|City of license||Buffalo, New York|
|Broadcast area||Western New York, Greater Toronto Area|
|Slogan||Buffalo's Home For Sports|
|First air date||1925(as WKBW)|
|Class||A (Clear channel)|
WW King of Buffalo
|Former callsigns||WKBW (1925–1986)|
(Entercom Buffalo, LLC)
|Sister stations||WBEN, WGR, WKSE, WTSS, WWWS|
WKBW was founded in 1922 as a religious station, operating at the frequency of 1380 kHz. As the story goes, founder Clinton Churchill applied to the Department of Commerce 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 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.
During the 1930s, WKBW shared a CBS affiliation with then-sister station WGR, and in the 1940s, was affiliated with the NBC Blue network and its corporate successor ABC, running as a conventional full service network affiliated station also offering local news and music programming. The station later broadcast a wide variety of ethnic, country and western and religious programming when not carrying network offerings, 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
On July 4, 1958, a few months before companion station WKBW-TV (channel 7) was launched, WKBW radio abandoned its adult approach and was converted into a personality-driven full service Top 40 music radio station, featuring foreground personalities, a tight playlist of current hits and an aggressive local news department, which it continued to program with great success 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 stations from Clinton Churchill in 1961.
On Halloween Night 1968, writer Dan Kriegler and then-program director Jefferson Kaye (later the voice of WPVI-TV in Philadelphia, which would become co-owned with WKBW-TV in 1971) commemorated the then-30th anniversary of Orson Welles' 1938 War Of The Worlds by re-making the infamous broadcast, updating the storyline and changing locations to make it significant to Buffalo listeners. (See The War of the Worlds (radio 1968).) Kaye (best known in much of the U.S. 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, but both have been recorded and avidly collected by aficionados of classic radio programming.
During the late 1950s, 1960s and 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. 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. Disk jockeys included future Price is Right announcer Rod Roddy, Dick Biondi, Danny Neaverth, Jack Armstrong, Joey Reynolds, Steve Mitchell, Bud Ballou, Norm Marshall, 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 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 bootlegs of The Beatles.
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.
A tribute site for WKBW's Top 40 years is found at http://wkbwradio.com/
The 1980s and 1990s
The station continued with the Top 40 format until 1981, when, facing the emergence of FM competition, the station evolved to more of an Adult Contemporary format. By 1983, they leaned toward rock and roll oldies while still playing AC songs. They also added talk radio shows in the evenings by 1984.
In 1986, the WKBW stations were broken up as a result of Capital Cities' purchase of the American Broadcasting Company. WKBW radio was sold to Price Communications, who subsequently changed the station's call letters to the current WWKB, mainly in order to keep the long-standing "KB" slogan (the former calls remained on now-former sister station WKBW-TV, which Capital Cities/ABC would sell to Queen City Broadcasting). In 1987, the station moved to a full service oldies format and on June 18, 1988, the station dropped live programming and switched to satellite-fed oldies. About a year later, WWKB flipped to talk radio. The station also tried a simulcast of FM Top 40 station WKSE for a brief period in the early 1990s. It flipped back to talk in 1993.
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 KB's ratings in what was then a three way news-talk battle also involving market-leading WBEN and contender WGR, which would itself later switch to its current format of sports talk and play by play. By 1996, the format was flipped again to country music (this despite there being three other country stations in Buffalo, WYRK, WNUC and WXRL). Following that in 1998 was an all sports format, which also failed, and eventually, syndicated business talk (which proved unpopular in the troubled economy of Western New York but cheap to maintain).
Price Communications presided over the collapse of its entire radio portfolio including WWKB and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1992. After a major company reorganization, WWKB was sold to Keymarket Communications (which also acquired WBEN radio from locally based owners at a premium price) 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 was part of a nationwide fad of "real oldies" formats on AM radio stations in the early 2000s (decade)), 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 as well in Arbitron ratings as it had in its golden past, the revived "WKBW" earned the best ratings for the station since the 1990s, with approximately a 2 share, and was beginning to grow.
Progressive talk era
Personality oldies has been a successful format in many markets, including Chicago (where it has achieved top-5 ratings in the winter 2012 Arbitron survey on WLS-FM). Nevertheless, Entercom found the personality oldies format too expensive to maintain in Buffalo 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 predominantly syndicated progressive 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 transmission power, WHLD found that Air America with local morning talk unsustainable and dropped the format for the "Totally Gospel Radio Network" programming in December 2006. WWKB maintained their liberal talk format for another seven years. On April 16, 2008 the station started airing Randi Rhodes of the Nova-M Radio network, who had been fired from Air America.
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.
On September 5th, 2013, WWKB flipped to a full-time feed of ESPN Radio under the brand ESPN 1520AM. The ESPN Radio affiliation had previously been on WGR from the network's launch in 1992 until 2013; WGR's increased emphasis on local programming (and, since The Phil Hendrie Show moved to an earlier time slot, a lack of progressive talk programs to air in the overnight hours) prompted Entercom to move the ESPN affiliation to a full-time signal. The local sports broadcasts and brokered weekend programs that WWKB carried under its previous format will continue under the ESPN affiliation; the station launched with a broadcast of the Buffalo Sabres' participation in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament.
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 Monkees "Sleepy Jean"/"Daydream Believer" broadcast in 1967, a recording was made in Sidi Yahia, Morocco.
WWKB's daytime signal decently covers Rochester and the Southern Tier, and reaches into Toronto and as far east as Kingston. At night, it must direct its signal north-south due to 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, while the station can be heard across most of the eastern half of North America at night, its signal is spotty at best only 20 miles southwest of Buffalo. Its 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 traveled 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.
There have been ongoing reports for the past several years that allege Entercom has cut back WWKB's signal power to 10,000 watts in an effort to save power. Entercom has not filed with the FCC to do so and such a signal reduction has yet to be confirmed; indications are that the station's signal strength and range has remained normal.
- Buffalo Bandits Lacrosse (in season)
- Buffalo Bisons baseball (in season)
- Syracuse University football and basketball (in season)
- NFL on Westwood One (in season, overflow from WGR when WGR does Bills games)
WWKB is the overflow station 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. These will continue under the all-ESPN format.
- Buffalo broadcasters' history of WKBW
- Pergament, Alan (September 6, 2013). Sabres games in NHL prospect tourney on new ESPN Buffalo. The Buffalo News. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
- I Heard it on the AM Radio-WKBW heard in Morocco-1967
- audio file of WKBW playing "Sleepy Jean"/"Daydream Believer"-1967
- Fybush, Scott (2010-03-22). Goodbye, Luv - Ron Lundy Remembered. NorthEast Radio Watch. Retrieved 2010-03-22.
- WWKB website
- Query the FCC's AM station database for WWKB
- Radio-Locator Information on WWKB
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WWKB