978.

Dave Thomas and Promo the Robot on Rocketship 7

And Dave Thomas wasn’t the only Dialing for Dollars connection to Rocketship 7. It was relatively easy for Dave to change from his Rocketship 7 jumpsuit into his “count and amount” clothes, but it was a little more difficult for another cast member on both shows.

Dave Thomas, Banaszak, Nolan Johannes and Jimmy Edwin on Dialing For Dollars.

Johnny and Jimmy were the house band on Dialing for Dollars, and Johnny Banaszak had a quick change between his back-to-back gigs, too. He quickly had to shed the Promo the Robot suit and grab his accordion. He was not only the man inside the suit, but also the voice of Promo as well.

Commander Tom

Another salubrious kids show on Channel 7 starred All-American weatherman Tom Jolls as Commander Tom– who took to TV wearing the bright red jacket of a Canadian Mountie.

Commander Tom, Dust Mop, and the rest of the crew on the Commander Tom Show,.

He performed with his puppet pals which early on, were mostly made from his kids’ old stuffed animals.

Some of those puppets, which the Commander voiced himself, included Matty the Mod, a young and energetic, though not too bright alligator; Cecily Fripple, a sensitive and gentle thing of questionable age who tries to recapture her glorious past; and last but not least, Dustmop, the faithful watchdog of Central Command, who is spite of his old age and failing eyesight, is the brave protectorate of the entire cast.

 

The Kids Shows of Channel 4

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This week we’re looking at local children’s TV shows through the decades…

Of course Buffalo Bob Smith was a local guy, and his national Howdy Doody Show was one of the most popular shows on TV anywhere in the late 40 and early 50s.

But Buffalo’s first TV station, WBEN-TV Channel 4, brought Buffalo’s first kids shows.

MORE: Remembering WBEN-TV’s Visit With Santa (And Forgetful the Elf)

Mike Mearian

Uncle Mike and pal Buttons, WBEN-TV, 1956

Starting in 1954, one of the most popular shows on Channel 4 was Mike Mearian’s “Children’s Theater,” which featured the host as either Uncle Mike or Captain Mike when they played Popeye cartoons.

Buttons and Uncle Mike Mearian, WBEN-TV

Mike’s faithful puppet sidekick Buttons, was a marionette operated by Ellen Knetchel and voiced by Mearian.

The 1956 Sylvania TV Award nominations described Uncle Mike this way:

“Mr. Mearian’s genius as a humorist plus the best available children’s cartoons add up to youthful entertainment fun that is always in the best of taste.”

 

Virgil Booth

Virgil Booth at the Buffalo Zoo,

There was also Mr Bumble’s Curiosity Shop. WBEN Announcer Virgil Booth was Mr. Bumbles. Booth also hosted regular kids shows as himself from the with Clayton Freiheit at Buffalo Zoo and Ellsworth Jaeger at the Buffalo Museum of Science. he also hosted cartoons through the years as Channel 4’s baggagemaster.

The soft – spoken announcer on WBEN’s Luncheon Club recently retired as Ch. 4’s baggagemaster and opened Mr. Bumble’s Old Curiosity Shop– filled with items bound to attract young viewers.

Mr. Bumbles takes about 30 minutes putting on makeup and costume each Saturday afternoon. He becomes a man in his 70s who uses the language of children to heighten their inquisitiveness during the 5 to 6 PM Saturday program.

Jerry Brick

Uncle Jerry Brick, WBEN-TV

Uncle Jerry Brick– who was the floor manager of the Meet the Millers Show during the week, hosted a Sunday morning kids talent show through the 50s and 60s that introduced more than 2,000 talented youngsters on Channel 4.

The show was described in the paper this way:  TV cameras capture priceless expressions of visiting tots as Jerry asks questions during the outing.

Bob & Ellen Knechtel

They created and operated the puppets and marionettes seen on Channel 4 from the 1940s through the 1970s.

 

Why Talking Proud was more than just a (cheesy) jingle…

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

“Talking Proud” was Buffalo’s anthem at a time when many of us didn’t feel so great about Buffalo.

When the song and campaign were released 1980, Bethlehem Steel, where more than 20-thousand men once worked, was winding down and the furnaces would soon go cold.

There was a billboard behind City Hall asking the last person leaving Buffalo to turn out the light.

MORE: Buffalo in the 80’s: Talking Proud 

Our region had spent a lot of time in National headlines as the epicenter of environmental disaster at Love Canal and the home of snowy death with Blizzard of ’77.

We needed something to hang our hats on.

It was easy to feel down about Buffalo, and over the last 40 years, most of us have said, “We’re Talking Proud!” ironically…  but having something, anything to rally around made a difference and gave us Buffalonians a sense of identity—

Even if we giggled a little as Terry Licata did he leaned back arm-swinging march through the streets of Buffalo.

This is a later follow up to the original Talking Proud television spot. These continued to air through the 1980s. The video is courtesy of  retrontario.com, whose webmaster Ed Conroy has posted hundreds of great Buffalo (and, as you might guess, Southern Ontario) television clips from the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

More from the Retrontario YouTube Channel: youtube.com/user/Retrontario

The Jolly Little Baker on the label of Kaufman’s Rye Bread

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This week we’ve been looking back at some of Buffalo’s favorite and best remembered commercial jingles.

So, do you remember where you’ll find the Jolly Little Baker?

That animated little baker spent time on Buffalo televisions from the 50s through the 70s.

As much as the unique, dense rye bread that still sparks life in the palates of Western New Yorkers, our yearning for Kaufman’s rye bread is tied to the fact that the taste is forever linked to that 18-second jingle, permanently implanted in the subconscious of generations of Buffalonians, which many of us could still sing on demand.

MORE: Torn-Down Tuesday: The Kaufman’s Rye Bread sign

Known of course for singing the “Jolly Little Baker” jingle, the pen-and-ink bread maker, wearing a bow tie and pleated chef’s toque was emblazoned on the cellophane wrappers of Kaufman’s various varieties of Rye, pumpernickel, and kaiser rolls.

1956.

The smiling chubby little guy would also appear on the pages of the Courier-Express and Buffalo Evening News offering recipes for “sandwiches of the week.”
These sandwiches of 60 years ago, featuring liverwurst, boiled tongue, and sardines aren’t all in line with most modern palettes, but show us what people were putting on their rye bread in 1957.

Bob Koop sitting at the wheel of a 1985 Chevy Celebrity

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Bob Koop, sitting behind the wheel of photojournalist Dan Summerville’s 1985 Chevy Celebrity news cruiser.

I’m blessed that as a child of the 80s, my ol’man did a lot of channel changing during the local TV news– or should I say, since our TV didn’t have a remote for most of the 80s, that I did a lot of channel changing at dad’s command.

I’m glad I got to watch a lot of Bob Koop. His look and sound were perfect, but his sense for news and writing skills were even better. Even without knowing it, I think I started figuring out how I wanted to be on the news sitting next to my dad watching Bob and Carol most nights on News 4 at 6… Directed by Mike Cunningham, Produced by Vic Baker.

I was honored to work with him once– producing a radio show he was filling in on shortly before he died from Leukemia at the age of 48.

All that… and this is just a really cool super 80s photo.

WEBR’s “The Sound of the City”– it’s gr-r-r-r-r-reat!

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Starting in 1962, The Sound of the City became WEBR Radio’s theme song, and it’s one of the sounds that makes Buffalo, Buffalo.

Chances are you’ve heard it enough times over the 56 years since it debuted that you might even know all the words, but get ready to hear it a bit differently from now on.

The Sound of the City, WEBR 970. 1962 ad.

“The Sound of the City” was rewritten and resung and for many radio stations and cities around the country– Buffalo wasn’t even first. The son was originally written for San Francisco radio station KSFO, which was owned by Gene Autry.

Johnny Mann, who was best known as the music director on the Joey Bishop Show, wrote “The Sound of the City,” and the track is credited to the Johnny Mann Singers.

Thurl Ravenscroft, 1983.

For the original San Francisco version, as well as the Buffalo version, among those nameless faceless Johnny Mann singers was Thurl Ravenscroft.

You might not know his name, but you know Ravenscroft’s work. While Boris Karloff did the speaking parts in the original “Grinch Who Stole Christmas” cartoon movie, it was the big voiced Thurl who did all the singing parts.

Ravenscroft’s bellowing voice is probably most recognizable as the voice of Tony the Tiger, the spokesman for Frosted Flakes.

Next time you listen to “The Sound of City,” make sure you listen for the deep throaty vibrato, and know that “it’s grrrrreat.”

The Pioneering Women of Buffalo Broadcasting

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Here’s a complete round up of our week long look at some of the iconic and pioneering women of Buffalo Broadcasting.

You can listen to all the stories here, and scroll down the page for stories, images, and links to more.

In the earliest days of radio in Buffalo, it was unusual to hear a female voice that wasn’t singing.

And when you did hear a woman coming through your speaker in the 30s, 40s, or 50s, she was usually talking about cooking or discussing “women’s issues.”

Among the earliest women announcers:

“Amanda,” whose real name was Dorothy Shank, hosted a show on WEBR, sponsored by AM&A’s.

MORE: WEBR’s “Today with Amanda” with tips from AM&A’s, 1951

 

World War II changed things briefly, but not a lot.

A memo from the executive offices at The Buffalo Evening News warned it’s radio broadcasters to NOT mention the name of a new female announcer– that despite the fact that Vera Holly was a very popular singer on the station for a decade.

Vera Holly was a singer, emcee, and announcer on WBEN in the 1930s and 1940s.

She had been a long-time regular on WBEN’s “International House Party” and had received top billing on the show, but wasn’t allowed to identify herself for the nearly six months she was reading station breaks and newscasts on WBEN.

A CBS gig on “The Jerry Lester Show” landed her in front of the same microphone as the biggest star of 1943– Frank Sinatra.

“I had a great kick working on the same show as Frank,” Holly told The Buffalo Evening News. “Confidentially, he really is cute. And much nicer than I expected.”

When she was picked up for a network show in 1946, she was called “one of the most promising young stars of radio. Holly went on to announce her own network programs on Mutual, CBS, and ABC.

Beverly, WKBW. 1978

Even as late as the 70s, women disc jockeys were an oddity.  A disc jockey known on the air only as “Beverly” was WKBW Radio’s first woman disc jockey, hosting overnights in the mid-70s.

As Beverly Burke, she went on to replace Oprah Winfrey in a local TV news anchoring job in Baltimore.

She’s also anchored TV news in Washington and Los Angeles.


The women of early TV in Buffalo

We’re looking at the women who were the first to make their presence felt in what has traditionally been the male-dominated broadcasting industry.

Television came to Buffalo with Channel 4 in 1948, and the only women prominently featured in the ceremonial sign on of the station were the chorus girls from the Town Casino.

The Town Casino chorus girls were the only women featured on Channel 4’s sign-on in 1948.

Some of the pioneering women in Buffalo TV were the same women who pioneered in Buffalo radio.

Sally Work was called “the dean of women commentators” by the Buffalo Evening News. She’d already been on the radio for 15 years by the time she took her act to the new medium of TV. When Channel 2 signed on, Helen Neville took her radio act to TV as well.

Sally Work, left, and Mildred Miller, right, judge a doll contest in 1954.

Of course, there were those who made their first mark in TV as well.

Starting in 1952, a beloved and strong woman made her debut on Channel 4.

Viewers watched Mildred Miller and her husband Bill cook and interview celebrities for 20 years on “Meet the Millers.

Mildred and Bill Miller.

Doris Jones was first seen as a commercial model on Channel 4 when she was still in high school. She’d eventually host a women’s show on Channel 7, and become Buffalo’s first female staff announcer and weathercaster on Channel 2.

Paula Drew was the spokesperson for Niagara Frontier’s dairy farmers, and as Buffalo’s milk maid, she did weather forecasts wrapped around milk commercials. She was later the voice of Tops Friendly Markets.

While Paula Drew was at Tops, it was Joey at Super Duper in the 70s and 80s.

Super Duper’s Joey Heinz.

The pioneering women of broadcast journalism in Buffalo

 

Our week long look at the women who had pioneering roles in Buffalo radio and TV continues, with a look at the first women of television news in Buffalo.

1962

From the earliest days, there were relatively few women on Buffalo TV– and even fewer in what we’d now consider journalism roles.

In 1962, the Courier-Express reported that WKBW Radio publicist Joan Marshall was about to become Buffalo’s first “lady newscaster” on TV. Doris Jones did the weather on Channel 2.

The first stand-out woman on the air with real news chops was the late Liz Dribben on Channel 7.

Liz Dribben, Eyewitness News.

She’d anchor morning newscasts before co-hosting Dialing for Dollars with Nolan Johannes. She left Buffalo and became a CBS News writer and producer, working with Mike Wallace and Walter Cronkite among others.

Susan King, WGR-TV 2. She was the lead anchor on the 6 and 11 newscasts on Channel 2 for several months after Ron Hunter left but before Rich Kellman was hired.
Rich Kellman and Sheila Murphy

Channel 2’s Susan King was Buffalo’s first full-time woman journalist on TV when she joined the Ron Hunter Report in 1972.  She anchored the 6 o’clock news after Hunter left, and before Rich Kellman arrived. She’s now the dean of the UNC School of Journalism.

When King moved on from Buffalo, she was followed by Shelia Murphy at Channel 2, who co-anchored with Kellman before moving onto politics.

Carol Crissey (later Jasen) broke the 31 year streak of men on the Channel 4 anchor desk when she anchored with John Beard and then Bob Koop. Carol joined Marie Rice who had started at 4 two years earlier as a tough street-reporting journalist at Channel 4.

Carol Jasen was at WIVB for 23 years, Marie Rice 27 years.

Channel 4 staff, 1979. Top row: Gary Gunther, Larry Hunter, Marie Rice, Allen Costantini. Middle Row: Kevin O’Connell, Carol Crissey (Jasen), John Beard, Van Miller. Bottom Row: Brian Blessing, Sandy White, Rich Newberg, Suzi Makai

Susan Banks began her Buffalo career on Eyewitness News in 1977. She’d go on to anchor at Channel 2 and Channel 7 before retiring from TV news 29 years later.

 


Iconic women still on the air in Buffalo

This week we’ve been looking at many of the iconic women of Buffalo’s Broadcasting history, and today we’re looking at a few who are still here and still broadcasting.

The world of television news is a transient one, and when we look at the women who’ve been on Buffalo TVs since the 1980s are only a few names to mention.

Van Miller, Jacquie Walker, and Carol Jasen WIVB, 1986

Jacquie Walker has been anchoring newscasts on Channel 4 longer than anyone else ever has at a single station in Buffalo– 35 years at WIVB.

Linda Pellegrino has been at Channel 7 since the 80’s, too, first with the weather outside and then on AM Buffalo since 1990.

Maria Genero started her TV career at Channel 4 in the mid-80s before heading to Miami, LA and New York. She came back to Buffalo at Channel 7 in 2001, and has been at Channel 2 since 2006.

Maria Genero, Rich Newberg, Brian Blessing. WIVB, mid 80s.

Coming to our TV screens has made other Western New York women iconic as well.

Goldie Gardner spent 32 years asking kids to bring their parents to the TV during Sesame Street membership drives on Channel 17.

Bill Devine and Goldie Gardner asking for your membership support of your favorite programs.

Terry Licata-Braunstein’s name might not register immediately, but you know her walk.

The memory of her style long outlasted the TV campaign.

MORE: Buffalo in the 80s: Talking Proud!

 

Iconic women still on the air in Buffalo

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This week we’ve been looking at many of the iconic women of Buffalo’s Broadcasting history, and today we’re looking at a few who are still here and still broadcasting.

The world of television news is a transient one, and when we look at the women who’ve been on Buffalo TVs since the 1980s are only a few names to mention.

Van Miller, Jacquie Walker, and Carol Jasen WIVB, 1986

Jacquie Walker has been anchoring newscasts on Channel 4 longer than anyone else ever has at a single station in Buffalo– 35 years at WIVB.

Linda Pellegrino has been at Channel 7 since the 80’s, too, first with the weather outside and then on AM Buffalo since 1990.

Maria Genero started her TV career at Channel 4 in the mid-80s before heading to Miami, LA and New York. She came back to Buffalo at Channel 7 in 2001, and has been at Channel 2 since 2006.

Maria Genero, Rich Newberg, Brian Blessing. WIVB, mid 80s.

Coming to our TV screens has made other Western New York women iconic as well.

Goldie Gardner spent 32 years asking kids to bring their parents to the TV during Sesame Street membership drives on Channel 17.

Bill Devine and Goldie Gardner asking for your membership support of your favorite programs.

Terry Licata-Braunstein’s name might not register immediately, but you know her walk.

The memory of her style long outlasted the TV campaign.

MORE: Buffalo in the 80s: Talking Proud!