By Steve Cichonsteve@buffalostories.com@stevebuffalo
The essence of Buffalo Stories is defining and celebrating the people, places, and things that make Buffalo… Buffalo.
That’s Buffalo’s pop culture heritage-– and that’s what you’ll find as you scroll through these stories or search the collected works of one of WNY’s most prolific pop culture historians of the last decade for something specific…
By all accounts, I have a pretty cool and interesting job. I spend my day wandering the Niagara Frontier talking to Newsmakers and regular people, often finding myself in the midst of the announcements and events that shape the lives of WNYers…
It sounds glamorous, but sometimes the important assignments can leave a reporter ragged… Like the night I slept in the car outside the State Police Barracks in Fredonia at the height of the Ralph “Bucky” Phillips hunt… Or the 5 days without a shower (!) covering Hurricane Katrina down in Louisiana.
I’m not looking for sympathy here… I’m just lamenting the fact that no one, on any story I’ve ever been on, looked as “Movie-Star Cool” as WKBW Radio News Director Jim McLaughlin did in this 1971 picture taken at the height of the Attica Prison Riot. His tie know slightly ascue, curly locks ever-so tussled, and the caption decribes him as “with cigar.” (Not to mention the extra cigars in the breast pocket.)
Chances are, no matter the era, that I’d never look that cool doing my job (OK, you’re probably right… Never look cool period.) Though I might have been smoking a cigar, I’d probably be standing there Like WKBW’s Jim Fagan or Bob Buyer from the Buffalo Evening News… Just as weary, but without the panache. Even given that I know I wouldn’t have been the cool Perry White style reporter….. It still would have been great to work side-by-side with Jim McLaughlin (with cigar).
I’ve been working on a few special projects over the past few days… First… You can see it be clicking on the link…
You’ll see this video looped along with a big display I put together on the Santa Show at Fairgrounds for thier Christmas Show…
I’ve also spent some time putting together props to help a build an 80’s radio studio for a movie being shot here in Buffalo. They’re using the old Ward Beck Board from the WBEN Newsbooth as used from 1975-2000 at the Elmwood Ave Studios, along with some other 2077 Elmwood remnants and assorted other junk from my attic. The Carts are the sound effect carts of the great John Otto, and I’ve owned the cart machines since I was about 9 years old.
As far as web content, I’m working on a Crystal Beach page, and a some Buffalo History pictures… As appeared in the 50th and 100th Anniversary of the Buffalo Evening News Periodicals. I’m also trying to finish the renovation of the dining room in my 1909 EB Green home by the time the holidays roll around… Its been busy!
This story was published in Forever Young Magazine
Buffalo’s history as a great TV and Radio market goes back to even the days before Radio and TV, when the finest vaudeville acts always counted on Buffalo as a vaunted stop along the circuit. The actors, singers and comedians all knew that the people of The Queen City of the Lakes were very critical, but always appreciative of a good show.
Fast forward 70 years, and the finest Radio and TV personalities know Buffalo is such a great stop along the way, that many limited engagements are held over as Western New York becomes a permanent home.
Now in our second decade, the Buffalo Broadcasters celebrate the finest of those holdovers, as well as our homegrown radio and television personalities with the annual Hall of Fame Ceremony. With the inductees of the 11th Hall of Fame Ceremony, the number of Hall of Famers reaches 70.
From those who made the leap from vaudeville to radio and TV like Bill & Mildred Miller and “Buffalo” Bob Smith, to today’s personalities of the satellite age, The Niagara Frontier has long been, and will long continue to be, the home of great broadcasting worthy of our celebration.
Susan Banks: Since arriving on local televisions in 1977, Susan Banks has proven herself able to not only bring us the news in a dignified and authoritative manner, but also able to hold her own with the quick-witted minds of Irv Weinstein and Keith Radford on the anchor desk. Susan has always brought the perfect balance of dignity, warmth, and camaraderie to the anchor’s chair; a balancing act that becomes more difficult as the line between news and entertainment blurs. She spent 20 years in two stints at WKBW-TV, from 1977-81, and from 1990-2006, with stops in Boston, WGRZ-TV, and Houston in between.
Kevin O’Connell: Born not far from the spotlight as the son of the City Comptroller of Buffalo, Kevin first stepped into the glow while still in high school as a Rock’n Roll DJ at WYSL Radio in the mid-60s. From there, Kevin grabbed his records and headed for the Channel 4 weather desk, where he gave us Weather with a Beat, as well as Disco Step-By-Step. Los Angeles beckoned in the early 80’s, and though stationed on the left coast, Kevin could still be seen here daily as the host of the NBC network gameshow GO! After returning to Buffalo at WIVB-TV’s News Desk, Kevin has weathered the last 14 years at the Storm Team 2 Weather Center, as WGRZ-TV’s Top Weather Anchor.
Dick Rifenburg: In today’s world of broadcasting, rarely does one individual shift from sports to news to music, let alone at one station, let alone on one shift. But that’s exactly what “Rife” did working for WBEN-AM/FM/TV from 1951-1978. He was a Michigan All-American end, and played a year with the Detroit Lions before landing at WBEN. From Bills Broadcasts, to ski reports, to 17 years worth of “Breakfast At—“ programs live from various local restaurants, to being the Night Owl’s friend on the WBEN-AM All Night Show, for 27 years, Rife did it all. Our Golden Age Award Winner passed away in 1994.
Don Criqui: Be it along side Frank Gifford, Bob Trumpy, or Steve Tasker, sports fans nationwide will immediately recognize the voice that has been synonymous with NFL football since the mid-60’s… That of Don Criqui. But growing up in Kenmore, the now nationally famous sportscaster first learned something about the games he’d soon be bringing to millions by listening to local play-by-play on WGR, WBEN, and WKBW, especially Bill Mazer calling Canisius Basketball. As the 2007 winner of the Buffalo Bob Smith Award, Criqui emulates one of the city’s great ambassadors by making the city proud he’s one of us.
Mike Mombrea, Sr: 32 years a cameraman for Channel 4, 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 newsfilm capturing the day to day happenings of Western New York. He was a true pioneer, one of the original TV photojournalists, taking to the streets in the mid-50’s with a wind-up black-and-white camera and no trail to follow as to how news was supposed to be shot. Mike is the recipient of the 2007 Behind the Scenes Award.
Ron Rice: 30 years of sales and management excellence gives Ron Rice the credentials for the 2007 George Goodyear Award. After 5 years of pounding the pavement in sales for WBEN Radio, he became Sales Manager, a position from which he was able to up the stations—and his own—involvement in the community. But by his own admission, Ron’s career was highlighted by 18 years at WHTT. By 1994, Rice had captained Oldies 104 to America’s top rated Oldies station… only by beating out over 700 other such spots along the dial.
The Buffalo Broadcasters Association 11th Annual Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony will be held for the third straight year at the WNED Studios, Downtown Buffalo. Please e-mail email@example.com for Ticket information.
I started trying to describe Shane to a co-worker the other day…. But there’s no way to describe the Cosmic Cowboy…. Buffalo’s Shane Brother Shane.
From the Day he arrived in Buffalo in 1974 for WKBW’s Great American Talent Search wearing pants with SHANE written in studs up and down the legs, to the day he ran for Common Council in Buffalo, Shane always kept the Queen City on its ear. Please share your Shane memories below… and enjoy some audio clips from Shane’s stellar Buffalo Radio career…
Listen to more Shane:
Shane Brother Shane rocks Freedom City USA!
The scary sounds of Halloween on WKBW: 5 hours worth of K-Big talent on display
BUFFALO, NY – The great Tom Shannon, South Buffalo’s breaker of hearts and as smooth a disc jockey as Buffalo, Detroit, Denver, LA, or anywhere else has ever known…
Starting at tiny little WXRA Radio in Kenmore while still at Bishop Timon High School, Tom’s last on air gig in Buffalo brought him to WHTT for about a decade starting in the mid 90s.
He also spent some time at WGR in the early 60s, but is best known in Buffalo for his time at WKBW Radio.
Tom’s first stint at KB was from 1958-62, and as this aircheck from during his second 1983-86 stint at KB explains, his theme song was as famous as he was.
Tommy plays the old theme song, explains how it came about, and explained how an instrumental version of the song — “Wild Weekend,” by the Rockin Rebels– became Top Ten hit, and how Tom was in the Army when he found out, and– oh, well, let’s just let Tom tell us.
The song has a special place in my heart– not just because Tom and I (and Tim Russert) all went to Holy Family grammar school on South Park Avenue in South Buffalo… but because it was to “Wild Weekend” that my wife and I made our entrance to wedding reception.
BUFFALO, NY – Aside from all the photos, audio, and video in the staffannouncer archives, there are also hundreds of Newspaper and magazine articles… You’ll see plenty of those pop on on this blog as well.
Remember these faces? After this little introduction, this post is simply an exact copy of a piece that ran in the Courier-Express Sunday Magazine in 1982.
By Dick Hirsch
In the Mellow half-light of the motel room, the face was strangely familiar. The coiffure was stylish but understated. The makeup was careful by emphatic. The smile was inviting but relaxed. Then there was that voice… “Good evening,” the voice intoned, “I’m Ron Hunter, and here is the news…”
For a visitor to Philadelphia, it was a startling return to these slambang days of Buffalo television of the 1970s when Ron Hunter’s face not only peered out of TV sets but also seemed to be posted on the rear end of every bus and most billboards in WNY. Since his days at WGR-TV, he has left several forwarding addresses, with anchor jobs in Miami and Chicago. (AT print time in 1980) in Philadelphia, he (was) a reporter during the week and a fill-in anchor on weekends. He has learned to pronounce Schuylkill with the same uncertain clarity with which he mastered Scajaquada. The names and places have changed, but Hunter is still on the job, reading the night’s news to an eager public.
The re-discovery of Hunter, coupled with the “opening” of the “new” television season has prompted a nostalgic examination of some of the faces and voices who have been meeting with us at 6 and 11 each evening since the lights first went on in 1948.
Virgil Booth, Joe Brush, Ward Fenton
”Its a very visible job,” says Irv Weinstein, the WKBW-TV anchorman whose longevity on camera has made him the most recognizable public person in WNY. “Since you are visible,” he adds, “you are also vulnerable.”
He became a TV news director and anchorman in 1964, when, as he likes to explain, “Channel 7’s news ratings were fourth in a three station market.” Weinstein first came to Buffalo in 1958 as a radio newsman at WKBW. Managers have come and gone, but a combination of corporate patience and Weinstein’s deft flair for news and dramatic delivery has made him a fixture, if there is such a thing in TV.
Anyone remember Irv’s predecessor? It was Bill Gregory, a guy who stayed around long enough to learn how to pronounce some Polish last names but not long enough to make much of a dent in the ratings. Gregory is now a radio newsman in Philadelphia.
Channel 7 was the last of the three commercial stations to go on the air. It began broadcasting in 1958. Thus its cast of newscasters is smaller, and includes names like Roger Lund, Hal Youngblood, Nolan Johannes, and Rick Azar, Yes, Azar. He did some news reporting as well as sports. Johannes is remembered primarily for his work on “Dialing for Dollars,” but also did some news announcing…
Announcer is a title you don’t hear much anymore, but in the old days most of the faces on TV news in Buffalo were radio announcers who walked across the hall and did a stint before the camera.
Pat Fagan, Susan King, Roy Kerns
WBEN-TV (now WIVB) had a substantial headstart on its competitors. It began broadcasting in 1948, six year before Channel 2 and 10 years before Channel 7. The television and radio stations of WBEN were on the 18th floor of the Hotel Statler. In some of the earliest local public affairs broadcasting they would point the snout of the camera out a window and focus on the streets below just to give the cameramen some practice in transmitting a picture. An anonymous announcer in those days would intone a play-by-play of the street scene. “That is Genesee Street and there is a truck from Victor’s heading out to make deliveries and over there you can see the sign of Denton, Cottier, and Daniels.” It wasn’t exactly compelling, but then it was 1948.
Probably the first regular newscaster was Ed Dinsmore. He also did the “Luncheon Club” program on radio. After his death, there were others, like Frank Fredricks, Carl Erickson, Dick Westerkamp, Ward Fenton, Virgil Booth, Bill Ferguson, Lou Douglas, and Cy Buckley.
Buckley, now (in 1980), a revenue officer for the IRS in Buffalo, says that the early days were characterized primarily by reliance on radio veterans. “All we were doing was reading a radio newscast on TV. There was very little visual material. Later we got some still photos and some 16 millimeter film. There was no videotape and no rear screen projection. Nobody ever hear the term “anchorman” because that concept hadn’t been developed.”
John Corbett, Harry Webb, Bill Gregory, Bill Mazer
The longest running news personalities on Channel 4 were Harry Webb, John Corbett, and Chuck Healy, who also had radio responsibilities. In recent years, it has been Steve Rowan, Jim Mitchell, Allen Costantini, and the incumbants, Gary Gunther and John Beard.
Channel 2’s newscasters included early announcers like Roy Kearns, Pat Fagan, and Chuck Poth, who has been involved in local Democratic politics since his departure from TV, was one of the first to read from a telepromter rather than a script, enabling him to look directly into the camera during the newscast, a dramatic advancement. Others at Channel 2 included Lou German, John Gill, Joe Brush, Harry Gunter, Joe Pope, Goerge Redpath, Henry Marcotte, Hunter, Susan King,, and more currently (in 1980), Sheila Murphy, Molly McCoy, and Rich Kellman. (Since no roundup of Channel 2 news is complete without mentioning the long running, ubiquitous and opinionated sportcaster for the station, here goes: Bill Mazer).
Hope you enjoyed this Vintage Courier-Express piece from Dick Hirsch, written in 1980.
With the Sabres flying high, rest assured I’ll be dipping into the Sabres Archives quite a bit on this blog… This time, we’re going back to the late 80’s with a pair of sound files.
This is a 60 second verision of the Rock Em Sabres Jingle, paired back-to-back with WBEN’s “We’re Here, We Care” song. That edit is taken directly from the reel that used to play over the Aud Speakers before game time.
The second sound clip is a commercial for WNYB-TV 49– the Television Home of the Sabres before the Empire Sports Network. This spot promos a West Coast Trip, with a game against the Stanley Cup Champion Oilers, as well as a game against the Flames. The announcer voice on the spot is that of Steve Mitchell… And of course the play-by-play clips feature Ted Darling.
I’ve just re-opened a huge box of stuff that Buffalo Radio vet JR Reid sold to me when he moved to sunny FLA. It’s mostly transcriptions (acetate records that were cut right at radio stations in the days before audio tape), as well as some interesting paper items from the time before KB became the King of the Rock and Roll Heap…
WINE was one of a handful of radio stations trying to break in on the Rhythm Music Craze (should read Rock’n Roll) in the mid to late 1950s in Buffalo.
A Quick History of 1080 in Buffalo
WINE had become the call letters following a change from WXRA…. WINE soon became WYSL. WYSL then moved to 1400, and the call letters became and stayed…. WUFO.
WINE sounds… These are all from Transcriptions (more to come!) from WINE radio… And I’ll bet haven’t been heard in over 50 years!
Look for more stuff from WNIA, WWOL, WYSL, WBNY, and other great Late 50’s Rock’n Roll Stations to come!
I’m 30 years old– born 20 years after Perry Allen rocked the house down at KB.
I was about 8 years old when I first heard the famous Perry Allen aircheck from a 1959 WKBW promotional piece. Having grown up listening to radio in the 80s… I was just bowled over with how amazing and fresh and quick radio could really sound when someone talented and imaginative like Perry was left unshackled to work his magic in radio’s “theatre of the mind.”
Radio was always interesting to me, but what I heard Perry Allen do on the aircheck linked below was what I wanted to do– Make it fresh and alive and fast moving. Perry passed away after a hospital stay in California. He was 75.
This aircheck collection contains not only Perry, but all the classic KB “Pulsebeat News” and “Mr. Weatherman” jingles, along with a classic Irv Weinstein newscast. Irv is also the narrator.
This late 1959 WKBW Composite also includes the voices of Russ “The Moose” Syracuse, Johnny Barrett, Art Roberts, Dick Biondi :
I never knew Perry Allen, but his work certainly had a big impact on me. Aside from his time on KB in the late 50’s, he also came back to Buffalo to work at WEBR in the mid 70’s.