Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting
Roy W. Albertson was one of the most colorful and divisive personalities in the history of Buffalo Radio—and that’s saying something.
He came to Buffalo in 1921 as a reporter for The Buffalo Evening News, before hopping over to the Buffalo Times, where owner Norman Mack’s Democratic politics were closer to his liking.
Albertson was elected secretary of the Erie County Democrats and after Mack sold the paper, Albertson moved over to WEBR where he became General Manager and on-air personality.
As WEBR’s original and outrageous “Ye Olde Town Crier,” with fire and determination he took on Buffalo’s controlling Republican administration with weekly broadcasts that the Courier-Express called “pungent.”
“He dispensed his thunderbolts in an era when yellow journalism was an art form and a little libel was looked on as the spice of life,” reported The News years later.
He needled Buffalo Mayor Charles Roesch, referring to him only as “King Charles” and Roesch’s appointed Police Commissioner Austin Roche “Lord Austin.”
At one point, WEBR claimed that police were trying to interfere with the station’s broadcasts—and from there on out, the Town Crier would broadcast from a different location each day.
In 1934, State Supreme Court Judge Alonzo Hinkley didn’t like what he heard about the goings-on in his courtroom on Albertson’s program—so he sent a sheriff’s deputy over to arrest him and hold him in contempt of court. Albertson spent the night in jail and was found guilty—although the ruling was later overturned.
During his time at WEBR, Albertson applied for a license for his own new radio station, and WBNY signed on in March, 1936.
Among the station’s first on-air staff was Ralph Hubbell, who would be celebrated for decades as the Dean of Buffalo’s sports broadcasters. Even right out of the gate, he was popular on a new station.
“Ralph Hubbell possesses every qualification for the job. A nose for news. An analytical mind. A nimble tongue. A thorough knowledge of all branches of sport. A wide and understanding acquaintance with all its leading personalities,” said an ad from sponsor Kendall Motor Oil.
Buffalo’s boxing champ Jimmy Slattery sent Hubb a note saying he not only loved his sports commentary, but his reciting of poetry on the air as well.
As part of the station’s licensing process, Albertson promised WBNY would be “free of politics,” but in 1940, an angry Mayor Thomas Holling had WBNY’s line from the police headquarters severed and the station uninvited from city property after a program that the mayor called “a blitzkrieg” against his administration.
Albertson sold the station in 1958, and soon thereafter the call letters changed to WYSL. In 1966, WBNY-FM signed on in Buffalo at 96.1 FM—that station had no connection to the Albertson station.
This page is an excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon
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.
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