“The Calm Before the Storm”– WKBW

       By Steve Cichon
       steve@buffalostories.com
       @stevebuffalo


Excerpt from 100 Years of Buffalo Broadcasting 


WKBW’s ultra-modern Radio Center was actually a refaced barn which stood next door to the Churchill Tabernacle building. It was built out in 1951 in the parking lot of Tabernacle—which by the end of the decade was destined to become the home of WKBW-TV Ch.7.

As songs like “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets hit number one on the charts, Elvis Presley was still receiving second billing to Slim Whitman and Andy Griffith in stage shows around the south.

“Rhythm and blues” was still working its way into “rock ‘n’ roll,” and it was still a little time before Elvis started to become recognized first as “the hottest hillbilly attraction” and “the king of western bop.”

Young people were paying attention, but society— not yet.

Even though The Hound was on KB in 1955, his sound was not reflective of the station by any means.

In fact, The Hound’s lead-in show six nights a week was Stan Jasinski’s Polka Beehive.

The programs and talent that WKBW Radio was promoting in 1956– only a matter of months before rock ‘n’ roll Top 40 would change radio forever– looks much more like KB did in 1930 than it would in 1960.

WKBW, Buffalo’s Most Powerful Radio Station, mid-50s letterhead.

Dorothy Ireland was on the air daily as Kay B. Cooke with interviews and homemaking tips. Wally Wagoner was WKBW’s Farm Director.

Carroll Hardy, who would go on to become one of WEBR’s legendary jazz deejays, was one of the many men who served as WKBW’s Clock Watcher, broadcasting live from the front lawn of the radio station on Main Street near Utica every morning.

Among the others on KB’s deejay staff in the mid-50s were Herb Knight, George “Hound Dog” Lorenz, and Larry Brownell.

Remembered as one of Buffalo’s most beloved sports broadcasters, Stan Barron was also a disc jockey through most of his time in Buffalo radio, including his turn as WKBW’s Clock Watcher. Here he’s on KB’s lawn with Clint Churchill Jr., WKBW General Manager Al Anscombe, KB Polka Beehive host Stan Jasinski, salesman Jim McGrath and Roger Baker—who, after returning to KB from WBES-TV, dabbled in sports but focused on sales.

Stan Barron calling play-by-play action at Memorial Auditorium on WKBW. Through the years, he called Canisius and Niagara basketball, Buffalo Bisons baseball and Buffalo Bisons hockey. He was also the color man on Buffalo Bills broadcasts alongside Van Miller.

Frank Frederics, who also anchored newscasts on WBUF-TV, reads the news on WKBW as engineer William Routh looks on.

Lee Forster brought the sounds of Western music and folk music to KB, as he had also done on Ch.4’s Barn Dance show.

 From 1958 to 1988, Al Lafler had his hand on the rudder of the production sound that allowed KB to stand head and shoulders above the rest. His more famous co-workers will tell you, his credo “Good enough isn’t good enough,” helped give KB such a great sound over the years.

Gospel musician and evangelist Elder Charles Beck ran his network of 30 stations from WKBW. Nicknamed The Singing Evangelist, The Encyclopedia of America Gospel Music calls Beck “a seminal figure in the formative years of modern African-American gospel music.” His shows aired Sunday nights on KB.

Verne Stevenson played the best in rhythm and blues on Saturday nights on WKBW.

    Michael Brocia hosted music and news in Italian on Saturdays on WKBW.

Chief Engineer Leroy Fiedler, left, was at WKBW from the very beginning in 1926, and was still with the station through the 60s. Dan Lesniak, right, with Cassie Lanzalaco, was a KB salesman who founded one of the stations that helped usher in the FM era of Buffalo radio as the owner of WADV-FM.

Al Anscombe was a sports announcer under Roger Baker at KB before serving in the Air Corps in World War II. In 1950, he replaced Baker as KB’s general manager.

It was under the direction of Al Anscombe that the mostly staid, conservative, WKBW would up-end radio not just in Buffalo but around the country when, as their ad campaign said, “KB Goes KA-BOOM!” introducing a Top-40 style rock ‘n’ roll format which debuted 19 months after the 30th anniversary of Doc Churchill’s WKBW was celebrated in 1956.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.