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WWKB
City of license Buffalo, New York
Broadcast area Western New York, Toronto Area.
Branding WWKB 1520
Slogan "A New Voice, A New Choice, The Voice of the New Majority"
Frequency 1520 kHz
First air date 1925
Format Progressive Talk
Power 50,000 watts
Class A (Clear channel)
Callsign meaning WW King of Buffalo
scrambling of WKBW, which meant Well Known Bible Witness to keep the nick name of KB Radio
Former callsigns WKBW (1926–1986)
Affiliations CNN Radio, Dial Global, Fox Talk, Premiere, WOR, Air America
Owner Entercom Communications
(Entercom Buffalo, LLC)
Website kb1520.com

WWKB (formerly WKBW) is an AM radio station in Buffalo, New York that operates on a frequency of 1520 kHz. It is owned and operated by Entercom Communications. The station carries a progressive talk radio format, and is known on air as A New Voice, A New Choice, The Voice of the New Majority. WWKB carries a number of syndicated talk programs. Among the station's syndicated offerings is The Stephanie Miller Show, hosted by Lockport, New York native Stephanie Miller.

Contents

History

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Early history

WKBW was founded in 1925 as a religious station, operating at the frequency of 1380 kHz. As the story goes, founder Clinton Churchill applied to the FCC for a license to operate under the call signs WAY. That call sign, however, was being used for a ship at sea, so instead, Churchill chose the letters "WKBW," which were next in the random assignment pool. Churchill proclaimed the call letters to stand for "Well Known Bible Works" (some sources say "Well Known Bible Witness"); later usage referred to the middle letters "KB" standing for King of Buffalo (alluding to its 50,000 watt broadcast power).

WKBW changed frequencies from 1380 kHz to 1480 kHz in the late 1920s as a result of General Order 40, and raised its power to 5,000 watts—the first Buffalo station to raise its power to that level. In March 1941 WKBW inaugurated a new transmitter plant south of Buffalo in the town of Hamburg, increased power to 50,000 watts around the clock and shifted to its current dial position at 1520 kHz as a result of NARBA.

The station later broadcast a wide variety of ethnic, country and western and religious programming, including pioneer rock and roll and rhythm and blues shows launched in the 1950s by disk jockey George "Hounddog" Lorenz, later founder of pioneer FM urban station WBLK.

Top 40 Era

In 1958, a few months before companion station WKBW-TV was launched, WKBW radio was converted into a personality-driven full service Top 40 music radio station, which it remained for over 20 years. It was one of the first stations to present traffic reports in cooperation with police and state and local authorities. Capital Cities Communications, then known as Capital Cities Broadcasting, purchased the WKBW combo from Clinton Churchill in 1961.

On Halloween Night 1968, writer Dan Kriegler and then-program director Jefferson Kaye (now the voice of WPVI-TV, which at the time was co-owned with WKBW) commemorated the then-30th anniversary of Orson Welles' 1938 War Of The Worlds by re-making the infamous broadcast, updating the storyline and changing locaitons to make it significant to Buffalo listeners. (you can read more about it here.) Kaye (best known in much of the US as the voice of NFL Films) did another equally well-received remake of "War of the Worlds" in 1971 using a revised script and some new cast members from among the staffers on hand at the time, including Jackson Armstrong and newsmen Jim McLaughlin and Joe Downey. Debate continues among radio buffs in the eastern U.S. as to which of Kaye's two versions of "War of the Worlds" was the best.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, WKBW became a major force in pop radio over the East Coast. KB had a 50,000 watt transmitter (the maximum power allowed) at their transmitter site in Hamburg, New York. This high power caused WKBW to blanket the entire eastern U.S. with top 40 music every night, and the station actually had a better signal at night in the western Boston suburbs, than Boston's own top 40 station, WMEX, located at 1510, right next door to WKBW at 1520. Disk jockeys included future Price is Right announcer Rod Roddy, Dick Biondi, Danny Neaverth, Sandy Beach, Jack Armstrong, Joey Reynolds, Steve Mitchell, Bud Ballou, Tom Shannon, and the Amazin' Jim Quinn. Irv Weinstein, later Buffalo's most popular television news anchor, served as news director.

In 1969 WKBW became the first radio station to air material from the Beatles' unreleased Get Back album. The recordings had been compiled out of material the Beatles recorded in London in January 1969, the same sessions that would be used to create the Beatles' Let It Be album which was released in May 1970. Although WKBW was the first station to air the "Get Back" tapes, WBCN in Boston would be better known for playing them, as its broadcast of the tapes was preserved on a high-quality reel, which spawned several widely-circulated Beatles bootlegs.

A recreated example of WKBW as an early 1960s-era pop radio station can be found on Ron Jacobs' "Cruisin' 1960" (Increase Records INCR 5-2005). This recreation features Dick Biondi and includes several classic rock and pop songs of that era, contemporary commercials, and DJ patter.

The '80s and '90s

The station continued with a Top 40 Format until about 1981 when the station evolved to more of an Adult Contemporary format. By 1983 they leaned rock and roll oldies while still playing AC songs. They also added talk radio shows in the evenings by 1984. In 1986, the call letters were changed to WWKB (in order to keep the long-standing "KB" slogan) after ABC, which had just merged with Capital Cities, sold the station to Price Communications (the WKBW calls remained on WWKB's now former sister TV station WKBW-TV Channel 7, which ABC would sell to Queen City Broadcasting). In 1987 the station moved to a full service oldies format and in 1988, the station became a talk radio station and had a variety of business, sports, news, and talk programming until 2003.

During the "talk" era the station, between 1993 and 1996, tried to launch a hot talk format on the station, acquiring J. R. Gach from WGR as the afternoon drive show and established syndicated hot talkers The Howard Stern Show (by this time now almost exclusively on the FM dial), G. Gordon Liddy, Laura Schlessinger, The Fabulous Sports Babe, Tom Leykis and (briefly, before Gach's arrival) Don and Mike. John Otto hosted a late night program in this era. Stern's and Gach's presence was not enough to revive interest in the AM dial in Buffalo, and by 1996 the format was tweaked again to an all sports format, and eventually, when purchased by the current ownership, syndicated business talk (which proved unpopular in the troubled economy of Western New York but cheap to maintain). From 1996 to 1998 WWKB ran a Country Music format.

Price Communications filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1992. After a major company reorganization, WWKB was sold to Keymarket Communications (which also acquired WBEN radio) in 1994. Keymarket then sold both WWKB and WBEN to St. Louis-based River City Broadcasting in 1995. Sinclair Broadcast Group acquired WWKB and WBEN in 1996 through its purchase of River City. In 1999, Sinclair decided to exit radio station ownership, selling most of its radio stations, including WWKB, WBEN and WGR (the latter being acquired by Sinclair in 1997), to Entercom Communications.

The Legend Returns

On January 27, 2003, WWKB returned to music, playing oldies from the 1950s and 1960s, featuring artists such as Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Frankie Lymon, The Four Seasons, The Four Tops, The Everly Brothers, Fats Domino, Ricky Nelson, Lovin Spoonful, and many others. The oldies format was an attempt to recreate the station's history as a popular music station, and while they maintained the official WWKB calls for station identification, they also played the original "WKBW Buffalo" jingles and featured many of the classic WKBW jocks including Armstrong and Neaverth. While not performing very well in Arbitron ratings, the revived "WKBW" earned the best ratings for the station since the 1990s, with approximately a 2 share.

WWKB Today

Nevertheless, Entercom found the personality oldies format too expensive to maintain for only a 2 share and so on February 6, 2006, WWKB ended a three year run as an oldies station with a format change to liberal talk. A syndicated overnight show hosted by former WKBW personality Joey Reynolds survived the format change. The move was a hasty attempt to block brokered station WHLD from successfully adopting a liberal talk format, sap its listeners and protect right leaning talk format sister station WBEN. Despite an increase in tranamission power, WHLD found their Air America Radio with local morning talk format unsustainable and dropped the format for the Totally Gospel Radio Network programming in December 2006. WWKB still maintains a liberal talk format. On April 16, 2008 the station started airing Randi Rhodes of the Nova-M Radio network, who was recently fired from Air America.

The classic "WKBW" was honored by XM Satellite Radio on November 30, 2007 in a five-hour "Sonic Sound Salute" on The 60s on 6.

On July 3, 2008, ForgottenBuffalo.com celebrated the 50th anniversary of KB's format switch to Top 40 with a sidewalk sock hop. The event was held in front of the original studios located at 1430 Main Street in Buffalo. KB alumni Danny Neaverth, Stan Roberts and Tom Donahue attended. A limited edition poster commemorating the anniversary was produced.

Broadcast range

WWKB has a 50 kW (50,000 watt) transmitter located in Hamburg, New York, with an antenna designed for maximum nighttime range. Transcontinental range has been reported. During the exclusive "Daydream Believer" broadcast in 1967, a recording was made in Sidi Yahia, Morocco [1].

WWKB's signal is prohibited from transmitting westward due to the station sharing a frequency with KOKC in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (the former KOMA, another flame-throwing 50,000-watt top 40 powerhouse in the 1960s and 1970s). Thus, the station can be heard up and down the eastern coast of the United States at night, but despite its 50,000 watt signal, it cannot be heard 20 miles to the southwest. It's directional quality is due to the configuration of its transmitter tower array, which has resulted in some humorous consequences, such as the station being commonly heard very well in parts of Sweden at night during the winter months. A group of Scandinavian radio reception enthusiasts actually travelled to the United States to have a conference at a Camp Road motel, with the purpose of viewing the array for themselves, apparently to photograph and measure it. Residents of the neighborhood remain largely unaware that the antenna array is internationally famous for sending the 1520 signal all the way to the outskirts of Stockholm on a regular basis!

Programming

Of the hosts, Marshall, Reynolds and Miller have all worked in the Buffalo area in the past. Miller is a native of Lockport, NY, where she started her radio career on hometown WLVL and later worked at the station now known as WHTT. Reynolds was a DJ on WKBW and WGR many years ago, and Marshall was a host on WGR as well as a substitute host on WBEN.

The station had broadcast a "local" program hosted by Marshall remotely until 2007, when Ed Schultz moved his syndicated show into Marshall's slot and Air America Radio's Randi Rhodes became available thanks to rival WHLD dropping Air America. Marshall returned to the station in July 2007 when her syndicated show was picked up in the evening slot. However, beginning April 2008, Marshall's show was frequently pre-empted as the Buffalo Bisons, who had spent the past three years on WECK and WSPQ, returned to WWKB for the 2008 season.

Weekends consists of locally produced paid programs and public affairs such as "Buffalo Works", "Power Talk", "Car Connection", "Feel-Rite Nutrition Today", and "The Dollar Doctors Show", "The Rusk Report" and "On Target with Penny Wolfgang".

WWKB is the overflow channel for WGR sports; when WGR has to air two sporting events at once, the more important event usually airs on WGR and the lesser event airs on WWKB. However, its 50,000-watt signal has made the station desirable for the city's second-tier sports teams: the Buffalo Bandits have aired on the station since the 2006 season (moving from WGR where it took the place of the locked-out Sabres in 2005), the Buffalo Bulls basketball team, and, on and off, the Buffalo Bisons, who moved back to the frequency in April 2008.

External links

Portions of this page reference the Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers Visit website at www.BuffaloBroadcasters.com


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