August 6, 2020

Black Radio WUFO Buffalo with Gary Byrd, Frankie Crocker, Eddie O'Jay, and Gerry Bledsoe

An incredible amount of talented on-air personalities emerged from the daytime only Black radio station 1080 WUFO (wah-FOE rhymes with Buffalo). The station which was launched in 1961 with the arrival of legendary disc-jockey Eddie O'Jay from Cleveland (the R&B group "The O'Jays" named themselves after him) became a proving ground for many elite Black radio personalities that later on moved on to New York City and Washington, D.C.

One of the most noted personalities is Imhotep Gary Byrd. The Buffalo native began working at WUFO at the age of 16 in the mid 1960's. He went on to host at Super 16 WWRL, WLIB, and WBLS. At 71, Imhotep Gary Byrd still hosts his Global Black Experience in New York City. His show airs on 99.5 WBAI every Friday and on 107.5 WBLS on Sunday evenings with a portion simulcasted on 1190 WLIB.

Here is a fascinating interview with Byrd where he talks about his early years at WUFO and his interaction with Gerry Bledsoe (Gerry B.), Eddie O'Jay, and Douglas 'Jocko' Henderson (whose show we can say was "syndicated" via the technology at the time using reel-to-reel tape sent to Black radio stations across the country.)

He also recounts a story of his Jocko style rap he used at WUFO at 17 years old.

Rewind to the beginning to watch the entire interview including airchecks from Byrd. He also talks about the Black ownership of radio stations in the early 1970's and Frankie Crocker's emergence as Program Director at WLIB-FM which became WBLS.

(Commentary: As radio seems to be set to transition away from Urban in 2020, understand calling today's radio 'Black Radio' would be an affront to the lack of personality driven and community oriented interaction that is corporate owned radio today. We all can learn something from the pioneers of Black Radio.)

Imhotep Gary Byrd went on to collaborate with Stevie Wonder on "Village Ghetto Land" and "Black Man" on Stevie's album "Songs in the Key of Life. He appeared in Spike Lee’s movie "Bamboozled," in which he played himself as a radio talk show host. Byrd released a single called 'Every Brother Ain't a Brother" which was a poem he use to recite on his early radio shows in New York City. The struggle they faced in the 60's and 70's is eerily similar to the social, political, and economic struggle that society faces today.

Eddie O'Jay went on to NYC's WWRL, WBLS, and WLIB. He started in radio in 1951 in Milwaukee, before going to Cleveland, then Buffalo.

This is an aircheck from a Legacy Reunion Show at WWRL in 1997 with Bob Law. This is how The O'Jays got their name.

Gerry Bledsoe was a native of Buffalo who also worked at WWRL, WBLS, WHUR, WMMJ Majic 102.3, and WMXD in Detroit. Gerry B. also hosted a TV program in New York City in the 1970's.

Gerry B. aircheck at WUFO

Here's Frankie Crocker, yet another Buffalo native, with an aircheck from WWRL, which is most likely the same style rap he developed at WUFO. Crocker accomplishments and achievements in radio are arguably second to none. He became so popular on WWRL in the late 1960's, that he was recruited to the "white" mainstream station 570 WMCA. Like in many cities, the radio consultants tried to duplicate the success of the small Black stations at the far end of the dial that white teenagers gravitated to and the ratings reflected it. Frankie went on to WBLS in 1971 and coined the phrase Urban Contemporary Radio. It was his attempt to rightfully demand the same in advertising dollars as the white stations were getting. Despite their ratings success, advertisers looked down on Black stations even if the white kids were listening. 

Check out other WUFO DJ's in the video at the bottom of the page. Sunny Jim Kelsey also worked briefly at WUFO. He was profiled in our Black Radio in Washington, D.C. story. Kelsey went on to become a popular personality and general manager at 1450 WOL.

Today 1080 WUFO is known as MIX 1080 AM and has been simulcasted on FM as Power 96.5 since 2017. Since the mid 1970's WBLK at 93.7 FM has been the more popular station in Buffalo.

WUFO was located on 89 Lasalle Avenue until 2013.

Thank you to the The Buffalo History Channel for the interviews and photos. Check out their YouTube page and subscribe.

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