The Friday Night Polka—One-On-One Sports with the Bulldog, WBEN

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

I don’t remember exactly how it started on the air, but I know that back in the early/mid-90s, when I was the producer of One-On-One Sports with Chris “The Bulldog” Parker on WBEN, I was buying up as many obscure albums as I could from Salvation Army and AMVETS thrift shops—including polka albums with interesting cover art of great song titles.

Chris “The Bulldog” Parker, mid 90s at WBEN.

At some point, with me going through these albums, Chris must have said—we should have a Friday Night Polka—so we did.

The show closed with a polka every Friday night, and we eventually had a good rotation of songs about drinking and about Buffalo.

Heard here for the first time in more than 20 years—a medley of the Friday Night Polkas from WBEN’s One-On-One Sports with the Bulldog.

We’d only play a minute or so from each selection at 10:59pm to close out the show—these are the minute long clips we’d play.

Chris and I really enjoyed the music– but we’d get side eye from the lovely call screeners Monica and Rose (which is really how most of the show went most nights anyway.)

One-on-One Sports with the Bulldog Friday Night Polka Medley

On this track:

  • “Bulldog Talking Sports” theme
  • Bulldog welcomes you to a Friday night, 1996
  • Ice Cubes & Beer, Ray Budzilek & The Boys
  • Buffalo Polka, Krew Brothers Orchestra
  • No Beer in Heaven, Li’l Wally
  • Bartender Polka, Walter Solek
  • Meister Brau Polka, Li’l Wally
  • Why don’t you people give the ball scores?— from a complaining voicemail
ME! Steve Cichon, producing One-On-One Sports in the WBEN control room, 1995

The Bulldog theme is taken from an aircheck… and you can hear the ancient WBEN delay system folding back on itself as the theme music plays.

One of my personal all-time favorite moments in music came when the late, great Tony Krupski of the Krew Brothers played the Buffalo Polka on demand– and grinned from ear-to-ear when I sang along with him, knowing all the words because of this great Friday night tradition in Buffalo radio.

Na zdrowie and sto lat!

On WBEN’s 90th birthday, the station’s longest-serving announcer is still on the air…

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo

WBEN signed on the air September 8, 1930—90 years ago today.

The station’s birthday is important to me because the station has played such an important role in my life as a listener, employee, and now alumni of the station.

I first walked into the station as a 15-year-old intern, and would spend the next five years working my way up through the producer ranks up to what was the highest profile producer job in radio—producer of Buffalo Bills Football with Van Miller and John Murphy. I also met and worked alongside the woman who’d become my wife during those days on Elmwood Avenue.

Five years later, I returned to the station, this time in the newsroom—and over the next decade I worked my way up to news director.

Through all my years in media, I always took special pleasure in being able to share my passion for Buffalo and Buffalo Broadcasting with the listeners of WBEN, and the station’s birthday, I’ve dipped into the archives to share some of the stories I wrote and produced about WBEN and the people we all listened to at 930am.

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WBEN’s longest serving announcer

The 90th anniversary of WBEN’s first sign-on brings to mind many of the stable and authoritative voices which have unflappably informed Buffalo over those decades at 930am.

The longest tenured of those voices remains a daily fixture.

From her early days of airborne traffic reporting from the Skyview 930 helicopter to the last two decades as morning drive host, Susan Rose has been a steady, unwavering, and professional voice on WBEN and a clear connection to the great news voices of generations past.

Susan Rose with current co-host Brian Mazurowski

Rose is not your typical “radio star.” She’s never wanted to be. It’s exactly that which makes her a fit in the pantheon of WBEN greats.

“A superb anchor,” wrote Buffalo News critic Anthony Violanti. “Reads the news with journalistic style and skill.”

After graduating from Buffalo State College and starting her radio news career at Lockport’s WLVL, Rose joined WBEN in 1985.

WBEN Newsteam 1988: Brian Meyer, Ed Little, Susan Rose, Tim Wenger, Monica Wilson, Mark Leitner

Her blue-collar approach to journalism combined with 35 years of continuous, daily broadcasting on the station puts her in the same rarified company as past WBEN greats, many of whom she regularly worked with across the decades.

Mark Leitner and Ed Little were WBEN stalwarts and frequent Rose co-anchors through the 80s and 90s.

Rose was hired to join the WBEN news team by legendary news director Jim McLaughlin.

The legendary Lou Douglas was at WBEN for 30 years before retiring, overlapping a couple years with Rose.

After three decades at WKBW, John Zach spent another 18 years at WBEN, including 16 years co-anchoring “Buffalo’s Early News” with Rose.

John Zach & Susan Rose, WBEN, 2002.

While she doesn’t have that booming voice— once considered the most important hallmark of the then all-male radio news profession— Rose’s even and reliable presence has been featured on the station longer than any broadcaster, including Clint Buehlman, who hosted mornings at WBEN for 34 years.

Perhaps that’s part of the secret why Rose’s approach and sound is still as upbeat and fresh as the day she walked through the studio doors 35 years ago.

Rose’s husband, Tim Wenger, was her co-anchor on evening drive news program “Buffalo’s Evening News” in the early 90s.

She doesn’t project her personality into the news. Through her career—rather than stand out in front— she has allowed her writing, editing, news judgement, and steady on-air presence to support the team.

It’s even fair to say Rose avoids the spotlight— but it’s also fair to say when crisis strikes in Buffalo, there aren’t many voices on the airwaves today which bring credibility and calm like hers can.

A recent WBEN bio said “it was always her dream job to work for the number one news station in Buffalo.”

She’s taken it one step further to personify it.

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

Billy and Reggie Keaton & Sally Work, WBEN

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


Billy Keaton in the WGR studios with singer Johnny Ray.

Like many of radio’s pioneers, Billy Keaton’s foray into the medium came in the pre-war days when he adapted his Vaudeville routine for WEBR, and then into the highly popular “Stuff and Nonsense” program on WGR.

His success turned a temporary Buffalo assignment permanent. After the war, Billy’s wife Reggie joined the act, and the two hosted the “Mr. and Mrs. Show” for a decade.

Reggie and Billy interview a monkey.

While the Keatons’ voices were familiar throughout the ’40s and ’50s, their faces were soon popular as well. As a long-time WGR Radio fan favorite, Billy was the natural choice to welcome the first viewers to WGR-TV in 1954. The Keatons later hosted several cable TV talk shows through the years, leaving a legacy of 55 years of entertaining Western New York.

Reggie Keaton panics as her husband Billy gets ready to lay a smooch on a cardboard cutout of starlet Linda Christian during the couple’s show in the WGR studio.

Sally Work spent the bulk of her radio career on WBEN, but was a pioneering Women’s Editor on WGR starting in 1926 first. By 1948, her show carried 15 sponsors and a waiting list out the door.


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

The full text of the book is now online.

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

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

The Buffalo Bills of the AAFC, 1946-49

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


Jim Wells, who left WBEN for nearly all of World War II to broadcast for the Navy in the South Pacific, returned to the station in 1946 as WBEN Sports Director. In 1948, he left broadcasting and joined the team—becoming special assistant to the owner for the Buffalo Bills of the All-America Football Conference.

George Ratterman was a four-letter man at Notre Dame and the star quarterback of the Buffalo Bills from 1947-49, throwing 22 touchdowns his rookie year. When the AAFC folded, several of its teams moved to the NFL—but not the Bills. Ratterman moved on to several NFL and CFL teams before studying law and becoming the legal counsel for the American Football League Players’ Union.

George Ratterman WKBW

His broadcasting career began at WKBW in 1950. Through the 60s and 70s, he was a color commentator for AFL and NFL games on ABC and NBC. He might be best remembered in the booth for his longtime partnership with Jack Buck.

WKBW’s Bill Mazer

Among his early assignments when Bill Mazer came to Buffalo in 1947, was to call the play-by-play of Buffalo Bills Football at the War Memorial Stadium for the 1940s incarnation of professional football in 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

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

Buffalo’s radio staff musicians

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


The WGR Staff Orchestra, featuring conductor David Cheskin, right. Announcer John Lascalles is at the microphone to the left.

The best known and most remembered musician of Buffalo’s radio staff musician era is probably Dave Cheskin.

He was a “one man wonder” during the Golden era of Buffalo radio in the 30s and 40s, serving as WGR’s Music Director, band leader, and conductor.

Trained at Juilliard and then a violinist for the NBC Orchestra for three years, Cheskin came to Buffalo as the music director for the Erlanger Theater, soon taking on the role of Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation Music Director in 1931.

Dave Cheskin

His live broadcasts, conducting the 18-piece WGR Orchestra, were among Buffalo’s most popular radio programs of the day.

At one point, Cheskin was also conducting 18 network shows a week— including “Buffalo Presents”— heard all over the country on NBC and CBS as performed live in the WGR-WKBW studios.

WGR live broadcast with Dave Cheskin conducting.

Cheskin was tapped as the Buffalo Philharmonic’s Pops Conductor through the war years, and spent more than 30 years leading one of Buffalo’s premier dance bands.

The WGR Orchestra

The members of Cheskin’s bands and orchestras also move on to their own high-profile radio gigs as well.

Harold Austin, known for leading the bands at the Crystal Beach Ballroom and on the Crystal Beach boat “The Canadiana,” as well as in the Dellwood Ballroom during WEBR’s Hi-Teen Show, started his musical career as a musician in Dave Cheskin’s WGR Orchestra.

Through the years, hundreds of thousands of Buffalonians waited at the foot of Main Street to board The Canadiana. Once aboard, the sound of Harold Austin’s Orchestra filled the ship in the 30s, 40s, and 50s.

Violinist Max Miller was a featured star for many years with the WGR Orchestra, until he was named WBEN’s Musical Director.

Max Miller, conductor, WBEN Orchestra

Miller was nine years old, the first time he played the violin on Buffalo radio. After graduating from Buffalo’s East High School, he played regularly as a part of the Shea’s Buffalo orchestra.

Max Miller, center with violin, leads the WBEN Orchestra.

Miller took over the reigns at WBEN from Bob Armstrong, the trombone and cello player who’d lead the WBEN-NBC Orchestra for most of the 1930s.

Bob Armstrong’s Hotel Statler Orchestra in 1941 (above) was mostly the same group heard on WBEN at the time.

Vera Holly and Herman “Tiny” Schwartz were the featured vocalists, sitting at the front of the stage.

The musicians included, in the front row, Charlie Wullen, leader Bob Armstrong, Bill Jors, John Porejko, Stan Zureck, John McFadden, and Bill Wullen. In the second row, Pat Vastola, Dan Brittain, Hank Krompart, and Andy Dengos, with Ed Rydel and Tom Sist at the top of the bandstand.

The Federal Theater Jubilee Singers on WEBR in 1938. From left to right, Ruth Malone, Grant Johnson, Martha Boynkin, Robert Edwards, Harriett Baull, and Godfrey Tottin. The group was unit of the Depression-era WPA Federal Theater Project. They travelled the city to portray the origin of Negro spirituals and jubilee music.
The winners of WEBR’s 1940 “Barbershop Harmony” contest were James Davies, Daniel Colley, Crawford Anderson, and Donald Rowley.


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

Some of the voices of 1940s Buffalo radio

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


Clare Allen, WEBR

Clare Allen was WEBR’s jack-of-all trades through the 40s, 50s, and 60s—as a newsman, emcee, quizmaster, and on-air outdoorsman– but also chief announcer, program director and promotional director. During the 31 years that WEBR was owned by the Courier-Express, Allen also became a prolific writer for the newspaper, chronicling changing face of Buffalo through the 50s and 60s.

WEBR Chief Engineer Frank Ridgeway and Clare Allen load up the WEBR mobile van.
Colin Male, WEBR

Colin Male spent several years in the 1940s at WEBR before heading to Hollywood. He made a handful of television and film appearances as an actor, but the Bennett High grad is best remembered as the announcer who talks over the whistling on the opening credits of the Andy Griffith Show.

Gomer Lesch was WEBR’s “Doctor of Discography” and announcer on popular shows like “Queen City Cinderella,” hosted by Clare Allen and Billy Keaton.

Gomer Lesch, WEBR

Lesch was a Riverside High School grad who left WEBR to navigate B-29s in World War II. Until his death in 2019, he often put his media skills to work for the Baptist church.

Al Zink, WEBR

Through the 30s and 40s, Al Zink was one of Buffalo’s most beloved radio hosts as the emcee of “The Children’s Hour” on WEBR for more than 20 years. Many of those kids grew up to listen to him as the local host for NBC’s “Happy Birthday” program. Here, “Uncle Al” gives $40 checks to Mrs. Edith Reardon and Mrs. Marie Walczak at the WEBR studios on North Street.

Zink was part of the WEBR staff under three different owners—founder H.H. Howell, The Buffalo Evening News from 1936-42, and the Buffalo Courier-Express, which bought the station from The News when federal regulations changed– barring an entity from owning multiple stations in a market. The Courier-Express sold WEBR in 1972.

Ad from The Buffalo Evening News Almanac, 1941
The WBEN Players ham it up in studio for a 1942 performance.
WBEN’s new Grand Island transmitter, 1943.

Before coming to WBEN in 1936, Ed Reimers worked at WHO in Des Moines, where he often shared the same mic with sportscaster—and later President—Ronald Reagan.

WBEN staff announcer Ed Reimers

Reimers was WBEN’s top announcer before joining ABC’s announcing staff in 1948. Soon he was in Hollywood, working steadily in television’s infancy.

Reimers, holding the script, is joined by WBEN personalities Dr. Frederick Hodge (seated), Esther Huff (center), and George Torge & John Eisenberger (far right) at a broadcast from Kleinhans Music Hall.

He filled in as an announcer on NBC’s Tonight Show—a gig arraigned by fellow WBEN alum Jack Paar, and was the regular announcer on Westerns Cheyenne and Maverick. His best remembered TV acting gig was on the original Star Trek series, where he played Admiral Fitzpatrick in the “Trouble with Tribbles” episode.

But it was with hands cupped he entered American pop culture consciousness. Reimers was the television spokesman and steady voice who reminded viewers, “You’re in good hands with Allstate” from 1958-77.

Ed Reimers for All State
Announcer Aaron Levine was often heard on WGR and WKBW giving local station breaks during network programs and reading newscasts.
Ollie Carnegie and Ralph Hubbell

One of Buffalo’s all-time sports reporters chats with one of Buffalo’s all-time athletes. WGR’s Ralph Hubbell talks with Bisons slugger Ollie Carnegie. Carnegie still holds the record for most games as a Bison and his International League all-time homerun record stood for 69 years. Both men are in Buffalo’s Sports Hall of Fame.

While the show has been best remembered as introducing Helen Neville to Buffalo, Laura Rischman was the original hostess of WKBW’s “Modern Kitchen” show starting in 1938. Here, her smiling gaze is backed by the sour disposition of Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation’s Night Manager Malcolm Barney. The show offering “practical help with dollar and sense values in nutrition and home management” was taken over by Neville when she arrived on the Buffalo radio scene from WBTA, Batavia in 1943.
Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation Page Matt Harris gives a tour of the BBC studios, showing how an announcer turns his mic on and off.

Charlie Bailey was one of Buffalo’s leading sports journalists for 40 years.

Charley Bailey

A long-time Courier-Express sports columnist and WEBR personality after the paper bought the radio station, Charley Bailey’s early radio career at WGR-WKBW was a varied one.

He stepped into WGR as an assistant to Roger Baker in 1933, before joining the staff of the Courier-Express as a writer and columnist in 1942. He spent time behind the sports play-by-play microphone which would be his realm through the 1960s, but he also “donned a high hat and white tie for a survey of Buffalo’s night life on “Man About Town.”

Charley Bailey, man about town

Starting in 1946, Bailey was back on the airwaves at WEBR, and he would serve that station as sports reporter, play-by-play man, and Sports Director until the 1970s. An old school reporter, Bailey was tough but always smiling, and always seemed ready to turn the perfect phrase.

Bob Schmidt, later known as Buffalo Bob Smith

“Bob Schmidt, so versatile that it is difficult for us editors,” read the caption on this photo in a pre-war publication for the Buffalo Broadcasting Corporation.

“Smiling Bob Smith” was how Masten High School grad Robert Schmidt was known through most of his years on WGR from 1936-1944.

He also spent a couple of years at WBEN before moving onto New York City to host the morning radio show on WEAF (later WNBC), and become one of the great stars of the early days of television as Howdy Doody’s sidekick, “Buffalo Bob Smith.”


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