WEBR signed on the air in 1924, broadcasting live from the backroom of the Howell Electric Company at the corner of Niagara and Franklin Streets in Buffalo. The station relocated to various downtown sites before settling in its longtime home at 23 North Street in 1935. Given sequentially issued call letters by the FCC, that station developed the slogan, "We Extend Buffaloís Regards."
WEBR and its staff enjoyed several "firsts" and triumphs. Among them were the adventure stories written by program director Fran Striker in the late 1920ís. He developed stories with a western theme and sold the scrips to other radio stations across the country. The hero in his story... The Lone Ranger.
In 1931, WEBR employed 27 staffers, plus the studio orchestra conducted by Joe Armbruster and the WEBR Players. Programming was elaborately produced with some dramatic productions having as many as three weeks of rehearsals before hitting the airwaves. When the station did a remote broadcast from another location, not only did this require a "travelling studio," but the stationís transmitter tower (some 300-feet tall) needed to be moved to the location as well.
Standard equipment in the 1930ís WEBR studio included two pianos, draperies to help absorb sound, and microphones which only had a three-to six month life expectancy. The radio stationís music library contained thousands of 78s and over 6,000 copies of sheet music. The broadcast day included programs like the Catalino String Entertainers, The Oriental Philosopher and Behind the Headlines, a drama based on current events. Buffalo based airplane maker Curtiss Wright sponsored "Sky Boat," a mystical "flight into the region of lost music" every Monday night.
In 1936, the station was sold to The Buffalo Evening News, and become affiliated with the Blue Network of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC).A host of network stars including Dinah Shore, Walter Winchell, Jack Armstrong and "The Quiz Kids" were featured on WEBRís program schedule. Six years later in 1942 The News sold WEBR to competitor Buffalo Courier-Express. In 1944 it affiliated with the Mutual Broadcasting System. After the War, WEBR changed dial position from 1340 to 970 AM.
During the 1940s and 1950ís WEBR hosted a powerhouse roster of talent that included Jack Eno, Ed Tucholka, Cy Buckley, Bernie Sandler and Al Meltzer. Teenagers growing up in postwar Buffalo undoubtedly listened to "Hi-Teen" on WEBR. The show, believed to be the model for Dick Clarkís "American Bandstand," first went on the air in 1946. Early guests included Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Les Paul and Mary Ford. After a few locations including Kleinhans Music Hall and the Elks Club on Delaware Avenue, the show would settle on the Dellwood Ballroom at Main and Utica. Early WEBR "Hop Kings" Danny McBride and Ed Little were later joined by "Lucky" Pierre Gonneau.
Little was also known for his landmark broadcasts from Harry Altmanís Town Casino which he conducted nightly. WEBR also started a long running tradition of jazz programming with Carroll Hardyís "Jazz Central" and the legendary Joe Rico.
In 1959 Jack Sharpe took to the air with one of the nationís first trafficopter. Sharpe transformed traffic reporting into a broadcast news staple with such colorful phrases as the "Humboldt Hourglass" and "gapersí block." WEBRís use of the helicopter triggered many other TV and radio stations, here and elsewhere to use airborne means to cover news on a regular basis. WEBR aired a series of jingles during the 50s and 60s called "The Sound of the City." So popular were the jingles that a 45 rpm record was produced for the public. For a brief period in the early 1960s the station also experimented with a format which encouraged listeners to "Sing-A-Long" with distributed song books. It was also during the 60ís that 970 AM was joined by a sister FM station, WEBR-FM (June 6, 1960).
In the early 1970ís The Courier Express sold WEBR-AM to a group of local investors headed by Bill McKibben (Queen City Broadcasting) but retained WEBR-FM which was renamed WBCE-FM (Bflo Courier Express). Under the new leadership WEBR-AM changed from its easy listening format and became one of the first in the city to offer "oldies." On-air talent included future weatherman Kevin Oí Connell, Possum Riley, Loren Owens, Jack Eno, John McKay, Al Wallack and Perry Allen. Allen had the distinction of being the first morning man at WKBW radio when the station went Top40 in 1958.
Another format change would occur under the management Larry Levite who directed the station under a progressive MOR format. Jim Santella, Kevin Gordon and Ron Reager were among the talent who ushered in the new sounds. WBCE-FMís call letters were changed to WREZ after Queen City purchased the station from the Courier. The station was programmed with an automated easy listening format and then changed to a hip, light rock format. Jazz returned to the airwaves on a regular basis in 1975.
In 1975, the Western New York Public Broadcasting Associating purchased WEBR along with WREZ-FM. The acquisition by WNYBPA marked the first time in 50 years that commercial stations were purchased by public broadcasters. In 1975 WNYPBA began programming jazz on its stations and in 1976 WEBR became the countryís first public all-news station. WREZ was renamed WNED-FM in 1977 and when on the air as a classical music station.
WEBR-AM became an award winning news powerhouse which gained great accolades with its in depth coverage of the Blizzard of Ď77. Newsradio 970ís aggressive news gathering heated up the competition and forced other AM station in the city to beef up their coverage.
In 1978 WEBR became the nationís top-rated public radio station. From the 70s through the early 90ís a full service news department was staffed by the likes of Jerry Fedell, Kevin Gordon, Leon Thomas, Jack Mahl, Scott Brown, John Gill, Mike St. Peter, Mike Allen, Teresa Beaton, and Jim Ranney. Dave Kerner, Sam Anson and Pete Weber made up the core of the WEBR sports department. On weekends the popular "At Your Service" how-to program was hosted by Andy Thomas who later took his talk to a short lived show on WWKB called Buffalo Talks.
Although officially an "All News Station" after 8PM WEBR continued its jazz tradition with the sounds of "Jazz in the Nighttime" with host Al Wallack. Believed to be the longest running jazz show in Buffalo, "Nighttime" features live performances from rooms like the Tralfamadore Cafe, Blue Note and the Statler Hotel. Wallack was also joined by other jazz jocks Prez Freeland, Jim Santella, George Beck, Bill Besecker, John Warick.
After federal government funding cutbacks for PBS stations in the early 90s, WEBRís local news operations were substantially streamlined and its call letters were changed to WNED-AM in 1993. As of 1998 WNEDís on-air schedule consisted of a limited amount of local programming with the majority of the day filled with National Public Radio and other syndicated features.