Dialing for Dollars

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


“A lot of friendliness and little schmaltz seem to work just fine for ‘Dialing for Dollars’,” wrote Buffalo Evening News Critic Gary Deeb in 1971, by which time, the show had already been a mid-morning mainstay on Ch.7 for seven years.

Nolan Johannes came to WKBW-TV in May 1964 — and by the end of the year, was the permanent host of the brand new “Dialing for Dollars.” His first co-host was Liz Dribben, who left Ch.7, eventually joining CBS in New York as a writer and producer for such luminaries as Walter Cronkite, Mike Wallace, Charles Osgood and Dan Rather.

Lafayette High and UB grad Liz Dribben left Ch.7 in 1969 after being refused pay equity with her male counterparts at the station.

Aside from phone calls trying to give away money, the show was filled with interviews of the everyday women in the audience, twice-weekly exercise tips from UB’s Dr. Len Serfustini, syndicated features from “The Galloping Gourmet” Graham Kerr and “Fashions in Sewing” with Lucille Rivers.

Liz Dribben and Phyllis Diller, wearing Bills clothes and doing a workout routine on “Dialing for Dollars.”

The half-hour show grew to 90 minutes, and in 1969, weatherman and “Rocketship 7” host Dave Thomas joined Johannes as co-host.

And even decades after the show went off the air, most Buffalonians of a certain age will be able to recall without hesitation the names of the guys in the “Dialing for Dollars” band — Jimmy and Johnny.

In 1978, Thomas left Ch.7 for Philadelphia, and “Dialing for Dollars” was reformatted to become “AM Buffalo.” Johannes left Ch.7 in 1983 to become a news anchor in Scranton, Pa.

Jimmy Edwin, drums, and Johnny Banaszak, accordion, on the set of Dialing for Dollars. Banaszak was also one of the men who wore the Promo the Robot costume on Rocketship 7 through the years.

Nolan Johannes on the set of Dialing for Dollars, inside WKBW-TV s Main Street studios.


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

Ramblin’ Lou & the Family Band

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


“The big man with the gentle voice and the white Stetson.”

There’s no doubt who Buffalo News reporter Dan Herbeck was describing– but Buffalo’s pioneer of country music, Ramblin’ Lou Schriver. He’s performed at the Grand Ole Opry and he and his wife Joanie Marshall are in the Country Music Hall of Fame.  But it all started much more simply than that.

As a senior at Tonawanda High, Lou Schriver walked into the brand new WJJL Radio in the Elks Building in Niagara Falls and asked for an on-air try-out.

The station manager liked the sound, and offered Lou the chance at a daily, unpaid show.

He was driving his 1933 Ford to the station every day before school for a 15-minute program of “hillbilly music,” and it caught on.

Ramblin’ Lou for Milk for Health

“When I started, country music was not the thing. In the early days, more people ridiculed it,” said Schriver in 1978. “But I was very proud to be called country.”

The grandson of “an old-time Pennsylvania fiddler who rode through the hills looking for dances to play,” Lou spent the next 17 years on the radio in Niagara Falls, and building an audience for country music all across Western New York.

“I love the music. I love the people who love the music. The kind of people who like country music are down-to-earth. There’s nothing put-on about them,” said Lou, who came to Buffalo in 1964 to help build a country sound for WWOL Radio as the station’s program director.

Joanie Marshall, also known as Mrs. Lou Schriver, grew up in Cheektowaga—but she, too, is all country. She was nine months pregnant when she played her double-necked electric guitar with Buck Owens when the country legend played on a Buffalo stage.

She felt a little woozy during the show, but glowed in the big applause from the audience and praise from Owens on the stage.

Only hours later, Ramblin’ Lou rushed his wife to the hospital, and Lou Jr. was born.

The Schrivers have always made their music and their business a family affair. Early on, the band included Lou, Joanie, Joanie’s dad “Bashful Eddie” Marshall on the bass, legendary side man “Accordion Zeke” Cory, Don Atkinson on drums and Bill Dyet on the steel guitar. They played gigs around the region together, and also on “The WGR Jamboree” on Ch.2.

In 1970, the Schrivers bought WMMJ Radio from Stan Jasinski, who was selling the station he built on William Street in Lancaster to pour his resources into the television station he was starting, WUTV-TV Ch.29.

Among the radio station’s first employees was Accordion Zeke—who became a WXRL Account Executive.

Lou Jr. eventually joined the “family band” on drums. Daughter Lori Ann plays the fiddle, and Lynn Carol Schriver sings and plays electric piano. Through the 80s, Linda Lou was the receptionist at WXRL and a featured singer in the family band. She started singing with the band at age 4 on Ch.2, and at 13 replaced her grandpa on the bass in the band.

“The family that plays together, stays together,” said Lou, who always treated everyone like family, and had associations that stretch more than four decades with The Erie County Fair, Milk for Health, Tops, and a host of other sponsors.

The Schrivers at WXRL, 1970.


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

Beatlemania hits WKBW

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


In the simplest of terms, after decades of economic depression and war, young people of the late 1940s had less responsibility, more economic freedom and a growing segment of pop culture being cultivated to employ and take advantage of that free time and free cash.

For 70 years, more mature generations have been panning the choices of teenage girls and especially the fervor with which they make those choices.

The names change, but from Frank Sinatra to Justin Bieber, rigid-minded adults can’t understand all the swooning over (some singer) with (some bizarre haircut, bizarre dance, etc.).

By 1964, American fuddy-duddies had withstood the waves of bobbysoxers and Elvis’ wagging hips — but the arrival of a moppy-headed quartet of singers from England took the genre up another notch.

If there’s a start date for Beatlemania, you might choose Feb. 9, 1964 — the date of the band’s first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” About 60 percent of American televisions were tuned to the performance of the nation’s No. 1 top single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” It aired in Buffalo on Ch.4.

Immediately, adults started to try to make sense of the mania.

In a matrix that has repeated itself time and time again as American Pop Culture has evolved, the aversion to the Beatles was just as strong as the fanaticism of their young followers.

What was it about the Beatles? everyone seemed to want to know. Was it the haircuts, asked the Courier-Express’ “Enquiring Reporter” of Western New York high school students?

Lining up to get on The KB Crush Beatles Bus Caravan to Toronto

One boy from Cardinal O’Hara High School was convinced that it was “The Beatles’ weird looks more than their musical ability” that made them popular. Many others agreed, but said it was the combination of talent and different looks that made the Beatles “just far out.”

Whether you loved the Beatles or hated them, they were clearly a growing economic force to be reckoned with.

It wasn’t just with the expected idea of record sales at places like Twin Fair, more staid institutions such as AM&A’s were offering “The Beatle Bob” in their downtown and branch store beauty salons. Hengerer’s was selling Beatles records and wigs.

A month after the group’s first appearance on Ed Sullivan, a couple of doors down from Shea’s Buffalo, the Paramount Theatre sold out a weekend’s worth of closed-circuit showings of a Beatles concert.

Eighteen uniformed Buffalo Police officers were hired to help keep the peace among the more than 2,500 teens who showed up to watch the show at the Paramount, which was hosted by WKBW disc jockey Joey Reynolds. The only slight hint of misbehavior on the part of Beatles fans came when the infamous rabble-rouser Reynolds declared on the stage, “I hate the Beatles!” and he was pelted with jellybeans.

Local bands like the Buffalo Beetles, later renamed the Mods, enjoyed popularity and even their own records on the radio. After the July, 1964 release of The Beatles’ first film “A Hard Day’s Night,” the summer of 1965 saw the release of the Beatles’ second movie, “Help!,” which opened at Shea’s before moving onto the smaller theaters and the drive-ins.

The Beatles also played a concert at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens in August 1965. There were at least a couple of dozen Buffalonians in attendance courtesy of the WKBW/Orange Crush Beatles caravan, hosted by Danny Neaverth.

Danny Neaverth hosting on KB Crush Caravan to see the Beatles.

Sixteen-year-old Jay Burch of Orchard Park High School described Beatlemania from the midst of it in 1964 this way: “The Beatles’ singing is OK, but it’s the haircuts and dress that make them standouts. … The Beatles are different. They got a good gimmick and made it work.”

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison of The Beatles at a Toronto press conference, speaking into a microphone from Toronto’s CHUM Radio front and center.

Many of Buffalo’s Beatles dreams finally came true on Oct. 22, 2015, when Paul McCartney made his first appearance in Buffalo, singing songs that many in the audience had first heard 51 ½ years earlier for the first time on a Sunday evening with Ed Sullivan.

Art Wander was among the first Americans to hear The Beatles’ classic “A Day in the Life.” Yes, that Art Wander. Long before his sports talk show days, the native of Buffalo’s East Side was a national radio programmer, and hosted Beatles manager Brian Epstein in his WOR New York City office.

The KB mid-60s lineup included midday man Rod Roddy, who would later be one of the country’s leading game show announcers on shows like Press Your Luck and The Price is Right.

In the late 60s, KB issued two different top 300 lists. The band members are the KB disc jockeys shown on the previous page, with the exception of Lee Vogel—who had left the station, and was shown facing backwards.


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

Rocketship 7 & Commander Tom

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


Unquestionably the most popular local kids’ show of the 50s and into the 60s, Uncle Mike’s Playhouse on Ch.4 was Mike Mearian’s lasting legacy on Buffalo media.

The 1956 Sylvania TV Award nominations described Uncle Mike this way:

“Mr. Mearian’s genius as a humorist plus the best available children’s cartoons add up to youthful entertainment fun that is always in the best of taste.”

Uncle Mike’s faithful puppet sidekick, Buttons, was a marionette operated by Ellen Knetchel and voiced by Mearian.

By the time Buttons and Uncle Mike left Buffalo for a Big Apple acting career in 1967, Buffalo rug-rats had already found fun new TV shows created just for them over on Ch.7.

Jay Nelson was a disc jockey on WKBW Radio, but is perhaps best remembered as the host of Ch.7’s Jungle Jay Show.

Jungle Jay Nelson, WKBW-TV

He wore a pith helmet and a leopard print jacket while playing old Tarzan clips when kids got home from school.

The shtick was so popular that even after he left Buffalo for his native Canada to work at CHUM Radio in Toronto, he continued calling himself Jungle Jay, and continued wearing the pith helmet.

The show was just as popular north of the border as it was in Western New York, and the nickname stuck with Nelson for decades.

Sheena Queen of the Jungle (actress Irish McCalla) felt right at home on a promotional visit to Jay Nelson’s Ch.7 show.

Depending on your age, you remember him best as the host of Dialing for Dollars or the host of Rocketship 7.

Mr. Beeper, Dave, and Promo

Dave Thomas spent 16 years at WKBW-TV, starting in the newsroom anchoring newscasts and weather reports. The native of Buffalo’s West Side attended Holy Angels grammar school and Bishop Fallon High School.

His 16-year run on Rocketship 7– one of the most beloved programs in the history of Buffalo television–began on September 10, 1962. Eventually Dave would be joined by the Sweetleys, Mr. Beeper and Promo the Robot.

During the show’s run, there were two different Promo costumes and five different men who played him, including Dialing For Dollars accordion player Johnny Banaszak, who spend many years switching between his Promo and “Johnny and Jimmy” identities between shows.

Dave Thomas—real name Dave Boreanaz—left Buffalo for Philadelphia in 1978, where using the air name Dave Roberts, he was a weather man at WPVI for 31 years.

Both in Buffalo and Philadelphia, Dave was involved with the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, rising to National Vice Chairman.

His son is the actor Dave Boreanaz, who has played in the TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bones, and SEAL Team.

When Dave Thomas wasn’t palling around with Promo the Robot and Mr. Beeper, he was hosting Dialing for Dollars with Nolan Johannes and Liz Dribben.

Rocketship 7 was a must watch for many Buffalo kids through the 60s and 70s, before Dave Thomas blasted off for that new job in Philadelphia in 1978.

This is the second paint job for the original Promo the Robot. A different costume was used in the mid-70s. John Banaszak played Promo during the part of the show’s run. Each day, he quickly shed the clacking Promo suit to grab his accordion and entertain on Dialing for Dollars.

Dave Thomas and Mr. Beeper

Buffalo’s longest running—and most salubrious– kids’ show starred Ch.7’s All-American weatherman Tom Jolls as Commander Tom– who eventually took to TV wearing the bright red jacket of a Canadian Mountie.

He performed with his puppet pals which early on, were mostly made from his kids’ old stuffed animals. Among them as voiced by the Commander himself, were Matty the Mod– a young, energetic, but slight dimwitted alligator; the sensitive and gentle Cecily Fripple, trying to recapture her glorious past; and trusty, faithful Dustmop– watchdog of Central Command, despite of his old age and failing eyesight.

Commander Tom’s first assignment was with Bat Head, as host of “The Superman Show.” Eventually, Bat Head flew back to his cave and it was just Commander Tom.

The last Ch.2 produced show which captured the imagination of the youngest viewers starred weatherman Bob Lawrence as Captain Bob. He did local cut-ins during a string of wildly different programs.

Not too long after the station signed on, he was the local host of an NBC cartoon called Colonel Bleep. After that show was canceled, he entertained kids during Ch.2’s playback of old 1930s Three Stooges shorts.

Captain Bob also hosted the local presentation of The Mickey Mouse Club afternoons in the late 50s and early 60s.

Although hostess “Miss Joan” made frequent personal appearances at Buffalo-area toy stores, the Romper Room program that was broadcast on WGR-TV in the late 60s was a national version of the show, aired on dozens of stations around the country.

Puppeteer Jim Menke worked on Ch.2’s Captain Bob Show as well as on WNED-TV’s “Mr. Whatnot” and “Barnaby & Co.” programs.

All through the 60s from Thanksgiving to Christmas, Ch.4 created holiday excitement with Bill Peters as Santa, Johnny Eisenberger as Forgetful the Elf, and Warren Jacober as Freezy the Polar Bear.

J. Michael Collins and Vince Saele host a WNED-TV pledge drive in the late 1960s.

Sister Mary Margaretta, Superior of St. Nicholas School, was a regular guest on Ch.4’s “The Bishop Visits Your Home.”


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

Cable TV comes to WNY & Beat the Champ

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


Al Anscombe at the WNY Cable TV map.

After ending the 1950s with a revolution on Buffalo radio with the switch of WKBW to rock ’n’ roll Top-40, former radio announcer and longtime KB manager Alfred Anscombe had another trick up his sleeve by the mid-60s.

He was the brains and muscle behind the then-controversial idea of bringing television into Western New York homes via cable instead of antenna.

Anscombe began construction on the infrastructure which would eventually bring cable to Buffalo’s northern suburbs through his Amherst Cablevision and Ken-Ton Cablevision. Both franchises were eventually sold to International Cable.

Nin Angelo spent 20 years as a professional bowler, but it was his 19-week run on Ch.4’s “Beat the Champ” which made him a Buffalo pop culture icon. He not only won 19 weeks in a row, but did it in style—with a 299 game and a 760 series mixed in. Nin Angelo, Allie Brandt, Vic Hermann—each multiple “Beat the Champ” champions, and host Chuck Healy.


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

Irv, Rick, & Tom

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


Irv Weinstein used to joke that Ch.7 was the fourth station in a three-station market when he began anchoring the news there in 1964.

For most of the station’s early years, there were ABC network shows and lots of old movies—and legally, not enough of anything else. In 1963, the FCC withheld the station’s license renewal request “pending additional information on local, live programing” on the station.

Enter Irv.

It took a few years for the Eyewitness News approach to catch on and become number one in Buffalo, but even as early as Irv’s first year at Ch.7 and a year before Tom Jolls would come over from Ch.4– the approach of dispatching news cameras to every corner of the city was gaining traction in an era where the other stations in the market were comfortable with a news anchor reading into a camera with no video or graphic accompaniment.

“They can hear about it on the other channels,” said Ch.7 General Manager Robert King, “but they see it on Ch.7.”

Irv Weinstein with Bill Gregory. When Irv first came to Ch.7, they co-anchored the news.

Irv Weinstein led the team that informed and entertained generations of Buffalonians with his unmistakable style in writing and delivering the news. Together with Rick Azar and Tom Jolls, Irv was a part of the longest running TV anchor team in history, and their story is the story of Buffalo over the last half century.

WKBW-TV Ch.7 signed on in 1958, 10 years after Ch.4, and four years after Ch.2, and the new station had a hard time gaining traction.

“The ratings at Ch.7 were worse than the signoff test patterns on Ch.4 and Ch.2,” said Weinstein.

When Weinstein left WKBW Radio to join Ch.7 alongside Rick Azar in 1964, the evening newscast went on the air at 7:20pm to avoid competition from the other stations’ 6 p.m. newscasts.

A few years later, Tom Jolls joined the crew, and the Irv, Rick and Tom team that dominated Buffalo TV news in the ’70s and ’80s was complete.

The three men, plus addition of more local newsfilm, better tight writing and a display of personality and human interaction unseen before on local TV made Ch.7 — and Irv Weinstein — No. 1 in the market, virtually uninterrupted, from the late 1960s through Irv’s retirement in 1998.

“Basically, the other stations’ approach was very conservative, you know, the globe on the desk and the clocks in the background and the mature, deep-voiced guy sitting there,” explained Irv.  “We were aggressive, we were razzle-dazzle. We covered every fire there was because it looked great.”

Irv also credited the styles and personalities of the three men — and the mix of those personalities — with the larger success of “Eyewitness News” during those years.

Tom Jolls, 1964

“You had Tom, every mother’s son; the flag, and apple pie, and all of those things that make for a fine American,” said Irv. “That’s what you saw, that’s what you got. That’s what Tom was, that’s what Tom is.

“Rick was more of a broadcasting personality,” said Weinstein. “Solid professional, knowledgeable, debonair, good looking guy. Very smooth, Mr. Smooth, the Latin Lover.”

And rounding out the trio?

“Me? I’m an ethnic type,” Irv said of himself. “Definitely an ethnic type. I felt very proud of the fact in a heavily Catholic, heavily Polish town, this Jewish kid was accepted.”

“Accepted” is an understatement. Irv Weinstein is remembered as one of — if not the — greatest personalities in the history of Buffalo television.

He got his start in radio as a child actor growing up in Rochester in the 1940s. After working in various radio and TV jobs, he wound up as a newsman at WKBW Radio in Buffalo. There, he became the news director and was instrumental in the rock ’n’ roll style newscasts that matched the music KB was playing in the late 50s and early 60s.

It was at KB Radio where Irv perfected the ra-ta-tat-tat staccato delivery style that he’d be remembered for; it’s also where he developed the sharp writing style, filled with alliteration and bigger-than-life phraseology that was the engine for that delivery.

There were no firemen tamping down a house fire. “Buffalo fire eaters” “battled spectacular blazes.” “Death was waiting along the side of the road” for someone struck and killed by a car. A teenage hold-up man was a “knife-wielding delinquent,” if he wasn’t a “pistol-packing punk.”

After leaving WKBW Radio for WKBW-TV in 1964, it took Weinstein some time to get used to being on camera and to adapt his writing style for television delivery, but over the next several years, he became comfortable with TV and Buffalo became comfortable with him.

By the time Irv Weinstein came to Ch.7, Rick Azar had already been there for six years. Azar was the announcer who signed the station on the air in 1958.

He had been an actor who took radio jobs at WUSJ in Lockport, WWOL in Buffalo and WHLD in Niagara Falls between acting gigs, and also served as a sports and weather man on Buffalo’s short lived WBUF-TV Ch.17 staring in 1956.

In the early days at Ch.7, he delivered weather, sports and news, along with general announcing, and even hosting “Buffalo Bandstand,” the local version of the Dick Clark show.

It was in sports broadcasting, though, where Azar became a long-remembered and trusted household name.

As a TV sportscaster, a play-by-play man for college basketball, and one of the voices of the Buffalo Bills in the 1970s, there were few broadcasters better known, liked and appreciated that Azar.

Rick Azar in the lockerroom.

In 1975, the fact that the “Eyewitness News” anchor team might have been the hippest guys in town might be reflected in the fact that there was a special edition Oldsmobile on sale called “The Azar.”

If Rick was hip, Tom Jolls was everyone’s favorite neighbor. The youngest of the three, Jolls and Azar actually met when Jolls was a junior high school announcer in Lockport and Azar was a disc jockey on WUSJ using the name “Dick Corey.”

Jolls eventually became the morning man at his hometown WUSJ. He also had early TV experience at another short-lived Buffalo TV station, WBES-TV. After a stint in the Army, Jolls returned to WUSJ before moving to WBEN AM-FM-TV in 1963. He was seen on Ch.4 and heard on 930AM for about two years before joining Irv Weinstein, Rick Azar and Dustmop at Ch.7 in 1965.

Commander Tom was more than just a weatherman, he was a beloved TV uncle who guided us through days that were stormy as well as salubrious, but also made sure we were entertained with the puppets he and his wife crafted from their children’s old stuffed animals.

Tom Jolls on a salubrious night on the original Weather Outside set on Main Street.

But even mild-mannered Tom Jolls was a part of the spice of “Eyewitness News.” For decades, it was Jolls who asked, “It’s 11 o’clock. … Do you know where your children are?”

Together, the facts say that at 24 years, Irv, Rick and Tom were the longest-running anchor team in the history of American television. The hearts of Buffalonians say they were also probably the most beloved.

Rick Azar broke up the band with his retirement after 31 years at Ch.7 in 1989. The following year, at age 59, Irv Weinstein gave up the 11pm newscast and was seen only at 6pm.

He stuck around in that 6pm anchor chair for just shy of a decade, retiring from Ch.7 in 1998. Jolls followed suit with his retirement in 1999.

The Eyewitness News team included Irv Weinstein, Nolan Johannes, Barbara Pawelek, Paul Thompson, Bill Nailos, Don Keller, Alan Nesbitt, John Winston, and Tom Jolls.

Aside from Dialing For Dollars, Liz Dribben anchored morning newscasts on Ch.7 through the second half of the 1960s. Among Buffalo’s first woman broadcast journalists, she became a CBS News writer and producer, working with Mike Wallace and Walter Cronkite among others.

The heavy promotion of Irv, Rick, and Tom as a team began after Ch.7’s early newscasts moved to 6pm in 1971.


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

Around the TV dial through the 60s

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


Van Miller spent the 60s as the play-by play voice of the Bills and one of Ch.4’s top sportscasters, but he was also one of WBEN Radio’s most popular personalities as well. Van hikes the ball to Jack Kemp

Van interviews radio comedy legend Jack Benny (above) and Hollywood beauty Jayne Mansfield (below).


Van Miller, news; Chuck Healy, sports; Ward Fenton, weather

Ch.4 had an ever-changing team of news, sports, and weather announcers.

Chuck Healy, news; Van Miller, sports, Ken Philips, weather

In 1964, Tom Jolls was the weatherman on the Ch.4 newscasts anchored by Chuck Healy leading into Walter Cronkite’s CBS Evening News.

Ward Fenton, Bill Peters, Martha Torge, Mike Mearian, and Tom Jolls recording “The Life of FDR.”

Before he made Dustmop come to life and made the phrase “Back to you, Irv,” part of Buffalo’s lexicon, Tom Jolls was celebrated as the host of Kaleidoscope on WBEN Radio. The program was filled with daily musical themes and dramatic productions often written and produced by Jolls—including the one shown above.

“I would commend Mr. Jolls for his show, its freshness, variety, presentation and the obvious effort which goes into the program. Mr. Jolls always makes Kaleidoscope sound like fun day after day,” wrote one Toronto critic.


Virgil Booth, as a host and news reporter, brought nature to Ch.4 viewers.

During the station’s first 11 years on the air, Chuck Poth was a familiar face to Ch.2 viewers as one of the station’s most visible newscasters.

The South Buffalo native attended OLV grammar school and Baker-Victory High in Lackawanna. After serving in the Army during World War II, Poth held a string of jobs at WUSJ Lockport, WJJL Niagara Falls, WBNY, and then the short-lived WBUF-TV.

After working at WGR-TV from 1954-1966, he worked in politics, writing speeches for Robert Kennedy, then running for county legislature and congressional seats, before working in Buffalo City Hall during the Griffin administration.


By 1964, Roy Kerns (above) and Frank Dill (below) were familiar faces in Buffalo, both having been on Ch.2 since the station signed on a decade earlier. They were seen anchoring news and weather leading into NBC’s Huntley/Brinkley Report.


After retiring from the Buffalo Bills, Ernie Warlick became the first Black member of a Buffalo TV anchor team when he became a sportscaster at Ch.2. While his duties generally included interviewing sports figures like Bills quarterback Tom Flores (below), they also included some news duty—like chatting with Mayor Frank Sedita during a bus strike (above).


Skating champion Peggy Fleming chats with photographers Roy Russell from The Buffalo Evening News, Don Keller (Yearke) from Ch.7, and Paul Maze from Ch.4.

The press covers the Dome Stadium controversy. At the table: reporters Jim Fagan, WKBW; Allan Bruce, UPI; Jim McLaughlin, WYSL; Milt Young, WBEN-TV, Ray Finch, WBEN-TV. Dick Teetsel, Ch.2 sits in back, and Don Yearke shoots film for Ch.7.


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

More listeners start tuning to FM

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


Gene Kelly and Bernie Sandler in the new studios of WBEN-FM in 1960. WBEN-FM was Buffalo’s first FM station starting in 1946. First broadcasting at 106.5FM, the station moved frequencies to 102.5FM in 1959.  The following year, WBEN-FM moved into expansive new studios at 2077 Elmwood Avenue, where the station would remain until 2000, through call letter changes to WMJQ-FM and then WTSS-FM.

In 1963, Buffalo boasted 11 commercial AM stations and 11 commercial FM stations.

And by the mid-1960s, those stations on the FM dial had begun the transformation that would make Frequency Modulation radio’s future and driving force.

The decade started with an appreciation of the calm of the FM dial.

One letter to the editor read, “Buy an F. M. (frequency modulation) radio. They don’t cost much more than an ordinary A.M. set. But music comes out of an F. M. radio—not that jabberwocky they call music on A.M. stations. Station WBNY-FM Buffalo, and WHLD-FM Niagara Falls, have good music all day long and some of the evening WBEN-FM has supper concerts. All these stations have music for the human race. No one will need a psychiatrist even after hours of listening to them.”

Another Courier-Express reader wrote that he “certainly would hate to see the FM band cluttered with rock ‘n’ roll.”

By the end of the decade, both would be terribly disheartened.

106.5FM was the longtime home of middle-of-the-road, easy listening music for two decades. WADV-FM signed on in 1962, and became the first Buffalo station to broadcast in stereo.  Dan Lesniak was a WKBW Salesman when he and his wife Nancy founded the station, which they owned until 1981, when it became WYRK-FM.  WADV-FM morning man Lou German.

George “The Hound” Lorenz grew tired of working for other people, and founded WBLK-FM. The legendary Buffalo disc-jockey threw the switch to put his station on the air on Dec. 11, 1964.

After years as chief announcer and then station manager at the old WBNY-AM, Carl Spavento was an FM pioneer. He spent nearly a decade expanding the offerings of WBUF-FM, which began broadcasting in 1947. Among his innovations: music and grocery descriptions broadcast for playback over the public address speakers at Tops Friendly Markets when the chain opened in 1962.

Along with other longtime radio veterans Ed Little and Danny McBride, Spavento was part of the team who put WBNY-FM 96.1 on the air in 1966. Operations manager Ed Little said the music fare will be “stimulating, with good taste and excitement, and the lively sounds will be transmitted with enough power to reach the entire Niagara megalopolis and nearby Canada.”

Spavento later moved to WYSL as news director, before joining re-joining WBUF-FM in 1981, where he was heard reading the news on the Stan Roberts Show, among other duties over a Buffalo radio career that spanned 50 years.

WHLD-FM in Niagara Falls would eventually become WZIR and WXRT, before changing call signs to WKSE-FM, broadcasting as Kiss 98.5 since 1985.

WWOL-FM signed on in 1954 at 104.1FM. WGR signed on WGR-FM at 96.9FM in 1959, and WEBR signed on WEBR-FM at 94.5FM in 1960.


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

Clint still #1 in the 60s & around the dial

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


KB dominated radio in the 60s, but not morning radio.

For the fourth straight decade, Clint Buehlman was Buffalo’s most listened to radio personality.

Buffalo’s indestructible, omni-present, favorite uncle sometimes took his role a little too seriously— scolding, chastising, lecturing and generally irascible.

Buehly was at his crankiest during snow storms, lashing out at those who didn’t follow the rules and made things tougher for the rest of us. But with a check of “Arthur Mometer,” consultation with “Mr. Operator” Tom Whalen, and a news update with Jack Ogilvie, everything seemed in order– as that was WBEN’s morning team for more than 25 years.

Whalen 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.

WBEN’s Clint Buehlman with “Arthur Mometer.”

Sometimes Clint would cut it close— especially during snow emergencies. But the plow on the front of his Jeep was usually enough to get him from Amherst to North Buffalo six days-a-week no matter the weather.

“Dependability,” explained Buehly, was the reason for his 40 years of success on morning radio on WGR and then WBEN.

From the 1930s through the 1970s, if it was snowing in Buffalo on any given morning, you could depend on tuning around your dial to find “Yours Truly, Buehly” sitting at the piano, singing his song about driving in winter weather.

“Leave for work a little early cause the roads are kind of slick, and even though your brakes are good you’ll find you can’t stop quick.

“When you step upon that peddle and your car begins to skid, just remember this advice and you’ll be glad you did.”

 Among those looking on as Clint Buehlman shakes hands with Erie County Executive B. John Tutuska is Ann Deckop. Deckop spent more than 55 years working at WBEN and Ch.4 as an executive assistant, community outreach coordinator, and public service director.

Charlie Bailey calls Canisius Basketball action on WEBR, assisted by Mike Donahue and engineer Ed Wheims.

Among his other duties from classical music host to newsman to call-in show moderator, Brother John Otto read children’s books over WGR Sunday mornings in the early 1960s.

After nearly two decades at WEBR, Bob Wells landed at WGR Radio and TV, hosting shows on Ch.2 like Pic-A-Polka, The Yankee Doodle Room (live from AM&A’s), the Money Movie, and was also the voice of Your Host Restaurants for decades.


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

One of America’s Two Great Radio Stations: WKBW

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


Riding a wave started with a change to a personality driven Top-40 format in 1958, KB dominated Buffalo radio for most of the next two decades.

Sold by station founder Doc Churchill to national broadcasting powerhouse Capital Cities, the wealthy corporate backing of KB’s monstrous 50,000-watt signal helped lead to the evolution of one of the finest examples of a full-service Top-40 station that ever existed.

Eventually grabbing as much as 50% of the market share, KB quickly blew all of the much smaller Top-40 competitors out of the water. Half of the audience was listening to KB. Never before, and never since, has a radio station been so dominant in Buffalo.

Left to right: Don Keller (Yearke), Tom Shannon, Doug James, Wayne Stitt, Jay Nelson, Russ “The Moose” Syracuse, Dan Neaverth, Tom Saunders

The station’s base of homegrown talent sprinkled with some of the most talented people from around the country, helped build an unprecedented following for KB in Buffalo and around the country.

The first of those homegrown talents to leave a legacy was the great Tom Shannon, South Buffalo’s breaker of hearts and as smooth a disc jockey as Buffalo, Detroit, Denver, LA, or anywhere else has ever known.

Tom Shannon, in the WKBW air studio

Easy to listen to, debonair and literally the boy next door, the handsome and ultra-cool Shannon was a graduate of Holy Family grammar school and Bishop Ryan High.

As if owning nights on KB and driving a Corvette convertible wasn’t enough, there was the night Swedish sex-symbol Ann-Margret was in Buffalo on a promotional tour, and hopped in Tommy’s sports car for a date at the trendy Candy Cane Lounge, downtown next door to the Market Arcade.

That was the same nightclub where Shannon met the group that would ultimately become known as “The Rockin’ Rebels,” who would take “Wild Weekend,” their instrumental version of the Tommy Shannon Show theme song, to the national record charts.

At KB, he started as a weekend jock and fill-in guy, and didn’t even rank high enough to get his own theme song. It’s part of the KB magic that his self-produced, garage-band sounding musical opening touting “Top tunes, news and weather, so glad we could get together, on the, Tom Shannon Show” could become a nationwide Top Ten hit.

Shannon was at Fort Dix doing a hitch in the Army when he heard his song come on the radio and almost couldn’t believe it.

Tom Shannon sits in the WGR studio, holding a copy of the Rockin Rebels’ Wild Weekend album.

“It was so exciting to be a part of Buffalo radio back then,” Tom Shannon said in 1996. “Sometimes the disc jockeys were more popular than the rock stars.”

He was bigger than life hosting the night shift on KB, and Buffalo’s teens couldn’t get enough of Tommy. In 1961, tickets to his “Buffalo Bandstand” TV show on Ch.7 were being counterfeited and new procedures had to be put in place after the number of kids on the dance floor swelled out of control.

While a deejay at KB, Shannon hosted Buffalo Bandstand on Ch.7. When he later moved to WGR Radio, he hosted Hit or Miss on Ch.2.

Tom Shannon hosts a WKBW Record Hop, with Paul Simon, left.

Tom Shannon appeared in a series of 1964 print ads for Queen-O.

After spending the 60s and the 70s moving around the country and around radio dials, Shannon was back in Buffalo for his 30th grammar school reunion at Holy Family on South Park at Tifft when he stopped by his old home, WKBW.

A week of fill-in work lead to a three year stay towards the end of KB’s run as one of Buffalo’s most dominant radio stations. After spending time as a host on the Shop at Home cable TV network, Tommy made it back for one more turn at the air chair in Buffalo hosting afternoon drive on Oldies 104 during the 1990s and 2000s.

From 1960’s “WKBW 6-midnight platter and chatter show” host, to 1997’s deejay with “a warm conversational tone and knowledge of music and performers,” Tom Shannon has been one of the leading voices of Buffalo’s baby boomers through every stage of life.

Joey Reynolds, WKBW

If there was a way to “one up” having your theme song land on the national charts, the guy who eventually followed Shannon in KB’s evening slot probably found it.  

Joey Reynolds, KB’s night man through the mid-’60s, got The Four Seasons to sing their No. 1 hit “Big Girls Don’t Cry” with the lyrics changed to “The Joey Reynolds Show.” What a show!

Another local guy, Reynolds grew up in Buffalo’s Seneca-Babcock neighborhood playing radio announcer at the neighborhood Boys Club, and was every bit of a shock jock 20 years before the term was created for Don Imus and Howard Stern.

Joey Reynolds interviews Bobby Sherman on Ch.7’s Joey Reynolds Show.

He started a boisterous on-air feud with The Beatles and refused to play their records or even say their name, calling them “the four norks from England.” The feud lasted until there was money in it for him– he helped promote the local band The Buffalo Beatles.

Reynolds’ bombastic and over-the-top style earned him a following complete with membership cards for the “Royal Order of the Night People.” That audience extended far beyond Buffalo and Western New York. Despite working at a station 300 miles away in Buffalo, he was one of the most popular radio personalities in Baltimore, with thousands of listeners of KB’s strong signal mixed with Reynolds’ big mouth.

Reynolds’ eventual exit from WKBW is one of the most fabled in the legends of radio.

As the 1966 Variety Club Telethon aired on Ch.7, Reynolds felt slighted for being slotted to host the overnight portion of the big event.

One of many memorable stunts orchestrated by Reynolds involved him grabbing Fred Klestine as a tag-team partner to take on the tough, mean Gallagher Brothers in a wrestling match at the Aud.

In his memoir “Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella … But Don’t Get a Mouthful of Rain,” Reynolds admits to having had a few drinks before going on radio and giving TV star Frank Gorshin a hard time in an interview about the fundraiser.

Reynolds then insinuated another TV star and telethon guest host – Forrest Tucker of “F Troop” – was a drunk and had a case of booze in his dressing room.

One of the station managers took the episode personally – especially after Reynolds goaded him and made a joke about his bald head.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Joey put the writing on the door.

Rather than waiting to be fired, Reynolds, in an all-time display of brassiness, nailed his shoes to the station manager’s door with a note saying “FILL THESE” attached.

 Joey Reynolds, Tommy Shannon and Danny Neaverth all grew up in South Buffalo. Reynolds and Neaverth knew each other from St. Monica’s, the Babcock Street Boys Club and Timon High School. When teamed up on KB, the cross-talk between Neaverth’s afternoon show and Reynolds’ evening wrap was the subject of homeroom and lunch table discussion at every Western New York high school the next day, but was also the talk of water coolers and coffee break tables at businesses as well.

Beyonce. Bono. Cher. Some personalities are so renowned and celebrated just one name will do.  Such is Buffalo’s Danny.

Danny Neaverth is perhaps Buffalo’s greatest pop culture star. He’s remembered most for peeking at us through the hole in the record behind the microphones of upstart WBNY radio in the 1950s as Daffy Dan, then WGR Radio, and then 26 years at WKBW Radio — with most of those years as Buffalo’s morning man. Tag on a dozen more years at WHTT, and a few more at KB again, and Danny moved our fannies on the radio for half a century.

But it wasn’t just radio — Neaverth was also a TV weatherman on Ch.7 and later Ch.2.

He was the public address announcer for the NBA Braves and the NFL Bills.

 A few of his moonlighting gigs dovetailed more closely with his work as a disc jockey and radio host.

Danny signs hands at a Thruway Plaza record hop.

He was a concert promoter and recording artist (who could forget “Rats in My Room,” even if they tried?).

Of course, his face and voice were everywhere for Bells Supermarkets and dozens of other Western New York businesses through the years. His work in the community for dozens of causes and charities over the last 60 years has been unmatched. 

In the ’70s and ’80s, it was difficult to spend a day in Buffalo and not somehow be graced by the voice, smile and personality of “Clean Dan Neaverth,” a true Buffalonian who never forgot his Seneca Street South Buffalo roots and proudly plied his trade among fellow Buffalonians proud to call him one of us.

Danny took over mornings from Stan Roberts.

Stan Roberts at the KB mic.

Stan first woke up Buffalonians at WKBW from 1962-70, and then at WGR from 1972-82. He became “the first major Buffalo morning man to make the move to the FM band” when he joined WBUF-FM in 1982. After seven years at WBUF, Stan took WBUF mornings to the number one spot in the ratings— and the very next day, he jumped back to AM, hosting afternoon drive and working in sales at WBEN.

As WGR’s morning man, he narrated “Great Sabre Highlights” on the flip side of the very successful record single, Donna McDaniels’ “We’re Gonna Win That Cup.”  Stan also wrote at least two joke books, including “Sabres Knock-Knocks.”

Stan still hasn’t lived down the early 80s Royalite television commercial where he put a lampshade on his head, and in the late 80s, when, as the Bills PA announcer, he had to implore fans to “please stay off the field” while they stormed the Rich Stadium field, taking down the goalposts to celebrate the Bills’ clinching the AFC East in 1990.

The warm friendly voice of Fred Klestine felt like a cup of cocoa near the fire.

Fred Klestine, right, visits Xavier’s Meats at the Broadway Market

“An institution in Western New York,” his radio career when he was working at Lackawanna’s Bethlehem Steel, and a manager at Lackawanna’s WWOL heard his voice and told him to audition. Deejay was considerably easier than working in a blast furnace, and Fred spent the next 40 years keeping Buffalo company.

In the 50s, Klestine worked at WWOL and WBNY, before his long famous run at KB Radio. He was later heard on WADV-FM, and then on WBUF-FM through most of the 80s.

Then there was Pulse Beat News. Irv Weinstein was the news director and spiritual leader of the KB’s news staff.

“In terms of style, I was sometimes asked who my idol was in radio, and that was an easy one: Paul Harvey,” said Irv in an interview for the book Irv! Buffalo’s Anchorman. “Paul Harvey was not fast-paced, but he had a pace of delivering the news that was compelling. I like to think I was Paul Harvey only a lot faster.”

Faster, with flagrant, more outrageous writing. In the early rock ’n’ roll days of KB Radio and Pulsebeat News, the pace and the shocking style of writing and delivery made Irv’s later Eyewitness News persona seem comatose.

Irv Weinstein, WKBW Radio News Director

“A Top-40 news guy; fast paced,” said Irv. “Over time I developed a writing style that had sizzle and alliteration, and the type of thing to grab the audience. I learned along the way, that before you can get people to listen to you, you have to catch their attention. One way to do that is in your writing– make it compelling. Sometimes it was overboard, frankly, but it was ok. It did the job.”

It was the perfect comingling of man and circumstance that put Irv in the position to really invent the style of newscasting he made famous in Buffalo– one that was copied around the country.

Henry Brach had been a drug store owner before working in radio, and there’s something about that which just seems to fit. Unlike nearly every other KB Pulsebeat News man, Brach’s voice didn’t boom into radio speakers. His cool, understated style fit in just as well at KB, making him the favorite of listeners and a long line of America’s most talented all-time disc jockeys, who were merciless in mocking the newsman.

Henry Brach in the KB studio.

Jim Fagan was a disc jockey and newsman at WBTA in Batavia, where he’s shown here, before heading to WKBW for a three-decade career. 

Jim Fagan’s voice was one of the threads that tied together the various eras at KB.  During the 27-and-a-half years that he was a newsman at WKBW Radio, he saw many come and go, but from JFK to Reagan, his was one of the voices that reported on it over KB.

His strong voice punched out the KB Pulsebeat News sound perfectly in those early years, and mellowed as the rest of the station did right up to the very end. Fagan was among the final employees when corporate owners pulled the plug on the local news and music on KB and replaced it with syndicated programming.

John Zach was born into radio. His father was a radio pioneer, having built the first “wireless set” in the city’s Kaisertown neighborhood. After attending St. Casimir grammar school and PS 69, he learned about the technical aspects of radio at Seneca Vocational High School– but John’s path into broadcasting was lined with guitar pics rather than vacuum tubes.

As the leader of “John Zach and The Fury’s,” he played record hops with Danny Neaverth, who worked with Zach and helped him develop his on-air sound.

1959 ad.

After spending time as a disc jockey in Georgia, Zach returned to Buffalo and was hired by Irv Weinstein for an overnight news job at WKBW in 1960. He spent most of the next five decades informing Buffalo’s radio audience, come hell or high snowbanks.  Twice during the Blizzard of ’77, John Zach came in by snow mobile to anchor the news during the Danny Neaverth Show. 

As KB Radio’s News Director for most of the 80s, a survey found that John Zach was Buffalo’s most recognizable radio news personality.

With long stops at WKBW and WGR under his belt, Zach joined WBEN in 1998 and spent 18 years with Susan Rose co-anchoring Buffalo’s most listened to radio news program, Buffalo’s Early News.

John Zach spent time as a disc jockey and news man in Georgia before spending nearly 27 years at WKBW Radio.


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