|City||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. KulickW B LacK
(Townsquare Media of Buffalo, Inc.)
|Sister stations||WBUF, WMSX, WYRK|
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 is currently owned by Townsquare Media. It is the Buffalo area's radio home for The Steve Harvey Morning Show. It originally carried the Tom Joyner Morning Show (now on crosstown urban gospel WUFO) from January 2005 to February 2016.
WBLK's legacy began in 1964 as an urban contemporary station that primarily played R&B and soul. The station was founded by legendary Buffalo radio personality George "Hound Dog" Lorenz, 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 Ernie "Mr. Blues" Jones, Roosevelt Tucker, Bradley J. Cool, Chuckie T., Mansfield Manns, Jerry Young, Gary Lanier, Ron Baskin, Don Allen Sr. and his son Don Allen Jr., with 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. Earlier brands and slogans of the station included "Soul Brother Radio", "Rockin' Soul BLK", "Soul N Stereo", "Rockin' Soul 94", "K94 FM", and in the early to mid 1990s, "Power 94".
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 2005.
For all of its existence, WBLK's playlist has been very diverse, as the station follows a full-service musical approach and 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.
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. The 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. In 1997, the station even began broadcasting live-to-air Fridays from Toronto's Industry nightclub; promoted as 'Wreckshop Radio', the club night featuring R&B and hip-hop became very popular immediately and would go on for years.
However, after the launch of Flow 93.5 in February 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
- Boles, Benjamin (23 June 2016). "An Oral History of the Toronto Nightclub That Brought Gays, Straights, House Heads, and Ravers Together". Vice.com. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
- 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