January 23-30, 2003
Buffalo's WKB, er, WWKB 1520: The Legend Returns
For thirty years, from the summer of 1957 until 1988, radio
listeners across the Northeast knew that some of the best top-40
radio around was to be found at the top of the dial, at least
after dark: the 50,000 watt "Friendly Giant" known
as WKBW, Buffalo, at 1520 on the dial.
Folks in Buffalo and the surrounding area were even luckier:
for them, "KB" was the hometown top-40 station. And
it all came from this six-tower site on Big Tree Road in Hamburg,
south of Buffalo and practically within sight of Lake Erie. (Just
a mile or so away is the five-tower in-line array of the old
WEBR, now WNED, on 970, throwing a narrow directional beam north
into downtown Buffalo and over the lake to Toronto; that site
is also now home to Niagara Falls-licensed WHLD 1270.)
was already at the Big Tree Road site long before its top 40
era began; in fact, by the mid-thirties WKBW (then on 1480) was
already part of the mighty BBC.
No, not the British Broadcasting Corporation - the Buffalo
Broadcasting Corporation, the duopoly operator of WKBW and
WGR (550). This site went up before the war, carrying both stations'
signals - WKBW with the same pattern day and night, using the
three guyed towers in a tight row behind the transmitter building,
WGR with 5 kilowatts non-directional by day from the tall self-supporter,
5 kilowatts directional at night from the four towers at the
corners of the array (everything but the two WKBW towers in the
middle of the four-tower line at the back of the property.)
The duopoly itself came to an end in the mid-forties when
the FCC outlawed such things; in due time, WGR would end up in
the hands of Taft Broadcasting (where a young Randy Michaels
got his start in the business), while WKBW ended up with an upstart
company called Capital Cities.
(The signage on the building says "WKBW" on the
left, "WKBW INC." above the old front door, and "ABC"
on the right, by the way.)
Even as competitors, WKBW and WGR shared this site through
their glory years; all the while, new housing developments sprouted
in what had been farmland all around the site. And when the duopoly
rules were relaxed, 1520 (by then renamed WWKB, a 1986 change
that came about when Capital Cities sold it separately from WKBW-TV,
channel 7) and 550 came back together in the hands of Sinclair.
"KB1520" was by then a pale shadow of the glory
days of Neaverth, Beach, Reynolds, Kaye, Weinstein, et al.,
trying everything from satellite country to Howard Stern before
settling down, largely ignored, with business talk. The studios
at 1430 Main Street were long gone (they were a dentist's office,
last we looked) - 'KB moved downtown, along with WKBW-TV, to
a brand-new (and very shiny) building on Lower Terrace in 1978,
then to 695 Delaware Avenue (eventually shared with WGR) in 1986,
and then to a new cluster studio in Amherst, shared with its
other longtime competitors, WBEN (930) and WWWS (1400, the successor
to Gordon McLendon's legendary WYSL).
But one thing never changed: the signal. While it has its
weaknesses in some of Buffalo's outlying suburbs, that 50 kw
blowtorch still rings out over the East Coast all night long,
and after years of rumors, current owner Entercom finally decided
to do something with it. Come Monday (Jan. 27), KB Radio will
go back to music, with Danny Neaverth and Tom Donohue in the
mornings, Jackson Armstrong at night and Joey Reynolds' syndicated
overnight show. When you tune in - and if you're reading this,
you will tune in! - enjoy all the memories this neat
old site evokes.
(And no, we haven't forgotten about Cincinnati - we'll get
back there next week as we look at the Ohio side of the market!)
Want to see more neat sticks all year
round? Nashville's WSM (at left) is one of the more than
a dozen Tower Site images featured in the 2003 Tower Site Calendar,
coming this fall from Tower Site of the Week and fybush.com.
If you liked last year's edition, you'll love this one: higher-quality
images (in addition to WSM, this year's edition includes Providence's
WHJJ; Mount Mansfield, Vermont; Buffalo's WBEN; KOMA in Oklahoma
City; WTIC, Hartford; Brookmans Park, England; WPAT, Paterson;
Four Times Square, New York; WIBC in Indianapolis; WWVA in Wheeling,
W.V.; WGN Chicago and more), more dates in radio history, a convenient
hole for hanging - and we'll even make sure all the dates fall
on the right days!
This year's edition is back from the printer, and shipping
is underway. Orders placed now will be shipped within 24 hours!
And this year, you can order with your Visa, MasterCard,
Discover or American Express by using the handy link below!
Better yet, here's an incentive to make your 2003 NERW/Site
of the Week subscription pledge a little early: support NERW/fybush.com
at the $60 level or higher, and you'll get this lovely calendar
for free! How can you go wrong? (Click here
to visit our Support page, where you can make your NERW contribution
with a major credit card...)
You can also order by mail; just send a check for $16
per calendar (NYS residents add 8% sales tax), shipping included,
to Scott Fybush, 92 Bonnie Brae Ave., Rochester
Thanks for your support!