The Friday Night Polka—One-On-One Sports with the Bulldog, WBEN

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

I don’t remember exactly how it started on the air, but I know that back in the early/mid-90s, when I was the producer of One-On-One Sports with Chris “The Bulldog” Parker on WBEN, I was buying up as many obscure albums as I could from Salvation Army and AMVETS thrift shops—including polka albums with interesting cover art of great song titles.

Chris “The Bulldog” Parker, mid 90s at WBEN.

At some point, with me going through these albums, Chris must have said—we should have a Friday Night Polka—so we did.

The show closed with a polka every Friday night, and we eventually had a good rotation of songs about drinking and about Buffalo.

Heard here for the first time in more than 20 years—a medley of the Friday Night Polkas from WBEN’s One-On-One Sports with the Bulldog.

We’d only play a minute or so from each selection at 10:59pm to close out the show—these are the minute long clips we’d play.

Chris and I really enjoyed the music– but we’d get side eye from the lovely call screeners Monica and Rose (which is really how most of the show went most nights anyway.)

One-on-One Sports with the Bulldog Friday Night Polka Medley

On this track:

  • “Bulldog Talking Sports” theme
  • Bulldog welcomes you to a Friday night, 1996
  • Ice Cubes & Beer, Ray Budzilek & The Boys
  • Buffalo Polka, Krew Brothers Orchestra
  • No Beer in Heaven, Li’l Wally
  • Bartender Polka, Walter Solek
  • Meister Brau Polka, Li’l Wally
  • Why don’t you people give the ball scores?— from a complaining voicemail
ME! Steve Cichon, producing One-On-One Sports in the WBEN control room, 1995

The Bulldog theme is taken from an aircheck… and you can hear the ancient WBEN delay system folding back on itself as the theme music plays.

One of my personal all-time favorite moments in music came when the late, great Tony Krupski of the Krew Brothers played the Buffalo Polka on demand– and grinned from ear-to-ear when I sang along with him, knowing all the words because of this great Friday night tradition in Buffalo radio.

Na zdrowie and sto lat!

On WBEN’s 90th birthday, the station’s longest-serving announcer is still on the air…

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

WBEN signed on the air September 8, 1930—90 years ago today.

The station’s birthday is important to me because the station has played such an important role in my life as a listener, employee, and now alumni of the station.

I first walked into the station as a 15-year-old intern, and would spend the next five years working my way up through the producer ranks up to what was the highest profile producer job in radio—producer of Buffalo Bills Football with Van Miller and John Murphy. I also met and worked alongside the woman who’d become my wife during those days on Elmwood Avenue.

Five years later, I returned to the station, this time in the newsroom—and over the next decade I worked my way up to news director.

Through all my years in media, I always took special pleasure in being able to share my passion for Buffalo and Buffalo Broadcasting with the listeners of WBEN, and the station’s birthday, I’ve dipped into the archives to share some of the stories I wrote and produced about WBEN and the people we all listened to at 930am.

Steve Cichon- WBEN celebrates 80 years-1
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Steve Cichon- Brian Meyer inducted into Broadcast Hall of Fame-1
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WBEN’s longest serving announcer

The 90th anniversary of WBEN’s first sign-on brings to mind many of the stable and authoritative voices which have unflappably informed Buffalo over those decades at 930am.

The longest tenured of those voices remains a daily fixture.

From her early days of airborne traffic reporting from the Skyview 930 helicopter to the last two decades as morning drive host, Susan Rose has been a steady, unwavering, and professional voice on WBEN and a clear connection to the great news voices of generations past.

Susan Rose with current co-host Brian Mazurowski

Rose is not your typical “radio star.” She’s never wanted to be. It’s exactly that which makes her a fit in the pantheon of WBEN greats.

“A superb anchor,” wrote Buffalo News critic Anthony Violanti. “Reads the news with journalistic style and skill.”

After graduating from Buffalo State College and starting her radio news career at Lockport’s WLVL, Rose joined WBEN in 1985.

WBEN Newsteam 1988: Brian Meyer, Ed Little, Susan Rose, Tim Wenger, Monica Wilson, Mark Leitner

Her blue-collar approach to journalism combined with 35 years of continuous, daily broadcasting on the station puts her in the same rarified company as past WBEN greats, many of whom she regularly worked with across the decades.

Mark Leitner and Ed Little were WBEN stalwarts and frequent Rose co-anchors through the 80s and 90s.

Rose was hired to join the WBEN news team by legendary news director Jim McLaughlin.

The legendary Lou Douglas was at WBEN for 30 years before retiring, overlapping a couple years with Rose.

After three decades at WKBW, John Zach spent another 18 years at WBEN, including 16 years co-anchoring “Buffalo’s Early News” with Rose.

John Zach & Susan Rose, WBEN, 2002.

While she doesn’t have that booming voice— once considered the most important hallmark of the then all-male radio news profession— Rose’s even and reliable presence has been featured on the station longer than any broadcaster, including Clint Buehlman, who hosted mornings at WBEN for 34 years.

Perhaps that’s part of the secret why Rose’s approach and sound is still as upbeat and fresh as the day she walked through the studio doors 35 years ago.

Rose’s husband, Tim Wenger, was her co-anchor on evening drive news program “Buffalo’s Evening News” in the early 90s.

She doesn’t project her personality into the news. Through her career—rather than stand out in front— she has allowed her writing, editing, news judgement, and steady on-air presence to support the team.

It’s even fair to say Rose avoids the spotlight— but it’s also fair to say when crisis strikes in Buffalo, there aren’t many voices on the airwaves today which bring credibility and calm like hers can.

A recent WBEN bio said “it was always her dream job to work for the number one news station in Buffalo.”

She’s taken it one step further to personify it.

Sandy Beach starts his 52-year run in Buffalo Radio

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


His famous laugh filled Buffalo airwaves for more than 50 years, and the jingle that opened his WBEN talk show for 23 of those years says Sandy Beach is “bigger than life and twice as loud.”

Sandy Beach, inside the KB studio

That may be, but News critic Jeff Simon added this in 2007:

Sandy Beach “may be the most talented figure in (the) storied history of Buffalo radio,” and Beach was the “last legend still heard daily on Buffalo radio.”

Aside from a brief stop in Erie, Pennsylvania and four years in Milwaukee, Beach has been a constant in Buffalo radio since arriving at WKBW to take over the night shift there in 1968.

Listening to even five minutes of his show – any of his shows – over the course of 52 years is explanation enough for why News critic Hal Crowther dubbed Beach “the Needle” shortly after the deejay landed on the Buffalo radio scene.

In a 1972 interview, legendary WKBW Program Director Jeff Kaye said that within four years of arriving in Buffalo, Sandy had “worked every shift on KB except morning drive, and improved the ratings in each part.”

Beach spent the 70s, 80s and 90s in and out of Buffalo as a disc jockey, program director and eventually a talk show host. After leaving his post as KB Radio’s Program Director in the early 80s, he held morning show jobs at Buffalo’s Hot 104 and then Majic 102.

He hosted talk shows on WBEN and WGR before leaving town for the mid-90s, but when he came back to host afternoons on WBEN in 1997, he was ready to make the change permanent.

“I liked playing the oldies,” Sandy said coming back, “but you can only play ‘Doo-Wap-Diddy’ so many times.”

Six years later, he would play oldies once again, this time at WBEN’s sister station and his old stomping grounds, now sporting the call letters WWKB. For the three years KB played music of the 50s and 60s from 2003-06, Beach was a disc jockey mid-mornings and a talk show host for afternoon drive on WBEN.

The show was never edgy or provocative just for the sake of being so—but Beach was strong in proclaiming his often-conservative views and left little room for opinions (or leaders) he thought were weak or unfounded.

Stan Roberts, Dan Neaverth, Sandy Beach. Late 60s.

When he left WBEN in 2020, management called Beach a “provocative and edgy talk show host” who entertained with “distinct humor.” And an unforgettable laugh.

Watching TV rarely gets you on the front page of the paper, but it seems appropriate that it did for the staff at Tonawanda’s Jenss Twin-Ton Department store in 1969.

That man would step foot on the moon is an unimaginable, superlative, epoch-defining feat in human history. But that more than half a billion would watch it happen live on their television sets made it a definitive moment in a broadcast television industry that was barely 20 years old at the time.

Gathered around the TV “to catch a few glimpses of the Apollo 11 events” were Mrs. James Tait, Margaret Robinson, Marian Feldt, Jack Dautch, Grace Hughes, Dorothy Wiegand, Rose Sugden and Rose Ann Fiala.

By the time of the 1969 moon landing, Jenss Twin-Ton’s future was already in doubt as city fathers in the Tonawandas were looking to expand already present Urban Renewal efforts to include the store at Main and Niagara. Jenss Twin-Ton closed in 1976 when the building was bulldozed as urban renewal caught up.


This page is an excerpt from  100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

Jeff Kaye & KB’s War of the Worlds

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


Jeff Kaye might be best remembered by his rich, well-controlled voice and his ability to use it. He came to Buffalo as a rock ‘n’ roll disc jockey in 1966, but very quickly was tapped for more substantial duties.

As program director at WKBW Radio through the late 60s and early 70s, his voice was the station’s anchor. Later, that voice brought an even-greater sense of gravitas to WBEN where did the impossible, replacing Clint Buehlman in 1977.  Eventually, he became the voice of NFL Films and the sound that a generation of football fanatics would associate with those highly-produced highlights packages.

That all-time “voice of God” wasn’t even Kaye’s greatest asset. His ability to turn the fantasy in his head into great radio copy and superbly produced radio elements made him an all-time create force in the history of broadcasting.

His reboot of War of the Worlds on KB, first airing Halloween Night 1968, was an instant classic– impeccably conceived, produced, and promoted.

The masterful promotional folks at KB knew that by sending out this warning–with hope of it being published, that people would flock to hear– as Jeff Kaye puts it in the intro to the 1971 version of the dramatization– “what all the hubhub was about.”

As a producer and programmer, Kaye found superb vehicles not only for his own vocal talent, but also put the stars of KB in situations where they could shine brightest. The writing and production on a piece like “War of the Worlds” stands up 50 years later, and gives the listener a true sense of the talent that went into “playing the hits” on KB.

Three different versions of the War of the Worlds ran on KB. The primary difference in each is the news, the deejay and the music at the start of the show. Sandy Beach was in the original broadcast in 1968, Jack Armstrong was in the 1971 version, and Shane in 1973.

In 1974, Jeff Kaye became the afternoon drive host on KB’s competitor WBEN, effectively ending any future reworking of the “covering of the invasion” half of the show– which remained mostly unchanged through the different broadcasts.

Membership card showing Jeff Kaye, leader of KB’s Teenage Underground.


This page is an excerpt from  100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

On the radio, on the telephone: John Otto (and elsewhere around the dial)

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


WGR Radio News Minutemen, 1961

“I try to skewer with grace. I love being called a curmudgeon.”

John Otto may have been Buffalo’s greatest curmudgeon. Scholarly and erudite, but with a playful silly streak that kept listeners glued to his “conference call of all interested parties” for nearly 40 years.

He spent the 50s and early 60s doing just about everything imaginable on-air— and doing it superbly, first on WBNY and then on WGR, both radio and TV.

He was a classical music host, radio news anchor, and TV weatherman– but he seemed best in his element once he began hosting talk shows, specifically WGR Radio’s “Expression,” a nightly moonlit program which invited “listeners to telephone spontaneous, unrehearsed opinions” starting in 1962. 

Such would be Otto’s gig, more or less, for the next 37 years.

“He’s a good show with his deep, pulpit-shaped voice because his unshakeable confidence forces you take sides,” wrote News Radio Critic Hal Crowther in 1973. “If you agree with him, it’s ‘Give ‘em hell, John,’ but if you’re against him you’re often sorry that there are six or seven miles of night between your fingers and his windpipe.”

“Dracula and I have a lot in common,” Otto told News reporter Mary Ann Lauricella in 1981. “Daylight rather frightens us back into our caves. My metabolism is so attuned to nighttime hours that I’m more comfortable at night, when a velvet cloak is wrapped around the world.”

“He takes delight in practicing conversation as an art,” wrote Lauricella. “He uses a metaphor here, a simile there, perhaps a humorous play on words and weaves them into bright conversational tapestries.”

But Otto preferred self-depreciation to plaudits.

“I’m certainly not modern in anything— from the way I dress to the way I think,” said Otto in 1978, who was still dressing in “outdated narrow ties and straight-legged pants.”

“Weekends, I tend to fall out in customary corduroy slacks and white socks. I even let myself go a day without shaving. It’s a very exciting life I lead,” Buffalo’s congenial co-communicator told News reporter Jane Kwiatkowski in 1986.

His biggest vice, Otto confided nightly to his listeners, was his “regular investment of fortunes at Hamburg or Batavia.” Otto loved the horses, and would announce the winners from the local tracks on his show.

“We have the first three from Batavia Downs,” he’d say, often with commentary on the horse’s name, but sometimes with the hint of disdain in his voice. “It’s the rental of a horse for two minutes to run across the finish line first, and they seldom do,” said Otto of his horsing around.

Catching him in a moment of serious self-reflection, it was clear Otto had loftier goals for his nightly meeting of the minds. “If it works right, it raises the level of community thought and sets people to thinking with some added knowledge they didn’t have before.”

“We want to occupy and engage thoughts and to allow the opportunity for people to have access to a forum they are otherwise denied,” said Otto. “Some people call in who are just passing through and want to say ‘hi’ to the world—to let others know they are alive—a fact sometimes overlooked by the rest of the world.”

Not every caller “wants to unburden himself on the big hot-line issues like Vietnam, Watergate, crime in the streets, drugs, and the rest.” Otto’s often hardboiled entrenchment on those issues easily and often made way for the kind of calls an overnight program attracts.

“We get a lot of older people, lonely people. What they need are some voices in the night. And they have other things on their minds besides the headlines,” said Otto.

“One thing I’ve learned on this show is that many of them have an abiding fascination for marvels. Anything about the supernatural, ESP, UFOs, and experience that can’t be explained—that will get them talking like nothing else.”

For decades, Otto was ol’trusty—the iron horse of radio. Starting in 1955, through his first 30 years in broadcasting, he never missed a day of work—not once called in sick.

John Otto, 1962

However, he landed in the hospital in 1985 with pneumonia. “Forty years of smoking,” he said. The streak was broken and over the next decade and a half, sickness in breathing would slowly take Otto’s life—right before your listenership’s ears.

Eventually, very labored breathing made it difficult for him to get around, and he spent his final year “on the radio, on the telephone” broadcasting from his home. Even in his final days, “John, John, your operator on,” didn’t miss a broadcast. He signed off with his signature “I’ll be with you” on a Friday, went to the hospital on Saturday, and died early Monday. He was 70 when he died in 1999.


Jim Santella’s presence and sensibility blazed the trail for progressive rock radio in Buffalo, starting at WBFO (above), then notably at WGRQ and WUWU. Santella’s on-air presence mellowed in the 90s in a return to WBFO as a blues host and the original co-host of Theater Talk with Anthony Chase. His 2015 book, “Classic Rock, Classic Jock” was itself an instant classic, with an in-depth look back at one of the great eras in Buffalo radio.

This ad from a 1967 Buffalo Hockey Bisons program explained some of the far-out jive coming from America’s youth. It was clearly meant as a joke, but probably actually provided insight to more than one dad, sitting in the gray seats at the Aud, flipping through the program to find a Hershey Bears or Cleveland Barons roster.

Lifelong Lockport resident Hank Nevins has been heard up and down Buffalo’s radio dial for more than 40 years, but his career began overseas.

He volunteered to head to Vietnam the day after he graduated from broadcasting school, and was heard on American Forces Vietnam Network in starting in 1969.

In Southeast Asia, he worked with, among others, Pat Sajak.

Since returning home, Nevins worked as a disc jockey, host, and manager at radio stations in Western New York nearly without pause. Most recently, he’s spent more than a dozen years as the Saturday morning host on WBEN.


Dennis Majewicz was both Mac McGuire and Mike Melody at WNIA in the late 60s. He went onto a long career in broadcast engineering at Ch.4, Empire Sports Network, and now back at 1230am.

The deejay’s names never changed at WNIA, neither did the fact that Richard Maltby’s Midnight Mood would play every night at midnight. To put it mildly, WNIA was a quirky station. The daily noon time Catholic prayers were bookended by rock ‘n’ roll music.

There was also the reminder to be big, be a builder. The minute-long, run-on diatribe was the brainchild of station owner Gordon Brown in reaction to the war protests of the late 60s.

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 become 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.


Muhammad Ali in the WBEN studios with “Viewpoint” host Garfield Hinton.

Vice President Hubert Humphrey makes a Presidential campaign swing through Western New York in 1968, with KB newsman Jim Fagan over his shoulder holding up the microphone. Next to Jim is Buffalo Congressman Thaddeus Dulski. Over Humphrey’s other shoulder is Erie County Democratic Chairman Joe Crangle.


This page is an excerpt from  100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

Ground up by radio: Bill Masters & Frank Benny… and elsewhere around the dial

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


Known as Mr. Warmth, Bill Masters had feet planted in two different worlds. He hosted middays on WBEN through the 60s and 70s, but “understood” what was going on elsewhere in the culture and on the radio dial—He was one of the guys at the Babcock Boys’ Club with Danny Neaverth and Joey Reynolds.

Maybe he’d say something outrageous, but it was hard to notice, blending in with the calm, homespun, aw shucks delivery that made him a great fit on WBEN.

“He was known for his acerbic wit, rebellious stands and wild, unpredictable personality,” wrote News reporter Anthony Violanti in 1989.

But Masters’ world fell apart in 1975 when he suffered a nervous breakdown. Losing his high-profile WBEN job and his family, Masters would spend the next couple decades bouncing between radio jobs and the welfare rolls.

“Radio is a terrible f—— business,” Masters told Violanti. “When you are a radio personality, every day of your life you give your pound of flesh. Sometimes, you never get it back.”

Frank Benny was Buffalo radio’s “master of the one-liners.” He could fire them off as fast as Carson.

But that’s not necessarily what people think of when they hear his name.

Frank Benny’s story was called “the most outstanding comeback in the history of Buffalo broadcasting” by News critic Gary Deeb. Nearly half a century later, that record appears to be intact.

Benny was a constant on Buffalo radio dials for 25 years. His voice and style were smooth and sonorous. He quickly became Buffalo’s definitive warm, friendly announcer upon coming to WGR Radio in 1965. By 1968, he was a regular on Ch.2 as well, first on the sports desk, and then for nearly a decade as the station’s main weather anchor at 6 and 11.

By 1970, he was one of Buffalo’s most in-demand announcers. He told The News he was generally working on about four hours of sleep. His day started as WGR Radio’s morning man, then he hosted WGR-TV’s Bowling for Dollars and Payday Playhouse 4 o’clock movie, and he did the weather forecasts on Ch.2. He was the NBA Buffalo Braves’ first PA announcer in the 1970-71 season.

In five years at WGR, he became one of Buffalo’s most popular media personalities. That was helpful in identifying him the day he robbed a bank on his way home from the radio station in June 1971.

A holdup of the Homestead Savings and Loan at the corner of Main and Chateau Terrace in Snyder netted $503 for a man wearing a stocking over his head and brandishing a (later-found-to-be toy) gun.

Minutes later, Amherst Police were arresting Benny at gunpoint in the driveway of his Williamsville home.

Frank Benny, Ch.2 sports, late 60s

The case was a local sensation. Management at WGR and at least three other stations ordered that the on-air staff not make any snide remarks or jokes at Benny’s expense.

One notable exception was Ch.7, where the 6 p.m. “Eyewitness News Reel” featured the title card “Forecast: Cloudy” for the otherwise-straight Benny story. At 11, the title was changed to “Under the Weather.”

The disc jockey, TV weather man and father of two was charged with third-degree robbery and was tried in a non-jury trial. The prosecution rested when Benny’s attorney agreed to the facts of the case — that the announcer had indeed stuck-up the bank — but that he was innocent of the charges in the “poorly planned, ludicrous robbery” because he was temporarily insane.

Four psychiatrists testified that Benny was “not in sufficient possession of his faculties at the time of the holdup.” A Buffalo General psychiatrist who had examined Benny said that the temporary mental illness was caused by extreme and prolonged stress.

First, Benny was a central figure in a protracted labor strike at WGR AM-FM-TV. Eighty members of NABET, the union representing nearly all the operations personnel and announcers at WGR, spent nine months on strike. About 10 — including Benny — crossed picket lines to continue to work. Station management provided Benny an armed guard after rocks were thrown through the windows of his home and his family was threatened.

Benny’s family was also threatened the very morning of the robbery. He’d racked up thousands of dollars of gambling debts, and the bookmakers were calling in their markers — or else.

In October 1971, the judge found Benny not guilty by reason of mental disease, and he was ordered to spend two weeks at Buffalo State Hospital.

Frank Benny in the WGR Radio studio.

Then, in December, within six months of the robbery, Benny was back on WGR Radio and TV. Having been found not guilty, and “on a wave of public sympathy,” management thought it was the right thing to do.

“A lot of people have told me that it takes guts to do this, to go back on the air,” Benny told The News during his first week back at WGR. “But to me, it’s not a courageous thing. It’s a simple case of going back to what I know.”

That’s not to say that Benny wasn’t thankful.

“It’s hard to fathom that people can be that nice,” Benny told News critic Deeb. “It’s nice to know people can be forgiven.”

All told, Benny spent 19 years at WGR, walking away from the station in 1985. For a year-and-a-half, he was the morning man at WYRK Radio, before finishing out the ’80s as a weekend staffer at WBEN.

No matter what his personal life sounded like, he always sounded like Frank Benny on the radio. After leaving WBEN Radio in 1989, Benny left for Florida, where he was on the radio for 16 years — until he died in 2005 at age 67.

Frank Benny congratulates a WGR Hi-Lo Loser-Winner.


Two completely different looking AM Radio airstaffs of the late 60s. WBEN’s Christmas carolers are Bill Masters, John Corbett, Clint Buehlman, Ken Philips, Gene Kelly, and Al Fox. Van Miller, Stan Barron, Jack Ogilvie, and John Luther.

 WYSL’s air staff was not quite as clean-cut. Standing outside the station’s 425 Franklin Street studios are Jack Evans, Roger Christian, Jack Sheridan, Michael O’Shea (Howard Lapidis), and Jim Bradley (Jerry Reo). Kneeling: Rufus Coyote (Lee Poole), Kevin O’Connell, Mike Butts, and George Hamberger.

 From the back of the WYSL XXI Boss Oldies album, with Beethoven wearing sunglasses on the cover. Second from the left, Gary Byrd, went onto a ground breaking career in New York City.

Bishop Timon grad George Hamberger and Bennett grad Kevin O’Connell both enjoyed long careers in broadcasting. Hamberger was WGR’s morning man in the 80s. O’Connell worked at Ch.4 before heading to Los Angeles for the early 80s. He spent 25 years as Ch.2’s main weather anchor.


This page is an excerpt from  100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

From the Editor’s Desk… WBEN

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 




Through the 50s and 60s, WBEN AM-FM-TV was thought of as a single unit, The Buffalo Evening News Stations. Talent and technicians often moved between the stations to where they were needed, and the product in each place was reflective of each other.

In 1968, when Phil “Bucky” Buchanan and John Eaton (left) would arrive at WBEN around 4am to begin writing news for Jack Ogilvie, the most you’d hear from them is a mention from Jack about who was sitting at the Editor’s desk.

Soon thereafter, news gathering operations for WBEN Radio and Ch.4 were made independent for the first time. The newsrooms were at opposite ends of the same hall at 2077 Elmwood Avenue, and information was freely shared— but editorial decisions and staff were structurally separated. Five full-time writers and a news director were assigned to WBEN Radio, as separating the newsrooms allowed for a change in union rules which barred writers from reporting on air, and announcers from writing.

One immediate change was to hear the voices of long-time “news editors” Marty Gleason and Fran Lucca on the air at WBEN, after the two men had spent decades writing scripts for Ogilvie, Lou Douglas, Ward Fenton, and others to read.

Marty Gleason, right, at the editor’s desk

Fran Lucca spent more than 60 years in Buffalo media, starting with a column he wrote for the Buffalo Evening News as a Boy Scout in 1939. After returning from active duty in the Navy following World War II, Lucca spent 23 years at WBEN AM-FM-TV as a writer, reporter, and producer, and then another 14 years at WNED-TV creating documentary-style reports on local subjects for Ch.17.

Fran Lucca takes a quick smoke break in the WBEN-TV newsroom.

The change went both ways. Some longtime news “announcers” couldn’t handle the role of journalist.

Longtime announcer Lou Douglas loved it.

The Korean War vet came to WBEN-AM/FM/TV in 1957 and his unflappable, smart, level-headed approach to news anchoring and interviewing was part of the fabric of the station for 30 years.

In his early years as a junior announcer at The Buffalo Evening News stations, television still played second fiddle to AM radio. Many of his early assignments were on Ch.4, including regular 6pm walks from WBEN’s Statler studios to The Buffalo Evening News’ building near the foot of Main Street. He’d read– as announced at the beginning of each newscast, “From the Editorial Floor of the Buffalo Evening News” — the 6 o’clock television news as prepared by the newspaper staff.

Douglas would continue to appear as a reporter, host, and announcer on TV through the 1970s, but he is best remembered for his work at WBEN Radio. It was his voice that anchored radio coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s visit to Buffalo in 1962. He broadcast from inside the prison complex during the Attica uprising over WBEN Radio, as well.

Living in Kenmore, his home was closest to the WBEN’s Elmwood Avenue studios– which meant extended duty for Lou during the Blizzard of 1977.

In spanning three decades, Douglas really had two separate careers at WBEN– one as a staff announcer, and one as a journalist. He was one of the few to excel at both.

As civil unrest and student protests rocked the UB campus through the late 60s and early 70s, WBEN’s Lou Douglas (standing) was one of the voices of reason, using his evening news interview program to bring together school administrators and dissident students.

Al Fox brought humor and insight to the WBEN Farm Report show, which he hosted during the 5am hour on WBEN for 28 years, starting in 1947.

“I learned that you’ve got to spend time with the farmers to know what they are thinking,” he said in 1961. “Only then can you provide them with the kind of program they want and need.”


This page is an excerpt from  100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

More images from around Buffalo’s TV dial in the 60s

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


Broadcasting live from the Erie County Fair is a tradition that dates back to the earliest days of TV in Buffalo, and Meet the Millers—starring turkey farmers Bill and Mildred Miller—were regulars at the fair all through the 50s and 60s. They’re shown here with another Ch.4 personality ready to broadcast live from Hamburg—John Corbett (left).

WKBW-TV’s broadcast license renewal was held up in the early 60s for a lack of quality local programming, but fans of campy old monster movies didn’t mind. Films like Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman were regular fare on Ch.7—and a generation later helped spark Off Beat Cinema’s quirky tribute to the genre on the station.

In 1968, WGR-TV’s new news team included George Redpath, Pat Fagan, Doris Jones, and Frank Benny.


 By the end of the 60s, WGR-TV’s anchor team had changed again—this time with Henry Marcotte (above) with news, Mike Nolan (below) with sports, and Frank Benny—who had been on the sports desk—moved over to the weather map.  Marcotte didn’t hide his conservative views– which made him the target of protesting UB students and striking NABET members who watched him cross their picket lines. Replaced by Ron Hunter, Marcotte went on to work as an editorial writer and booth announcer for NBC in New York City.


Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy, R&B singer Ruth McFadden, actress Barbara Anderson, “You Asked for It” host Jack Smith, and telethon chairman Michael Allis in the Ch.7 studios.

Gov. Nelson Rockefeller visits with Irv Weinstein at Ch.7’s Main Street studios.


The media gathers for Jack Kemp’s 1969 announcement that he’s retiring from football and running for Congress. That’s Ch.4’s Ray Finch, Ch.4’s Paul Maze, Ch.7’s Sam Brunetta with handheld camera, Ch.4’s Virgil Booth, Larry Felser, Ch.4’s Len Johnson on audio, Ch.7’s John Winston, Ch.4’s Van Miller, Jack Kemp, and Ch.7’s Rick Azar.

Ch.4 photojournalist Bill Cantwell got mixed up in the action covering Buffalo’s civil rights protests of 1967. Cantwell was best known over his long career for his serene nature shots used during Ch.4’s weather segments.

TV news gathering and video recording technology rapidly evolved in the 60s. News editor John Kreiger (left) is writing copy from film shot by Mike Mombrea, Sr. (right) and edited by Quint Renner (center). Mombrea spent 32 years as a photojournalist at Ch.4, starting as a true pioneer—a TV news cameraman in the days when TV was just starting. It was through Mike’s viewfinder that Western New York witnessed the Attica Prison uprising, the installation of Pope John Paul II, and somewhere north of one million feet of news film capturing the day-to-day happenings of Western New York.

Recording video tape in the field for news purposes was still a decade away, but by Ch.4’s 20th anniversary in 1968, the station had three color video tape machines.  

Engineers Frank Maser, Ralph Voigt, and Edgar Steeb with VTRs.


In 1969, WBEN-TV revamped its news format, calling their newscasts “First Team News.”

A deluge of print ads showed the team in action, including news anchor Chuck Healy, reporting from the dewatered Niagara Falls alongside the WBEN-TV News mobile unit, Van Miller from Bills practice with– among others– Number 40 Ed Rutkowski looking on, and weather man Ken Philips in studio in front of his maps.


WBEN also very heavily promoted the broadcasts of Buffalo Bills Football with Van Miller, Stan Barron, and Dick Rifenburg.  In the booth at the Rockpile: Linda Arnold, Herm Brunotte, Willard Fredericks, Jim Georgeson, Bruce Wexler. Murray Wilkinson, Dick Rifenburg, Stan Barron, Van Miller, Tony Vacanti

The WBEN Bills Team: Bruce Wexler, Dr. Ed Gicewicz, Art Graff, Dick Rifenburg, Ray Sinclair, Willard Fredericks, Van Miller, Jim Georgeson, Stan Barron, Bob Werner, Linda Arnold, Herm Brunotte, and Tony Vacanti


This page is an excerpt from  100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

Dialing for Dollars

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


“A lot of friendliness and little schmaltz seem to work just fine for ‘Dialing for Dollars’,” wrote Buffalo Evening News Critic Gary Deeb in 1971, by which time, the show had already been a mid-morning mainstay on Ch.7 for seven years.

Nolan Johannes came to WKBW-TV in May 1964 — and by the end of the year, was the permanent host of the brand new “Dialing for Dollars.” His first co-host was Liz Dribben, who left Ch.7, eventually joining CBS in New York as a writer and producer for such luminaries as Walter Cronkite, Mike Wallace, Charles Osgood and Dan Rather.

Lafayette High and UB grad Liz Dribben left Ch.7 in 1969 after being refused pay equity with her male counterparts at the station.

Aside from phone calls trying to give away money, the show was filled with interviews of the everyday women in the audience, twice-weekly exercise tips from UB’s Dr. Len Serfustini, syndicated features from “The Galloping Gourmet” Graham Kerr and “Fashions in Sewing” with Lucille Rivers.

Liz Dribben and Phyllis Diller, wearing Bills clothes and doing a workout routine on “Dialing for Dollars.”

The half-hour show grew to 90 minutes, and in 1969, weatherman and “Rocketship 7” host Dave Thomas joined Johannes as co-host.

And even decades after the show went off the air, most Buffalonians of a certain age will be able to recall without hesitation the names of the guys in the “Dialing for Dollars” band — Jimmy and Johnny.

In 1978, Thomas left Ch.7 for Philadelphia, and “Dialing for Dollars” was reformatted to become “AM Buffalo.” Johannes left Ch.7 in 1983 to become a news anchor in Scranton, Pa.

Jimmy Edwin, drums, and Johnny Banaszak, accordion, on the set of Dialing for Dollars. Banaszak was also one of the men who wore the Promo the Robot costume on Rocketship 7 through the years.

Nolan Johannes on the set of Dialing for Dollars, inside WKBW-TV s Main Street studios.


This page is an excerpt from  100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

Ramblin’ Lou & the Family Band

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


“The big man with the gentle voice and the white Stetson.”

There’s no doubt who Buffalo News reporter Dan Herbeck was describing– but Buffalo’s pioneer of country music, Ramblin’ Lou Schriver. He’s performed at the Grand Ole Opry and he and his wife Joanie Marshall are in the Country Music Hall of Fame.  But it all started much more simply than that.

As a senior at Tonawanda High, Lou Schriver walked into the brand new WJJL Radio in the Elks Building in Niagara Falls and asked for an on-air try-out.

The station manager liked the sound, and offered Lou the chance at a daily, unpaid show.

He was driving his 1933 Ford to the station every day before school for a 15-minute program of “hillbilly music,” and it caught on.

Ramblin’ Lou for Milk for Health

“When I started, country music was not the thing. In the early days, more people ridiculed it,” said Schriver in 1978. “But I was very proud to be called country.”

The grandson of “an old-time Pennsylvania fiddler who rode through the hills looking for dances to play,” Lou spent the next 17 years on the radio in Niagara Falls, and building an audience for country music all across Western New York.

“I love the music. I love the people who love the music. The kind of people who like country music are down-to-earth. There’s nothing put-on about them,” said Lou, who came to Buffalo in 1964 to help build a country sound for WWOL Radio as the station’s program director.

Joanie Marshall, also known as Mrs. Lou Schriver, grew up in Cheektowaga—but she, too, is all country. She was nine months pregnant when she played her double-necked electric guitar with Buck Owens when the country legend played on a Buffalo stage.

She felt a little woozy during the show, but glowed in the big applause from the audience and praise from Owens on the stage.

Only hours later, Ramblin’ Lou rushed his wife to the hospital, and Lou Jr. was born.

The Schrivers have always made their music and their business a family affair. Early on, the band included Lou, Joanie, Joanie’s dad “Bashful Eddie” Marshall on the bass, legendary side man “Accordion Zeke” Cory, Don Atkinson on drums and Bill Dyet on the steel guitar. They played gigs around the region together, and also on “The WGR Jamboree” on Ch.2.

In 1970, the Schrivers bought WMMJ Radio from Stan Jasinski, who was selling the station he built on William Street in Lancaster to pour his resources into the television station he was starting, WUTV-TV Ch.29.

Among the radio station’s first employees was Accordion Zeke—who became a WXRL Account Executive.

Lou Jr. eventually joined the “family band” on drums. Daughter Lori Ann plays the fiddle, and Lynn Carol Schriver sings and plays electric piano. Through the 80s, Linda Lou was the receptionist at WXRL and a featured singer in the family band. She started singing with the band at age 4 on Ch.2, and at 13 replaced her grandpa on the bass in the band.

“The family that plays together, stays together,” said Lou, who always treated everyone like family, and had associations that stretch more than four decades with The Erie County Fair, Milk for Health, Tops, and a host of other sponsors.

The Schrivers at WXRL, 1970.


This page is an excerpt from  100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon