The Pioneering Women of Buffalo Radio

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

This week we’re looking back at Pioneering Women in Buffalo Broadcasting.

Pioneering Women of Buffalo Radio

In the earliest days of radio in Buffalo, it was unusual to hear a female voice that wasn’t singing.

And when you did hear a woman coming through your speaker in the 30s, 40s, or 50s, she was usually talking about cooking or discussing “women’s issues.”

Among the earliest women announcers:

“Amanda,” whose real name was Dorothy Shank, hosted a show on WEBR, sponsored by AM&A’s.

MORE: WEBR’s “Today with Amanda” with tips from AM&A’s, 1951

 

World War II changed things briefly, but not a lot.

A memo from the executive offices at The Buffalo Evening News warned it’s radio broadcasters to NOT mention the name of a new female announcer– that despite the fact that Vera Holly was a very popular singer on the station for a decade.

Vera Holly was a singer, emcee, and announcer on WBEN in the 1930s and 1940s.

She had been a long-time regular on WBEN’s “International House Party” and had received top billing on the show, but wasn’t allowed to identify herself for the nearly six months she was reading station breaks and newscasts on WBEN.

A CBS gig on “The Jerry Lester Show” landed her in front of the same microphone as the biggest star of 1943– Frank Sinatra.

“I had a great kick working on the same show as Frank,” Holly told The Buffalo Evening News. “Confidentially, he really is cute. And much nicer than I expected.”

When she was picked up for a network show in 1946, she was called “one of the most promising young stars of radio. Holly went on to announce her own network programs on Mutual, CBS, and ABC.

Beverly, WKBW. 1978

Even as late as the 70s, women disc jockeys were an oddity.  A disc jockey known on the air only as “Beverly” was WKBW Radio’s first woman disc jockey, hosting overnights in the mid-70s.

As Beverly Burke, she went on to replace Oprah Winfrey in a local TV news anchoring job in Baltimore.

She’s also anchored TV news in Washington and Los Angeles.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.