Buffalo in the ’70s: Nolan Johannes and ‘Dialing for Dollars’

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Nolan Johannes asking some lucky viewer at home, “Do you know the count and the amount?” (Buffalo Stories archives)

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

Nolan Johannes on the set of Dialing for Dollars, inside WKBW-TVs Main Street studios. (Buffalo Stories archives)
Nolan Johannes on the set of “Dialing for Dollars,” inside WKBW-TV’s Main Street studios. (Buffalo Stories archives)

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 Channel 7 to eventually join CBS in New York as a writer for such luminaries as Walter Cronkite and Mike Wallace.

Liz Dribben and Nolan Johannes sitting on the hood of a car offering a word from our sponsors.
Liz Dribben and Nolan Johannes sitting on the hood of a car offering a word from our sponsors.

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

Nolan Johannes and Dave Thomas
Nolan Johannes and Dave Thomas (Buffalo Stories archives)

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.

And even nearly 40 years 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.

Jimmy Edwin, drums, and Johnny Banaszak, accordion, on the set of Dialing for Dollars. Banaszak was also the man inside the Promo the Robot costume on Rocketship 7.
Jimmy Edwin, drums, and Johnny Banaszak, accordion, on the set of Dialing for Dollars. Banaszak was also the man inside the Promo the Robot costume on Rocketship 7. (Buffalko Stories archives)

In 1978, Thomas left Channel 7 for Philadelphia, and “Dialing for Dollars” was reformatted to become “AM Buffalo.” Johannes left Channel 7 in 1983 to become a news anchor in Scranton, Pa. Johannes died in 2015 at the age of 81.

In September, 2016, Thomas returned to his hometown for Johannes’ posthumous induction in to the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Thomas was inducted in 2001.

Buffalo in the 60’s: Jimmy & Johnny– The Dialing for Dollars Band

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Do you know the Count and the Amount?

Buffalo Stories archives

Jimmy and Johnny were the house band on WKBW-TV’s Dialing for Dollars through the 60’s and 70’s.

Jimmy Edwin was on the drums, and Johnny Banaszak played the accordion. Johnny was also the guy inside the Promo the Robot suit on Rocketship 7.