Among the Election Day 1960 races being covered closely by Carl Erickson on Ch.4 were between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy for President as well as Edward Rath and Chester Gorski for Erie County Executive.
Erickson came to WBEN in 1948, and was the newsman on Clint Buehlman’s show.
He spent most of the 50s and 60s as Chief Announcer for WBEN Radio.
A new era in broadcasting was ushered in 1960 when WBEN opened its new studios on Elmwood Avenue. WBEN AM-FM-TV had outgrown the studios it had called home on the 18th floor of the Statler Hotel since 1930.
The Buffalo Evening News stations bought the former WBUF-TV studios, which had been built by NBC only a few years earlier, and added more studio space and an office building to the complex.
Bill & Mildred Miller show off the stove in their new studio, 1960
Clint Buehlman, operator Tom Whalen, and engineer Earnest Roy— who started with the station before it even went on the air in 1930– are shown in the new, far more spacious radio studios.
WBEN announcers Carl Erickson and Jack Ogilvie are seated as Mike Mearian leans on the piano of Norm Wullen, 1960.
WBEN executives George Torge, Alfred Kirchhofer, station owner Kate Butler, James Righter, and C. Robert Thompson inspect the new WBEN-TV control room. The $1.5 million building was heralded as the “most modern broadcasting center in the nation.” The final broadcast from the Statler was Jan. 10, 1960.
After WNED-TV left for the Lafayette Hotel, the studios for WGR Radio were in the building behind WBEN’s studios in the late 50s and early 60s.
It’s incredible to think that when Van Miller started calling the play-by-play for the brand-new Buffalo Bills of the American Football League in 1960, he was better known as Ch.4’s 11pm news and weather announcer than a sports broadcaster. Through two AFL straight championships, four straight Super Bowls, and two stadiums, Van’s sense of the game and amplified level of excitement became the filter through which football-loving Buffalo took their love to the next level. He’d call every game during the NBA Buffalo Braves’ stay in the city and work as Ch.4’s primary sportscaster for more than 30 years. “Do you believe it?” he’d ask, as fandemonium went into overdrive, imploring “fasten your seatbelts!” until retiring as the Voice of the Bills after 37 years in 2003.
This page is an excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon
Ch.7’s Main Street studios on a snowy night in the late 50s.
WBNY’s bright red “News from Where It Happens” cruiser, with “Flash Mike and the Mike Patrol.”
Chuck Healy goes over prizes like a case of Squirt and TV dinners on Strikes, Spares, and Misses on Ch.4.
Henry Brach (with dark glasses) broadcasting live from Sattler’s with WBNY deejay Mark Edwards.
Engineers Harold Smith and Leroy Fiedler in the WKBW master control room in the mid-1950s.
WBUF-TV weather personalities Joy Wilson and Mac McGarrity share a laugh.
The Kenneth Baumler family won a 1959 Studebaker Lark in WBNY’s “Lark Hunt” contest, sponsored by Buffalo’s six-area Studebaker dealers.
Bill Mazer called Bisons games on WKBW before moving to WGR. This team photo, with Mazer superimposed in the top right corner, was taken at Offermann Field in the early 50s. The Bisons moved to War Memorial Stadium in 1960.
WBEN’s staff announcers in the late 50s included, standing, Jack Ogilvie, Lou Douglas, Van Miller, Ken Philips, Gene Kelly, Virgil Booth, Carl Erickson, and Bernie Sadler. Steve Geer, Harry Webb and Mike Mearian are among those seated.
WKBW’s team of disc jockeys, about 1960.
Bob Diamond was a utility man on WKBW, at various times holding down the overnight shift, weekends, the farm report, and production work from the late-50s through the mid-60s.
As a member of the boys’ choir singing on WGR starting in 1926, Ed Tucholka’s first announcing job was on the PA at Sattler’s, 998 Broadway—talking about the bargains of the day, paging mothers of lost children and generally keeping things moving without benefit of a script.
Soon, his deep rich voice would be heard on WEBR, and in over 20 years there, he hosted the wartime “Noon Day Review” highlighting local GIs and as well as Uncle Ed’s Children’s Hour.
After stops at WWOL and WHLD, Tucholka moved to the WBEN stations in 1966 and oversaw WBEN-FM, always reflecting simple dignity and elegance he presented on the radio for nearly 70 years.
WBEN Operator/Engineer Tom Whalen gets ready to cue up albums for Clint Buehlman.
News anchor John Corbett looks over news scripts hot off the typewriter of Fran Lucca in the Ch.4 newsroom.
WBEN’s Sports team: Dick Rifenburg, Chuck Healy, Van Miller, and Ralph Hubbell. When injury ended Rifenburg’s professional football career with the Detroit Lions, the former All-American Michigan wide receiver turned to broadcasting and spent nearly 30 years at WBEN Radio and TV.
Officially, they were Memorial Auditorium and War Memorial Stadium, but to Buffalonians they were the Aud and the Rockpile, and they were the great WPA-built stone homes of Buffalo’s greatest diversions: football, hockey, boxing, basketball, and wrestling.
The men in this photo and their compatriots across the radio and TV dials helped bring those diversions closer. Maybe more than in other cities, Buffalo’s sports guys have always been among the most popular broadcasters, as they seemed like one of us while helping to bring us closer to heroes on the court, on the field, in the ring, and on the ice through their work.
With the smooth melodious voice of a classic announcer, Ward Fenton joined WBEN as a radio news man in 1941. After serving in World War II, he returned to the station and was named chief announcer in 1947. He was also heard as the announcer on the NBC network program Mr. IQ, which originated from Shea’s Buffalo Theater for a national audience.
His fluency in French, German, and Italian made him a natural for decades’ worth of announcing classical music programs, especially on WBEN-FM.
When Ch.4 signed on, he was the station’s weekend weatherman, and by the 1960s, was regularly seen in front of the weather map in living rooms all over Western New York, with his forecasts sponsored by the Charles R. Turner Company. His segments were bookended with a memorable film clip showing trucks at the Turner’s company garages. At the beginning of the weather segment, the trucks headed out onto the street, and then after the weather forecast, the same film ran in reverse, with the trucks appearing to back into the garage.
Fenton became Ch.4’s Chief Announcer in 1967, and retired in 1975.
Harry Webb anchors a WBEN-TV newscast sponsored by Esso, and interviews Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy on a visit to Buffalo in 1958.
This page is an excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon
As Clint Buehlman celebrated 20 years as Buffalo’s top morning man in 1952, the team that would be a part of his show for the next 25 years was in place.
Western New Yorkers began waking up to the news of Jack Ogilvie in 1952. He’d been WBEN’s evening newscaster and a jack-of-all-trades at WJTN in Jamestown.
Buehly’s “Mr. Operator,” Tom Whalen (below) started on the early shift working the Buehlman show in 1948, arriving each day by 4:30 to make sure the studio was ready for Buffalo’s AM-MC when his show began at 6am.
Through most of the 1950s, Buehlman’s show was Buffalo’s most listened to radio program, surpassing even nighttime family shows like Jack Benny, Lux Radio Theater, Fibber McGee & Molly and Dragnet.
During the afternoon hours, WEBR’s Bob Wells was most popular, but his ratings didn’t even approach Buehlman’s.
That didn’t stop WEBR’s owner, The Buffalo Courier-Express, to run stories with headlines like one on 1952 exclaiming “Bob Wells’ WEBR Program Rated City’s Most Popular,” before explaining in the story that the show was “the most popular weekday radio show in Buffalo during the greater part of the afternoon.”
It’s bizarre because it was unnecessary. Even in the moment, Wells was one of the most beloved personalities in the history of Buffalo media as the host of the extraordinarily popular and generation-defining “Hi-Teen” program on WEBR.
Dancers pack the Dellwood Ballroom dance floor for a mid-50’s Hi-Teen broadcast.
Sammy Davis, Jr. signs autographs while Bob Wells looks on smiling after a performance on the Hi-Teen Show. The program was a known stop for many of the country’s top performing artists, who’d gladly give the kids a thrill on a Saturday afternoon before heading to a gig.
Hi-Teen one of Buffalo’s most popular radio shows of the era nestled between the end of World War II and the birth of rock ‘n’ roll.
“I was probably the last disc jockey in America to play an Elvis Presley record,” Wells told Ch.2’s Rich Kellman during a late 1970s interview.
Toronto’s Bluebops on the Hi-Teen stage.
Hi-Teen ran on WEBR for 17 years, hosting as many of 2000 kids in the Dellwood Ballroom at Main and Utica every Saturday.
Wells had been the Assistant Director of Music for Batavia Schools when WEBR General Manager Cy King asked him to produce a live show to help combat juvenile delinquency.
That was January, 1946— and America’s record hop was born with the first edition of Wells’ show. With the help of the Harold Austin Orchestra keeping the beat, Hi-Teen went on to serve as an inspiration for shows like American Bandstand. The tenth anniversary show, live from The Aud in 1956 attracted 10,000 teens to Memorial Auditorium.
After WEBR, Wells landed at WGR Radio and TV, hosting shows on Ch.2 like Pick-A-Polka, The Yankee Doodle Room (live from AM&A’s), and the Money Movie. Even after he was no longer a full-time on-air personality, he could still be seen doing weather on Ch.7’s weekend newscasts. He also spent more than 20 years as the radio and television voice of Your Host restaurants.
The stars that Wells missed during the day often wound up on Ed Little’s nighttime show on WEBR.
From boy actor to announcer to disc jockey to newsman, Ed Little’s 62-year radio career didn’t leave much undone.
Discovered by WEBR’s Al Zink as an actor in 1938 as a kid actor with a grown-up voice, Ed moved to announcing at WHLD and then WGR in 1942, eventually putting those skills to use for the US Army during World War II.
He’d fly along on bombing missions in the Pacific, recording live descriptions of what he was seeing to be played back over NBC on radios across America.
When he returned home from war, he joined the staff at WBEN, before moving over to WEBR in 1949.
Among other duties there, Ed was the host of a show that broadcast live from the Town Casino, with interviews and interactions with many of the day’s biggest stars, who’d stop by the booth to say hello.
In the 60s, he was the newsman on Joey Reynolds’ KB Radio show. In the 80s and 90s, his was one of the voices that distinguished WBEN as Buffalo’s home for radio news.
Ed’s was the last live voice broadcast from the Elmwood Avenue WBEN studios that were the station’s home from 1960-2000.
Buffalo lounge piano legend Jackie Jocko appeared regularly on WEBR in the early 1950s along with his partner drummer Joe Peters.
WEBR’s “Amanda” interviews an AM&A’s buyer on her midday shopping and fashion tips show at the WEBR-970 studios, 23 North Street, in 1951.
“Amanda” was actually Dorothy Shank, president of the local chapter of American Women in Radio & Television. She later worked in marketing for AM&A’s, had a show on Ch.4, and was a host on WJJL in Niagara Falls through the 1980s. She was 81 when she died in 1989.
Another piece of Western New York history in the photo: in the middle, between the microphone and the telephone, the 1950’s equivalent of a Tim Horton’s cup– a glass “to go” coffee cup/milk bottle from Buffalo’s ubiquitous Deco Restaurants (there were more than 50 Deco locations around WNY when they were most popular.)
Amanda with Hollywood actress Gloria Swanson.
Warren Michael Kelly, occasionally known as Warren Mike or Warren Kelly, was one of WGR’s top on-air talents during his two separate stints there in the 50s.
The Bennett High grad was a newsman at WBNY before serving in the Army during World War II.
After the war, he was Clint Buehlman’s newsman at WBEN and spent time in Detroit before coming back to Buffalo to host mornings on WGR. Later, he’d also be seen anchoring newscasts on Ch.2.
He moved on to management and sales, and was General Manager of WYSL and WPHD-FM.
Through the late 40s and early 50s, John Lascalles was WGR’s “Man About Midnight.” Nicknamed “Ol’Bones,” Lascalles would eventually move to mornings on WGR. He was also a familiar face in the early days of Ch.2, as one of the many “Atlantic Weathermen.” With the gas station as a sponsor, the man announcing the weather would wear the snappy uniform of an Atlantic gas station attendant while delivering the forecast.
Frank Dill spent a decade at WGR and Ch.2, from the mid-50s through the mid-60s. He was born in Williamsville, but grew up as a sports fanatic near Washington, DC. Like most of his WGR co-workers, Dill was seen and heard in a wide-ranging number of on-air jobs.
On the radio, he was a disc jockey and one of the play-by-play voices of the baseball Bisons. When Ch.2 first signed on, he was a part of the station’s original announcing staff as the host of “Sports Corner,” the game show “Tune-O,” and co-host of “Yankee Doodle” with Bob Wells.
Dill left Buffalo for San Francisco in 1963. When he retired after 34 years there, the paper called him “nice guy Frank Dill — an oasis of easygoing banter and chuckling good humor.”
WGR’s news men of the 1950s were widely talented beyond news.
Jack Mahl was born in Tonawanda and served in the Army during World War II. He came home to work at WKBW and WGR Radio, eventually spending time at Ch.2 as another of the The Atlantic Weathermen. Through the 70s and 80s, he could be heard up and down Buffalo’s radio dial reading news, most notably on WEBR.
David Getman spent a decade as a newsman and Special Events Director for WGR before moving on to public relations roles with the March of Dimes and Buffalo Mayor Chester Kowal.
Phil Soisson came to WGR from WBEN in 1952, and remained a steady news and sports voice on WGR through the 50s and 60s. He was the radio voice of the baseball and hockey Bisons, and anchored news and sports on Ch.2. He was also part of the original Sabres play-by-play team with Ted Darling in 1970.
John Gill started working in radio as an actor in dramas in 1937, and was on the news desk at WGR Radio and then WGR-TV through the 40s, 50s and 60s. He moved to WEBR, where he was one of the main voices of the news-centric 970 format of the late 70s.
Gill was a newsman’s newsman. “In 20 years of news reporting for WGR,” he said in 1958, “you learn that an analysis of news is vitally important. To paraphrase, every fire isn’t a conflagration, nor is every storm a holocaust. It’s the highly experienced men on our news staff that accurately describe the news when and as it actually happens.”
John Otto would join WGR’s news team in the mid ‘50s, after starting as a newsman and disc jockey at WBNY in 1951. He, by the way, was another Atlantic Weatherman.
Otto stands for a promo shoot on the roof of the Lafayette Hotel.
“Helen Neville possesses one of those rare personalities that sparkles with friendliness and enthusiasm. She has friends and devotees from practically every walk of life.”
Neville’s broadcasting career began at WGR & WKBW in 1943, and was heard through the 1940s on WKBW’s “Modern Kitchen.”
Through the 50s, she regularly broadcast on WGR from her home at 1119 Delaware Avenue, interviewing people about the civic and social happenings around Buffalo.
On Ch.2, she hosted “Two For Lunch” (which later became “Two For Breakfast” when the time slot changed) for the first six years the station was on the air, 1954-1960.
This page is an excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon
This article was published in Living Prime Time Magazine.
Every May for the past six years, the Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers gather to celebrate the history and future of Buffalo Broadcasting.
We honor the great broadcasters of the past… Those for whom we have the fondest memories, and the mere mention of their names help us hearken back to a place where time has helped to round the harsh edges. They are the faces and voices that brought us news of wars beginning and ending, plants opening and closing, people being born and dying, and, all the music and sounds associated with those events in our minds.
It’s also our mission to celebrate those in television and radio today who keep the spirit of the media alive. It takes a special person to shine above the numerous television, radio, and internet choices of this day and age, and those who shine today are tomorrow’s fond memories.
The broadcasters who bring and have brought sounds and pictures into our living rooms, into our cars, and under our pillows (when we should have been sleeping!) are really just as much a part of events as the memories themselves. The following are this year’s best of the best… The 2003 Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame inductees.
Beach has made a career of straddling the line of the conservative tastes of Buffalo, and has never let office or city hall politics get in the way of a good show. It’s that desire for great radio, no matter the cost, that has allowed Sandy to be a Buffalo radio fixture for 35 years with only a few interruptions.
Sandy came to WKBW from Hartford in 1968. Within 6 years, according to a 1972 interview, 2002 BBP Hall of Famer Jeff Kaye said that Sandy had “worked every shift on KB except morning drive, and improved the ratings in each part.”
His quick wit and infectious laugh have been a part of Western New York ever since at KB, WNYS, Majic 102, and now afternoon drive on WBEN.
A native of Lunenberg, Massachusetts (hence his long time sign off, “Good Night Lunenberg….Wherever you are”), Sandy’s made his impact for over a third of a century in Buffalo radio as a jock, in programming, and now in as a talker, and always as a wise-guy friend just a dial twist away.
2003 Buffalo Bob Smith Award
Buffalo Bob Smith began his broadcasting career in his hometown of Buffalo, but of course gained worldwide fame as the human friend of America’s favorite puppet, Howdy Doody. Despite his international celebrity, Bob never forgot his hometown, and even adopted it as a part of his name. Each year The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers honor a broadcaster who has made his or her mark away from the Niagara Frontier, but is a Buffalonian at heart.
This year we honor the host of Meet the Press, NBC’s Senior Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief, and South Buffalo native Tim Russert. A lawyer by trade, the Canisius High School grad worked in the Senate and in Governor Mario Cuomo’s office before joining NBC as a producer in 1984. He joined the NBC News air staff in 1990, and has been a fixture ever since. As one of the nation’s leading political analysts, Russert has been the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, and we celebrate him because through it all, he’s never forgotten the Queen City.
She’s the smart, beautiful, authoritative and street savvy woman all women would love to be… and all men would love to marry. Combined with the sense and skill of a good newswoman, her career as a news anchor was a homerun. Voted Buffalo’s Sexiest Woman too many years in a row to count, Carol transcended both television and news to become the unofficial Queen of Buffalo while anchoring the news on Channel 4 for 23 years. Her appeal as a newscaster and person is on many different levels…
Carol Crissey came to Buffalo from Harrisburg, PA in 1979, originally paired with John Beard at the anchor desk. Carol anchored the news at noon, 5, 6, and 11, with the likes of Beard, Bob Koop, Rich Newberg, and Kevin O’Connell until she “retired” to New Mexico last year.
2003 Golden Age Award
The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers was founded in 1995, and we still have a lot of catching up to do. The Golden Age Award is reserved for the pioneers in the truest sense of the word: Those who did it first, the people who had no pattern to follow, no lead blocker. These folks blazed the trail, and set an example for future generations to follow.
Harry Webb came to Buffalo from Schenectady as a classic music announcer on the new WBEN-FM. At the same time, the Evening News was starting a television station. Webb was Channel 4’s first newscaster, when the broadcast days began at 12 noon, and involved reading the latest edition of the Buffalo Evening News to an audience of several hundred.
By the time Webb retired from newscasting in 1972, he had seen and been a part of the change of television from an avant garde indulgence of a few wealthy families to the modern global apparatus and definitive of disseminator information it is today. Webb recently passed away after several years of retirement in East Aurora.
2003 Goodyear Award
The Goodyear Award is named in honor of George Goodyear, the Buffalo philanthropist who co-founded WGR-TV, and is awarded each year to those in Broadcasting’s front office who have made a career of advancing the ideals of the BBP.
Larry Levite spent the 1970’s moving up and down Buffalo’s radio dial breathing new life (and ratings!) into stations like WYSL, WPHD, and WEBR.
When, in 1978, federal regulations forced the Buffalo Evening News to sell off its radio and television stations, Levite formed Algonquin Broadcasting to fill the void, and purchased WBEN AM/FM. Larry continued the tradition of the News stations by bringing in top quality talent in all facets of broadcasting, and did so through the deregulation of the broadcasting industry, until selling the stations in the mid 90s.
2003 Behind the Scenes Award
It takes more than just a pretty face or golden voice to put on a radio or television program, and with the Behind the Scenes Award, the BBP celebrates the folks who are the guts of any broadcast: The directors, producers, photographers, writers, engineers… All the often nameless, faceless people on “the other side of the glass.”
For nearly thirty years, Tom Whalen was the man playing the records and turning the dials for “Yours truly Buehly” on WBEN Radio. Whalen served in the Army Air Corps during World War II on the communications staff, and joined WBEN in 1947.
Soon after, he grew into Clint Buehlman’s right hand man, and remained there until Clint’s retirement in 1977. Part of the reason Buehlman’s show sounded like he was talking to each person individually, is because he was talking to Tom individually about the weather, Tom’s kids… Your AM-MC said often that Tom “was the nicest man he knew,” and it came across in Clint’s warm chats with Tom. Whalen retired in 1983 leaving a 36 year legacy as one of radio’s nice guys, making one of Buffalo’s greatest radio personalities comfortable, and thereby making you comfortable every morning.
We always welcome new members to the BBP. It’s our mission to preserve and promote Western New York’s rich TV and radio history, and to salute and bring attention to quality broadcasting of today. Membership is $25, and anyone with a passion for broadcasting can join as a member. It’s just as easy to join us in celebrating this year’s honorees. Tickets to our Hall of Fame event are available for to general public at $40 per person. Send your ticket order or membership request with payment to: The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers; 5672 Main Street; Williamsville, New York 14221.