In the simplest of terms, after decades of economic depression and war, young people of the late 1940s had less responsibility, more economic freedom and a growing segment of pop culture being cultivated to employ and take advantage of that free time and free cash.
For 70 years, more mature generations have been panning the choices of teenage girls and especially the fervor with which they make those choices.
The names change, but from Frank Sinatra to Justin Bieber, rigid-minded adults can’t understand all the swooning over (some singer) with (some bizarre haircut, bizarre dance, etc.).
By 1964, American fuddy-duddies had withstood the waves of bobbysoxers and Elvis’ wagging hips — but the arrival of a moppy-headed quartet of singers from England took the genre up another notch.
If there’s a start date for Beatlemania, you might choose Feb. 9, 1964 — the date of the band’s first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” About 60 percent of American televisions were tuned to the performance of the nation’s No. 1 top single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” It aired in Buffalo on Ch.4.
Immediately, adults started to try to make sense of the mania.
In a matrix that has repeated itself time and time again as American Pop Culture has evolved, the aversion to the Beatles was just as strong as the fanaticism of their young followers.
What was it about the Beatles? everyone seemed to want to know. Was it the haircuts, asked the Courier-Express’ “Enquiring Reporter” of Western New York high school students?
Lining up to get on The KB Crush Beatles Bus Caravan to Toronto
One boy from Cardinal O’Hara High School was convinced that it was “The Beatles’ weird looks more than their musical ability” that made them popular. Many others agreed, but said it was the combination of talent and different looks that made the Beatles “just far out.”
Whether you loved the Beatles or hated them, they were clearly a growing economic force to be reckoned with.
It wasn’t just with the expected idea of record sales at places like Twin Fair, more staid institutions such as AM&A’s were offering “The Beatle Bob” in their downtown and branch store beauty salons. Hengerer’s was selling Beatles records and wigs.
A month after the group’s first appearance on Ed Sullivan, a couple of doors down from Shea’s Buffalo, the Paramount Theatre sold out a weekend’s worth of closed-circuit showings of a Beatles concert.
Eighteen uniformed Buffalo Police officers were hired to help keep the peace among the more than 2,500 teens who showed up to watch the show at the Paramount, which was hosted by WKBW disc jockey Joey Reynolds. The only slight hint of misbehavior on the part of Beatles fans came when the infamous rabble-rouser Reynolds declared on the stage, “I hate the Beatles!” and he was pelted with jellybeans.
Local bands like the Buffalo Beetles, later renamed the Mods, enjoyed popularity and even their own records on the radio. After the July, 1964 release of The Beatles’ first film “A Hard Day’s Night,” the summer of 1965 saw the release of the Beatles’ second movie, “Help!,” which opened at Shea’s before moving onto the smaller theaters and the drive-ins.
The Beatles also played a concert at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens in August 1965. There were at least a couple of dozen Buffalonians in attendance courtesy of the WKBW/Orange Crush Beatles caravan, hosted by Danny Neaverth.
Danny Neaverth hosting on KB Crush Caravan to see the Beatles.
Sixteen-year-old Jay Burch of Orchard Park High School described Beatlemania from the midst of it in 1964 this way: “The Beatles’ singing is OK, but it’s the haircuts and dress that make them standouts. … The Beatles are different. They got a good gimmick and made it work.”
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison of The Beatles at a Toronto press conference, speaking into a microphone from Toronto’s CHUM Radio front and center.
Many of Buffalo’s Beatles dreams finally came true on Oct. 22, 2015, when Paul McCartney made his first appearance in Buffalo, singing songs that many in the audience had first heard 51 ½ years earlier for the first time on a Sunday evening with Ed Sullivan.
Art Wander was among the first Americans to hear The Beatles’ classic “A Day in the Life.” Yes, that Art Wander. Long before his sports talk show days, the native of Buffalo’s East Side was a national radio programmer, and hosted Beatles manager Brian Epstein in his WOR New York City office.
The KB mid-60s lineup included midday man Rod Roddy, who would later be one of the country’s leading game show announcers on shows like Press Your Luck and The Price is Right.
In the late 60s, KB issued two different top 300 lists. The band members are the KB disc jockeys shown on the previous page, with the exception of Lee Vogel—who had left the station, and was shown facing backwards.
This page is an excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon
Riding a wave started with a change to a personality driven Top-40 format in 1958, KB dominated Buffalo radio for most of the next two decades.
Sold by station founder Doc Churchill to national broadcasting powerhouse Capital Cities, the wealthy corporate backing of KB’s monstrous 50,000-watt signal helped lead to the evolution of one of the finest examples of a full-service Top-40 station that ever existed.
Eventually grabbing as much as 50% of the market share, KB quickly blew all of the much smaller Top-40 competitors out of the water. Half of the audience was listening to KB. Never before, and never since, has a radio station been so dominant in Buffalo.
Left to right: Don Keller (Yearke), Tom Shannon, Doug James, Wayne Stitt, Jay Nelson, Russ “The Moose” Syracuse, Dan Neaverth, Tom Saunders
The station’s base of homegrown talent sprinkled with some of the most talented people from around the country, helped build an unprecedented following for KB in Buffalo and around the country.
The first of those homegrown talents to leave a legacy was 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.
Tom Shannon, in the WKBW air studio
Easy to listen to, debonair and literally the boy next door, the handsome and ultra-cool Shannon was a graduate of Holy Family grammar school and Bishop Ryan High.
As if owning nights on KB and driving a Corvette convertible wasn’t enough, there was the night Swedish sex-symbol Ann-Margret was in Buffalo on a promotional tour, and hopped in Tommy’s sports car for a date at the trendy Candy Cane Lounge, downtown next door to the Market Arcade.
That was the same nightclub where Shannon met the group that would ultimately become known as “The Rockin’ Rebels,” who would take “Wild Weekend,” their instrumental version of the Tommy Shannon Show theme song, to the national record charts.
At KB, he started as a weekend jock and fill-in guy, and didn’t even rank high enough to get his own theme song. It’s part of the KB magic that his self-produced, garage-band sounding musical opening touting “Top tunes, news and weather, so glad we could get together, on the, Tom Shannon Show” could become a nationwide Top Ten hit.
Shannon was at Fort Dix doing a hitch in the Army when he heard his song come on the radio and almost couldn’t believe it.
Tom Shannon sits in the WGR studio, holding a copy of the Rockin Rebels’ Wild Weekend album.
“It was so exciting to be a part of Buffalo radio back then,” Tom Shannon said in 1996. “Sometimes the disc jockeys were more popular than the rock stars.”
He was bigger than life hosting the night shift on KB, and Buffalo’s teens couldn’t get enough of Tommy. In 1961, tickets to his “Buffalo Bandstand” TV show on Ch.7 were being counterfeited and new procedures had to be put in place after the number of kids on the dance floor swelled out of control.
While a deejay at KB, Shannon hosted Buffalo Bandstand on Ch.7. When he later moved to WGR Radio, he hosted Hit or Miss on Ch.2.
Tom Shannon hosts a WKBW Record Hop, with Paul Simon, left.
Tom Shannon appeared in a series of 1964 print ads for Queen-O.
After spending the 60s and the 70s moving around the country and around radio dials, Shannon was back in Buffalo for his 30th grammar school reunion at Holy Family on South Park at Tifft when he stopped by his old home, WKBW.
A week of fill-in work lead to a three year stay towards the end of KB’s run as one of Buffalo’s most dominant radio stations. After spending time as a host on the Shop at Home cable TV network, Tommy made it back for one more turn at the air chair in Buffalo hosting afternoon drive on Oldies 104 during the 1990s and 2000s.
From 1960’s “WKBW 6-midnight platter and chatter show” host, to 1997’s deejay with “a warm conversational tone and knowledge of music and performers,” Tom Shannon has been one of the leading voices of Buffalo’s baby boomers through every stage of life.
Joey Reynolds, WKBW
If there was a way to “one up” having your theme song land on the national charts, the guy who eventually followed Shannon in KB’s evening slot probably found it.
Joey Reynolds, KB’s night man through the mid-’60s, got The Four Seasons to sing their No. 1 hit “Big Girls Don’t Cry” with the lyrics changed to “The Joey Reynolds Show.” What a show!
Another local guy, Reynolds grew up in Buffalo’s Seneca-Babcock neighborhood playing radio announcer at the neighborhood Boys Club, and was every bit of a shock jock 20 years before the term was created for Don Imus and Howard Stern.
Joey Reynolds interviews Bobby Sherman on Ch.7’s Joey Reynolds Show.
He started a boisterous on-air feud with The Beatles and refused to play their records or even say their name, calling them “the four norks from England.” The feud lasted until there was money in it for him– he helped promote the local band The Buffalo Beatles.
Reynolds’ bombastic and over-the-top style earned him a following complete with membership cards for the “Royal Order of the Night People.” That audience extended far beyond Buffalo and Western New York. Despite working at a station 300 miles away in Buffalo, he was one of the most popular radio personalities in Baltimore, with thousands of listeners of KB’s strong signal mixed with Reynolds’ big mouth.
Reynolds’ eventual exit from WKBW is one of the most fabled in the legends of radio.
As the 1966 Variety Club Telethon aired on Ch.7, Reynolds felt slighted for being slotted to host the overnight portion of the big event.
One of many memorable stunts orchestrated by Reynolds involved him grabbing Fred Klestine as a tag-team partner to take on the tough, mean Gallagher Brothers in a wrestling match at the Aud.
In his memoir “Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella … But Don’t Get a Mouthful of Rain,” Reynolds admits to having had a few drinks before going on radio and giving TV star Frank Gorshin a hard time in an interview about the fundraiser.
Reynolds then insinuated another TV star and telethon guest host – Forrest Tucker of “F Troop” – was a drunk and had a case of booze in his dressing room.
One of the station managers took the episode personally – especially after Reynolds goaded him and made a joke about his bald head.
Seeing the writing on the wall, Joey put the writing on the door.
Rather than waiting to be fired, Reynolds, in an all-time display of brassiness, nailed his shoes to the station manager’s door with a note saying “FILL THESE” attached.
Joey Reynolds, Tommy Shannon and Danny Neaverth all grew up in South Buffalo. Reynolds and Neaverth knew each other from St. Monica’s, the Babcock Street Boys Club and Timon High School. When teamed up on KB, the cross-talk between Neaverth’s afternoon show and Reynolds’ evening wrap was the subject of homeroom and lunch table discussion at every Western New York high school the next day, but was also the talk of water coolers and coffee break tables at businesses as well.
Beyonce. Bono. Cher. Some personalities are so renowned and celebrated just one name will do. Such is Buffalo’s Danny.
Danny Neaverth is perhaps Buffalo’s greatest pop culture star. He’s remembered most for peeking at us through the hole in the record behind the microphones of upstart WBNY radio in the 1950s as Daffy Dan, then WGR Radio, and then 26 years at WKBW Radio — with most of those years as Buffalo’s morning man. Tag on a dozen more years at WHTT, and a few more at KB again, and Danny moved our fannies on the radio for half a century.
But it wasn’t just radio — Neaverth was also a TV weatherman on Ch.7 and later Ch.2.
He was the public address announcer for the NBA Braves and the NFL Bills.
A few of his moonlighting gigs dovetailed more closely with his work as a disc jockey and radio host.
Danny signs hands at a Thruway Plaza record hop.
He was a concert promoter and recording artist (who could forget “Rats in My Room,” even if they tried?).
Of course, his face and voice were everywhere for Bells Supermarkets and dozens of other Western New York businesses through the years. His work in the community for dozens of causes and charities over the last 60 years has been unmatched.
In the ’70s and ’80s, it was difficult to spend a day in Buffalo and not somehow be graced by the voice, smile and personality of “Clean Dan Neaverth,” a true Buffalonian who never forgot his Seneca Street South Buffalo roots and proudly plied his trade among fellow Buffalonians proud to call him one of us.
Danny took over mornings from Stan Roberts.
Stan Roberts at the KB mic.
Stan first woke up Buffalonians at WKBW from 1962-70, and then at WGR from 1972-82. He became “the first major Buffalo morning man to make the move to the FM band” when he joined WBUF-FM in 1982. After seven years at WBUF, Stan took WBUF mornings to the number one spot in the ratings— and the very next day, he jumped back to AM, hosting afternoon drive and working in sales at WBEN.
As WGR’s morning man, he narrated “Great Sabre Highlights” on the flip side of the very successful record single, Donna McDaniels’ “We’re Gonna Win That Cup.” Stan also wrote at least two joke books, including “Sabres Knock-Knocks.”
Stan still hasn’t lived down the early 80s Royalite television commercial where he put a lampshade on his head, and in the late 80s, when, as the Bills PA announcer, he had to implore fans to “please stay off the field” while they stormed the Rich Stadium field, taking down the goalposts to celebrate the Bills’ clinching the AFC East in 1990.
The warm friendly voice of Fred Klestine felt like a cup of cocoa near the fire.
Fred Klestine, right, visits Xavier’s Meats at the Broadway Market
“An institution in Western New York,” his radio career when he was working at Lackawanna’s Bethlehem Steel, and a manager at Lackawanna’s WWOL heard his voice and told him to audition. Deejay was considerably easier than working in a blast furnace, and Fred spent the next 40 years keeping Buffalo company.
In the 50s, Klestine worked at WWOL and WBNY, before his long famous run at KB Radio. He was later heard on WADV-FM, and then on WBUF-FM through most of the 80s.
Then there was Pulse Beat News. Irv Weinstein was the news director and spiritual leader of the KB’s news staff.
“In terms of style, I was sometimes asked who my idol was in radio, and that was an easy one: Paul Harvey,” said Irv in an interview for the book Irv! Buffalo’s Anchorman. “Paul Harvey was not fast-paced, but he had a pace of delivering the news that was compelling. I like to think I was Paul Harvey only a lot faster.”
Faster, with flagrant, more outrageous writing. In the early rock ’n’ roll days of KB Radio and Pulsebeat News, the pace and the shocking style of writing and delivery made Irv’s later Eyewitness News persona seem comatose.
Irv Weinstein, WKBW Radio News Director
“A Top-40 news guy; fast paced,” said Irv. “Over time I developed a writing style that had sizzle and alliteration, and the type of thing to grab the audience. I learned along the way, that before you can get people to listen to you, you have to catch their attention. One way to do that is in your writing– make it compelling. Sometimes it was overboard, frankly, but it was ok. It did the job.”
It was the perfect comingling of man and circumstance that put Irv in the position to really invent the style of newscasting he made famous in Buffalo– one that was copied around the country.
Henry Brach had been a drug store owner before working in radio, and there’s something about that which just seems to fit. Unlike nearly every other KB Pulsebeat News man, Brach’s voice didn’t boom into radio speakers. His cool, understated style fit in just as well at KB, making him the favorite of listeners and a long line of America’s most talented all-time disc jockeys, who were merciless in mocking the newsman.
Henry Brach in the KB studio.
Jim Fagan was a disc jockey and newsman at WBTA in Batavia, where he’s shown here, before heading to WKBW for a three-decade career.
Jim Fagan’s voice was one of the threads that tied together the various eras at KB. During the 27-and-a-half years that he was a newsman at WKBW Radio, he saw many come and go, but from JFK to Reagan, his was one of the voices that reported on it over KB.
His strong voice punched out the KB Pulsebeat News sound perfectly in those early years, and mellowed as the rest of the station did right up to the very end. Fagan was among the final employees when corporate owners pulled the plug on the local news and music on KB and replaced it with syndicated programming.
John Zach was born into radio. His father was a radio pioneer, having built the first “wireless set” in the city’s Kaisertown neighborhood. After attending St. Casimir grammar school and PS 69, he learned about the technical aspects of radio at Seneca Vocational High School– but John’s path into broadcasting was lined with guitar pics rather than vacuum tubes.
As the leader of “John Zach and The Fury’s,” he played record hops with Danny Neaverth, who worked with Zach and helped him develop his on-air sound.
After spending time as a disc jockey in Georgia, Zach returned to Buffalo and was hired by Irv Weinstein for an overnight news job at WKBW in 1960. He spent most of the next five decades informing Buffalo’s radio audience, come hell or high snowbanks. Twice during the Blizzard of ’77, John Zach came in by snow mobile to anchor the news during the Danny Neaverth Show.
As KB Radio’s News Director for most of the 80s, a survey found that John Zach was Buffalo’s most recognizable radio news personality.
With long stops at WKBW and WGR under his belt, Zach joined WBEN in 1998 and spent 18 years with Susan Rose co-anchoring Buffalo’s most listened to radio news program, Buffalo’s Early News.
John Zach spent time as a disc jockey and news man in Georgia before spending nearly 27 years at WKBW Radio.
This page is an excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon
A young program director with a big mouth, big ideas, and a big appetite for promotion rock ‘n’ rolled his way into Buffalo in 1957, and Dick Lawrence permanently etched his taste for music and in-your-face radio into the taste and expectations of Buffalonians.
Even if they came along kicking and screaming. Buffalo’s newspaper radio critics reflected the feelings of most Western New Yorkers past the age of 16, with regards to the new sounds coming out of their radios.
Sturgis Hedrick of the Buffalo Evening News recalled Lawrence on the pages of the paper as “the energetic young man who brought the raucous, jangling—and alas, moderately successful—sound of ‘modern radio’ to Buffalo.”
The original WBNY Top-40 line-up included Lawrence, who appeared on the air as Felix with his pet parrot Fernando.
“A sound of hoopla and noisy disc jockeys went into full swing night and day,” said the Courier-Express’ Jack Allen. “Most 15-minute newscasts, a tradition at the station, were dropped and Gene Korzelius’ sportscasts were reduced. The fast-paced schedule eventually also did away with the Grosvenor Library Classical Music Show…The top-40 format with the rock ‘n’ roll beat was in to stay.”
The theme is pretty clear. It was also echoed by J. Don Schlaerth.
“Station WBNY, described as ‘the friendly voice of Buffalo’ seems to have given in to the noisy bounce of rock ‘n’ roll and Elvis Presley to ‘keep up with 1957 musical tastes.’ Not long ago semi-classical music and standard favorites predominated on WBNY. Then there was no room for an Elvis.”
Henry Brach was a newsman and deejay at WBNY and as ‘BNY’s news director, gave Danny Neaverth his first job in Buffalo radio. He moved over to KB and spent more than 20 years there as the station’s gruff uncle and the butt of the jokes of untold numbers of disc jockeys.
If you tuned to WBNY in the late 50s, you were likely to hear the voice of Daffy Dan Neaverth, Fred Klestine and Henry Brach. At WBNY, Neaverth would pull a rooftop like event similar to Guy King’s, throwing candy out to passersby. Neaverth, perhaps with his boyish good looks and demeanor, evaded arrest for his stunt.
Daffy Dan Neaverth, WBNY. Neaverth left WBNY for WKBW, inspiring the rath of Dick Lawrence—who made firing Neaverth one of his first acts when he became boss at KB. Neaverth went to work at WGR until returning to 1520 for a 26-year run at the station.
It was fast tempo music, fast tempo talk, fast tempo musical station IDs. It was also the only programming on the station. Rock ‘n’ roll could be heard elsewhere on the dial, but nowhere else was it the only music a station played.
Love it or hate it, the tiny 250-watt station– which could barely be heard outside of the city’s boundaries– was the talk of Western New York.
Other radio stations hated more than radio critics and parents of teens combined.
Four months into Dick Lawrence’s reign at WBNY, WGR announced that it is no longer in the rock ‘n’ roll business.
“Radio station WGR, after taking an impartial music survey among local housewives, has decided to go off the ‘hot’ music path into the relaxing realm of ‘good music,’” reported The Courier-Express. “It will let other Buffalo stations divide the rock ‘n roll spoils.”
The survey named Perry Como as favorite male vocalist followed by Pat Boone and Bing Crosby.
The next day, the paper printed reactions from local radio programmers and called Lawrence’s response “violent.”
“I’ve seen this policy tried before,” Lawrence said. “It doesn’t work and I’ll be a pallbearer at their funeral.”
WGR went to the extreme, but most other stations had some rock music at some point during the day. The only station that didn’t, was WBEN.
“The changing styles in music have never affected the WBEN program policy of providing music, news, drama and public service for all members of the family,” a station official told the Courier-Express.
Other radio stations might not have embraced the music, but after six months, they were beginning to lose revenue. 50,000-watt WKBW Radio was losing to a 250-watt station.
WKBW General Manager Al Anscombe told the Courier-Express that the sound being put out by Dick Lawrence was “slightly wacky” – but the trends were there. KB could die on the vine, or go all in.
And did KB go all in. The station owned by a preacher with call letters standing for “Well-Known Bible Witness” hired away the young programmer and promoter who sent a donkey around downtown Buffalo wearing a sign that said, “Everybody is listening to the new WBNY but me, and you know what I am!”
Lawrence christened KB as Futursonic Radio, rock ‘n’ roll had a new home on Buffalo’s radio dial, and KB would begin a dominance that would last a generation.
Within a year of the change to a Top-40 format on July 4, 1958, WKBW Radio was taking out full-page ads in Buffalo’s newspapers touting their status as Buffalo’s most listened to radio station.
One of the most famous disc jockeys to spin tunes on WBNY only lasted about a month at the station– but would go on to a legendary career in syndicated radio and voice work.
Before he became the voice of “American Top 40” and Shaggy on “Scooby-Doo,” Casey Kasem was “Casey at the Mic” on WBNY in 1960. Shortly before his arrival, he set a record at WJW in Cleveland for what he called “world’s longest on-air kiss,” after laying an 85-second smooch on starlet Diana Trask.
Much later, Kasem would admit to “screwing around too much” during his short time in Buffalo. He’d land in San Francisco, and was well on his way to forever having his feet in the ground while reaching for the stars.
Early group shot of The Even Newer WKBW Futursonic disc jockeys, including Jim Taylor, Ted Hackett, Tom Shannon, Don Keller, Dick Braun, Gene Nelson, Bob Diamond, and Russ Syracuse.
Dick Biondi at a record hop in 1960, just before leaving KB for Chicago.
Dick Biondi was the first nighttime voice of the rock ‘n’ roll era on WKBW.
He referred to himself as “a screamer,” and often told the story about how he was fired from KB because he was too loud. He also claimed to have been fired from KB because he played an Elvis song that wasn’t approved.
What really happened: he told listeners that one of KB’s managers was driving down Main Street in an Impala convertible. “If you see him,” he said, “Throw a rock!”
Someone did—through the boss’ windshield. Maybe he was too loud.
Dan Neaverth, WKBW
Irv Weinstein joined the WKBW Radio news staff in 1958, ultimately becoming the station’s news director. He was responsible for creating a news sound that reflected the music and personalities on the station. He walked across the parking lot to become Ch.7’s news anchor in 1964.
When WNIA officially signed on in 1956, the station was promised to be “as revolutionary to radio as color was to television.”
More than just Top-40, the record library at the Genesee Street studios boasted more than 10-thousand recordings.
But there was still plenty of room for rock ‘n’ roll. 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.”
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 signed-on in 1956, and doubled its power in 1962.
While the power changed, what didn’t was the disc jockey’s names. For more than two decades, when you turned on the radio in the morning, the deejay identified himself as Tommy Thomas— even though it might have been a different guy with a different voice calling himself Tommy Thomas the day before.
Just like with Guy King at WWOL, 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 saw itself as a more staid (and cheaper!) version of WKBW. KB wasn’t mentioned by name in one 1963 ad, but anyone reading it would have known what was being implied.
“As far as wild banshee, screaming announcers, wild nonsense gimmicks and promos… NEVER on WNIA.”
At 1080am, WINE was perhaps the least remembered of the handful of radio stations which tried to break in on the Rhythm music scene in late 1950s Buffalo.
“WXRA has changed their call letters along with their programming,” wrote Danny McBride in his column in the Blasdell Herald in 1957. “The new call is WINE, along with crazy sounds like the new WBNY.”
The WINE call letters didn’t last very long. In 1960, WINE became WYSL at 1080am.
1080am was then sold to WUFO, and the WYSL call letters moved to 1400am, displacing the old WBNY.
Before WXRA became WINE, Tommy Shannon had his first radio job there.
Hernando was the morning man at WXRA, and stayed on at WINE. The mic flag in this photo was edited from saying WXRA to WINE.
Hernando went on to do the all-night show on WGR, after the station “gave up” on giving up rock ‘n’ roll.
Greyt Scott appeared on other Buffalo stations as Charlie Griggs. Tap Taplin had been a regular on WEBR for at least a decade before moving to WINE, and Jimmy Lyons was Buffalo’s first full-time, regularly featured African-American deejay.
The WINE mobile unit—a Volkswagen van—always turning heads.
Disc jockeys joined forces to raise money for charity at a game at the Bishop Timon gym in 1959. Standing: Charlie Griggs (Greyt Scott) WINE, Rog Christian WBNY, Tom Shannon WKBW, Terry Mann WWOL, Dan Neaverth WGR, Danny McBride WEBR, Jack Kelly WKBW, Rick Bennett WWOL. Sitting: Bud Stiker (Jerry Jack) WNIA, Dick Carr WBNY, and Don Fortune WBNY.
This page is an excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon
It was the moment that ushered in Buffalo’s rock ‘n’ roll era; the craziest radio prank to date in Buffalo and Tom Clay– who was one of many men who used the air name “Guy King” on WWOL Radio– kicked it off in style… and with a visit from the cops.
July 3, 1955 saw a broadcast event that wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow 65 years later, but caused fire trucks to be dispatched and a disc jockey arrested in the heart of Downtown Buffalo.
Leading into the Independence Day holiday, “wearing Bermuda shorts and waving a microphone,” wrote Buffalo News radio critic Anthony Violanti years later, Guy King “climbed out the window of WWOL and sat atop a billboard, 75 feet above Shelton Square in downtown Buffalo,” yelling to the cars below to blow their horns while he played Bill Haley & The Comets’ “Rock Around The Clock” over and over.
Tom Clay was arrested after spending time perched atop the WWOL billboard in Shelton Square. Traffic was snarled for hours in what was then considered “Buffalo’s Times Square” because of the lights and action. Today, the area little more than MetroRail tracks in front of the Main Place Mall.
Buffalo Police and Buffalo Fire didn’t appreciate the prank, and Clay spent part of the night in the clink, but not before Clay turned the mic on and broadcast a scuffle with police—who had earlier promised he wouldn’t be arrested if he climbed down.
Despite having done a similar event a few months earlier to raise money for polio research with the blessing of police, this time Clay was charged with two penal code violations: disorderly conduct and creating a disturbance. He was released into the custody of WWOL owner Leon Wyszatycki, but when Clay left the station in the days following his arrest, he was re-arrested and couldn’t post the $500 bond. He spent two more nights in jail.
From The Buffalo Evening News
“I didn’t intend to disturb the peace, I sincerely believed I was doing something to entertain my listeners,” Clay told the judge as he pleaded guilty and was fined $25.
“I am not going to punish you very much but this should serve as a warning to others,” said Judge Casimer T. Partyka in handing down the sentence.
It should be noted that 16 years earlier on WGR, an upstart disc jockey named Clinton Buehlman would hang out of the window of the Rand Building, and encourage motorists to drive by and honk.
At the time, the Courier-Express reported lightheartedly on Buehlman’s exploits.
“Clinton Buehlman is not bothered by fear of high places; he recently perched on the ledge of the eighteenth floor parapet of the Rand Building while his picture was being taken.”
Meanwhile, The Buffalo Evening News summed up Clay’s time at WWOL as having “created near riots with car parades, worked his audience into a frenzy by playing the same R & R number for long periods of time and… def(ying) police.”
Tom Clay in 1959, as he was fired from a Detroit radio station after admitting to accepting payola. Trouble followed him, as he was also run out of town after asking listeners to send a dollar to join a Beatles Fan Club. 80,000 kids sent a buck—most got nothing back.
Clay is best remembered, however, for his 1971 song “What the World Needs Now Is Love”/”Abraham, Martin and John,” featuring a blend of the two songs interspersed with audio actualities featuring John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Once Clay left the station, immediately there was a new “Guy King” on WWOL. The name was the “house name” for the afternoon drive host on the station, and several men used the name on the air.
WWOL, 1956 ad, featuring Fred Klestine, Vic Bell—who’d later broadcast at WKBW as Jack Kelly, and Frank Ward as Guy King.
Guy King #3, Frank Ward, was the man who replaced Clay. He was also known to climb out on billboards— but by the time he was doing it in 1957, law enforcement didn’t seem to mind.
Ward and and his fellow WWOL deejay Fred Klestine would climb on top of the Aero Drive-In movie screen during appearances at the Union Road, Cheektowaga location.
Before he was known as Guy King, Frank Ward was popular on WKBW.
This photo shows two well-known figures in 1970s Buffalo getting together to talk about jazz in in the WADV-FM studios.
Best known for his time at WKBW Radio, Fred Klestine spent parts of four decades as a disc jockey on Buffalo radio stations WWOL, WBNY, WADV and WBUF. A Lackawanna boy who worked in the Bethlehem plant before turning to radio, his broadcast persona was a deep, melodic voiced blue-collar everyman. Off the air, he was a coffee-swilling funnyman who was one of everyone’s favorite co-workers.
As the outgoing public face of “The Electric Company,” Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Reggie McKenzie and his fellow guard Joe DeLamielleure were given plenty of credit for O.J. Simpson’s ability to run for a record 2003 yards in 1973. As the man who helped make the way for “the Juice,” McKenzie even became a spokesman for Niagara Mohawk.
On this day, McKenzie dropped by the Buffalo studios of “beautiful music” WADV-FM to promote two jazz albums that were recorded in the Hotel Statler’s Downtown Room. The call letters of WADV-FM were changed to WYRK-FM in 1981.