To its credit, a lot of more-or-less forgotten people were located to offer observations on what many people in Buffalo recall as good old days. The entire July 3, 1955, incident in which WWOL-AM disc jockey Guy King was arrested for playing music atop a downtown billboard and encouraging passing drivers to honk horns, is here, an explanatory chapter preceding the actual transcript from the radio.
This sort of thing is a legendary part of Buffalo’s involvement in the history of rock music. Fewer and fewer people remember it, let alone have heard of it, but the wacky, complex and slightly shady growth of rock and roll, what you see in movies like “American Hot Wax” and others, was played out to the disbelieving ears of kids in Buffalo, listening in on tinny and tiny radios.
The era should be better remembered. The Buffalo History Museum has recently displayed an interest in it, as will others, and will likely use the Skurzewski’s book as research material.
The facts are here, surprising ones (Casey Kasem worked in Buffalo for a short while, for example), but arranged with a scattershot approach this reader found maddening. The reader will learn a few things about payola, publicity stunts and the uneasy separation of black and white audiences who enjoyed the same music.
Underlying the book’s evidence and opinion is a nagging thought, that somehow this remarkably influential and disruptive period of music and broadcasting, a foreshadowing of what later went on in the 60 and after, was, after reflection, something Not Good for Us, just as our parents said. A listener back then could pin his or her dreams to what was heard on the radio, and the book suggests a lot of it was a sham, simply one stunt after another in search of an audience.