Early 50s Radio in Buffalo

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


As Clint Buehlman celebrated 20 years as Buffalo’s top morning man in 1952, the team that would be a part of his show for the next 25 years was in place.

Clint Buehlman, early 1950s.

Western New Yorkers began waking up to the news of Jack Ogilvie in 1952. He’d been WBEN’s evening newscaster and a jack-of-all-trades at WJTN in Jamestown.

Jack Ogilvie in WBEN’s Statler Hotel Studios, late 1940s.

Buehly’s “Mr. Operator,” Tom Whalen (below) started on the early shift working the Buehlman show in 1948, arriving each day by 4:30 to make sure the studio was ready for Buffalo’s AM-MC when his show began at 6am.

Tom Whalen

Through most of the 1950s, Buehlman’s show was Buffalo’s most listened to radio program, surpassing even nighttime family shows like Jack Benny, Lux Radio Theater, Fibber McGee & Molly and Dragnet.

During the afternoon hours, WEBR’s Bob Wells was most popular, but his ratings didn’t even approach Buehlman’s. 

1953 ad.

That didn’t stop WEBR’s owner, The Buffalo Courier-Express, to run stories with headlines like one on 1952 exclaiming “Bob Wells’ WEBR Program Rated City’s Most Popular,” before explaining in the story that the show was “the most popular weekday radio show in Buffalo during the greater part of the afternoon.”

It’s bizarre because it was unnecessary. Even in the moment, Wells was one of the most beloved personalities in the history of Buffalo media as the host of the extraordinarily popular and generation-defining “Hi-Teen” program on WEBR. 

Dancers pack the Dellwood Ballroom dance floor for a mid-50’s Hi-Teen broadcast.

Sammy Davis, Jr. signs autographs while Bob Wells looks on smiling after a performance on the Hi-Teen Show. The program was a known stop for many of the country’s top performing artists, who’d gladly give the kids a thrill on a Saturday afternoon before heading to a gig.

Hi-Teen one of Buffalo’s most popular radio shows of the era nestled between the end of World War II and the birth of rock ‘n’ roll.

“I was probably the last disc jockey in America to play an Elvis Presley record,” Wells told Ch.2’s Rich Kellman during a late 1970s interview.

Toronto’s Bluebops on the Hi-Teen stage.

Hi-Teen ran on WEBR for 17 years, hosting as many of 2000 kids in the Dellwood Ballroom at Main and Utica every Saturday.

Wells had been the Assistant Director of Music for Batavia Schools when WEBR General Manager Cy King asked him to produce a live show to help combat juvenile delinquency.

That was January, 1946— and America’s record hop was born with the first edition of Wells’ show. With the help of the Harold Austin Orchestra keeping the beat, Hi-Teen went on to serve as an inspiration for shows like American Bandstand. The tenth anniversary show, live from The Aud in 1956 attracted 10,000 teens to Memorial Auditorium.

Bob Wells, WEBR

After WEBR, Wells landed at WGR Radio and TV, hosting shows on Ch.2 like Pick-A-Polka, The Yankee Doodle Room (live from AM&A’s), and the Money Movie. Even after he was no longer a full-time on-air personality, he could still be seen doing weather on Ch.7’s weekend newscasts. He also spent more than 20 years as the radio and television voice of Your Host restaurants.

The stars that Wells missed during the day often wound up on Ed Little’s nighttime show on WEBR.

From boy actor to announcer to disc jockey to newsman, Ed Little’s 62-year radio career didn’t leave much undone.

Discovered by WEBR’s Al Zink as an actor in 1938 as a kid actor with a grown-up voice, Ed moved to announcing at WHLD and then WGR in 1942, eventually putting those skills to use for the US Army during World War II.

He’d fly along on bombing missions in the Pacific, recording live descriptions of what he was seeing to be played back over NBC on radios across America.

When he returned home from war, he joined the staff at WBEN, before moving over to WEBR in 1949.

Among other duties there, Ed was the host of a show that broadcast live from the Town Casino, with interviews and interactions with many of the day’s biggest stars, who’d stop by the booth to say hello.

In the 60s, he was the newsman on Joey Reynolds’ KB Radio show. In the 80s and 90s, his was one of the voices that distinguished WBEN as Buffalo’s home for radio news.

Ed’s was the last live voice broadcast from the Elmwood Avenue WBEN studios that were the station’s home from 1960-2000.

Buffalo lounge piano legend Jackie Jocko appeared regularly on WEBR in the early 1950s along with his partner drummer Joe Peters.

WEBR’s “Amanda” interviews an AM&A’s buyer on her midday shopping and fashion tips show at the WEBR-970 studios, 23 North Street, in 1951.

“Amanda” was actually Dorothy Shank, president of the local chapter of American Women in Radio & Television. She later worked in marketing for AM&A’s, had a show on Ch.4, and was a host on WJJL in Niagara Falls through the 1980s. She was 81 when she died in 1989.

Another piece of Western New York history in the photo: in the middle, between the microphone and the telephone, the 1950’s equivalent of a Tim Horton’s cup– a glass “to go” coffee cup/milk bottle from Buffalo’s ubiquitous Deco Restaurants (there were more than 50 Deco locations around WNY when they were most popular.)

Amanda with Hollywood actress Gloria Swanson.

Warren Michael Kelly, occasionally known as Warren Mike or Warren Kelly, was one of WGR’s top on-air talents during his two separate stints there in the 50s.

The Bennett High grad was a newsman at WBNY before serving in the Army during World War II.

After the war, he was Clint Buehlman’s newsman at WBEN and spent time in Detroit before coming back to Buffalo to host mornings on WGR. Later, he’d also be seen anchoring newscasts on Ch.2.

He moved on to management and sales, and was General Manager of WYSL and WPHD-FM.

Through the late 40s and early 50s, John Lascalles was WGR’s “Man About Midnight.” Nicknamed “Ol’Bones,” Lascalles would eventually move to mornings on WGR. He was also a familiar face in the early days of Ch.2, as one of the many “Atlantic Weathermen.” With the gas station as a sponsor, the man announcing the weather would wear the snappy uniform of an Atlantic gas station attendant while delivering the forecast.

Frank Dill spent a decade at WGR and Ch.2, from the mid-50s through the mid-60s. He was born in Williamsville, but grew up as a sports fanatic near Washington, DC. Like most of his WGR co-workers, Dill was seen and heard in a wide-ranging number of on-air jobs.

On the radio, he was a disc jockey and one of the play-by-play voices of the baseball Bisons. When Ch.2 first signed on, he was a part of the station’s original announcing staff as the host of “Sports Corner,” the game show “Tune-O,” and co-host of “Yankee Doodle” with Bob Wells.

Dill left Buffalo for San Francisco in 1963. When he retired after 34 years there, the paper called him “nice guy Frank Dill — an oasis of easygoing banter and chuckling good humor.”

WGR’s news men of the 1950s were widely talented beyond news.

Jack Mahl was born in Tonawanda and served in the Army during World War II. He came home to work at WKBW and WGR Radio, eventually spending time at Ch.2 as another of the The Atlantic Weathermen. Through the 70s and 80s, he could be heard up and down Buffalo’s radio dial reading news, most notably on WEBR.

David Getman spent a decade as a newsman and Special Events Director for WGR before moving on to public relations roles with the March of Dimes and Buffalo Mayor Chester Kowal.

Phil Soisson came to WGR from WBEN in 1952, and remained a steady news and sports voice on WGR through the 50s and 60s. He was the radio voice of the baseball and hockey Bisons, and anchored news and sports on Ch.2. He was also part of the original Sabres play-by-play team with Ted Darling in 1970.

John Gill started working in radio as an actor in dramas in 1937, and was on the news desk at WGR Radio and then WGR-TV through the 40s, 50s and 60s. He moved to WEBR, where he was one of the main voices of the news-centric 970 format of the late 70s.

Gill was a newsman’s newsman. “In 20 years of news reporting for WGR,” he said in 1958, “you learn that an analysis of news is vitally important. To paraphrase, every fire isn’t a conflagration, nor is every storm a holocaust. It’s the highly experienced men on our news staff that accurately describe the news when and as it actually happens.”

John Otto would join WGR’s news team in the mid ‘50s, after starting as a newsman and disc jockey at WBNY in 1951. He, by the way, was another Atlantic Weatherman.  

Otto stands for a promo shoot on the roof of the Lafayette Hotel.

“Helen Neville possesses one of those rare personalities that sparkles with friendliness and enthusiasm. She has friends and devotees from practically every walk of life.”

Neville’s broadcasting career began at WGR & WKBW in 1943, and was heard through the 1940s on WKBW’s “Modern Kitchen.”

Through the 50s, she regularly broadcast on WGR from her home at 1119 Delaware Avenue, interviewing people about the civic and social happenings around Buffalo.

On Ch.2, she hosted “Two For Lunch” (which later became “Two For Breakfast” when the time slot changed) for the first six years the station was on the air, 1954-1960.


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

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

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

Ralph Hubbell & Around the Dial

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


Ralph Hubbell, WBEN

As already mentioned, his first radio job was reading poetry over the brand new WBNY, where he also became the station’s sportscaster in 1936.

Ralph Hubbell started as WGR’s sports director and moved on to WBEN in 1948, becoming “The Dean of Buffalo Sportscasters” along the way, “displaying a quick wit, warm personality and mastery of language.”

Ralph Hubbell (right) at WGR’s news desk with chief announcer Jack Gelzer

In 1948, he was Buffalo’s first TV sports anchor, although the term hadn’t been invented yet. He was in the booth for the first few seasons of Bills football. Youngster Van Miller was on the play-by-play, but Buffalo’s good sports fans loved the steady observations of Hubb during the games.

Charley Bailey of WEBR, Jim Wells of WBEN, Sig Smith of WKBW, and Hubb were Buffalo’s top radio sportsmen of the 1940s.

When Hubbell retired after 58 years in Buffalo broadcasting in 1989, Buffalo News Sports Editor Larry Felser, a legend in his own right who grew up listening to Hubbell, remarked “those familiar vocal cords… always seemed to have been freshly dipped in motor oil.”

Typically, each 15-minute segment of Clint Buehlman’s daily broadcast was sponsored by a single business. In the earliest days, as outlined in this ad, “Your AM-MC” would not only talk conversationally about that sponsor and its services and products, but also sit at the piano and sing songs about sponsors, weather, news and just about anything else.

By the time Buehlman was forced into retirement at age 65 in 1977, his days of sitting at the piano were long gone — replaced by adult contemporary music that could be heard all over the AM dial in that era. But between records, Buehly still would mix weather, things you needed to know and a few words from his sponsor, just like he had for the previous four decades.


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

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

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

Buffalo Radio at War (and after the war)

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


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

Buffalo Morning Radio Wars, 1940s style

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


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

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

Buehlman, chained to the WGR mic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The full text of the book is now online.

The original 436-page book is available along with Steve’s other books online at The Buffalo Stories Bookstore and from fine booksellers around Western New York. 

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

Stations on the move– Radio Dial Realignment of 1940

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


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.”

The WKBW-WGR Transmitter facility on Big Tree Rd. as it looked when opened in July, 1941.

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.

The Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation newsroom of WGR & WKBW inside the Rand Building.

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.”

Clint Buehlman, host of WGR’s 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.”

A technician adjusts the audio driver tubes of WKBW’s transmitter. 1941.
Herbert Rice

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 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

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

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


“If St. Paul were alive today, radio is the medium he would use,” said Fr. Justyn Figas, who began his own Polish Language broadcast of the rosary in 1927 over WKEN, before creating a six-station rosary network in 1931 from Buffalo’s WEBR.

Fr. Justin Figas, WEBR

His broadcasts were heard in other cities with large Polish populations like Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Scranton and Pittsburgh.

“I greet you dear friends, with the words ‘Praise be to Jesus Christ.’”

The Franciscan priest’s manner made him the perfect man to reach out across the airwaves; everyone at his Broadway-Fillmore parish of Corpus Christi loved him. One parishioner remembered him as “stern but kind, always with a warm sense of humor.”

Almost immediately, Fr. Justyn (also spelled Justin) was leading millions in Polish-Americans in prayer. And, almost immediately following his success, he was criticized in some circles for speaking in a foreign language on American radio and “promoting hyphenated Americanism.”

Fr Justin Figas

With eyes keenly focused on his mission, he would often wear a coat or a hat that had seen better days. When kind people offered him a few dollars for a new hat, he’d gladly accept—but instead of a new hat, he’d put the money towards one of his many projects– like building St. Joseph Hospital in Cheektowaga and St. Francis High School in Hamburg.

He became a world-renown broadcaster, but first and foremost, he was a Franciscan—caring deeply about every person he encountered. Despite growing fame and responsibility, he always exuded joy while taking on the mundane physical tasks of running a parish community. 

Fr. Justyn hosted The Rosary Hour for 31 years until his death in 1959.


Sacred organ music was broadcast over WKBW and Rev. Clinton Churchill preached on “One Thing Every Sinner Should Know,” on the day when four new electric signs—including a 30-foot red-and-white porcelain cross—were dedicated in 1937 at the Churchill Tabernacle at 1420 Main Street.

The new cross was the gift of Pastor Churchill in memory of his mother and in honor of his father. Hanging beneath the cross, a large sign and two illuminated electric clocks.

The building became WKBW-TV’s Television Center in 1958, and remained Ch.7’s home until moving to the current location at 7 Broadcast Plaza in 1978.

The wall on the right side of the photo was the first home of Tom Jolls’ “Weather Outside.”


Airing weeknights at 11 on WGR from 1938-46, Mr. QED was one of Buffalo’s most listened to radio news programs. QED was actually Hamburg High School history teacher Edward T. Schweikardt. The program came to an end when Schweikardt was offered a professorship at Toledo University. When this ad ran in 1940, Manru’s Schreiber Brewing was one of at least nine local breweries operating in Buffalo.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Austin Roche was an early proponent of radio, first as a means of outreach—he wrote and starred in a weekly “crimelogue” program on WKBW.

A strong believer in what radio could do for crime fighting, Roche pushed for the creation of Buffalo Police station WMJ, which signed on in 1931.

WWMB, Border Patrol radio in Buffalo

In 1936, the Border Patrol put radio to use to “tighten the gates of the Niagara Frontier.”

WMMB was located at the foot of Arthur Street at the Niagara River. The 200-wtt transmitter broadcast every half hour. Thomas McDermott, shown above, was the station’s chief operator.

Among the hardworking staff in this BBC election night photo are Roger Baker (with cigarette at the typewriter) and Clint Buehlman (far right).

In the middle at the mic above, and in the photo below is “effervescent emcee” Cliff Jones, “your aireporter.” The Nichols grad joined WGR in 1935 and later was heard on WBEN, WHAM in Rochester, and WBTA in Batavia.

Cliff Jones, BBC


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

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

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


President Roosevelt talks to reporters holding WBNY and WBEN microphones outside of Buffalo City Hall, 1940.

Only weeks before he was to be elected to his second term as president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Buffalo to dedicate the city’s new federal building at Niagara Square on Oct. 17, 1936.

The visit was Roosevelt’s first time in Buffalo as Commander-in-Chief — although he had visited countless times during his four years as New York’s governor. The courthouse was a federally funded New Deal project and was designed primarily by Buffalo architect E.B. Green.

The president’s dedication was carried on radio stations WKBW, WBEN and WBNY.

“I need not compare the Buffalo of today with the Buffalo as I saw it the last time I was here,” Roosevelt said in Niagara Square. “You will recall, I am sure, those years when I had the privilege of being the chief executive of this state. Already in 1930 the problems of unemployment and depression had become severe and you will recall also that it was in 1931 that I, as governor, called the Legislature of the State of New York into special session to provide relief for the distressed unemployed of the state and New York was the first state in the Union to definitely accept the responsibilities of seeing to it that as far as the state’s resources could prevent it, none of its citizens who wished to work would starve.”

Wider view of President Roosevelt’s 1936 address, with the Niagara Square side of the Statler Hotel seen prominently in the background.

“We can’t honestly say that Buffalo is the largest market in the country,” wrote the Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation in a 1936 ad in a national magazine, “But we can truthfully claim that it is one of the best and has been consistently so for many years.”
Philco radios were among the available in 1932, and The Wm. Hengerer Co. was selling this seven-tube model in the downtown store’s seventh floor radio shop for $49.75– which amounts to just under $900 in 2020 dollars.
Photos of the women of early radio are far and few between—and that’s because unless they were singing, there just weren’t many women on the radio during the first two decades. This 1933 photo shows Lillian Kaye, WGR’s “crooning contralto.” Her voice was heard regularly through the 20s and 30s on Buffalo radios and around the country on network shows on NBC.
The story of Clint Buehlman’s first five years at WGR were told in a comic strip that was included in a booklet commemorating the milestone and distributed by the station in 1937.
The Hall Baking Company, sponsors of Clinton Buehlman’s Musical Clock Show on WGR, was located in the large bakery building that would later be home to the Kaufman’s Bakery on Fillmore Avenue at Main.
Following the Musical Clock Show, Buehly and technician Lew Shea would hop in the WGR Mobile Studio car for programs around town at places like Hengerer’s and Shea’s Buffalo.


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
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


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

Clint Buehlman sings about winter’s slick roads on classic Buffalo radio

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

In 1973, Clint Buehlman was celebrating 30 years of hosting the morning show on WBEN. His program had more listeners than the next three stations’ morning shows combined. More than 300,000 people tuned in to “your AM-MC” during the course of the week.

WBEN morning man Clint Buehlman at the piano in 1973.

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

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

“Leave for work a little early cause the roads are kind of slick,

and even though your brakes are good you’ll find you can’t stop quick.

“When you step upon that peddle and your car begins to skid,

just remember this advice and you’ll be glad you did.”

It was winter weather that helped end the Clint Buehlman era on Buffalo radio. During the Blizzard of ’77, listeners came to rely on the more modern sound of Danny Neaverth on WKBW, and less on the dated sound of Buehlman’s show on WBEN.

In March 1977, Buehlman turned 65, and WBEN management took it as an opportunity to force him to retire.

Clint Buehlman, at the piano, 1950s.

Buffalo Bob Smith sings about Bells Markets

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

Typically, when Buffalo Bob Smith enthusiastically shouted the question, “Say kids, what time is it?” the answer enthusiastically shouted back was, “It’s Howdy Doody Time!”

That wasn’t the case in this series of Bells Markets TV ads from the early 1970s.

“It’s Bells Supermarket Time,” the peanut gallery shouted from the vegetable aisle at Bells.

Robert Schmidt was born in Buffalo and attended Fosdick-Masten Park High School (now City Honors School), and began a radio career on WGR and then WBEN with lifelong friend and early on-air partner Clint Buehlman.

Clint Buehlman and Buffalo Bob.

As Bob Smith, he moved to New York City radio in 1947, and when he started hosting a children’s television show shortly thereafter – adding the nod to his hometown to his stage name, becoming Buffalo Bob Smith.

The video shows three 30-second commercials which aired on Buffalo television in the early 1970s.

They were transferred from 16 mm film as a part of the Buffalo Stories Film Conservation Initiative.