Buffalo Morning Radio Wars, 1940s style

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


With city hall as a backdrop, WGR morning man Clinton Buehlman takes to the ledge of the Rand Building during his wake-up show to wake-up motorists in Lafayette Square, 1942.

Clint Buehlman signed on as WGR’s morning man in 1932, and remained Buffalo’s undisputed king of morning radio until his retirement in 1977.

Buehlman, chained to the WGR mic

For 11 years on WGR, and then for 34 years on WBEN, there was no more listened-to, beloved, or marketable voice emanating from Western New York radios.

Almost immediately and for all his 45 years waking up Buffalo, Buehlman was able to turn his own popularity into sales when he talked about a sponsor.

The combination of fawning listeners and fawning commercial clients are what every station manager dreams of in a morning show.

WBEN announcer and Sun Greeter Club emcee Al Taylor, 1941.

WBEN had been on the air for more than a decade with little headway in making a dent in Buehlman’s dominance.

There was The Minute Men Show with Jack and Earl, and starting in 1938, emcee Al Taylor hosted the Sun Greeters Show on WBEN.

When Taylor—who interviewed Adolf Hitler as a newspaperman in the 30s—left for WCAU in Philadelphia, he was eventually replaced by a man The Buffalo Evening News called “silly… fast-talking… and glib,” Jack Paar.

Jack Paar sits at a WBEN typewriter in 1942, writing jokes and serials like “Joyce Jingle, Girl House Detective.” “She had a schoolgirl complexion,” Paar wrote, “until it graduated.”

“Jack is WBEN’s Sun Greeter who rattles along at breakneck speed from 6:05 until 9 in the morning, playing records, reeling off nonsense, telling the time, dishing out choice morsels of Hollywood gossip and what-not just about the time you’re eating your breakfast cereal,” wrote The News.

Almost two decades after he left Buffalo, Jack Allen wrote about Jack Paar in the Courier-Express as the former Buffalo morning man celebrated his fifth anniversary as the host of the “Tonight Show.”

The controversial host, at 25, patrolled the early morning for WBEN radio in 1942-43. His satirical quips ‘woke ’em up’ on morning radio as they now ‘keep ’em up’ on late-night TV. Paar entered the Army in 1943, to be succeeded on WBEN by Clint Buehlman.

Paar is remembered by some radio executives here as ‘a talented personality who worked hard at original comedy’ and ‘despite his humility he is strongly egotistical.’

WBEN hired Clint Buehlman away from WGR in 1943 after Jack Paar left for the Army.

Buehly welcomed to the WBEN’s Statler studios by Station Manager Edgar Twamley in 1943.

After a decade as the host of “The Musical Clock,” WGR’s morning show, in 1943 his new WBEN show was called simply “Clint Buehlman.”

“That should be sufficient but, for the newcomers to Buffalo, it means time announcements, all types of music, jokes, and anything else that helps to make up a fast-moving show,” explained The Buffalo Evening News.

“Clint is one of the few men who can work without script and whose ad-libs are funnier than many carefully rehearsed network programs.”

“Fast-moving” and “funny” might not be the descriptors those who remember Buehlman in the 60s and 70s might use, but he grew up and grew old with us on the radio.

Toward the end of his uninterrupted 46-year run hosting Buffalo’s top-rated morning radio program, Buehlman sounded like the cranky grandfather he was—reminding men to wear their rubbers and pay close attention to the road.

Still, even into his last decade on the air, more than half of radios that were on in Buffalo during the morning hours, had Clint Buehlman on. He may have been a crotchety grandpa, but he was the whole city’s crotchety grandpa.  

Buehlman was replaced on WGR by Foster Brooks— who’d later be known to television viewers around the country for his routine at the “lovable lush.”

Coming to Buffalo from WHEC Radio in Rochester, Brooks joined WGR/WKBW in 1943 as the emcee of the Musical Clock morning show Buehlman had made dominant, while also emceeing WKBW’s “Million Dollar Ball Room.”

Along with “Buffalo Bob” Smith and Johnny “Forgetful the Elf” Eisenberger, Brooks was the third member of WGR’s “the High Hatters,” a popular Country & Western vocal group. He was a late replacement trio after the original third voice left the group.

The High Hatters: Foster Brooks, Johnny Eisenberger, Bob Smith

Brooks left Buffalo around 1950 after winning an Arthur Godfrey talent contest—but spent most of the next 30 years coming back to Buffalo through the magic of television—as a guest on both Steve Allen’s and Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, numerous guest starring roles on shows like Adam-12, and many Dean Martin-produced shows like Martin’s variety show and his celebrity roasts.

He became famous for his “Lovable Lush” routine, where he played hundreds of different characters who were so blotto they could barely stand—but didn’t think their inebriation was noticeable.

The comic had given up the bottle by the time his act had become famous, but he later admitted while in Buffalo, there might have been times where he resembled the character that he’d made famous.

“I was very fortunate I didn’t get in trouble,” Brooks said in 1978.

“There were times I’d get home at 4, wake up at 5, and be to work at 6. I had to close one eye to read the news and the commercials. There were two and three words where there was only supposed to be one.”

Fellow WGR announcer Ralph Hubbell—who wrote about his own public battle with the bottle in his book “Come Walk With Me”—would often drive Brooks home, and “Hubbell and my wife would explain who I owed apologies to.”

Brooks stopped drinking in 1964, and his star took off from there.


This page is an excerpt from  100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon

The full text of the book is now online.

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. 

©2020, 2021 Buffalo Stories LLC, staffannouncer.com, and Steve Cichon

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.