Jim Fagan & Hubert Humphrey: two good guys

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

Buffalo, NY – When Jim Fagan was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame, I sat with him and we went through dozens of his photos and mementos from his decades in radio– from his days as a disc jockey at Buffalo’s old WINE Radio in the 50s, to his decades as a newsman at WKBW.

When he showed me this photo as a clipping from the Tonawanda News, he beamed with pride at being photographed with Hubert Humphrey.

Congressman Thaddeus Dulski, Jim Fagan, Viced President Hubert Humphrey,  and EC Dem Chair Joe Crangle. 1968.
Congressman Thaddeus Dulski, Jim Fagan, Viced President Hubert Humphrey, and EC Dem Chair Joe Crangle. 1968.

“A good guy, a really good guy,” Jim said, his unmistakable voice trailing off.

Jim died this week, and everyone who knew him, felt about him the same way he felt about Hubert Humphrey. He was just a really good guy. Let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.

When Radio Reporters were Real Men

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

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…

fagan-mclaughlin atticaIt 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).

Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com
Reformatted & Updated pages from staffannouncer.com finding a new home at buffalostories.com

Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers: 6th Annual Hall of Fame Inductions

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This story was published in Living Prime Time magazine.

may02Spring is in the air, the lilacs are in full bloom, and that means it’s time for Buffalo’s premier radio and television event…The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame Induction. This year’s slate of honorees continue in the tradition of representing Buffalo’s amazing broadcasting past, present, and future.

Broadcasting is strange in that often, at the end of an 8-hour work day, one might have nothing to show for it all; no tangible proof of that day’s toil. By definition, one speaks into a microphone, or looks into a camera, and images and sounds go up and off an antenna, and are gone forever.

Each year, the Tralf is the location where pulled from the ether are entire life times’ worth of accomplishment. It’s with induction into the Hall of Fame that we make tangible the superlative informing, entertaining, and friendship these select broadcasters they have provided us with over the years.
The following are this years’ inductees:

 

Henry BRACH

BBP-brachThe rock steady pulse of KB’s Pulsebeat news, Henry was the heart of KB… not only as the mainstay news anchor, but as everyone’s gruff but lovable uncle.
As Buffalo’s own version of Lou Grant, Hank’s crusty newsman personality could be counted on by KB staffers to drive in from West Seneca during the ‘77 Blizzard or hop in a news cruiser to cover the Attica Prison Riots. It was his big heart, though, that leaves him remembered as everyone’s favorite person and best friend.

Listeners saw both sides of his personality indirectly: It was his never-contrived voice of reason that warmed the radios of Western New York by talking to each listener individually.

Brach’s career began at WBNY, where as news director he was the first man to hire a fresh-faced Dan Neaverth as an announcer. Though his on air persona was that of a straight-laced newsman, Henry did music shifts at both ‘BNY and beautiful music WYSL-FM before joining KB. Brach died in 1983.

Frankie CROCKER

BBP-crocker

Frankie Crocker… Chief Rocker… The Eighth Wonder of the World!!! Revered as the man who changed the rules for African-Americans as both disc jockeys and musicians, Frankie Crocker started down the road to Gotham fame and nationwide reverence in his native Buffalo.
He was studying pre-law at UB, when he was bitten by the radio bug, joining WUFO as News Director. There, he tasted early success spinning urban wax and never turned back. As a jock at WMCA in the Big Apple, Frankie began playing album cuts and extended mixes from Urban artists, helping to pave the way for the more diverse sound heard today… When Crocker started in radio, music played by Black artists was lumped by mainstream circles into the category race music.

The Chief Rocker’s resume is that of a true broadcast pioneer: He helped to bust the stereotypes, and bring the music of an entire race from the remote corners of the music world to the popular choice of hip New Yorkers. Crocker passed away in 2000.

Ted DARLING

BBP-darling

The career of Edgar Lee “Ted” Darling, the long time Voice of the Sabres, can be best summed by the number of honors he received in a life and career cut short by Pick’s Disease. He was inducted into the Sabres Hall of Fame and the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame; is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, having been honored with the prestigious Foster Hewitt Award; and has the press box at HSBC Arena named in his memory.

Ted joined the Sabres in their inaugural season after having spent time with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada as an intermission host. Darling spent the next quarter century in the gondola high above the aud ice, entertaining Western New York’s hockey minions with his play-by-play over WGR, WBEN, WNYB-TV, and several cable outfits, including the Empire Sports Network.

Jeff KAYE

BBP-kaye

Jeff Kaye is a radio renaissance man…. A brash yet steady voice of gold, a masterful way with both the written and spoken word, and a producer par excellence, Kaye blazed into Buffalo in the mid-60’s as KB’s nighttime teeny-bopper leader and soon was at the rudder of the K-Big giant ship as the station’s program director.

Jefferson was responsible for bringing western seaboard phone operators to their collective knees with his 1968 adaptation of Orson Wells’ “War of the Worlds,” with folks calling from all points on the map to see if Grand Island was indeed under Martian control.

In 1977, he took over the most hallowed slot in Buffalo radio, morning drive at WBEN, as only the 3rd man to sit in that announcers chair. Jeff’s decades worth work as the radio producer for Buffalo Bills Football set him up for a job at NFL Films, which he has held since leaving Buffalo, voicing countless NFL video
compilations.

Jim FAGAN

BBP-fagan

His diction, energy and news judgment with just a touch of pageantry made Jim Fagan the quintessential intoner of Pulse Beat News. His sybarite swagger was as much a part of 1520 as were the K and the B from the time he joined the station in 1960 until he went down with the ship in 1988, when the station went to the birds and to the bird… satellite, that is. Fagan was so much a part of KB that he was brought back in 1989 and stayed on until 1992.

Fagan repeated the K-Big story of the moment at only after his days as a disc jockey at Buffalo’s WINE Radio; where he keyed the mic with such names as Mark Hall and Tommy Thomas. Also active as a shop representative, he was President of NABET Local 25, the broadcaster’s union, from 1970-89. He remains active in union affairs today, and is always willing to lend his voice to a worthy project, like Channel 2’s recent look back at the 1901 Pan-Am Exposition.

John ZACH

by wippert 1/21/02 John Zack and Susan Rose at WBEN Radio in their Amherst studios.
by wippert 1/21/02 John Zack and Susan Rose at WBEN Radio in their Amherst studios.

If you’ve listened to top calibre radio news in Buffalo anytime over the last 40 years, chances are good that you heard John Zach dictatorially caressing the airwaves, delivering the news with a style and passion like none other.

First renowned in Western New York for fronting the rock n’roll band “The Furyies” in the late 50’s, Zach’s news skills were first exercised on the Niagara Frontier at KB in 1961. The reigning Dean of Buffalo Radio News, John also spent time at WGR before joining WBEN in 1998, where you can now hear him along with Susan Rose as the station’s morning drive team.
Zach is also the Queen City’s top radio and television historian and scholar, and is active in the affairs of the BBP.

Zach is also the Queen City’s top radio and television historian and scholar, and is active in the affairs of the BBP.