WGRF is a radio station in Buffalo, New York, USA. The station's on air branding is "97 Rock". The station mostly plays Classic rock from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Since 2006, the station has also aired numerous rock-leaning oldies, such as songs from The Beatles, that were displaced by the format change at sister station WHTT. WGRF broadcasts at 96.9 MHz from a transmitter north of downtown Buffalo, and studios are located in the city's eastside.
The WGRF morning show consists of Larry "Snortin" Norton, Rob Lederman, Chris Klein and their Producer Steve Tripi. Other local disc jockeys include Johnny "JP" Piccillo Carl Russo, John Hager, Tommy "Slick Tom" Tiberi, Anita West, Jeff Gordon, Cindy Chan, Megan Davis, Jim McGee, and Rick Walters. WGRF's significant local presence and history in the area has made the station nearly as much of the Buffalo culture as chicken wings.
WGRF streamed its programming on the Internet up until 2002, when it became economically unfeasible for some stations to continue their streams given changes in licensing and royalty agreements. In March 2006, Citadel launched an initiative that provided for the streaming of many of Citadel's stations. WGRF was one of them, and was among the first commercial stations in Buffalo to resume streaming after the earlier changes.
WGRF started as the FM sister station to WGR. It signed on September 14, 1959 as WGR-FM. Like most of the other FM stations in Western New York, WGR-FM carried a MOR or easy listening format, along with a partial simulcast of the AM station. In 1973, the station became WGRQ with a top 40 format known as "Super Q," which was rare at the time for an FM station. In 1975, the station began its best-known run as an album-oriented rock station, rebranding as Q-FM-97. On air staff during the Q-FM-97 era included Program Director and afternoon jock John McGhan, John Rivers, Jim Santella, Hank Ball, Bob Macrae, Steve Mitchell, Mark Henning, Matt Riedy, Jeff Jensen,George Hawras, Skip Edmunds and Irv Goldfarb. On January 5, 1985, however, WGRQ dumped its rock format and shifted to adult contemporary music as "Lite" WRLT, firing all but two of the WGRQ airstaff, which included the "Morning Zoo" morning show featuring Larry Norton, Lauri Githens, Carl Russo,Cindy Chan, "Slick" Tom Tiberi; and Production Director Jim Patrick, who with Githens was retained to work on the new FM and at WGR-AM. The loss of rock music in Buffalo led to stations WHTT adopting the format in 1987, as well as the brief success of distant station WBYR in 1986. In 1988, however, WRLT changed its call letters back to WGRQ-FM, switched back to classic rock and rehired virtually all its former air staff under the familiar name "97 Rock." (By the end of the year, WHTT would change to oldies; WBYR to beautiful music.) Three years later, its call letters were changed to the current WGRF. The station staff and format have largely been unchanged ever since.