Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting
The 1940s started with most of Buffalo’s radio stations changing their dial positions.
The governments of the US, Canada, Mexico, Cuba and Haiti signed a treaty agreeing on a realignment of the radio dial in 1940.
It meant that five Buffalo radio stations got new frequencies in a continent-wide attempt to clear up interference in the increasingly busy airwaves.
Lower end frequencies, like WGR at 550 kilocycles, weren’t forced to move, but in December, 1941, WBEN moved from 900 to 930 kilocycles, WEBR from 1310 to 1340, WBNY from 1370 to 1400 and WKBW from 1480 to 1520. WEBR moved again in 1945 to 970, putting Buffalo’s AM stations in the same dial locations where they still are today.
WGR and KB are also broadcasting from the same transmitter facilities eight decades later.
The Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation opened its transmitter and tower facilities in Hamburg on Big Tree Road in July, 1941. The facility cost $350,000– $6.1 million in 2020 dollars—and was described as “truly a showplace of electric marvels.”
When the building first opened, a series of telephone lines carried programs from the Rand Building studios of WGR and WKBW to Hamburg for broadcast.
WKBW’s mainstays were the network programs of CBS with stars like Orson Welles, Hedda Hopper, Cecil B. DeMille, and Kate Smith. WGR carried the Mutual Network featuring “The Lone Ranger” and Milton Berle.
The local talent celebrated in a brochure issued in commemoration of the new transmitter included Billy Keaton, Ralph Hubbell, and WGR Orchestra leader David Cheskin. Before Howdy Doody came along, Bob Smith hosted “The Cheer Up Gang” every morning, and before spending Clinton Buehlman hosted “WGR Musical Clock.”
The 50,000 watt signal which erupted from this building provided the coverage across much of the eastern part of North America which WKBW Radio to become, as their top-of-the-hour IDs would say during the Jeff Kaye era, “One of America’s two great radio stations.”
Herb Rice was WGR’s program director and the station’s creative force from 1929-43. He was an integral member of the Stoopnagle & Budd team, and was among the first to display the talents of Buffalo Bob Smith in 1933. In leaving Buffalo to become an executive producer for NBC, Rice worked with and wrote for Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Katharine Hepburn.
This page is an excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon
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.
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