Hamburg’s biggest contribution to the early history of rock ‘n’ roll might be more technical than musical, but it was from the 50,000 watts worth of radio waves flying out of Big Tree Rd. that Western New York and much of the east coast and Canada were introduced to the format.
The Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation opened its transmitter and tower facilities on Big Tree Rd. in July, 1941. The facility cost $350,000– $5.7 million in 2017 dollars—and was described as “truly a showplace of electric marvels.”
When the building first opened, a series of telephone lines carried programs from the Rand Building studios of WGR and WKBW to Hamburg for broadcast.
WKBW’s mainstays were the network programs of CBS with stars like Orson Welles, Hedda Hopper, Cecil B. DeMille, and Kate Smith. WGR carried Mutual Network shows like “The Lone Ranger” and talent like Milton Berle.
The local talent included Billy Keaton, Ralph Hubbell, and WGR Orchestra leader David Cheskin. Before Howdy Doody came along, Bob Smith hosted “The Cheer Up Gang” every morning, and before spending 35 years on WBEN, Clinton Buehlman hosted “WGR Musical Clock.”
After spending time at a few smaller stations, in the mid-1950s, George “Hound Dog” Lorenz took his rhythm and blues program featuring the music which would soon be known as rock ‘n’ roll to 50,000 watt WKBW Radio. The powerful signal allowed “The Hound” to introduce the evolving music genre to the entire northeastern United States.
WKBW would eventually be known as “one of America’s two great radio stations.” The voices of Stan Roberts, Tom Shannon, Irv Weinstein, Danny Neaverth, Joey Reynolds, Jack Armstrong, and so many others were sent out over the four and later six towers in our backyard.
Today, WWKB Radio and WGR Radio still transmit from Big Tree Rd. Both stations are owned by Entercom Communiucations, which is in the middle of a $1.7 billion merger with CBS Radio.
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.
“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.
It’s spring in Western New York. For most of the last 137 years, that has meant getting ready for Bisons baseball.
Buffalo News archives
This 1957 photo shows Offermann Stadium, home of the Bisons from 1924 to 1960, and the path of Luke Easter’s record 500-plus-foot home run over the scoreboard that year. It was the first time that it have ever been done during a game in the park’s 33-year history — although legend had it that Babe Ruth once hit a ball over the scoreboard during an exhibition.
The outfield billboards are an interesting snapshot of life in Buffalo in 1957 as well.
WKBW’s clock advertises the station that wouldn’t become Buffalo’s top 40 rock ‘n’ roll leader for another year yet. Weber’s Mustard remains a Buffalo favorite, but Madison Cab, Don Allen Chevy and the rest all only exist in Buffalo memories.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation called The Strawberry Fields Festival outside Toronto “Canada’s Woodstock.”
Anywhere from 75,000 to 100,000 people, mostly teens and college students from the northeastern U.S., showed up for the festival at Mosport Raceway in Bowmansville, Ont. Days before the event, local officials tried to shut it down – saying the permits were gained until false pretenses (and by all accounts they were).
With the province worried about the number of young people streaming in – only a year removed from Woodstock – Canadian border police started turning away massive numbers of young people at the Peace Bridge and other border crossings.
WKBW’s Stan Roberts talked with some of those who were turned away, including WKBW Newsman Brad Casey. Channel 4’s Chuck Healy sent film to New York that was used on a national CBS broadcast.
I’m 30 years old– born 20 years after Perry Allen rocked the house down at KB.
I was about 8 years old when I first heard the famous Perry Allen aircheck from a 1959 WKBW promotional piece. Having grown up listening to radio in the 80s… I was just bowled over with how amazing and fresh and quick radio could really sound when someone talented and imaginative like Perry was left unshackled to work his magic in radio’s “theatre of the mind.”
Radio was always interesting to me, but what I heard Perry Allen do on the aircheck linked below was what I wanted to do– Make it fresh and alive and fast moving. Perry passed away after a hospital stay in California. He was 75.
This aircheck collection contains not only Perry, but all the classic KB “Pulsebeat News” and “Mr. Weatherman” jingles, along with a classic Irv Weinstein newscast. Irv is also the narrator.
This late 1959 WKBW Composite also includes the voices of Russ “The Moose” Syracuse, Johnny Barrett, Art Roberts, Dick Biondi :
I never knew Perry Allen, but his work certainly had a big impact on me. Aside from his time on KB in the late 50’s, he also came back to Buffalo to work at WEBR in the mid 70’s.
It was one of the great events in radio history. As WKBW Radio was sold off by Capital Cities and was sliding into the abyss, the station threw one hell of a party to celebrate Dan Neaverth’s 25th anniversary at the station.
In many ways, it was the last hurrah for KB, which would soon spend most of the next two decades mired in satellite “formats of the day” and little or no direction.
But for one winter weekend in 1986, the old KB was back.
The weekend started with reception at Shea’s Buffalo on Friday, an oldies Saturday morning on KB, and then Saturday evening– a Free-For-All Round table discussion with many of the jocks, newsmen, and KB alums who were in town.
Then-KB News Director John Zach was instrumental in putting the reunion together. He shared a four-hour video that was shot at the reunion– the images on this page are from that video.