WBEN-TV signs-on, 1948

       By Steve Cichon

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

For the few thousand with TV sets that could pull in the new station, the wait was excruciating.

On February 27, 1948, WBEN-TV started telecasting daily—but only a test pattern for several hours a day.

Eleven weeks later, on May 14, 1948, Buffalo entered the television era with the sign-on of Ch.4, WBEN-TV. The station was among the first 25 to sign on in the country.

“Edward H. Butler, editor and publisher of The Buffalo Evening News, stepped before a WBEN-TV camera at Memorial Auditorium on May 14, 1948—and a new era in mass communications and home entertainment began on the Niagara Frontier,” read an announcement from the station.

The station’s first-day, four-hour lineup offered a taste of what television would be like over the next couple of years in Buffalo—a little bit of everything.

After the somber address by Mayor Dowd and Mr. Butler, there was a Town Casino Variety Show, including the Town Casino chorus, acrobatic dancer Dorothy Deering, and network singing star and emcee Mary Jane Dobb.

The Town Casino chorus—“The Adorables,” entertained on Ch.4’s first night of broadcasting. The high-kicking ladies were Barbara Stafford, Alice Noonan, Jerry MacPhee, Gini Ruth, Melhi Jestrab, and Lee Borger.

And the show that would be the station’s most popular for the next decade was also on Ch.4 that first night —There was wrestling live from Memorial Auditorium.

WBEN-TV cameras in Memorial Auditorium.

“The marceled master of mayhem, Gorgeous George, will take over the spotlight when the tele-cameras shift to the auditorium’s wrestling ring at 9:30,” read Buffalo’s first TV program guide.

Just as radio had been a truly pioneering experience 25 years earlier– with no one exactly sure what to do because no one had ever done it before, the first few years of programming at Ch.4 were an exciting and sometimes weird hodge-podge of adapting things that worked on radio for television mixed with completely new ideas for the completely new medium.

South Buffalo’s Fred Keller, who first joined WBEN as an announcer in 1942, was the creative spirit behind many of the shows on Ch.4.

Mary Jane Dobb was the emcee and Dorothy Deering performed acrobatic dancing on a Town Casino Variety Show on Ch.4’s first night on the air. Behind the camera is Program Director Fred Keller, who was also a writer and announcer that evening. “Radio Mirror” called him “one of the top television idea-men in the East.” Among his credits was the creation of Ch.4’s beloved Santa Claus show.
Because sponsors meant more than format, Chuck Healy’s “Iroquois Sports Spotlight” show hosted Buffalo Zoo Director Joseph Abgott and his monkey friend “Mike” visited when the zoo opened the Iroquois Monkey Island.

Remembered as a sportscaster from the day WBEN-TV signed on in 1948 through 1977, Chuck Healy was also Buffalo’s most watched TV news anchor on Ch.4 through the ’60s.

The versatile announcer was also a versatile athlete as a boxing and football star at Syracuse University.

“Clowns and tigers” sounds more like a bad dream than a TV show. There was no caption attached to this photo, but based on the cameras without WBEN-TV stenciling, it was probably taken in early 1948, well-before the station signed on with a regular schedule.
At 9:30 on Wednesday mornings, the Czurles family hosted “Woodland Crafts, as a part of the “Live and Learn” summer series on Ch.4. Dr. Stanley Czurles was the Director of Art education at Buffalo State Teachers College.
Another of Ch.4’s most popular early shows The TV Barn Dance, sponsored by Hal Casey’s South Park Chevrolet. At various times, the show featured country musicians who were also known as around Buffalo as disc jockeys– Art Young, who was heard on WXRA and WKBW, performed with his group the Borderliners. Lee Forster, who hosted shows on WEBR, WKBW and WWOL, performed on the program—and also met his wife on the Ch.4 sound stage.
Ailing veterans gather around a brand-new television set in the recreation lounge of the VA Hospital in Batavia in 1949.
Ed Reimers interviews singer and bandleader Vaughn Monroe on Ch.4, early in 1948, while the station was still experimenting and not yet broadcasting a full schedule.
Ch.4 live truck downtown.
“Studio D,” on the Statler’s 18th floor as Ch.4 presents “The Clue,” perhaps the best remembered of Ch.4’s live, locally produced dramas.

Television’s first ever cop drama, “The Clue” was written and directed by Buffalo theater icon Fred A. Keller, and starred Evening News Radio-TV columnist Jim Trantor as Private Eye Steve Malice. It was as an actor on “The Clue” that Canadian radio announcer Lorne Greene—later famous as Ben Cartwright on Bonanza—made his first television appearance.

Stuart Roth and Jim Mohr recreate a scene in Ch.4’s “The Law & You.”
Brothers Jim (above) and Don Trantor lit up 1920s Buffalo radio with their piano act “the 20 Fingers of Melody.” Don was later the TV and Radio critic for the Courier-Express, while Jim was the promotions director for the WBEN stations. As shown above, he also played “Steve Malice, Private Eye,” starring in Ch.4’s “The Clue.”
It took a cast and crew of 22 to put on a 15-minute episode of “The Clue,” including Director Keller, Writer Wander, Ass’t Director Baldwin and announcer Bob Nelson. Actress Nadine Fitzpatrick is flanked by Trantor, Conrad Schuck, Charles Dempsey and Keith Hopkins. The technicians include Neil O’Donnell, Frank Holliday, Arthur Graff, John Knoerl, Gordon Pels, Gee Klumpp, Chet Pardee, Doug McLarty, James Kane, John Hagmman, Donald Stilwell, and William Noble.
Jim Trantor was also one of Ch.4’s early news men. He was the host of the weekly Iroquois Illustrated Press, which took a longer look at the week’s top news stories.
Harry Webb (above) and Ed Dinsmore (below) were Ch.4’s most seen news anchors during the station’s first decade on the air.
Celebrating Ch.4’s fourth anniversary in 1952 were Harry Webb, Bill Peters (who played Santa Claus from 1954-72 as well as “Norman Oklahoma”), and “Uncle” Jerry Brick, who was a Ch.4 floor director when he wasn’t hosting a kid’s variety show.
Chuck Healy’s easy and professional manner was a Ch.4 mainstay from the day the station signed on until 1977. Strictly a sportsman in the early days, Healy would be Buffalo’s most watched news anchor in the 1960s.
Director Gertrude Noble and Floor Manager William Noble look on as Victor’s Amateur Hour emcee James Trantor rehearses a commercial with producer James Christensen.
Woody Magnuson was another of the hosts on WBEN-TV’s Amateur Hour, this time sponsored by North Park Furniture. He was also the host of a longtime WEBR kids show as “Uncle Bill.”

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

Buffalo Radio at War (and after the war)

       By Steve Cichon

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

“Women’s Army” aired on WGR to help with the recruitment of WAACs. Announcer Denny Schute interviews Lt. Jeanne Gatt from the WGR studios at the Rand Building.

Blackout drills were a way of life during World War II, and the first came the day after Christmas, 1941.

Radio stations set aside their programming to help conduct the drill. The following account was in The News the next day, and shows a tremendous overview of radio in Buffalo at that time.

“Only lights burning in most Buffalo homes Friday night were tiny dial lights on radios, while the radio stations that poured out a stream of information about the blackout were lighted themselves by small blue bulbs not much larger than those on listeners’ sets.

“Although most stations possess “inside” studios which have no windows and thus could be kept as brilliant as possible, all preferred to switch out all lights except tiny blue ones near their microphones and technical-control panels.

“WBEN, whose studio windows in Hotel Statler were covered securely by wallboard shields, kept only a dim safety light burning in its inside “standby” studio where other announcers remained on duty while Ed Reimers described the blackout from a 20th-floor vantage point in City Hall. Control room windows were likewise covered and dimly lit.

A WBEN billboard painted on a building behind Buffalo City Hall, 1944.

“Blinds were drawn completely over all studio windows at WEBR in Broadcasting House, 23 West North Street.  A lone bulb glowed in one studio in use, and a tiny green light illumined control room switches and dials.

“Blue cellophane was fastened over control room lights, tiny meter bulbs were changed from white to red and only desk lamps were in use in two inside studios of WGR-WKBW, which linked to carry a description by announcers Jack Gelzer and Bob Sherry from an 18th-floor parapet of the Rand Building of Buffalo blacking out.

“Tight-fitting cardboard covered WBNY’s windows in the Nellany Building and one blue bulb glowed in the control room and another in one studio.

“Visible from vantage points about the city were red warning lights on WBEN’s transmitter towers on Grand Island, WEBR’s tower on the Larkin Terminal Warehouse, WGR-WKBW antennas in Hamburg and WSVS’ towers on Seneca Vocational High School.

“These warning lights must be kept burning at all times under federal law, unless ordered out by military authorities. The Civil Aeronautics Board ordered that aeronautical lights such as these must be kept burning during test blackouts. WBNY’s tower in East Eagle Street carries no signal beacons, not being so required because of its location and height.”

During the war years, stations offered plenty of patriotic programming. Several radio stations offered live coverage of the opening of the new Curtiss-Wright factory in Cheektowaga just before the US entered the war. It was the largest airplane factory in the country when it opened in 1941.

In 1944, Buffalo’s War Emergency Radio Service radio station signed on.

WQWT was part of a nationwide network meant to operate using portable transmitters in the event of emergency.

WEBR engineer Ray Lamy oversaw the operation, which, had it ever been used, would have employed amateur operators using their own equipment—all in an effort to save resources for the war effort.

WKBW’s “Commando Corps Court of Honor” was a program that encouraged young people to sell War Stamps and Bonds. Announcer John Boothby makes the announcement in the Lafayette Hotel Ballroom that the program had raised more than $330,000 by the end of 1942. To the right of the mic is Chief Announcer Jack Gelzer, who came up with the program. WGR-WKBW Announcers Robert Sherry and Jack McLean are also on hand.

“Junked radio sets and parts, salvaged from cellars and attics, are being rebuilt by amateurs and professionals into two-way stations and operated for the public good,” reported Popular Science in 1943.

Nominally meant as a means of communication during natural disasters, the system was built in anticipation of air raids on American targets. It was disbanded at the end of the war.

The High Hatters entertain at Curtiss-Wright, 1944.

In 1946, the long-standing Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation partnership of WGR and WKBW was broken up, as WGR was purchased by a group led by longtime Buffalo radio man I.R. “Ike” Lounsberry.

Signing the paperwork to buy WGR are, seated: Edward J. Gorono, BBC counsel; Leo J. Fitzpatrick, chairman of the board of WGR, and I. R. Lounsberry, WGR president and general manager. Standing: Edwin F. Jaeckle, BBC counsel; Norman E. Nobes, WGR secretary-treasurer, and Raymond J. Meurer, counsel for WGR.

Lounsberry was there at the very beginning of radio in Western New York, as one of the engineers/operators/announcers who put WMAK on the air in 1922.

As he explained in 1931, “In 1922, it was one and the same person who operated the technical equipment, announced the program, booked talent, did janitor duty and numerous other tasks.”

He stayed on when WMAK was absorbed into the Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation, and stayed with the BBC until he broke it up with the purchase of WGR for $750,000 in 1946.

Esther Huff (left) plugs her ears as Bob Smith reads his watch to time a screaming contest announced by Clint Buehlman (far right) on WBEN’s “Early Date at Hengerer’s.”

Shortly after Clint Buehlman left WGR for WBEN, Smilin’ Bob Smith followed. With Esther Huff, they co-hosted “Early Date at Hengerer’s” live from the downtown department store. While Buehlman’s pace was fast and his persona was slapstick, Smilin’ Bob was more laidback and homespun.

Clint Buehlman works the room at Hengerer’s downtown store on Main St.
Buehlman, Huff, and Smith visit with a polio victim during Christmas.

Smith’s routine caught the ear of NBC executives in New York City looking to build a team for the network’s Big Apple flagship station.

Shortly after Smith left WBEN for the New York’s WEAF Radio in 1946, longtime News and Courier-Express radio critic Jim Trantor wrote:

“Buffalo’s Smilin’ Bob Smith, who’s become one of NBC’s fair-haired boys on the New York scene… is going great guns at the head of a television show for youngsters down there and looks to have just about the rosiest future imaginable.”

The show would become “The Howdy Doody Show,” and Smith was destined to become one of the great early stars of television.

After Smith left, Les Barry took over his spot on the Hengerer show which ran through the 40s. The show moved and was eventually taken over by John Corbett—Johnny from JN’s (JN Adam & Co. Department Store)

The “gay and charming hostess” of the show, Esther Huff, began her radio career at WGR in 1927 with an afternoon show for women discussing fashion, homemaking tips, and Hollywood news.

Esther Huff, WBEN

Through the mid-40s, she was a regular on several WBEN programs.

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

WBEN- The Buffalo Evening News Station

       By Steve Cichon

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

The Buffalo Evening News promotes its radio coverage in a booklet promoting its radio station, WBEN, in 1931.

The Buffalo Evening News had been a pioneer in the field of wireless communications, from wireless telegraph station WBL which operated from The News headquarters, to setting up the radio relay of election results on “radio’s birthday” in 1920.

Decorated in green and white, an early WBEN studio on the 18th floor of the Statler Hotel, 1930.

“A new voice of the city is on the air, bespeaking new hopes and hoping to fulfill new opportunities for the entire Niagara Frontier,” read the opening sentence of the story in The News, celebrating the initial broadcast of WBEN on September 8, 1930.

WBEN’s first announcers in 1930 were, standing, William Cook, Merwin Morrison, and Bob White (also known as Chief Announcer Gorson Higham.) Seated are Edward Obrist and Louis Kaiser.

“Through the magic of radio, it expects to become an increasingly powerful factor for knowledge, for culture, for good citizenship.”

The voice of announcer Merwin Morrison was the first to be heard on WBEN, but that first broadcast was opened with the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, followed immediately by “the Maple Leaf Forever,” which was then the national anthem of Canada.

Even by 1932, there were still enough Buffalo homes without radios that the Shea’s theaters around the city were open to broadcast WBEN’s returns of the Presidential election between President Herbert Hoover and New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt.
WBEN’s Blue and White Trio was a salon group that played music during the dinner hour in the station’s earliest years. Shown in 1931 is director and pianist Karl Koch, violinist Charles Coumont, and cellist Frank Kuhn. Above, they are shown inside Buffalo’s Elmwood Music Hall. Below, musicians at the WBEN studios.
Buffalo Mayor (and Broadway Market butcher) Charles Roesch stands before the WBEN microphone at the Elmwood Music Hall to open Buffalo’s Centennial celebration in 1932.

Buffalo Evening News Managing Editor Alfred H. Kirchhofer gave an address welcoming the listening audience to WBEN on behalf of the paper on that first day.

It was Kirchhofer, who would eventually serve as President of WBEN, who was more instrumental than anyone else in the paper’s move to start operating a radio station, and then later to develop FM and television broadcasting stations as well.

“We can promise you that we will be our own most severe critics and that nothing shall interfere with the rapid development of a station that will be a credit to Buffalo and a joy to the listener,” said Kirchhofer over the air that first night.

For the next 47 years, through the auspices of its newspaper owner, WBEN would be Buffalo’s most thoroughly marketed and photographed radio (and later TV) station, as is evidenced on the pages of this volume.

WBEN broadcasting from the Buffalo River in 1936, with technician Earnest Roy, Buffalo Fire Captain Daniel J. Mahoney, announcer Lou Kaiser, and pilot Patrick J. Mulland. The men are aboard the fire boat “W.S. Grattan,” which was renamed “Edward M. Cotter” in 1954.
Joe Wesp, WBEN’s Ironic Reporter, spent much of the 1930s travelling to out-of-the-way places around Western New York and broadcasting live from those places. In 1936, his travels took him to Gowanda, where he spoke with 71-year-old Frank Davis in front of Gulley’s drug store.
Earl Sheridan and Jack Doherty came to WBEN in 1935 as the Jack & Earl, The Minutemen from WYXZ in Detroit. Starting before the sun, they “broadcast popular songs, time signals, piano duets and comedy.” WBEN tried a long line of morning announcers in the 1930s, none of whom could put a dent in the popularity of WGR’s Clint Buehlman.
When Clint Buehlman first stepped to the mic as a newly hired junior announcer for the Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation in 1931, he made waves with his silly programs where he was known as the station’s “Chief Nutcracker.” By then, the 20-year-old was already a radio vet, having acted on WGR dramas through the 1920s. He literally grew up and grew old with Buffalo radio and its listeners. Over his 46-year professional career, Buehlman became known for his little songs about driving in the rain and school closings. He’d start waking up Buffalo with WGR’s Musical Clock show in 1932 and though he moved to WBEN in 1943, he’d continue hosting a morning radio show without interruption until 1977.
WBEN’s first transmitter facility in Martinsville.

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

Roger Baker

       By Steve Cichon

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

One of the original superstars of Buffalo Radio in the 20s and 30s for the Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation’s WGR and WKBW, Roger Baker was the Queen City’s first definitive sportscaster. His 40-year announcing career started when he was a musician sitting in the orchestra waiting to go on the air, but no announcer showed up. He stepped up to the microphone and never stepped back.

A pioneer in the art of baseball play-by-play– before him, calling the action of a baseball game was assigned to which ever announcer was next on the schedule. He was Buffalo’s first regular baseball announcer, and gained recognition for his descriptions of Bisons games.

Roger Baker’s play-by-play abilities transcended language. In 1935, his endorsement of Old Gold Cigarettes was translated into Polish and appeared in Dziennik Dza Wszystkich, Buffalo’s Polish language daily newspaper.

Those who remember him in the sports booth remember the ultimate professional– no focus on personality, so much as the product on the air. His work from Offermann Stadium was straight and by the book.

After being tapped by Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to call the 1933 World Series to a nationwide audience on CBS, Baker was called up to the big leagues in 1939, replacing Red Barber as the voice of the Cincinnati Reds when “the Ol’Red Head” moved onto critical acclaim as the voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers and then the New York Yankees.

Deco Restaurants were an early sponsor of sportscasts in Buffalo, including Roger Baker’s play-by-play broadcast of the Buffalo Hockey Bisons from the Peace Bridge Arena in Fort Erie in 1933.

In 1948, Baker returned to Buffalo as the news-reading General Manager on WKBW Radio. He eventually moved into the same news-reading General Manager spot at the short-lived Buffalo UHF pioneer WBES-TV Channel 59.

Along with Bill Mazer, Baker was also an original member of the WGR-TV sports team when the station signed-on in 1954.

“Years of experience covering sports events plus constant study of the sports picture account for the mature nature of Rog’s evening sports telecast. Master of play-by-play, his reporting of sports as they happen has set the pattern for imitators all over the country,” read a promo piece from the sign-on of Ch.2 in 1954.

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

Stoopnagle & Budd

       By Steve Cichon

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

F. Chase Taylor (Col. Stoopnagle) and Wilbur “Budd” Hulick were announcers for the Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation at WMAK Radio in 1930 when Hulick was on the air and the CBS Network feed went down.

With 15 minutes to fill and nothing prepared, Taylor dragged an old organ into the studio, and the two went back and forth in character, using the kind of silly banter that they’d been doing around the station off-air.

F. Chase “Stoopnagle” Taylor and Wilbur “Budd” Hulick, 1932.

The pair quickly became Buffalo’s most talked about radio personalities, and their WKBW program “Ask for Mail?” had people sending letters and listening for their chance at fame on the show.

In 1931, their “extemporaneous buffoonery” caught the network’s attention.

“The Gloom Chasers” final Western New York appearance before heading to New York to fulfill that new network contract was a series of sold out shows at Shea’s Buffalo—in a deal personally arranged by Michael Shea.

Stoopnagle & Budd became among radio’s first high-paid national personalities, appearing on their own programs, in movies, and on the Vaudeville circuit.

After the act broke up, both men appeared on programs in both acting and emcee roles in the earliest days of television. Hulick returned to Buffalo in 1947 and hosted radio and TV programs with his wife Helen. The couple interviewed Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz when Jamestown-native Ball visited on a mid-50s trip to Western New York.

Taylor continued to appear as Stoopnagle and write for television shows until his death in 1950 at the age of 52.

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

The earliest days of Buffalo broadcasting

       By Steve Cichon

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

History has set the start date of “The Radio Era” at November 2, 1920— when Pittsburgh’s KDKA Radio went on the air with the world’s first commercial broadcast, announcing the returns in the Presidential election that pit Ohio Senator Warren Harding against Ohio Governor James Cox.

History books don’t usually mention that Buffalo was on the air that night, too.

The Buffalo Evening News had set up a special direct telephone line to the home of amateur radio operator Charles Klinck, who was teacher of electrical science at Technical High School and was able to fund his expensive radio hobby a member of one of Buffalo’s top meat packing families.

After months of experimentation, he invented and pioneered the use of equipment that would allow for the clear transmission of phonograph records over his wireless transmitter.

“Well boys, how did you like that?” said Klinck, quoted in the Buffalo Courier after playing Strauss’ The Blue Danube. “Now listen, and I’ll give you a little jazz.”

That was the sound, on a March night in 1920, in the attic at 38 West Parade Avenue, as America’s first disc jockey took to the airwaves. You pass over the historic spot where it happened when you drive the outbound Kensington as you pass the Science Museum.

Klinck received word from as far away as Long Island that people were listening to his broadcasts. By mid-September, he reported that he was getting music requests from folks all over the northeast.

He also reported that from the beginning, the folks at the big wireless station in Pittsburgh were among his “most interested listeners.” Months before that “first broadcast,” the Westinghouse engineers at KDKA were tuned into Buffalo. On that Election Night 1920, Klinck was on the air from 6pm-midnight, offering election results interspersed with recorded music. Not only was he Buffalo’s deejay, but also Buffalo’s first radio newsman.

Charles Klinck, 1950

That first commercially sponsored broadcast in Buffalo was described the next day in The News.

As soon as the returns came into the Evening News office, they were telephoned over a special wire to Mr. Klinck’s residence, where they were received by a member of the Evening News staff. From 6 o’clock until midnight, Mr. Klinck sat at his wireless telephone apparatus and sent out the encouraging Republican news. Not only were city and county returns flashed out over the wireless outfit, but also state and national figures.

During the evening, Mr. Klinck… received word from several wireless operators in the city, in Lancaster and surrounding towns that they were getting the returns by wireless with perfect satisfaction… During lulls between dispatches, the operators who were listening for the returns were entertained by musical selections from a Victrola in the Klinck home.

Listeners in Lancaster were amazed as the radio returns beat out the Western Union telegraph service by minutes. Pine Street druggist Harry Frost told The News that he enjoyed the “returns by wireless telephone” immensely. “We sat around very comfortably smoking cigars and commenting on the election, while every few minutes, Mr. Klinck’s voice would roar out the results as he received them.”

Both the technical aspects and the reaction to Buffalo’s Election Night 1920 broadcast have been better chronicled than the “more historic” program the same night from Pittsburgh. The main difference remains that the KDKA broadcast was made by the Westinghouse Corporation in an effort to promote and sell the radio tubes they were manufacturing, while Charles Klinck was an amateur operator without much interest in self-promotion.

When he died in 1978, his pioneering radio exploits went generally unremembered. The Courier-Express, for example, made no mention.

In the decades leading up to the radio era, many advances and discoveries that laid the ground work for radio happened in Buffalo.

In 1909, The Buffalo Evening News was a pioneer in wireless telegraphy, building one of the world’s first wireless telegraph transmitting operations, Station WBL, on the fifth floor of The News headquarters building at Main and Seneca Sts. 

United Wireless Telegraph ran WBL from The Buffalo Evening News, 1909.

As early as 1924, a group of electrical engineers in Buffalo laid claim to having been the first to transmit and receive the human voice over radio waves in a series of experiments which took place at a Canisius High School laboratory in 1910.

John A. Curtin, later a professor at D’Youville College, reconfigured a primitive microphone to allow the voice to be transmitted and received over a wireless telegraph set.

The Canisius High School wireless set up, 1910

When Curtin said “A E I O U” into the microphone and across the airwaves, he might have become the first person to have their voice broadcast over radio. His voice was certainly the first broadcast in Buffalo.

About 18 months after the area got its first taste of commercial broadcasting with those election results, hundreds of people around Buffalo and Western New York tuned in their wireless radio receivers to hear the first broadcast of Buffalo’s first commercial radio station, WWT, on Easter Sunday, 1922.

The station was the first in Buffalo to be licensed by the federal government, and broadcast regularly three times a week. “Every Wednesday and Friday night and on Sunday afternoons the apparatus will be used to send out programs of an entertaining or educational nature,” reported the Buffalo Express.

Edna Zahn approaches the microphone at Buffalo’s WWT studios on West Mohawk Street on the station’s first day of broadcasting in 1922.

McCarthy Bros. & Ford company owned and operated the station from the third floor of its headquarters building across Mohawk Street from where the Hotel Statler was being built.  From electric washers and sewing machines to wireless radio receivers, McCarthy Bros. & Ford was in the business of selling electrical appliances and luxury items.

McCarthy Bros. & Ford, the home of Buffalo’s first radio station, WWT.

In order to sell radios, they needed to provide something for Buffalonians to receive on those radio sets.

That first transmission came at 3 p.m. on April 15, 1922. Buffalo’s airwaves were christened with the sounds of “throwing a kiss across the ether,” which was picked up in a radius of about 50 miles around Buffalo.

The lip smack of Genevieve Abraham kicked things off, followed by Buffalo soprano Edna Zahn and the piano accompaniment of Ethyol McMullen. These were the first sounds on Buffalo radio in the commercial era.

A look inside the WWT studios on the first day of broadcasting shows Ethyol McMullen, Edna Zahn and Edward O’Dea.

Edward O. O’Dea, who was later known as “Radiodea” on several Buffalo stations, was a sales manager for McCarthy Bros. as well as WWT’s station manager and announcer for that first broadcast. Edward H. Striegel was the first engineer.

Easter prayers and songs were offered by Episcopal and Catholic clergy and choirs during that first Easter Sunday.

Buffalo Chamber of Commerce President Albert Kinsley spoke on that first broadcast about the wonder of it all.

“Had I ventured, only 200 years ago, to say anything of the kind might be done, especially in Salem colony, I probably would have been burned at the stake for witchcraft.

“We have become accustomed to modern miracles that they are accepted now as a matter of course.

“When ancients credited Jove with hurling thunderbolts, they may have had the nucleus of an idea, but certainly no conception that I the 20th century electric waves would be hurled ‘round the world to carry the voices of mankind to serve our purpose.

“No man today can venture to limit the possible uses of this energy and probably none has the imagination to forecast its future.

“No one can say with certainty that we shall not yet step on a magic carpet of our own and be whisked where we wish to be with incredible speed.”

Buffalo’s first radio broadcast wrapped up with “Webb’s novelty entertainers” sending the sounds of jazz through the city.

WWT was first, but wasn’t alone very long.

On May 21, 1922, WGR broadcast its first programs from studios on the third floor of the Federal Telegraph Company on Elmwood Avenue, from a building that was the long-time home of FWS, and more recently has been renovated as the Foundry Suites and banquet facility.

Buffalo’s first two radio stations, WWT and WGR, both signed on the air in an effort to sell more radios.

Having only been broadcasting for five weeks, WWT Station Manager O’Dea suspended broadcasting for the first week WGR was on the air, to help avoid interference in WGR’s signal, as had happened several times when WGR was running tests using the experimental call sign 8XAD.

Shortly after WGR signed on, WWT took a break from its schedule for the summer of 1922. The signal and the memory of Buffalo’s first station faded away, mostly forgotten, into history.

As early as 1925, the Buffalo Courier ran a story asking readers if they remembered “old WWT,” “from a time when broadcasting was young.”

The earliest histories of broadcasting say that WGR was “Buffalo’s first commercially viable radio station.” When GR-55 celebrated 50 years on the air in 1972, the “commercially viable” part was dropped and they called themselves “Buffalo’s First Radio Station.”

WGR’s first home was on the third floor of the still-standing home of The Federal Telephone & Telegraph Co. at 1738 Elmwood Avenue. The building to the left is now the home of The Buffalo Spree. A viaduct was created to remove the grade-level crossing of the New York Central Beltline railroad, which now stands at the left side of this photo.

If WWT’s sign-on was met with a wholesome, “mom-and-pop” style fanfare, WGR’s sign-on came with a corporate marketing blitz.

“Next Sunday Buffalo will enter into the field of national radio broadcasting with the formal opening of one of the largest and most powerful broadcasting stations in the east, which may make Buffalo the ethereal center of this part of the country,” said the Courier.

WGR’s first week was billed as “Radio Week,” and each of Buffalo’s six daily newspapers were given their own evening to fill with programming. Monday was the Buffalo Courier; Tuesday, The Buffalo Evening News; Wednesday, the Buffalo Times; Thursday, the Buffalo Express; Friday, the Buffalo Commercial; and on Saturday, the Buffalo Enquirer.

An ad for a program from WGR’s first week on the air in 1922. The station isn’t mentioned, but there was only one on the air in Buffalo at the time.

The scheme assured a week’s worth of heavy promotion from the newspapers.

“(T)he Federal Telegraph & Telephone Company… has spent thousands of dollars to furnish Buffalo with a class of radio service which will be equal to that of stations which have been broadcasting since interest in radio began to assume such proportions,” reported the Courier.

L. R. Weller was the operator and announcer for WGR’s first broadcast. After prayers in Latin and then English from Rev. Michael J. Ahern, President of Canisius College, the first broadcast on WGR continued with addresses from Dr. Julian Park of UB and Rev. F. Hyatt Smith.

WGR’s first studio, 1922.

Buffalo Chamber of Commerce President Albert Kinsey was also among the first to step to the WGR microphone, and tell of Buffalo’s praises to radio listeners picking up the station in a 700-mile radius around Buffalo.

“He spoke of the great epoch of progress through which Buffalo is now passing and cited many instances of Buffalo’s material growth,” according to the Enquirer wrap-up of that first broadcast.

The station’s powerful signal was not only good for promoting Buffalo, but for promoting radio in Buffalo. Signals from amateurs and WWT were often weak and spotty and required expensive receivers to listen comfortably.

WGR’s first transmitting set, 1922.

The $25 set available from the owners of WGR radio could easily pick up the station within a 30-mile radius of the city.

“This renders radio reception in homes of Buffalo and vicinity no longer and instrument of the well-to-do, but for almost anybody who cares to use it.”

Radio had become a much more affordable hobby, but it was by no means cheap. Charles Klinck’s set-up was valued at about $5000 in 1920, which is more than $60,000 in 2020 dollars. That makes the $25 receiver much more affordable by comparison, but that price tag approaches $400 in 2020 dollars.

One trendy way the wealthy took to listening to the radio was as a railroad passenger. The Lackawanna Railroad heavily advertised that passengers could listen to WGR on the Buffalo Limited and the New York Limited.

“These train concerts are probably the most difficult type of radio work yet attempted,” bragged a Lackawanna ad. Below, the train’s radio receiver.

In May, 1923, WGR moved its broadcasting facilities from Elmwood Avenue near Hertel to become among the earliest tenants of Buffalo’s brand new Statler Hotel. These studios were on the hotel’s 18th floor. That space would later become the home of WBEN from 1930-1960.
Larco Radio set from The Larkin Store
The WGR staff getting ready to broadcast the 1924 Republican Convention: R.D.H. Nichols, operator; Milo Gurney, ad manager; Edward Stanko, operator; W.A. Rigg, studio manager; and T.A. Doddridge, operator.
Nichols, Doddridge, and Stanko in the WGR Statler Hotel control room, along with F.S. Martin, district manager for Federal Radio.

WGR was a licensed as a Class B station, which authorized it to broadcast on reserved frequencies, without interference from other stations, at high power. That meant the station could be heard regularly within several hundred miles, but could also be heard on occasion as far away as Hawaii and England. The special license also barred WGR from playing “canned music,” meaning only live performances were heard on Buffalo radio during the earliest years of regular broadcasting in Buffalo.

Another seller of radio equipment, Howell Electric, started WEBR Radio in 1924. Herbert H. Howell’s shop and station were located at 54 Niagara Street.

“With two stations in Buffalo operating alternately,” reported The Enquirer, “it will be possible for the radio fans to hear programs anytime during the day.”

Engineer John F. Morrison built and operated the station, the range of which was much more limited than WGR. Even through there were surprise reports of the station being picked up in Syracuse during tests, the intention was to “more fully serve local interests” with its programs.

WEBR owner Herbert H. Howell at the station microphone, 1925

WEBR’s sign-on stunt involved station owner Howell broadcasting over the station with instructions meant for Leslie Irvin—the parachute pioneer, who was flying in a plane above downtown Buffalo with pilot E.M. Ronne.

When Howell “directed the airmen where to send their machine,” the Courier reported, “almost simultaneously with the word of instruction the plane flew right and left, up and down.”

The station also initiated “the Sunshine Radio Club,” which was meant for radio fans to make a donation to help buy radios “for hospitals, orphan asylums, invalids, cripples, or, perhaps, a man who made a great sacrifice for you and me on the fields of France.”

After six months on the air, the station doubled its power as it moved from Niagara and Franklin to the top floor of the Bramson Building, the home of Marine Trust Bank on Main Street.

The new 11th floor studios and more powerful signal meant another Buffalo station was among the small, but growing handful of large stations operating across the country.

After several test broadcasts, the station received a letter from a new “regular listener” 1,200 miles away in Norman, Oklahoma.

Children visit WEBR’s Uncle Ben program, 1935. The boy furthest to the left is Gerhard Lang, nephew of the Lang Brewery owner, who was a regular junior announcer on the show after having told a bedtime story on the station’s first day of broadcasting. The large round object, draped in black bunting is the microphone, hidden to help relieve the anxiety of performers, unaccustomed to such devices.
The World Series was heard in Buffalo in 1925 over Station WMAK (as seen on the microphone), with Associated Press telegraph operator Charles Wiest reading each play as it came over the cable from Pittsburgh. This night, the Pirates beat the Senators in Game 2 by a 3-2 final.

In Lockport, Norton Laboratories began operating WMAK Radio in 1922, with I.R. Lounsberry as the chief engineer and manager. Lounsberry’s name would be associated with Buffalo radio right through the rock ‘n’ roll era as President of WGR.

WMAK became associated with The Buffalo Evening News, after The News broadcast election results on the station shortly after it signed on.

The station became more and more Buffalo-centric in its broadcasting, and in 1925, studios were opened in Buffalo’s Lafayette Hotel in association with the Buffalo Times newspaper.

Shortly after the studios opened, in October 1925, Associated Press telegraph operator Charles Wiest announced play-by-play action of the World Series in Pittsburgh under the direction of the Buffalo Times.

Wiest read the telegraph cables over the air moments after they happened on the diamond.

In 1926, WMAK’s place in history was secured when the station joined a “remote control broadcast chain” of stations across the northeast and Midwest in “an precedented demonstration” of “radiating a program” in nine cities simultaneously.

It was the world’s first network program, and the network that would grow from that first network broadcast was the Columbia Broadcasting System, CBS.

A pair of 60-foot radio towers stood atop Seneca Vocational High School until 1953.
Seneca Vocational students put on a radio drama over the WSVS airwaves, 1930s.

WSVS was another early Buffalo station, signing on in 1926. The studios were operated by the students of Seneca Vocational High School, and while many private high schools and colleges around the country received special licenses to broadcast, Buffalo’s Seneca High was the only public high school in the nation with a fully-licensed radio station.

Students at Seneca Vocational School learned the engineering and maintenance side of radio in classrooms as a part of the educational operation of WSVS.

When WSVS first signed on, many of its programs were on par with the commercial broadcasters of the day, with a heavy schedule of bands, orchestras, signing groups and soloists.

Through the years, WSVS’ broadcasts became more intermittent and more school-centered, as the station eventually shared the frequency of commercial broadcaster WBNY.

By the time WSVS surrendered its license in 1942, it had already been allotting near all of its broadcasting time to WBNY for years. Still, it was the last of the early educational stations to leave the airwaves, and the milestone was celebrated as the silencing of a pioneer in a national trade magazine.

Another selection in the long-forgotten alphabet soup of early Buffalo radio call letters is WPDQ. The station went on the air from the garage at 121 Norwood Avenue, owned by Nelson P. Baker (no relation to the Lackawanna priest.)

Garage owner Nelson Baker, upper left, WPDQ co-owner Hiram Turner at the controls, Frank Miller in the WPDQ studio at the microphone, 1925.

The station was on the air for one day—December 30, 1925—before the federal government suspended its license. The station eventually made it back on the air, broadcasting from the Varsity Theater on Bailey Avenue, until the station was sold and the call letters changed to WKEN and the studios moved to the corner of Delaware Avenue and Sheridan Drive.

WKEN also had regular broadcasting capabilities from Kenmore Presbyterian Church at Delaware and Hazeltine Avenues in Kenmore, and from the Great Lakes Theatre on Chippewa Street in Buffalo.

A federal rule change called barred some stations from being in residential areas, so the studio moved once again. This time literally.

The small building which was the home of station WKEN was taken by barge from Tonawanda to Grand Island in 1928.

The small building was wheeled up Sheridan Drive to the Niagara River, and then floated on a barge to Bush Road on Grand Island.

WKEN broadcast nightly stock report information, sponsored by an investment house in the Ellicott Square Building, 1930.

The callsign for WKEN was lost to history when The Buffalo Evening News bought the rights to its radio frequency and allowed the station to go dark, before signing back on as WBEN in September 1930.

From the moment WKBW first signed on, November 7, 1926, the evangelist owner Dr. Clinton Churchill said the randomly assigned call letters stood for “Well Known Bible Witness.”

Dr. Clinton Churchill, WKBW

Churchill came to understand the power of radio when his earlier broadcasts on WMAK and WEBR brought in bushel baskets filled with requests for more preaching, more music, and assumedly, a couple of dollars mixed in as well.

The preacher turned his Main Street Tabernacle building into a radio studio—it would later be the home of Channel 7.

“CT” inscribed on the studio seating for shows like Dialing for Dollars didn’t stand for “Commander Tom,” but for “Churchill Tabernacle.”

The Churchill Tabernacle’s Great White Robed Chorus ready to perform from what would become, 30 years later, audience seating for WKBW-TV shows like Dialing for Dollars.
WKBW Radio’s first studio, 1926.

As radio became more popular and businessmen around the country began to realize ways of making broadcasting lucrative and profitable, to that end a handful of wealthy Buffalonians moved to bring together Buffalo’s radio stations under a single umbrella.

In 1929, a million-dollar corporation was formed by a group of Buffalo bankers and businessmen to create the Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation— known informally as the BBC.

Linking WKBW, WGR, WMAK and WKEN promised “a vision of Buffalo as one of the country’s largest radio broadcasting centers.”

The directors of the new company included Marine Trust President George Rand, Western Savings President Charles Diebold, Jacob Schoellkopf, Irvine Kittinger, and Clinton Churchill.

“Nothing musical in Buffalo will be beyond the reach of the corporation,” said Churchill. “We will produce the very best in radio broadcasting, technically and artistically.

“We will maintain staff orchestras, bands, musicians and soloists, and we win immediately set about to eliminate the cheaper and undesirable types of programs.”

When the BBC was incorporated, it left WEBR as the lone independent station on Buffalo’s radio dial.

But not for long.

S.S. Wallace, Master of Ceremonies and announcer for the BBC, early 1930s
Oklahoma Hank and his Western Entertainers, on broadcasting on WGR with a BBC microphone.
Station personnel from WGR and WMAK as published in a national radio almanac, 1927.
Prince Edward, Later King Edward VIII, dedicating the Peace Bridge in 1927.

In 1927, WGR made world history by hosting the first international remote broadcast of its kind when the Peace Bridge was dedicated.

A “great network” of stations in the US and in Canada agreed to transmit the address simultaneously for the first worldwide broadcast ever attempted. It was heard from Britain to Australia.

The Prince of Wales, who would later become King Edward VIII, was the featured speaker in the program for the nearly 100,000 spectators who lined both sides of the Niagara River, which also featured Vice President Charles Dawes, British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King, and New York Governor Al Smith.

Graham McNamee and Milton J. Cross, the top announcers for the National Broadcasting Company, were in Buffalo for the historic broadcast.

As New York Governor and then later as President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was no stranger to Buffalo and its microphones. Here, a speech by Gov. Roosevelt is being picked up by Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation microphones.

As a pioneering and early developing radio market, many of the talented people who helped shape the medium here in Buffalo through the 1920s moved on to fame and success outside of Western New York and became pioneers not just in Buffalo radio, but pioneers influencing the entire future of the medium.

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

Buffalo & The Lone Ranger

       By Steve Cichon

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

“The Lone Ranger,” the first of many national radio serials with a Western flavor, was first broadcast on WXYZ Detroit in 1933, but it was a Buffalo man– who first put the character on the air in Buffalo– who was the creative force behind the program.

Fran Striker grew up in what’s now the Elmwood Village neighborhood, attending Lafayette High School and UB during those post-WWI years when radio grew from fad to part of life.

His radio talents were first put on display as a musician in the earliest days of WGR in 1922, then moving to WEBR as an announcer when that station began broadcasting in 1926. There, as a writer, producer and program director—he was also responsible for selling the programs he wrote and performed in to advertisers.

Frank Striker in 1928

It was on one of those WEBR programs where the character that would become famous as “The Lone Ranger” first appeared. “Covered Wagon Days” ran on WEBR in 1930.

The show was created, according to a 1930 Courier-Express article, after President Hoover authorized the “commemoration of the heroism of the fathers and mothers who traversed the Oregon trail to the Far West.”

“This proclamation,” the brief article continues, “was the inspiration for a new series of programs from the versatile pen of Fran Striker, which he has entitled Covered Wagon Days. One of them is heard from WEBR every Monday night. In them Mr. Striker gives listeners at that time a radio drama version of many of the interesting and exciting happenings which took place in the long and dangerous treks across the plains and mountains.”

When Striker moved to Detroit, the character came with him and became a sensation. For much of the next 20 years, the Buffalo native wrote not only the radio scripts, but the newspaper comics, novels, and more in the voice of the hero who entered on “a fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver.” 

In 1936, Striker was also a part of the team that created “The Green Hornet” character for a radio serial before that character also branched into comic books and film.

Still writing the daily comic strip, Striker moved back to Buffalo and was working to relaunch The Lone Ranger when he was killed in a car accident in 1962.

Lone Ranger and Green Hornet creator Fran Striker at home in Buffalo, 1957.

Striker wasn’t the end of Buffalo’s connection to the American cultural icon.

Jay Silverheels, the actor who played the Lone Ranger’s companion Tonto, was a Mohawk born in Southern Ontario.

When he was 19, the man who would become famous as Tonto and his cousins moved to Buffalo to play professional lacrosse for the Buffalo Bowmans at the Broadway Auditorium– where he was also a Golden Gloves boxer.

Born Harry Smith, the actor earned the nickname Silverheels in Buffalo—when new shoes helped him run so fast, all you could see where the silver heels running across the field.

Harry Smith was a boxer and professional lacrosse player when he lived in Buffalo in the 1930s. Later, using the stage name Jay Silverheels, he became famous for his role as the Lone Ranger’s companion Tonto.

As handsome as he was fast, when Smith moved to Los Angeles in the late 30s to play lacrosse, he was quickly cast in films– first as a stunt man and extra, then in 1949 as Tonto. 

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

Setting the record straight- Radio’s birth in Buffalo

       By Steve Cichon

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

In history, definitives can be hard. Publicists are often most loose with noting something as “first” or “tallest” or “oldest,” because it sounds better than “one of the first,” one of the tallest,” or “one of the oldest.” A good publicist knows that even if you can’t be 100% sure of your claim– so long as no one is quick to challenge it, and so long as it gets repeated often enough, it becomes “fact.”

There were decades of advancements that lead up to the day that most historians agree was the birthdate of modern radio– November 2, 1920.

That’s when Experimental station 8XK in Pittsburgh–which would eventually become KDKA–broadcast the results of the Presidential Election in what is often heralded as “the start of the radio era.

But Pittsburgh was not alone on the radio dial that night. That same historic night, at the same exact time, election results broadcast by The Buffalo Evening News also came in loud and clear on wireless sets across Western New York.

Radio listeners in Buffalo and Pittsburgh had the same mind-blowing, history-making experience on what was a rainy evening in Western New York. People sat around their wireless sets in their living rooms, finding out in real time that Warren G. Harding had been elected President.

The newly born power of radio was equally evident in both cities, and the marvel and wonder surrounding this growing technology was exactly the same. In fact, it was all part of the same plan.

The American Radio Relay League, an amateur radio operator group still in business to this day, created a plan to “beat the regular wire service in getting the election returns to the public.”

“The plan is to have a good amateur transmitting station in each important city throughout the country send broadcast via radio the available data in his territory once every hour. This information will be picked up by thousands of radio amateurs who will arrange, through the local newspapers or in some other manner, to bulletin the returns for the general public in their respective territories.”

All this is described in a Pittsburgh Daily Post article, which goes on to say that Frank Conrad’s 8XK will take part in the effort for Pittsburgh area listeners.

Pittsburgh Daily Post, October 21, 1920

A Buffalo Evening News article announcing the broadcast of election returns for Western New York doesn’t mention the larger plan, but does offer more detail about the Buffalo plan.

Buffalo Evening News, October 28, 1920

So how is it that high school text books say Pittsburgh’s broadcast that night was “the historic first commercial broadcast” but the remarkably similar experience that listeners had in Western New York (and in other cities around the country) at the very same time goes unmentioned?

The simple answer is—the amateur operator in Pittsburgh, Frank Conrad, worked for Westinghouse Electric. Westinghouse had a lot riding on getting its radio equipment and vacuum tubes out on the market before David Sarnoff’s Radio Corporation of America did.

Westinghouse saw gold in making sure that when people bought radios—they had something reliable to listen to. The company also saw an edge in being able to promote that they’d got a head start over RCA.

Westinghouse’s Pittsburgh station, the one that would eventually take the call letters KDKA, was first to broadcast in the battle between Westinghouse and RCA. That was the original claim. Even the Pittsburgh newspaper makes it clear that the station was one of many—tied for first, if we mark that day as the start of the modern era of radio.

As it often happens, Westinghouse’s heavy marketing very quickly dropped the “tied for first” notion, and over the last century, history has accepted the muddled marketing of a radio manufacturer as fact.

Meanwhile, in Buffalo, nobody was bending the truth of radio’s birth to sell vacuum tubes. In fact, the historic events that took place that rainy night were mostly lost as history quietly turned the page. The high school electronics teacher who broadcast Buffalo’s first elections results didn’t work for a giant corporation.

In fact, after participating in the world’s first scheduled radio broadcast, Charles Klinck continued a normal life as an electronics teacher for the next four decades at various Buffalo high schools and then at Buffalo State Teachers College (Buff State) and Erie County Technical Institute (ECC). For Klinck, that night was about nothing more than using technology to get Western New Yorkers the news faster.

The point is, the listener experience was the same in Buffalo and in Pittsburgh. Thirty years later, teens who were choosing between WKBW and WNIA for their rock ‘n’ roll didn’t care that KB was in a million-dollar broadcast center and WNIA was (and is) in a ranch house in Cheektowaga. From its infancy, radio has been the theater of the mind.

Before the 1920s were out, Westinghouse and KDKA mounted bronze plaques and created marketing pieces calling their broadcast “the world’s first scheduled broadcast.” Buffalo’s participation that night was so utterly forgotten that the Courier-Express didn’t even mention any connection to radio when Klinck—Buffalo’s first broadcaster– died.

Eventually in Buffalo, marketing drummed up another radio “first” which, much like KDKA in Pittsburgh, has now been celebrated so long nobody seems to question it. May 22, 1922 is often marked as the anniversary date for the start of Buffalo radio.

That’s the date WGR signed on. WGR promoted its first broadcast as “the birth of Radio in Buffalo” when the station called itself “Buffalo’s First Licensed Broadcasting Station” during the station’s 25th anniversary year in 1947. By the mid-50s, that had been shortened to “Buffalo’s First Radio Station.”

First, let’s be clear. WGR did something Charles Klinck didn’t. WGR was a licensed commercial radio station, and the first successful radio station to survive– but it wasn’t the first.

But back in 1922, WGR was not claiming that their broadcast was the birth of Buffalo radio– because that would have sounded foolish to the people who’d been listening to Buffalo radio for years by then. Not only had folks listened to Klinck, but they also listened to another licensed station—WWT, which signed-on before WGR.

WWT had a host of technical problems and had nowhere near the support, staff, and finances that WGR had as an arm of the Federal Telephone and Telegraph Co.– but WWT, not WGR, was Buffalo’s first licensed station, for better or for worse.

Again, WWT disappeared when WGR signed on, and was mostly forgotten to history—to the point where nary an eyelash was batted when WGR “forgot” about the station 25 years later.

So the question remains…when should we mark the start of broadcasting in Buffalo?

It’s hard to say. Like most technological advances, the early days of radio were more about experimentation and evolution rather than definitive dots on a timeline.

To fix that, I don’t think we should erase dots—just add a few more and celebrate them all.

The research and writing presented in this book adds a few more dots on Buffalo’s broadcasting timeline, and reclaims some rich history that’s been long forgotten. It simply means more dates, stations, people and great moments in Buffalo broadcasting that are worthy of celebration.

Combined, they make for a full, rich history of a medium that has been a part of our lives—and reflective of our lives– in Buffalo for a century now.

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

100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting: The Cover Collages

       By Steve Cichon

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

 The collage of 270 photos on the front and back covers come together to tell the history of Buffalo Broadcasting before you even open the book. This is a brief description of each photo, row by row.

Front cover, row 1: Van Miller at the Buffalo Braves mic; Eyewitness News crew; Susan Banks, Ch. 7; Carol Jasen, Ch.4; Jim Santella at WYSL-FM; Ed Little, WBEN; Howard Simon, WBEN; Promo the Robot, Rocketship 7; Susan King, WGR-TV, Stan Barron, WBEN

Front cover, row 2: Roger Baker, WGR; Santa with Forgetful & Grumbles the elves, Ch. 4; Henry Marcotte, June Bacon-Bercey, WGR-TV; Jack Mahl, Atlantic Weatherman, Ch.2; Mark Leitner, WBEN News; Stoopnagle & Budd, WMAK; Brian Blessing & Mike Robitaille, Hockey Hotline, Empire Sports Network; Al Vaughters, Ch.4; Mary Travers, Ch.7; Taylor & Moore, WPHD; Chuck Healy, Ch.4

Front cover, row 3: Kevin O’Connell, WBEN-TV; Art Wander, WGR; John DiSciullo, WKBW; Bill and Mildred Miller, WBEN-TV; Nolan Johannes, Dialing for Dollars; Carol Jasen, Ch.4; John Zach & Susan Rose, WBEN; Howdy Doody & Buffalo Bob Smith; Tom Connolly, WBEN; Adam Keefe, Ch.7; WGR-TV bumper.

Front cover, row 4: Ron Hunter, Ch.2; Stan Roberts, WGR; Sandy White, Ch.4; Tim Fleischer, Ch.7.

Front cover, row 5: Charles R. Turner Heating & Cooling; Jacquie Walker, Ch.4; Greg Bauch, WGR; Cindy DiBiasi, Ch.7

Front cover, row 6: Ted Darling, Voice of the Sabres; Anne Simon, Ch.7; Doris Jones, Ch.2; Al Wallack Jazz in the Nighttime

Front cover, row 7: Buffalo Bob Smith & Mike Randall, Ch.7; Jon Summers & Dan Neaverth, WKBW; Larry Sales, Ch.7; Commander Tom, Ch.7; Marty Biniasz; Irv Weinstein, Ch.7; Clint Buehlman, WBEN; Danny Neaverth, Bells; Elvis Presley and George “Hound Dog” Lorenz; WBNY cruiser; Jay Moran, WNSA.

Front cover, row 8: Rich Newberg, Ch.4; Barry Lillis, Barry’s Cat’s Pajamas, Ch.2; Sheila Murphy, Ch.2; Don Postles Ch.7; John Otto, WGR; Ramblin’ Lou Schriver, WWOL; Brandy Scrufari & Zig Fracassi, WJJL; Bill Devine & Goldie Gardner, WNED; AM Buffalo; Sandy Beach, WKBW; John Corbett, Ch.4

Front cover, row 9: Jack Mindy, WBEN; Kevin Jolly, YNN, Paul Woodson, Ch.4, Dooley O’Rourke, Ch.2, Mark Leitner, WNED, George Richert, Ch.4, Claudine Ewing, Ch.2; Bill Lacy, WBEN; Fun? Wow!, Fantasy Island commercial; Art “Mr. Food” Ginsburg; Al Anscombe, WKBW; Don “Keller” Yearke, Ch.7; Tom McCrea, John Zach, Tom Shannon, Dan Neaverth; Les Trent, Ch.2; Ted Shredd & Tom Ragan, WEDG; WBEN and WEBR, The News Stations, 1941

Front cover, row 10: Jeff Kaye & Rod Roddy, WKBW Radio; John Corbett, Chuck Lampkin, Van Miller, Ch.4 news; Danny Moves my Fanny patch, Joey from Super Duper; Art Wander, Bob Koshinski, Larry Felser, Ed Kilgore, Pros & Cons Empire Sports Network; Rich Kellman & Sheila Murphy, Ch.2; Johnny & Jimmy, the Dialing for Dollars Band; Kevin O’Connell, Disco-Step-By-Step; Don Polec, Ch.7; Jacquie Walker & Chuck Gurney, Ch.4; Dick Rifenburg, Ch.4

Front cover, row 11: Carl Russo, Medaille College; Pete Weber & John Murphy, WBEN; Jimmy Lyons, WUFO; Roger Lund, Ch.7; WWOL deejay; Mylous Hairston, Ch.4; WBEN-TV cameras in 1948; Bob Koshinski, Ch.7; Van Miller, Voice of the Bills; Joe Schlaerth & Mike Mombrea, Ch.4; Clip Smith Ch.7

Front cover, row 12: Beat the Champ open, Ch.4; Brad Riter, WGR; Larry Norton, 97 Rock; Elliot Shapiro, Gary Deeb, Doug Smith, Buffalo Evening News; Kevin Keenan, Brandy Scrufari, Ed Little, Bill Lacy, WBEN; Dave Thomas, Ch.7; Milt Ellis, Voice of the Aud & WDCX; Van Miller, Bob Koop, Lou McNally, Ch.4; Val Townsend, WEDG; NewsCenter 2 open; Bill & Reggie Keaton, WGR

Front cover, row 13: Carl Koch & The WBEN Trio; Al Wallack, WEBR; Buffalo Braves logo; WKBW News license plate; Jay Fredericks (Fritz Coleman), WBEN; Mayor Masiello with WNUC t-shirt; Tom Bauerle, WGR; Willy WNIA; Craig Matthews, WHTT; Clinton Buehlman, WGR; Henry Brach and Danny Neaverth, WKBW

Front cover, row 14: Virgil Booth, Ch.4; Danny Neaverth, Tom Shannon, Rod Roddy, WKBW; Eyewitness news open; John Lascalles and David Cheskin at Rendez-Vous, WGR

Front cover, row 15: Fr. Justyn Figas of The Rosary Hour; Chuck Lampkin, Ch.4; George “Hound Dog” Lorenz; Keith Radford and Kathleen Leighton, Ch.7; Pete Anderson, Q-102; Van Miller & Stan Barron; Tom Jolls, Ch.7; Howard Simon, WBEN; Duke Ellington with Liz Dribben, Ch.7; Shane Brother Shane Gibson, WGR; Mary Alice Demler, Ch.2

Front cover, row 16: Randy Bushover, WBEN; Laurie Short, Ch.4; Ralph Hubbell, WBEN; Frank Benny, WGR; Jim Santella, WGR-FM; Jeff Kaye, WBEN; Brian Kahle & Linda Pellegrino, Ch.7; Danny Neaverth, Oldies 104; Mike Robitaille, Jim Lorenz, Rick Jeanneret, Ted Darling at the Aud; Jack Armstrong, WKBW

Front cover, row 17: Billy Fuccillo, Kathy Ansuini, Ch.7; Trish Mattimore, WKBW; Tom Langmyer, WBEN; Maria Genero, Ch.4; Van Miller, WBEN; Gov. Rockefeller and Paula Drew; John Murphy, Ch.7; WKBW record album; Chuck Healy, Ch.4; John Beard, Carol Crissey, Ch.4

Back cover, row 1: Brian Kahle, Nancy Foreman, Ch.7; Tim Wenger & Susan Rose, WBEN; Victoria Hong, Ch.2; Mike Randall, Bob Stilson, Promo the Robot, Commander Tom, Ch.7; Clint Buehlman, WBEN; Jim Taylor, Ted Hackett, Tom Shannon, Don Keller, Dick Braun, Gene Nelson, WKBW;  Don Paul, Ch.4; Gary McNamara, WBEN; Tom Jolls, Ch.7; Ch.17’s Great TV Auction and the Quickies Board; Rich Kellman and Don Postles, Ch.2

Back cover, row 2: Eyewitness Newsreel; Bob Wells, WEBR

Back cover, row 3: Sally Work, WBEN; Ch.2 logo

Back cover, row 4: Dave Gillen, Q-102; Don Moffit, Debbie Stamp, PM Magazine; John Murphy, WBEN; Ken Philips, Ch.4; Ron Dobson, WBEN; Irv Weinstein, Ch.7; Bill Lacy, Kevin Keenan, WBEN; Dave Thomas, Johnny Banaszak, Nolan Johannes, Jimmy Edwin, Dialing for Dollars, Ch.7; Danny Neaverth, WKBW; Rick Jeanneret, Ted Darling, Mike Robitaille, Jim Lorenz; John Pauly, Ch.7

Back cover, row 5: Jack Eno, WEBR; Tommy Shannon, WKBW; Liberace, Mildred Miller, Bill Miller—Meet the Millers; Art Wander; Jack Kemp, Van Miller; Jacquie Walker, Bob Koop, Carol Jasen, Ch.4; Fred Klestine, WKBW; Chuck Healy, Beat the Champ, Ch.4;  Tom Whalen, WBEN; Ch.2 mic flag, mid 80s; Dave Brubeck and Liz Dribben, Ch.7

Back cover, row 6: Rick Azar, Ch.7; Stan Jasinski; Dog & Polly Smith, Ch.4; Tom Jolls, Ch.7; Ramblin’ Lou Schriver and the Family Band; Ch.7 Live Eye

Back cover, row 7: WWOL, Shelton Square; Andrew Siff, Ch.7; Steve Cichon, WBEN; Les Trent, Ch.2; Barry Lillis, WJJL; Bill Mazer, WKBW

Back cover, row 8: Stan Roberts for Mister Donut, WBUF; Al Meltzer, Bills Play-by-play, WKBW; Danny McBride and Ed Tucholka; John Jarrett, WJJL; Frank Wojnarski’s Pic-A-Polka Band, Ch.2; Nan Cooper, WBEN

Back cover, row 9: Ed Little, WBEN; WGR-TV’s elves; Irv Weinstein, Ch.7; Tony Battilana, Ch.4; WKBW Radio studios, 1430 Main Street; Jim Kelley & Howard Simon, WBEN

Back cover, row 10: Mark Leitner, WBEN; John Beard, Ch.4; Jeff Kaye, WKBW; Keith Luke, WYSL; Helen Neville, WGR; The Jolly Little Baker, Kaufman’s Rye Bread

Back cover, row 11: WIVB-TV Sign, Elmwood Ave; Rod Roddy, The Price is Right; Tony Smith, WUFO; John Demerle, Empire Sports Network; Hank Nevins, WBEN; Irv, Ch.7; WBEN-TV test pattern; Janet Snyder, Kiss 98.5; Marty Gleason, WBEN; Rick Pfeiffer, Ch.4; Doris Jones, Ch.2

Back cover, row 12: Captain Mike Mearian and Buttons the Cabin Boy, Ch.4; Joey Reynolds, WKBW; Brian Kahle, Ch.7; Jungle Jay Nelson, WKBW; Rick Jeanneret, Voice of the Sabres; John Otto, WGR; Van Miller, WBEN; WGR mobile Studio; Irv Weinstein, Don Postles, Ch.7; Uncle Jerry Brick, Ch.4; John Zach, Steve Cichon, WBEN

Back cover, row 13: George Lorenz, The Ol’Hound Dog, PM Magazine still, Mr. Whatnot Jack Paupst, Ch.17; Tom Kelly, WBEN; Ken Philips, Gene Kelly, Al Fox, Jack Ogilvie, John Luther, WBEN; Ernie Warlick, Ch.2; Foster Brooks, WGR; Richard Reeve, Ch.4; Sandy Beach, Don Berns, Jack Armstrong, Casey Piotrowski, Jack Sheridan, Dan Neaverth, Bob McRae, WKBW; WBEN-TV cameras at the Aud; Larry Sales, Ch.7

Back cover, row 14: Lucky Pierre, WBNY; Roger Christian, WBEN-FM; Esther Huff and Clint Buehlman at Hengerer’s, WBEN; Rich Kellman & Molly McCoy, Ch.2; Dan Neaverth, WKBW; Wadi Sawabini, Ch.4; Ward Fenton, Ch.4; Jon & Howard Simon, WNSA; Rufus Coyote, WYSL; Rick Maloney, WNSA; Barry Lillis Ch.2

Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame ceremony group photo, 1998. Marty Biniasz, Phil Beuth, Bob Smith, Ed Little, Jack Horohoe, Jack McLean, Al Wallack, Leia Militello, Rick Azar, Irv Weinstein, Carol Jasen, Lee Coppola, Iney Wallens, Tom Jolls, Steve Cichon, Simon Goldman, Gary Deeb, Van Miller, Steve Mitchell, Mike Igoe, JR Reid, Don Yearke.

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

Read the whole book: 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting, Vol 1: 1920-1970

       By Steve Cichon

The entire contents of the original soft cover book has been uploaded and is now presented online as a universally available resource in promoting and sharing Buffalo’s rich broadcasting heritage.

Written in 2020, 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting, Vol 1: 1920-1970 by Steve Cichon is formatted as a series web pages.

The original print volume was 432 pages with more than 800 individual images. While still available in book form at the Buffalo Stories Bookstore, every page and every image is linked using the subheadings from the book’s table of contents as seen below.

The Covers: captions for the 270 images on the front and back covers


Setting the record straight- Radio’s birth in Buffalo          

The earliest days of Buffalo broadcasting                              


Buffalo & The Lone Ranger 

Stoopnagle & Budd

Roger Baker

WBEN – The Buffalo Evening News Station

Roy Albertson’s WBNY

FDR in Buffalo as President and more Buffalo Radio in the 30s

Father Justyn’s Rosary Hour and around the dial in the 30s


Stations on the move

Buffalo’s first look at TV 

Buffalo’s radio staff musicians

Some of the voices of 1940s Buffalo radio

Buffalo morning radio wars, 1940s style

Buffalo radio at war (and after the war)

WBEN-TV signs on, 1948

AHK- Alfred Kirchhofer & around the Buffalo radio dial

The Buffalo Bills of the AAFC, 1946-49

Bennett High’s future star power, 1946 & around the Buffalo radio dial

Billy and Reggie Keaton & Sally Work

The WGR Flashcast

Ralph Hubbell


Radio & TV in 1950

Wrestling from Memorial Auditorium

Early 50s radio

Husband & Wife teams

Brought to you by…

Buffalo’s forgotten TV pioneers: WBES & WBUF

Buffalo’s Willis Conover

The Rico Family

Buffalo’s Polka King

Buffalo’s last staff organist– Norm Wullen

For the kiddos on Ch.4

Beginnings of a teenage revolution: The Hound, Lucky Pierre, & Hernando 

Legacy of the Seneca-Babcock Boys Club

“The calm before the storm” 

WGR-TV, Buffalo’s Ch.2

Guy King ushers in bad boy rock ‘n’ roll 

Dick Lawrence brings Top-40 to Buffalo

Western Connections

Jack Sharpe and WEBR’s Trafficopter

Buffalo’s third and final VHF: WKBW-TV, Ch.7 

The relegated role of women, (con’t.)

Public Broadcasting comes to Buffalo

Around Buffalo’s Radio & TV dials in the 50s

Buffalo’s Visits to Romper Room


Boost Buffalo, It’s Good for You!

WBEN AM-FM-TV’s new home, 1960

A new voice for Buffalo’s Black community, WUFO

The Sound of the City, WEBR

One of America’s Two Great Radio Stations: WKBW

Clint still #1 and around the TV & Radio dial

More listeners start tuning to FM

Around the TV dial through the 60s

Irv, Rick, & Tom 

Cable TV comes to WNY & Beat the Champ

Rocketship 7 & Commander Tom

Beatlemania hits WKBW

Ramblin’ Lou & The Family Band

Dialing for Dollars

More images from around Buffalo’s TV dial in the 60s

From the Editor’s Desk… WBEN

Ground up by radio: Bill Masters & Frank Benny… and elsewhere around the dial

On the radio, on the telephone: John Otto (and elsewhere around the dial)

Jeff Kaye & KB’s War of the Worlds

Sandy Beach begins a 52-year Buffalo run

Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 

The book’s original front and back matter

On a personal note…

While organizing some of my archives very early in the COVID quarantine, it became clear that there was a book about the history of Buffalo broadcasting screaming out from the piles of material.

Well, that’s partly true. I’ve really been writing this book since I was about 6 years old.

Of course, I didn’t realize it then, but that’s when we’d visit Grandpa Coyle, and he was transfixed by the small black, paint-splattered radio sitting next to his orange rocking chair in the living room.

The exciting voices of Van Miller and Ted Darling came out of that little radio when Gramps, who was a season ticket holder for the Bills and the Sabres, would listen to away games. He’d throw his arms in the air and mumble a lot, and ask me to go get him another stubby bottle of Schmidt’s or Labatt 50 out of the fridge.

A few blocks away, Grandpa Cichon would sit on his porch with a similar radio, but a different experience. Instead of winding him up, Stan Jasinski’s polka program seemed to make life slow down into a warm smile for Gramps.

“What is he saying?” we’d ask my first-generation American grandfather, as Jasinski spoke in Polish. He’d make up something silly, but we couldn’t be quite sure whether what he was saying was true, because who else knew Polish?

Back at our home, the best bonding time with my ol’man came when we’d sit for an hour and watch the news together. I became acquainted with Rich Kellman and John Beard and Irv Weinstein as I learned numbers on that round, loud, clunking TV dial–when I’d act as Dad’s channel-changer in the days before we had a remote.

A few years later, my friend’s dad took our Cub Scout troop to the radio station where he worked—and my face just about fell off. I was hooked. I started waking up at 5am on Saturdays to go to work with him. That friend had a radio station set up in his basement where we’d make tapes.

When we moved, I had a “radio station” in my house. I’d make tapes and call talk shows. I recorded and saved my call to a disc jockey making a birthday request for my brother doing a really terrible Ronald Reagan impression. I was 10 years old.

At 15, I wrote letters to every radio station in Western New York, asking if they needed an intern. The only one to respond was the boss at my favorite station– Kevin Keenan at WBEN.  I spent every moment of that summer at the station, and at the end of summer fulfilled a dream and went on the payroll as a weekend board operator. I was a high school junior working in radio, having the most fun of my life and feeling fantastic.

One of my first moments understanding that I was holding the power of radio in my own hands came with news of Ted Darling’s shocking death from Pick’s disease at the age of only 61.

Only 18 myself at the time, I wasn’t a huge hockey fan– but I had grown up loving the sound, the feel, the excitement, the magic of Ted Darling. I also felt the sadness of listeners who filled the airwaves remembering the great broadcaster and lamenting the loss of this great icon.

By then a full-fledged producer, I internalized the passion and grief around me, and put it into my work, spending hours combing through and editing highlights of his play-by-play to create a Ted Darling tribute which aired on WBEN.

The heartfelt and overwhelming reaction to that piece changed me and changed the way I looked at my job. To that point, I knew I could use radio to be goofy and have fun, but in that moment, I learned that radio could be an outlet for me, personally, to create things that are meaningful to people by reflecting what they long for and how they feel in my work.

Everything I’ve done in radio, TV, and print since then—including this book—has been a manifestation of that powerful realization.

It was one of thousands of lessons I learned by doing, working alongside many of the greatest broadcasters in Buffalo’s history. You know some of the names— folks like Van Miller and Danny Neaverth, but just as importantly are some of the folks you’ll get to know as you read this book and its future companion volumes– the folks who’d run 2,000 feet of cable for a live shot or who pressed the button to start the commercial when Van stopped talking.

Not everyone grew up working in radio and TV like I did, but it’s almost impossible to have lived over the last century without having the people of radio and TV become part of your family and part of the fabric of who you are.

They have been with you during the great and the dark moments in history and there for happiness and sadness in your life.

They are the broadcasters who whispered out of the transistor radios under our pillows, filled the screens in our living rooms, blared out the speakers in our car, and these days– stream on our phones and tablets.

It still feels like a dream to me that I have had the opportunity to be a part of your life in that way over the course of 25 years… especially knowing what the people I’ve listened to and watched have meant to me.

I mean all this to say that the book feels as much like a family tree as it does a book about Buffalo Broadcasting.

With that mindset, I didn’t want to leave anything out. As I began work on the actual layout of the book, it was clear that there was just too much for a single volume, so I split the hundred years in half… and here we are.

By the time you read this, know that I’ve already began squirreling away the photos and stories that will make up a history of the last 50 years of broadcasting—and it will be a much more complete work with your stories and photos contributed. You can start that ball rolling with an email to steve@buffalostories.com.

May your joy in reading this book be the same that mine has been in spending a lifetime putting it together—smiling, enjoying, and remembering the people who’ve added color, vibrance, and a sense of community to our Western New York lives for a century.

Steve Cichon June, 2020

About Steve Cichon

Author Steve Cichon is an award-winning writer and radio newsman who has spent the last three decades telling the story of Buffalo, one story at a time.

As a teenager, he wrote and produced news and sports programming on WBEN and served as gameday producer for Buffalo Bills Football. Later, he served as Executive Producer of the Sabres Radio Network.

His first shot in front of the microphone came again as a teen, this time high above Western New York’s highways as WBEN’s airborne traffic reporter. He was host of newsmagazine “Buffalo’s Evening News,” and an overnight night talk show host during the October Surprise storm.

For a decade, Cichon’s primary job was news anchor and reporter at WBEN Radio, covering courts, the Town of Amherst, the City of Buffalo, Hurricane Katrina, the crash of Flight 3407 and Presidential visits—but the beat that meant the most was the one he created for himself, that is, working to capture the essence of Buffalo in all of his reporting.

Even with “a face for radio,” Cichon worked in television as a producer at Ch.4, helped create and produce the “radio on TV” Simoncast with Howard Simon on Empire Sports Network and 107-7 WNSA, and was a producer on a PBS-WNED documentary on America’s opioid crisis.

Twice Steve has served in management roles in broadcasting. As a 24-year old, he was named Program Director of Buffalo sports talker WNSA Radio. He also proudly served as WBEN Radio News Director.

The author of six books dealing with various aspects of Buffalo’s history, Cichon has also written more than 1,700 articles for The Buffalo News on Western New York’s pop culture history, including his popular “Torn-down Tuesday” feature.

His work as a broadcast journalist has been recognized with more than two dozen Associated Press Awards AP for general excellence, use of medium, spot news coverage and enterprise reporting. Cichon has also been named Buffalo Spree’s Best of Buffalo Blogger of the Year, an Am-Pol Citizen of the Year, Medaille College’s Radio News Director of the Year, and was a Business First 40 Under 40 selection.

More than anything else, Steve’s a Buffalonian who worked and lived to see his childhood fantasies come to life under the soft glow of “on air” lights for nearly 30 years– and having the honor of sharing these stories of his broadcasting forefathers and heroes lets that feeling keep on riding


Uncle Bob Cohen, my first radio mentor

Kevin Keenan, my second radio mentor, who gave me my first job and introduced me to my wife

My wife, Monica, who I met through the window of the WBEN newsbooth early one cold Sunday morning in 1993, when she came in to deliver a 5am newscast while I was running the board. Aside from being the love of my life, she also edited this book.

Ed Little, John Demerle, and Al Wallack are only three of the dozens and dozens of amazing people who took me under their wing and taught me the crafts of radio and journalism. And life.

Jarin Cohen and Marty Biniasz are two radio pals who are true brothers. My story is inseparable from theirs, and these stories are their stories, too.

Marty Biniasz, Jack Tapson, Dan Neaverth, Mike Beato, Bob Collignon, Jay Lauder, Walt Haefner, John Bisci, Scott Fybush, and dozens more have all shared items that have become a part of this work.

If nothing else, this book proves that newspaper writers craft the first draft of history.

Bits and pieces of biographical and factual data in this volume have been pulled from thousands and thousands of newspaper articles collected and read through the years.

Hundreds of writers and editors have had a hand in crafting those pieces, and I thank them all. But most notably, I’d like to thank the men and women who have either been on the broadcasting beat or have somehow made radio and tv something they’ve written about in the Courier-Express and The Buffalo News with regularity, among them, in no particular order:

Jeff Simon, Gary Deeb, Hal Crowther, Lauri Githens, Jack Allen, Anthony Violanti, Mary Ann Lauricella, Alan Pergament, Mary Kunz Goldman, J. Don Schlaerth, Don Trantor, Jim Trantor, Jane Kwiatkowski, Jim Baker, Scott Thomas, Sturgis Hedrick, Doug Smith, Margaret Sullivan, Rose Ciotta, and dozens of others.

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