His famous laugh filled Buffalo airwaves for more than 50 years, and the jingle that opened his WBEN talk show for 23 of those years says Sandy Beach is “bigger than life and twice as loud.”
Sandy Beach, inside the KB studio
That may be, but News critic Jeff Simon added this in 2007:
Sandy Beach “may be the most talented figure in (the) storied history of Buffalo radio,” and Beach was the “last legend still heard daily on Buffalo radio.”
Aside from a brief stop in Erie, Pennsylvania and four years in Milwaukee, Beach has been a constant in Buffalo radio since arriving at WKBW to take over the night shift there in 1968.
Listening to even five minutes of his show – any of his shows – over the course of 52 years is explanation enough for why News critic Hal Crowther dubbed Beach “the Needle” shortly after the deejay landed on the Buffalo radio scene.
In a 1972 interview, legendary WKBW Program Director Jeff Kaye said that within four years of arriving in Buffalo, Sandy had “worked every shift on KB except morning drive, and improved the ratings in each part.”
Beach spent the 70s, 80s and 90s in and out of Buffalo as a disc jockey, program director and eventually a talk show host. After leaving his post as KB Radio’s Program Director in the early 80s, he held morning show jobs at Buffalo’s Hot 104 and then Majic 102.
He hosted talk shows on WBEN and WGR before leaving town for the mid-90s, but when he came back to host afternoons on WBEN in 1997, he was ready to make the change permanent.
“I liked playing the oldies,” Sandy said coming back, “but you can only play ‘Doo-Wap-Diddy’ so many times.”
Six years later, he would play oldies once again, this time at WBEN’s sister station and his old stomping grounds, now sporting the call letters WWKB. For the three years KB played music of the 50s and 60s from 2003-06, Beach was a disc jockey mid-mornings and a talk show host for afternoon drive on WBEN.
The show was never edgy or provocative just for the sake of being so—but Beach was strong in proclaiming his often-conservative views and left little room for opinions (or leaders) he thought were weak or unfounded.
Stan Roberts, Dan Neaverth, Sandy Beach. Late 60s.
When he left WBEN in 2020, management called Beach a “provocative and edgy talk show host” who entertained with “distinct humor.” And an unforgettable laugh.
Watching TV rarely gets you on the front page of the paper, but it seems appropriate that it did for the staff at Tonawanda’s Jenss Twin-Ton Department store in 1969.
That man would step foot on the moon is an unimaginable, superlative, epoch-defining feat in human history. But that more than half a billion would watch it happen live on their television sets made it a definitive moment in a broadcast television industry that was barely 20 years old at the time.
Gathered around the TV “to catch a few glimpses of the Apollo 11 events” were Mrs. James Tait, Margaret Robinson, Marian Feldt, Jack Dautch, Grace Hughes, Dorothy Wiegand, Rose Sugden and Rose Ann Fiala.
By the time of the 1969 moon landing, Jenss Twin-Ton’s future was already in doubt as city fathers in the Tonawandas were looking to expand already present Urban Renewal efforts to include the store at Main and Niagara. Jenss Twin-Ton closed in 1976 when the building was bulldozed as urban renewal caught up.
This page is an excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon
In the simplest of terms, after decades of economic depression and war, young people of the late 1940s had less responsibility, more economic freedom and a growing segment of pop culture being cultivated to employ and take advantage of that free time and free cash.
For 70 years, more mature generations have been panning the choices of teenage girls and especially the fervor with which they make those choices.
The names change, but from Frank Sinatra to Justin Bieber, rigid-minded adults can’t understand all the swooning over (some singer) with (some bizarre haircut, bizarre dance, etc.).
By 1964, American fuddy-duddies had withstood the waves of bobbysoxers and Elvis’ wagging hips — but the arrival of a moppy-headed quartet of singers from England took the genre up another notch.
If there’s a start date for Beatlemania, you might choose Feb. 9, 1964 — the date of the band’s first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” About 60 percent of American televisions were tuned to the performance of the nation’s No. 1 top single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” It aired in Buffalo on Ch.4.
Immediately, adults started to try to make sense of the mania.
In a matrix that has repeated itself time and time again as American Pop Culture has evolved, the aversion to the Beatles was just as strong as the fanaticism of their young followers.
What was it about the Beatles? everyone seemed to want to know. Was it the haircuts, asked the Courier-Express’ “Enquiring Reporter” of Western New York high school students?
Lining up to get on The KB Crush Beatles Bus Caravan to Toronto
One boy from Cardinal O’Hara High School was convinced that it was “The Beatles’ weird looks more than their musical ability” that made them popular. Many others agreed, but said it was the combination of talent and different looks that made the Beatles “just far out.”
Whether you loved the Beatles or hated them, they were clearly a growing economic force to be reckoned with.
It wasn’t just with the expected idea of record sales at places like Twin Fair, more staid institutions such as AM&A’s were offering “The Beatle Bob” in their downtown and branch store beauty salons. Hengerer’s was selling Beatles records and wigs.
A month after the group’s first appearance on Ed Sullivan, a couple of doors down from Shea’s Buffalo, the Paramount Theatre sold out a weekend’s worth of closed-circuit showings of a Beatles concert.
Eighteen uniformed Buffalo Police officers were hired to help keep the peace among the more than 2,500 teens who showed up to watch the show at the Paramount, which was hosted by WKBW disc jockey Joey Reynolds. The only slight hint of misbehavior on the part of Beatles fans came when the infamous rabble-rouser Reynolds declared on the stage, “I hate the Beatles!” and he was pelted with jellybeans.
Local bands like the Buffalo Beetles, later renamed the Mods, enjoyed popularity and even their own records on the radio. After the July, 1964 release of The Beatles’ first film “A Hard Day’s Night,” the summer of 1965 saw the release of the Beatles’ second movie, “Help!,” which opened at Shea’s before moving onto the smaller theaters and the drive-ins.
The Beatles also played a concert at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens in August 1965. There were at least a couple of dozen Buffalonians in attendance courtesy of the WKBW/Orange Crush Beatles caravan, hosted by Danny Neaverth.
Danny Neaverth hosting on KB Crush Caravan to see the Beatles.
Sixteen-year-old Jay Burch of Orchard Park High School described Beatlemania from the midst of it in 1964 this way: “The Beatles’ singing is OK, but it’s the haircuts and dress that make them standouts. … The Beatles are different. They got a good gimmick and made it work.”
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison of The Beatles at a Toronto press conference, speaking into a microphone from Toronto’s CHUM Radio front and center.
Many of Buffalo’s Beatles dreams finally came true on Oct. 22, 2015, when Paul McCartney made his first appearance in Buffalo, singing songs that many in the audience had first heard 51 ½ years earlier for the first time on a Sunday evening with Ed Sullivan.
Art Wander was among the first Americans to hear The Beatles’ classic “A Day in the Life.” Yes, that Art Wander. Long before his sports talk show days, the native of Buffalo’s East Side was a national radio programmer, and hosted Beatles manager Brian Epstein in his WOR New York City office.
The KB mid-60s lineup included midday man Rod Roddy, who would later be one of the country’s leading game show announcers on shows like Press Your Luck and The Price is Right.
In the late 60s, KB issued two different top 300 lists. The band members are the KB disc jockeys shown on the previous page, with the exception of Lee Vogel—who had left the station, and was shown facing backwards.
This page is an excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon
Riding a wave started with a change to a personality driven Top-40 format in 1958, KB dominated Buffalo radio for most of the next two decades.
Sold by station founder Doc Churchill to national broadcasting powerhouse Capital Cities, the wealthy corporate backing of KB’s monstrous 50,000-watt signal helped lead to the evolution of one of the finest examples of a full-service Top-40 station that ever existed.
Eventually grabbing as much as 50% of the market share, KB quickly blew all of the much smaller Top-40 competitors out of the water. Half of the audience was listening to KB. Never before, and never since, has a radio station been so dominant in Buffalo.
Left to right: Don Keller (Yearke), Tom Shannon, Doug James, Wayne Stitt, Jay Nelson, Russ “The Moose” Syracuse, Dan Neaverth, Tom Saunders
The station’s base of homegrown talent sprinkled with some of the most talented people from around the country, helped build an unprecedented following for KB in Buffalo and around the country.
The first of those homegrown talents to leave a legacy was the great Tom Shannon, South Buffalo’s breaker of hearts and as smooth a disc jockey as Buffalo, Detroit, Denver, LA, or anywhere else has ever known.
Tom Shannon, in the WKBW air studio
Easy to listen to, debonair and literally the boy next door, the handsome and ultra-cool Shannon was a graduate of Holy Family grammar school and Bishop Ryan High.
As if owning nights on KB and driving a Corvette convertible wasn’t enough, there was the night Swedish sex-symbol Ann-Margret was in Buffalo on a promotional tour, and hopped in Tommy’s sports car for a date at the trendy Candy Cane Lounge, downtown next door to the Market Arcade.
That was the same nightclub where Shannon met the group that would ultimately become known as “The Rockin’ Rebels,” who would take “Wild Weekend,” their instrumental version of the Tommy Shannon Show theme song, to the national record charts.
At KB, he started as a weekend jock and fill-in guy, and didn’t even rank high enough to get his own theme song. It’s part of the KB magic that his self-produced, garage-band sounding musical opening touting “Top tunes, news and weather, so glad we could get together, on the, Tom Shannon Show” could become a nationwide Top Ten hit.
Shannon was at Fort Dix doing a hitch in the Army when he heard his song come on the radio and almost couldn’t believe it.
Tom Shannon sits in the WGR studio, holding a copy of the Rockin Rebels’ Wild Weekend album.
“It was so exciting to be a part of Buffalo radio back then,” Tom Shannon said in 1996. “Sometimes the disc jockeys were more popular than the rock stars.”
He was bigger than life hosting the night shift on KB, and Buffalo’s teens couldn’t get enough of Tommy. In 1961, tickets to his “Buffalo Bandstand” TV show on Ch.7 were being counterfeited and new procedures had to be put in place after the number of kids on the dance floor swelled out of control.
While a deejay at KB, Shannon hosted Buffalo Bandstand on Ch.7. When he later moved to WGR Radio, he hosted Hit or Miss on Ch.2.
Tom Shannon hosts a WKBW Record Hop, with Paul Simon, left.
Tom Shannon appeared in a series of 1964 print ads for Queen-O.
After spending the 60s and the 70s moving around the country and around radio dials, Shannon was back in Buffalo for his 30th grammar school reunion at Holy Family on South Park at Tifft when he stopped by his old home, WKBW.
A week of fill-in work lead to a three year stay towards the end of KB’s run as one of Buffalo’s most dominant radio stations. After spending time as a host on the Shop at Home cable TV network, Tommy made it back for one more turn at the air chair in Buffalo hosting afternoon drive on Oldies 104 during the 1990s and 2000s.
From 1960’s “WKBW 6-midnight platter and chatter show” host, to 1997’s deejay with “a warm conversational tone and knowledge of music and performers,” Tom Shannon has been one of the leading voices of Buffalo’s baby boomers through every stage of life.
Joey Reynolds, WKBW
If there was a way to “one up” having your theme song land on the national charts, the guy who eventually followed Shannon in KB’s evening slot probably found it.
Joey Reynolds, KB’s night man through the mid-’60s, got The Four Seasons to sing their No. 1 hit “Big Girls Don’t Cry” with the lyrics changed to “The Joey Reynolds Show.” What a show!
Another local guy, Reynolds grew up in Buffalo’s Seneca-Babcock neighborhood playing radio announcer at the neighborhood Boys Club, and was every bit of a shock jock 20 years before the term was created for Don Imus and Howard Stern.
Joey Reynolds interviews Bobby Sherman on Ch.7’s Joey Reynolds Show.
He started a boisterous on-air feud with The Beatles and refused to play their records or even say their name, calling them “the four norks from England.” The feud lasted until there was money in it for him– he helped promote the local band The Buffalo Beatles.
Reynolds’ bombastic and over-the-top style earned him a following complete with membership cards for the “Royal Order of the Night People.” That audience extended far beyond Buffalo and Western New York. Despite working at a station 300 miles away in Buffalo, he was one of the most popular radio personalities in Baltimore, with thousands of listeners of KB’s strong signal mixed with Reynolds’ big mouth.
Reynolds’ eventual exit from WKBW is one of the most fabled in the legends of radio.
As the 1966 Variety Club Telethon aired on Ch.7, Reynolds felt slighted for being slotted to host the overnight portion of the big event.
One of many memorable stunts orchestrated by Reynolds involved him grabbing Fred Klestine as a tag-team partner to take on the tough, mean Gallagher Brothers in a wrestling match at the Aud.
In his memoir “Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella … But Don’t Get a Mouthful of Rain,” Reynolds admits to having had a few drinks before going on radio and giving TV star Frank Gorshin a hard time in an interview about the fundraiser.
Reynolds then insinuated another TV star and telethon guest host – Forrest Tucker of “F Troop” – was a drunk and had a case of booze in his dressing room.
One of the station managers took the episode personally – especially after Reynolds goaded him and made a joke about his bald head.
Seeing the writing on the wall, Joey put the writing on the door.
Rather than waiting to be fired, Reynolds, in an all-time display of brassiness, nailed his shoes to the station manager’s door with a note saying “FILL THESE” attached.
Joey Reynolds, Tommy Shannon and Danny Neaverth all grew up in South Buffalo. Reynolds and Neaverth knew each other from St. Monica’s, the Babcock Street Boys Club and Timon High School. When teamed up on KB, the cross-talk between Neaverth’s afternoon show and Reynolds’ evening wrap was the subject of homeroom and lunch table discussion at every Western New York high school the next day, but was also the talk of water coolers and coffee break tables at businesses as well.
Beyonce. Bono. Cher. Some personalities are so renowned and celebrated just one name will do. Such is Buffalo’s Danny.
Danny Neaverth is perhaps Buffalo’s greatest pop culture star. He’s remembered most for peeking at us through the hole in the record behind the microphones of upstart WBNY radio in the 1950s as Daffy Dan, then WGR Radio, and then 26 years at WKBW Radio — with most of those years as Buffalo’s morning man. Tag on a dozen more years at WHTT, and a few more at KB again, and Danny moved our fannies on the radio for half a century.
But it wasn’t just radio — Neaverth was also a TV weatherman on Ch.7 and later Ch.2.
He was the public address announcer for the NBA Braves and the NFL Bills.
A few of his moonlighting gigs dovetailed more closely with his work as a disc jockey and radio host.
Danny signs hands at a Thruway Plaza record hop.
He was a concert promoter and recording artist (who could forget “Rats in My Room,” even if they tried?).
Of course, his face and voice were everywhere for Bells Supermarkets and dozens of other Western New York businesses through the years. His work in the community for dozens of causes and charities over the last 60 years has been unmatched.
In the ’70s and ’80s, it was difficult to spend a day in Buffalo and not somehow be graced by the voice, smile and personality of “Clean Dan Neaverth,” a true Buffalonian who never forgot his Seneca Street South Buffalo roots and proudly plied his trade among fellow Buffalonians proud to call him one of us.
Danny took over mornings from Stan Roberts.
Stan Roberts at the KB mic.
Stan first woke up Buffalonians at WKBW from 1962-70, and then at WGR from 1972-82. He became “the first major Buffalo morning man to make the move to the FM band” when he joined WBUF-FM in 1982. After seven years at WBUF, Stan took WBUF mornings to the number one spot in the ratings— and the very next day, he jumped back to AM, hosting afternoon drive and working in sales at WBEN.
As WGR’s morning man, he narrated “Great Sabre Highlights” on the flip side of the very successful record single, Donna McDaniels’ “We’re Gonna Win That Cup.” Stan also wrote at least two joke books, including “Sabres Knock-Knocks.”
Stan still hasn’t lived down the early 80s Royalite television commercial where he put a lampshade on his head, and in the late 80s, when, as the Bills PA announcer, he had to implore fans to “please stay off the field” while they stormed the Rich Stadium field, taking down the goalposts to celebrate the Bills’ clinching the AFC East in 1990.
The warm friendly voice of Fred Klestine felt like a cup of cocoa near the fire.
Fred Klestine, right, visits Xavier’s Meats at the Broadway Market
“An institution in Western New York,” his radio career when he was working at Lackawanna’s Bethlehem Steel, and a manager at Lackawanna’s WWOL heard his voice and told him to audition. Deejay was considerably easier than working in a blast furnace, and Fred spent the next 40 years keeping Buffalo company.
In the 50s, Klestine worked at WWOL and WBNY, before his long famous run at KB Radio. He was later heard on WADV-FM, and then on WBUF-FM through most of the 80s.
Then there was Pulse Beat News. Irv Weinstein was the news director and spiritual leader of the KB’s news staff.
“In terms of style, I was sometimes asked who my idol was in radio, and that was an easy one: Paul Harvey,” said Irv in an interview for the book Irv! Buffalo’s Anchorman. “Paul Harvey was not fast-paced, but he had a pace of delivering the news that was compelling. I like to think I was Paul Harvey only a lot faster.”
Faster, with flagrant, more outrageous writing. In the early rock ’n’ roll days of KB Radio and Pulsebeat News, the pace and the shocking style of writing and delivery made Irv’s later Eyewitness News persona seem comatose.
Irv Weinstein, WKBW Radio News Director
“A Top-40 news guy; fast paced,” said Irv. “Over time I developed a writing style that had sizzle and alliteration, and the type of thing to grab the audience. I learned along the way, that before you can get people to listen to you, you have to catch their attention. One way to do that is in your writing– make it compelling. Sometimes it was overboard, frankly, but it was ok. It did the job.”
It was the perfect comingling of man and circumstance that put Irv in the position to really invent the style of newscasting he made famous in Buffalo– one that was copied around the country.
Henry Brach had been a drug store owner before working in radio, and there’s something about that which just seems to fit. Unlike nearly every other KB Pulsebeat News man, Brach’s voice didn’t boom into radio speakers. His cool, understated style fit in just as well at KB, making him the favorite of listeners and a long line of America’s most talented all-time disc jockeys, who were merciless in mocking the newsman.
Henry Brach in the KB studio.
Jim Fagan was a disc jockey and newsman at WBTA in Batavia, where he’s shown here, before heading to WKBW for a three-decade career.
Jim Fagan’s voice was one of the threads that tied together the various eras at KB. During the 27-and-a-half years that he was a newsman at WKBW Radio, he saw many come and go, but from JFK to Reagan, his was one of the voices that reported on it over KB.
His strong voice punched out the KB Pulsebeat News sound perfectly in those early years, and mellowed as the rest of the station did right up to the very end. Fagan was among the final employees when corporate owners pulled the plug on the local news and music on KB and replaced it with syndicated programming.
John Zach was born into radio. His father was a radio pioneer, having built the first “wireless set” in the city’s Kaisertown neighborhood. After attending St. Casimir grammar school and PS 69, he learned about the technical aspects of radio at Seneca Vocational High School– but John’s path into broadcasting was lined with guitar pics rather than vacuum tubes.
As the leader of “John Zach and The Fury’s,” he played record hops with Danny Neaverth, who worked with Zach and helped him develop his on-air sound.
After spending time as a disc jockey in Georgia, Zach returned to Buffalo and was hired by Irv Weinstein for an overnight news job at WKBW in 1960. He spent most of the next five decades informing Buffalo’s radio audience, come hell or high snowbanks. Twice during the Blizzard of ’77, John Zach came in by snow mobile to anchor the news during the Danny Neaverth Show.
As KB Radio’s News Director for most of the 80s, a survey found that John Zach was Buffalo’s most recognizable radio news personality.
With long stops at WKBW and WGR under his belt, Zach joined WBEN in 1998 and spent 18 years with Susan Rose co-anchoring Buffalo’s most listened to radio news program, Buffalo’s Early News.
John Zach spent time as a disc jockey and news man in Georgia before spending nearly 27 years at WKBW Radio.
This page is an excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting by Steve Cichon
Twenty-seven years ago, an overtime field goal win over the Jets was enough to clinch the 1988 AFC East title for the Buffalo Bills and enough for fans to take down the goal posts at Rich Stadium.
Buffalo News archives
It wasn’t the first time the uprights came down.
In 1980, when Bills fans stormed the field following the team’s first win against Miami in more than a decade, team owner Ralph Wilson famously told reporters he shared in the fans’ excitement and would be happy to buy new goalposts.
But team officials had grown weary of the tradition by the time the Bills were making it to Super Bowls every year.
When the Bills clinched the division against the Dolphins in 1990, fans wanted to take down the goalposts again. The perimeter of the field was lined with police on horseback. It was promised that fans would not be allowed to take down the posts.
As public address announcer and then-WBEN disc jockey Stan Roberts implored fans to “please stay off the field,” goal posts were passed over the mounted deputies and through the crowd. Somehow hacksaws showed up and were used to divvy up the uprights — which, Stan reminded the fans, to no avail, were needed for playoff games.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation called The Strawberry Fields Festival outside Toronto “Canada’s Woodstock.”
Anywhere from 75,000 to 100,000 people, mostly teens and college students from the northeastern U.S., showed up for the festival at Mosport Raceway in Bowmansville, Ont. Days before the event, local officials tried to shut it down – saying the permits were gained until false pretenses (and by all accounts they were).
With the province worried about the number of young people streaming in – only a year removed from Woodstock – Canadian border police started turning away massive numbers of young people at the Peace Bridge and other border crossings.
WKBW’s Stan Roberts talked with some of those who were turned away, including WKBW Newsman Brad Casey. Channel 4’s Chuck Healy sent film to New York that was used on a national CBS broadcast.
BUFFALO, NY- As the Buffalo Sabres celebrate the team’s 40th Anniversary season, staffannouncer.com celebrates the voices that have brought us Sabres hockey for those four decades, over televisions connected to an antenna, TVs connected to a satellite dish, or from a transistor radio under the pillow for a late night West Coast swing in Winnipeg or with the Golden Seals.
On this page, we bring you the Voice of the Buffalo Sabres, Ted Darling, as he narrates the story of the 1975 Sabres Stanley Cup Season, featuring his own play-by-play calls and those of his broadcast partner Rick Jeanneret.
Ted Darling’s smooth voice and exciting yet still authoritative call of Sabres Hockey was heard on radio and TV from the team’s inception in 1970, through 1991, when illness forced him from the booth. Rick Jeanneret, who for generations of Sabres fans is the voice most associated with the excitement of Sabres Hockey, will to this day demur when called the ‘Voice of the Sabres,’ explaining that title belongs only to Ted Darling.
Prior to becoming the Sabres first play-by-play man in 1970, Darling was the studio host for the English-language Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts of the Montreal Canadiens games. His genuine excitement for what he was seeing on the ice, and the stunning pace with which he delivered the play-by-play certainly added to the buzz and excitement of NHL hockey as it was played in Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium. This was true especially in an era when a play-by-play man’s description was vital: only a handful of games were televised, and the opening day capacity of the Aud before for the oranges were added was in the 10,000 range.
Like only few other voices, Darling’s is one that uniquely brings Buffalonians back to a different time. Just like hearing Irv, Rick or Tom… Or Van Miller… Or Danny Neaverth… there’s that feeling like home when you hear Ted Darling. His voice is like the gentle whirr of the AM&A’s escalator, or the taste of a Crystal Beach loganberry. If you close your eyes, it’s one of those things that can actually take you back through time for a few moments…
Ted was an original. Ted was a good man and a good friend. Though some in the press reprehensibly said that he was forced from the broadcast booth by alcoholism, it was actually Pick’s Disease, a rare form of dementia which manifests itself similarly to Alzheimer’s Disease, which lead Ted to leave broadcasting. He died from the disease in 1996. Those who knew him, love him. Those who listened to him, loved him. Buffalo loves him still.
Close your eyes now, for a moment, and remember Sabres hockey the way it was…..
Listen to Ted Darling!
Narrated by Ted Darling, these two tracks are Side One and Side Two of an album put out by the Sabres and WGR Radio celebrating the Sabres 1975 season.
Side One is a recap of the regular season. Side Two is a recap of the 1975 playoffs, including the Stanley Cup Finals vs The Flyers.
You also hear Ted’s voice along with Rick Jeanneret and Stan Roberts on “Memorable Sabre Highlights,” the 45rpm single record put out by WGR Radio following the 1975 season.
The highlights were on the “B” side of Donna McDaniels’ “We’re Gonna Win That Cup.”
This story was published in Living Prime Time magazine
The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to collect and maintain the articles and stories of the great history of radio and television on the Niagara Frontier, as well celebrate those who embody the great spirit broadcasting today and into the future.
Once a year, we like to take the opportunity to celebrate the lives and careers of those men and women of broadcasting who, through their superlative efforts, have left an indelible mark not only on the history of Buffalo Broadcasting; but on the lives of those who watched and listened as well. For the seventh of our eight years, we will convene at the newly remodeled Tralfamadore Café for The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame Night, Tuesday, September 28, 2004 at 6:00pm.
Enshrined in our Hall of Fame are the broadcasters who make us proud to work in the wake of their legacy. They’ve all contributed something special to Western New York. Just like periods of history are noted by Kings and Popes, you might be able to trace your memory by who was on your radio as you woke up and went to school or work… Or who hosted the cartoons when you got home from school or read the news on TV as you went to bed. Hopefully the mere mention of some of the names below will help conjure some of those memories.
The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers was founded in 1995, and we still have a lot of catching up to do. The Golden Age Award is reserved for the pioneers in the truest sense of the word: Those who did it first, the people who had no pattern to follow, no lead blocker. These folks blazed the trail, and set an example for future generations to follow.
If you ever heard Stan Barron, you’re standards are likely a bit higher in sports broadcasting. Stan came to Buffalo in 1952, and spent a decade at WKBW Radio and television, as a play-by-play man on radio, and serving as WKBW-TV’s first sports director. Stan is perhaps most remembered, though, for his time at WBEN Radio, where he was half of the Stan and Van team calling Bills Football for 14 years. It was also at WBEN that he, with out the aid of a producer for most of the shows run, ran Free Form Sports, a show that might have the Bills quarterback on one minute, then switch to an 11 year old Little League pitcher who threw a perfect game.
Upon Stan’s death in 1984, then WBEN disc jockey Tom Kelly commented that the first thing he heard on Buffalo radio as he drove into town was a gravely voice reading youth soccer scores on WBEN. He didn’t understand that night but he soon did. Stan Barron wasn’t a sports announcer; he was a beloved institution who enjoyed, understood, and celebrated sports and athletes at every level.
AHK(as he referred to himself) or Mr. Kirchhofer (as everyone else referred to him) was the man in charge of WBEN Radio before there was a WBEN Radio. His influence was key in the News’ purchase of the station in 1930. From 1927 until his retirement in 1967, Mr. Kirchhofer ran and expanded a News Empire that included the Buffalo Evening News, and added WBEN Radio in 1930, in 1936 added WEBR Radio (then a News property), WBEN-FM in 1946, and WBEN-TV in 1948.
Despite his founding of four broadcast outlets, Kirchhofer was first and foremost a newspaper man. After joining the Buffalo Evening News in 1915, he opened the News’ Washington Bureau, and became a familiar figure to Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover, all the while being Buffalo’s eyes and ears in the nation’s capital. Realizing the potential for radio beyond selling newspapers, Kirchhofer developed a staff of radio writers and newsmen for WBEN and put the station on top to stay for decades. The Evening News Stations were always ahead of the curve for not only Buffalo, but helped put Buffalo in the media avant-garde for the nation. The FM and television stations developed under Kirchhofer were not only Buffalo’s first, but among the first in the nation.
The staunch conservative content and dry delivery at the News Stations that survived well into the 1970s was a direct result of Kirchhofer’s editorial style. His approach made the News Stations “The Stations of Record” for generations.
Despite a decades long career in radio, television, and on the stage, Mike Mearian might best be known to the thousands of children who grew up watching him on Channel 4 in the 50s and 60s as the guy with Buttons. Mearian filled the imaginations of kids with thoughts of far off places as the host of Children’s Theatre on WBEN-TV, as well as the voice of Buttons the puppet.
After winning three purple hearts in World War II combat, Mearian started in radio in a small Texas town in 1947. He eventually made his way to Buffalo, and after stints as the morning man at KB Radio and Kenmore’s WXRA, Merian spent the next 14 years at WBEN Radio and TV. Perhaps best remembered for those of a certain age for his work with children’s programming, older folks will remember his live Statler Hilton Lunch Club shows and his evening comedy show on WBEN Radio.
Mearian values his time in Buffalo as a time where talented people were given free reign to make good radio and television without interference from above. You may have recognized Mike over the years in commercials, on soap operas, even on Law & Order as a judge… and wondered, “what ever happened to Buttons?” Not to worry, since leaving Buffalo in 1966, Mearian has lived in the Big Apple with his wife and the puppet friend brought alive here in Buffalo.
Ba-Dum-Bum! That vocalized rimshot crashes quite easily (and often!) from the lips of Buffalo’s beloved self-fashioned Corny DJ… For parts of seven decades, Stan Roberts has been on the radio making us laugh… and groan. From the time of his arrival at WKBW Radio in the early 60s, through his days at WGR, WBUF and WBEN, Stan has made a career of not taking himself too seriously. And so long as you were laughing, or at least smiling (no matter with him or at him) he figures his job well done.
For all of the lampshades Stan has worn on his head in TV commercials, he’s also been a part of many of Buffalo’s most exciting times. Thousands of Sabres fans still cherish the Memorable Sabres Highlights record Stan voiced in commemoration of the 1975 Stanley Cup year. Thousands of Bills fans ignored his warnings to “Stay off the Field” as they tore down Rich Stadium goalposts at the beginning of the Bills Superbowl run. Stan also helped organize Light Up Buffalo… inspiring some of the most stunning night time photos ever taken of Downtown Buffalo. He’s also made his mark in radio sales, as one of Buffalo Radio’s top billing salesmen of the past quarter century.
But most importantly, from his time as a teen DJ in Asbury Park, NJ in the late 40’s; to his role as one of Buffalo’s senior radio salesmen, Stan Roberts has always had the gift to make us smile whether we want to or not.
Buffalo Bob Smith began his broadcasting career in his hometown of Buffalo, but of course gained worldwide fame as the human friend of America’s favorite puppet, Howdy Doody. Despite his international celebrity, Bob never forgot his hometown, and even adopted it as a part of his name. Each year The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers honor a broadcaster who has made his or her mark away from the Niagara Frontier, but is a Buffalonian at heart.
After growing up on Buffalo’s East Side and attending Canisius High School, Mark Russell became interested in comedy during a hitch in the Marine Corps. It was while in the Marines he began performing in clubs around the Virginia base at which he was stationed. Influenced by the likes of Mort Sahl and Tom Lehrer, Russell’s act had become increasing political by the time he landed at the Shoreham Hotel. There, Russell spent 20 years entertaining and skewering the men leading the nation.
He also met a few fellow Buffalonians — WNED executives – who offered to produce a PBS special starring Russell.
Nearly 30 years later, Russell still returns to Western New York to spend part of the summer and to star in those specials, on a street named Mark Russell Way by the City of Buffalo in his honor.
The quarter century Don Yearke spent as an award-Winning videographer and Chief Photographer at Channel 4 is the basis for which he has been awarded the Behind The Scenes Award. But his work as a camera man is only the second half the story.
After signing on Buffalo’s WNIA Radio as the first Tommy Thomas in 1956 and spending time at Radio Tokyo as a soldier stationed in Japan, Don made his way to KB Radio in 1958. There he started as Dick Biondi’s newsman, and, eventually, became KB’s overnight Rock Jock, where his show could be heard in Maryland, Michigan, and Sweden. As Don Keller, the Farm Feller, he delivered agricultural news to the Niagara Frontier on WKBW Radio every morning, and on WKBW-TV on Saturday mornings. As his role at Channel 7 grew, Don became Buffalo’s first modern street reporter, both gathering news and interviews, and then presenting them himself on camera.
It was in the Channel 7 newsroom that News Director Hal Youngblood sent reporter Don Keller to a fire, and told him to point the camera at the flame. Since that first assignment as a camera man with a black and white Bell Howell wind up, Yearke’s pictures have brought the world to our living rooms. From Popes and Presidents, to the Blizzard of ’77, to Superbowls, Don’s eyes have provided our vision of the news of the day. Since his retirement as WIVB-TV’s Chief Photographer in 1999, Yearke has continued to work as a free lance videographer.
We always welcome new members to the BBP, broadcasters and fans of broadcasting alike. It’s our mission to preserve and promote Western New York’s rich TV and radio history, and to salute and bring attention to quality broadcasting of today. Membership is $25, and anyone with a passion for broadcasting can join as a member. It’s just as easy to join us in celebrating this year’s honorees. Tickets to our Hall of Fame event are available for to general public at $50 per person. Send your ticket order or membership request with payment to: The Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers; 5672 Main Street; Williamsville, New York 14221.
Steve Cichon is President of the Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers.