After being the first in the nation to attempt a poorly received “sing-along” format, WEBR rebooted its image in 1962 with the new “The Sound of the City” theme song.
The Courier-Express’ Jack Allen called The Sound of the City “a bit of good music a cut above the jarring jingles so often associated with commercial AM radio.”
“The Sound of the City” was originally written for San Francisco radio station KSFO, which was owned by Gene Autry, and resung for radio stations around the country.
Johnny Mann– best known as the music director on the Joey Bishop Show– wrote the song which was performed by “The Johnny Mann Singers.”
Among those nameless faceless Johnny Mann singers was Thurl Ravenscroft, who was the singing voice of “The Grinch” with Boris Karloff’s narration. Also, as Tony the Tiger, he bellowed out “They’rrrrre GREAT!” on Frosted Flakes commercials for 30 years.
His deep throaty vibrato is easy to pick out in the line, “faint is the thunder of Niagara, soft is the murmur from the lake.”
Lyrics to “The Buffalo Anthem,” as sung by The Johnny Mann Singers
The Sound of the City,
the Good Neighbor City,
the Sound of Buffalo.
Are mixed with daylight’s glimmering rays,
and moonbeams shimmering glow.
When darkness settles on the city,
night sounds slowly come awake.
Faint is the thunder of Niagara,
soft is the murmur from the lake.
Hear the Sound of the city,
the sounds that are heard in Buffalo, New York.
When the Boulevard Mall opened in 1962, it was the first to offer “weatherproof shopping” in an enclosed mall space in Western New York.
WEBR deejays Jack Eno, Carrol Hardy, Al Meltzer and others broadcast live from the mall during its first days open to the public.
This page is an excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon
WKBW’s ultra-modern Radio Center was actually a refaced barn which stood next door to the Churchill Tabernacle building. It was built out in 1951 in the parking lot of Tabernacle—which by the end of the decade was destined to become the home of WKBW-TV Ch.7.
As songs like “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets hit number one on the charts, Elvis Presley was still receiving second billing to Slim Whitman and Andy Griffith in stage shows around the south.
“Rhythm and blues” was still working its way into “rock ‘n’ roll,” and it was still a little time before Elvis started to become recognized first as “the hottest hillbilly attraction” and “the king of western bop.”
Young people were paying attention, but society— not yet.
Even though The Hound was on KB in 1955, his sound was not reflective of the station by any means.
In fact, The Hound’s lead-in show six nights a week was Stan Jasinski’s Polka Beehive.
The programs and talent that WKBW Radio was promoting in 1956– only a matter of months before rock ‘n’ roll Top 40 would change radio forever– looks much more like KB did in 1930 than it would in 1960.
WKBW, Buffalo’s Most Powerful Radio Station, mid-50s letterhead.
Dorothy Ireland was on the air daily as Kay B. Cooke with interviews and homemaking tips. Wally Wagoner was WKBW’s Farm Director.
Carroll Hardy, who would go on to become one of WEBR’s legendary jazz deejays, was one of the many men who served as WKBW’s Clock Watcher, broadcasting live from the front lawn of the radio station on Main Street near Utica every morning.
Among the others on KB’s deejay staff in the mid-50s were Herb Knight, George “Hound Dog” Lorenz, and Larry Brownell.
Remembered as one of Buffalo’s most beloved sports broadcasters, Stan Barron was also a disc jockey through most of his time in Buffalo radio, including his turn as WKBW’s Clock Watcher. Here he’s on KB’s lawn with Clint Churchill Jr., WKBW General Manager Al Anscombe, KB Polka Beehive host Stan Jasinski, salesman Jim McGrath and Roger Baker—who, after returning to KB from WBES-TV, dabbled in sports but focused on sales.
Stan Barron calling play-by-play action at Memorial Auditorium on WKBW. Through the years, he called Canisius and Niagara basketball, Buffalo Bisons baseball and Buffalo Bisons hockey. He was also the color man on Buffalo Bills broadcasts alongside Van Miller.
Frank Frederics, who also anchored newscasts on WBUF-TV, reads the news on WKBW as engineer William Routh looks on.
Lee Forster brought the sounds of Western music and folk music to KB, as he had also done on Ch.4’s Barn Dance show.
From 1958 to 1988, Al Lafler had his hand on the rudder of the production sound that allowed KB to stand head and shoulders above the rest. His more famous co-workers will tell you, his credo “Good enough isn’t good enough,” helped give KB such a great sound over the years.
Gospel musician and evangelist Elder Charles Beck ran his network of 30 stations from WKBW. Nicknamed The Singing Evangelist, The Encyclopedia of America Gospel Music calls Beck “a seminal figure in the formative years of modern African-American gospel music.” His shows aired Sunday nights on KB.
Verne Stevenson played the best in rhythm and blues on Saturday nights on WKBW.
Michael Brocia hosted music and news in Italian on Saturdays on WKBW.
Chief Engineer Leroy Fiedler, left, was at WKBW from the very beginning in 1926, and was still with the station through the 60s. Dan Lesniak, right, with Cassie Lanzalaco, was a KB salesman who founded one of the stations that helped usher in the FM era of Buffalo radio as the owner of WADV-FM.
Al Anscombe was a sports announcer under Roger Baker at KB before serving in the Air Corps in World War II. In 1950, he replaced Baker as KB’s general manager.
It was under the direction of Al Anscombe that the mostly staid, conservative, WKBW would up-end radio not just in Buffalo but around the country when, as their ad campaign said, “KB Goes KA-BOOM!” introducing a Top-40 style rock ‘n’ roll format which debuted 19 months after the 30th anniversary of Doc Churchill’s WKBW was celebrated in 1956.
The word unbelievable is thrown around — but the lineup at the 1960 Buffalo Jazz Festival at Offerman Stadium was pretty close to unbelievable.
The old baseball park behind Freddie’s Doughnuts at Main and Michigan played host to Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, Gene Krupa and a half-dozen others.
The run up to the event received plenty of coverage in the Buffalo Courier-Express, The Buffalo Evening News, and The Niagara Gazette.
Co-produced by Ed Sarkesian and George Wein, in association with WEBR disc jockey Joe Rico, the festival features a lineup of entertainers that reads like a “Who’s Who in Jazz.”
The idea for staging a Buffalo Jazz Festival represents the collective thinking of professional producers and interested local businessmen. Producers Sarkesian and Wein regard Buffalo as one of the top five jazz markets in the country, based on the record of successful shows staged at Kleinhans Music Hall and local theaters.
–Buffalo Courier-Express, July 24, 1960
The Niagara Gazette reported that a ‘”Living Stereo” sound system was to be installed in Offermann Stadium at a cost of $6000, “assuring that the audience will hear every chord struck by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, every run from Louis Armstrong’s golden trumpet and every note played and sung by Dinah Washington, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Gene Krupa, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and the other stars who will appear.”
As far as the show itself:
Gill also reviewed the last day of the show for the Courier.
The second part of Buffalo’s first Jazz Festival concluded last night at Offermann Stadium where again some of the top names in music produced an evening of fine entertainment for an enthusiastic audience.
The total attendance for the Saturday and Sunday night shows was 16,000.
On stage last night was an array of celebrities equal to the standards of the opening edition. Such personalities as Chico Hamilton, Duke Ellington, Gene Krupa, Oscar Peterson and Louis Armstrong were on hand. It also marked the first Buffalo appearance of Jackie Cain, Roy Kral, and Cannonball Adderley.
Hamilton’s Quintet, which is built around his fine drum work; Ellington’s orchestra in the blue mood of the old master, Krupa’s torrid drums, and Peterson’s great piano playing highlighted the festivities.
Armstrong’s appearence brought the usual reception for the great “Satchmo,” whose trumpet and gravel voice are a must for any succesful jazz gathering.
Cannonball Is a Hit
Cannonball Adderley and his alto sax, backed up by his side men, brought about interesting improvisations on the jazz standards. The integration of vocal sounds with those of the instrumental, placed Jackie Cain and Roy Kral well up in their
Local talent again received its opportunity. Patti Leeds, accompanied by the Sammy Noto Quintet, was as vocally pleasing as she was visually appealing.
She turned easily from sultry ballad to belting chorus, with all the accomplishments and polish of a top professional. All indications are that her future it very bright. (WEBR disc jockey) Carroll Hardy provided the program introductions.
Among the odd stories from weekend festival– it was the first major event where The Buffalo Police Department’s new K-9 squad was given a public appearance.
Working out of the Franklin Street station, “The dog, his handler and the van patrolman-driver form a team which check trouble spots anywhere in the city,” reported the Courier in a follow-up article. “No job is too small — roaming through pool parlors, mingling at crime scenes, even issuing traffic tags.
“Their finest hour was handling the crowd at the recent Jazz Festival in Offermann Stadium. Not one disturbance took place during the concert or on any streets afterwards. The promoter told Lt. Carr it was the only peaceful concert on his tour.”
A few years earlier, Joe Rico, then with WWOL, brought another amazing show to Kleinhans Music Hall: