|City of license||Depew, New York|
|Slogan||The People's Station|
|Frequency||93.7 MHz (also on HD Radio)|
|First air date||December 10, 1964|
W Benjamin L. KulekW B LacK
(Townsquare Media of Buffalo, Inc.)
WBLK is an Urban contemporary FM radio station licensed to Depew that serves Buffalo, New York, Western New York and the Niagara Region (as well as a portion of the Greater Toronto Area) of Ontario, Canada. WBLK plays the musical genres of hip hop, R&B, urban contemporary gospel, and soul.
WBLK can be classified as a "heritage" station; it has held its same format and call letters since its debut, and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014, making WBLK the oldest urban FM radio station in the United States of America. The station also regularly ranks in the top 5 radio stations in Buffalo's Arbitron ratings.
WBLK-FM began in 1965 as an urban contemporary station that primarily played R&B and soul. The station was founded by legendary Buffalo radio personality George Lorenz ("Hound Dog"), who had earlier championed rhythm-and-blues music on other area stations such as WXRA, WINE (both of these stations were predecessors of today's WUFO/1080 AM), WJJL, and WKBW. Lorenz's voice was heard on the station from its inception until his death in 1972. Some on air personalities include "Mr. Blues" Ernie Jones, Roosevelt Tucker, Bradley J. Cool, Chuckie T., Mansfield Mann's, Jerry Young, Gary Lanier, Ron Baskin, Don Allen Sr., Don Allen Jr., Don Robinson, and Freddie Patrick. WBLK went from a mono signal to stereo in 1974. With a playlist called the "Funky Forty", at 3 PM that Monday in July of that year, when Don Robinson flipped the switch and the stereo light flickered on, the first song was "Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye.
Contrary to popular belief, despite WBLK's format and target audience, its call letters do not stand for the word "BLacK" per se; rather, they are a tribute to Benjamin L. Kulick, who was a major financial backer of the station when it first went on the air.
In August 1995, WBLK's original owners and founders sold the station to Boston-based American Radio Systems. In 1997, Westinghouse (now CBS Corporation) would purchase WBLK and all of ARS' stations for $2.6 Billion. Westinghouse would be purchased by Infinity Broadcasting in 1999. Infinity Broadcasting would become CBS Radio in December 2005.
For all of its existence, WBLK's playlist has been very diverse, as the station incorporates virtually every genre of urban music. This can be partially due to the lack of direct competitors in the market (WWWS is an urban oldies station, while daytime-only WUFO and non-commercial WFWO are urban gospel stations). Since the early 2000s, the station has "day-parted" its playlist. Weekdays, from 5 AM to 3 PM, the station takes more of an urban AC direction, while more hip-hop content is played between 3 PM and 5 AM (with a 4-hour exemption between 10 PM and 2 AM for "The Quiet Storm"). On weekends, the station airs a more mainstream urban format (mostly hip hop with a fairly liberal mix of R&B) all day Saturday and into Sunday morning, with urban gospel and classic soul shows airing during the late morning/early afternoon hours. The station reverts to mainstream urban until 5 AM Monday.
WBLK began streaming its programming on the Internet on November 13, 2006, and was sold by CBS Radio to Regent Communications (now Townsquare Media) in December 2006. Prior to the sale, WBLK was CBS Radio's last urban contemporary station outside the southern United States since the company now only owns two urban contemporary stations -- WVEE Atlanta & WPEG Charlotte, North Carolina (WPGC-FM in Washington, D.C. is an urban contemporary reporter per Nielsen BDS & the station's parent CBS Radio, but they are rhythmic contemporary per Mediabase reports, and therefore is not urban contemporary despite being the only rhythmic in the Washington, D.C. area since the Washington/Baltimore area is fielded by Radio One's WKYS & WERQ).
In late 2009, WBLK launched an ongoing consciousness awakening campaign, called "Know Thyself."
Audience in Southern Ontario
In the 1980s and 1990s, WBLK also had a significant listenership among fans of urban music in Toronto, which did not have an urban-formatted radio station. Many commercials were geared towards listeners in Southern Ontario. A Southern Ontario audience's reliance on an American station with no Canadian content requirements, in turn, significantly impacted the commercial development of Canadian hip hop and R&B.
However, after the launch of CFXJ-FM in 2001 on the adjacent 93.5 frequency, WBLK became a bit harder on some radio receivers with weaker tuners, and thus lost much of its prominence in the Toronto market.
- historymuseumstuff.com History of WBLK
- Official WBLK Website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WBLK
- Radio-Locator information on WBLK
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WBLK