Celebrating WUFO's black radio history

Apr 5, 2018

The table was filled with round pieces of vinyl, familiar to older generations of music listeners and a mystery to others. Those "45s" are now a major display by the Black Radio History Collective and WUFO-AM 1080.

Credit MIke Desmond / WBFO News

Back before CDs, MP3 players and a lot of other formats and devices, a generation of young people heard their music on those 45 rpm vinyl single records, perhaps three minutes of the latest music and probably not the music their parents wanted heard.

Those 45s are a key element in the history of WUFO and a new display by the Black Radio History Collective of music since the station first went on the air November 2, 1962.

The display is located in the WUFO studios, next to the Colored Musicians Club and around the corner from the Michigan Street Baptist Church, in Buffalo's African American Heritage Corridor. It tells the story of Buffalo's African American community, in sound, music and community voices.

DJ David Allen said the station is a key element in the community.

"As far as I remember, WUFO has been a statement in the community for years, ages," Allen said, "and that's why I'm a part of it, 'cause that's what brought me in, a community radio station that's in the community for everybody."

And not just the local community. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said growing up in Queens, he listened to WBLS-FM and DJ Frankie Crocker. Where did Crocker get his start in radio? WUFO.

Buffalo School Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold said the station is central to the community's sense of self.

"When I was a teenager, I was listening to WUFO," she said, "so that tells you that it's been a few years that it's been a mainstay in the community, that it's provided not only the music, but the cultural history, I think, is what the legacy of this station."

WUFO controlling owner Sheila Brown
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Controlling owner Sheila Brown said the station remains very important to the community because of the range of music on the air, companion station Power 96.5 and its programming of church services and talk shows to let the community talk about issues and people.

"We speak truth to power. We can tell our own story," Brown said. "This is the way that ministries can get on, talk shows can get on. This is the way that people of color, when they come out of journalism, that they can get a job, because a lot of time in the city when they graduate from journalism, they don't have a job - and that is our thing. We have always been the one when we were able to hire people of color."