(Pictured: kids in America, summer 1976.)
In Buffalo, New York, WYSL still exists today, still on AM at 1040 (and on FM at 92.1), running mostly conservative talk. The 50,000-watt signal on AM 1520 isn’t called WKBW anymore; it’s WWKB, and it carries ESPN Radio. Each station has a colorful history, and the Top 40 days we discussed in a previous post are a big part of it. (You can read about WKBW here and WYSL here.)
Although the two stations offered their 1976 listeners two different experiences, in one significant way, they were highly similar. No matter which station you had in your ear all day every day, each one gave the summer of 1976 three signature songs.
One was a Hot 100 monster: “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band. I’ve written about this song several times over the years (most thoroughly here), and I suspect that regular readers of this pondwater might be able to predict what I’d say about it were I to try to write about it again. So go watch this VH1 clip to see a bit of their short-lived TV variety show (with David Letterman), from which I learned that one member of the group is Mary Chapin Carpenter’s keyboard player today. I didn’t realize it was the same guy.
Another of western New York’s summer of ’76 signature songs is a Hot 100 oddball: “A Little Bit More” by Dr. Hook. The song would become a significant national hit, but not in the summer—it wouldn’t hit its Hot 100 peak of #11 until October, but it did a long stretch at #1 in Buffalo starting in late June, long before it ever got onto American Top 40. It occasionally shows up on worst-songs-of-the-70s lists, mostly for some pretty unsexy images, including “When your body’s had enough of me / And I’m layin’ flat out on the floor.” But at a certain point, a good performance can sell anything: lead singer Dennis Locorriere makes “We’d better get it on now / Cause we’ve got a whole life to live through” sound like a beautiful declaration of love.
Then again, it was on my radio every couple of hours in October 1976, so I might not be the most credible authority on it.
(Digression: somewhere in my archives I have the tape of an interview a couple of us did with Locorriere and Ray Sawyer at WXXQ in Freeport, Illinois, before Dr. Hook appeared at the Stephenson County Fair in 1980. I expect it was pretty terrible, although I can remember one funny line: Sawyer said that his famous eye-patch is real. “I lost my eye in a car accident,” he told us. “I went back later and tried to find it, though.”)
The third signature hit of the Buffalo summer of 1976 is a song most people today don’t know at all: “Listen to the Buddha” by Ozo. Apart from a couple of stray surveys from WBBF in Rochester, New York, the two Buffalo stations are the only ones at ARSA showing this semi-hypnotic reggae number, and both stations have it riding high throughout July. It will reach #4 on both by the end of the month. Buffalo might be singlehandedly responsible for getting it onto the Hot 100: it would go #99-98-96 and out during a three-week run during the last half of August.
I wonder if any of the oldies stations up there are playing it today.