Your stories- 97 Rock’s 1988 return on its 30th anniversary

The 97 Rock airstaff on the night we returned to the airwaves in September of 1988.

In September of 1988, 97 Rock returned to the Buffalo airwaves after a three year hiatus.  We branded our return as “Back & Rockin’,” and that’s what we’ve been doing ever since.

Do you have any memories of 97 Rock’s return in 1988 on the 30th anniversary?  Share your story here.

I grew up listening to 97 Rock! To me, it was THE ONLY radio station in the world, the ONLY radio station that mattered! I remember the days of ‘Banner Contests’ at the concerts – so many times, we would grab a big white sheet and my brother would do the artwork for whatever tour the band was doing, and carrying it around all night long! My dear friend Howard Redeye, he was such a great artist, he won a few times, and whoever was with him at the time would win backstage passes to meet the band! So many fun memories!
I also enjoyed being the 97th caller to win concert tickets! It wasn’t like today’s phones with speed dialing, no! We had to actually ‘D I A L’ the call, turning one number at a time on the face of the phone! How agonizing to wait for the rotary to come spinning back down, dialing the next number, waiting, dialing the next number, waiting….! Getting busy signal after busy signal! Argh! And then to top it off, when you did get through, you would hear “I’m sorry. You are the 13th caller” (or 23rd, 33rd, 43rd!) What was even more agonizing was when you would hear ‘you are the 90th, 91st” and you think “Oh no! I still have a chance!” and you keep trying, and trying, only to hear on the radio, “We have our winner!” Ugh! So frustrating, BUT SO MUCH FUN!!! I did win a few times – Tom Petty, Steve Miller, Ozzy! Yahoo!
As you could imagine, I was so upset when 97 Rock went off the air! I literally quit listening to radio! Back in that day, we didn’t have Sirius or Pandora or anything like that! We had AM and FM, and there was no FM station like 97 Rock!! The other stuff was just garbage! I had just graduated high school, and it felt like my teenage years ended, not because of school but because of no more 97 Rock!
I remember the day when it came back on – I was going to college at Fredonia State, living on Lambert Avenue, and I went running inside to my housemates, saying ‘Yes! 97 Rock is back!” I called my brother, called my sister, and I haven’t stopped listening yet! Even with Sirius, Pandora, etc., I choose 97 Rock! Even though those music providers allow you to choose your music, I prefer 97 Rock choosing my music, because you guys are all awesome, you know how to select what to play, I love listening to your morning shows, I love your Weekend Block Parties, I love everything about you! Keep on rocking, 97 Rock!

Patti Brisley

I remember the 1st time I heard 97 Rock. I was laying on the top bunk in my bedroom of my parents’ home doing my high school homework. I had a 6 band battery operated radio and I happened upon 96.9. I was hooked immediately and listened religiously for the rest of high school and college ( I used to record the albums played at midnight on 8-track tape…probably still got them! ) 

 As luck would have it I did not have to suffer through the years when 97 Rock went off the air, I was working in Phoenix and listening to KUPD & KSTM . I moved back to WNY to live in North Collins in 1988 and jumped right back in, listening to 97 Rock all the time, while at work and at home- whether working in the yard or on the house. 

 From the days of a battery operated radio that used 8 D cell batteries to today, where I can use my phone to stream 97 Rock and send in by bluetooth to the most incredibly sounding speaker, 96.9 has been a mainstay. The technology may have change but the great music continues.


Tom Murphy of Hamburg


As a long time listener of 97 Rock back in the late 70′ & 80’s….I was devastated when I found out that the format had changed back in 1985.  I was just in High School at that time and remember all my friends were as upset as I was.  We literally had to start using our Walkman’s with cassette tapes but that was a problem too because with the tapes, they consumed the battery power so quickly.  But that was pretty much the only way to get our fill of the great bands that we loved….Led Zeppelin, Rush, Deep Purple, Styx, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, and so many more.  What a great relief it was when in Sept. of 1988, 97 Rock came back and that was literally music to all our ears….we could finally ditch the cassette tapes.  Now today, nearly 30 years later, myself and my family still listen exclusively to 97 Rock…….Here’s to another Great Rockin’ 30 years with 97 ROCK!

Karen Anderson


I grew up listening to 97 rock. Sitting on the porch at night, my dad would have the radio out and we’d singalong and rock out to Zeppelin, the Who, Bruce and the list goes on. I remember JP visiting my neighbor on Normal ave.  remember in 1984 my 8th grade class trip to Darien Lake and my friends rode on the Big Wheel next to Larry Norton as he continued his contest to bring “The Police” to Buffalo.

My Sophmore year of high school some of my music tastes changed. Punk and alt music was popular among my friends but I still liked the classics and some Metal. I remember some of my older friends at Bennett started a petition to bring back 97 Rock. High School in the 80s was truly like a john Hughes movie with jocks, nerds, Metal fans and punk rockers with mohawks. We were also well intergrated with R & B and early hip hop fans with Run DMC, Michael Jackson, KRS-One etc also popular.

I don’t know how much of a difference it made, but I hope that bunch of kids had a small part in bringing back a great station.

John Fracos

When 97 Rock went off the air it was a dark day in local rock radio.  Other stations poped up trying to fill the void but could not come even close.  So CDs and tapes were all i usually listened to.. Boom boxez were still bix then also…  I checked 96.9 every few weeks to see if the nut jobs who pulled them off would realize there mistake…  To my delight one day i heard construction noises hamering and drilling when i tuned to 96.9..

Soon i was thrilled to hear all my fav Djs were comming back… Larry Snortin Nortin.. Carl rivet head Ruso…Slick Tom… Anita West… Finally 97 Rock was back and Rocking where they belonged… My radio and my mobile devices have been sent to 96.9 ever since… 

Robert Bornraber


I was 13, at the park near my old house had my Walkman headphones on tuning into 97 rock for the sake of led Zeppelin, after the song was over the D.J talking about how they were back and rocking. Thirty years and I’m still letting 97 rock, rock me. I love you guys! Thanks for being here. ❤️

Jennifer Fowler

I remember coming back to Buffalo after a 10 year absence. I tuned my radio to 96.9 when I got close enough. They were playing crap like Madonna, etc. I could not believe my ears. Of course I switched stations, but came back after the rumuor went around that you might play good old rock n roll again. I believe they were playing a Madonna song when the needle scratched through to the end. What a relief. I can’t remember the first song you played but I know I never switched the station after that. Literally found the station and ripped the knob off!!!

Dana Berg

I vividly remember when 97 Rock initially changed formats… the end of 1984, 97 Rock had the top 84 album countdown of 1984 and gave away to 9 lucky winners, the top record albums of 1984.  I was fortunate enough to be one of those winners.  But my happiness didn’t last to long because less than a week after this, the format changed.  We jokingly said that I was partly responsible for putting 97 Rock out of business because of winning all those albums.  Anyway, I eventually started a petition to bring back WGRF/WGRQ back to its original glory.  We passed out petition sheets throughout many of the school districts including West Seneca, Cheektowaga, Depew, Lancaster, Orchard Park, Buffalo and others.  Amazingly, we had received over 5,000 signatures, many even from school teachers and administrators to bring back 97 Rock.  And while I don’t know whether our efforts played any role in getting 97 Rock back….it was awesome to hear 97 Rock BACK & ROCKIN’ in September of 1988…….and I’ve been listening again ever since!!!  Rock-N-Roll is here to stay in WNY with 97 ROCK!

Gary Hammer

I just returned home from a 4 year tour in the Marine Corps.  I was working in a deli making subs.  The only stations we could pick up were playing crap.  Then you guys returned and the deli turned into a rocking party zone. Thanks for making the world a better place!

Val J. Zinni

Life was not the same without 97 Rock.  Stations out of Toronto and Niagara Falls tried but they never fed my soul with the rock and roll I needed. When 97 Rock returned to the airwaves it sent a permanent wave of happiness from tips of my toes to the top of my well teased hair! 

1988 remains a thankful year for 97 Rock’s triumphant return and the special powers of Aqua Net!

Beth Kennedy

When I worked at the warehouse for Gutman’s Department store in (you have to be really old to remember Gutman’s lol) I used to listen to 97 Rock all day every day. One day I turned on the radio and they were playing The Rose by Bette Midler, I was so freaked out and couldn’t understand what was going on. I was sooooo happy when 97 Rock came back on the air and am still a faithful listener today! Thanks for all of the years of great music!
Denise Scrivano

I remember it like it was yesterday, I had remembered turning the radio on one day, and all of a sudden 97 rock was gone, I happened to see Larry Norton out at a movie and was asking him what happened, and I told him don’t worry there are way too any 97 Rocki listeners out there, and I would bet that you will be back, the station was too well loved. 

some time went by, I got hurt at work Sept 9th, 1987, and was off work for quite a long time, then, my wife ended up expecting with our 2nd child, our daughter was nearly 10 yrs old and we told her she was going to be a big sister, we couldn’t afford 2 children back to back after we had our daughter, so we waited, She became pregnant, and was due near christmas 1988. in September 1988, , a friend told me you have to listen to the radio, something big was gonna happen, so I turned on the radio, had an 8 track tape at the ready to record, and all of a sudden, I started the record button, 97 rock came back on the air, they didn’t just come on the air, but they used the cutest, and most memorable kick off to the stations return by starting off with there’s no place like home from my wife and my all time favorite movie. The Wizard Of Oz. how cool was that, I was overjoyed because we were finally going to be able to hear all the 97 jocks again, all the originals, larry norton, john hager, carl russo, anita west, jim santella, etc…..I still have the 8 track tape, and the original panasonic stereo receiver with built in 8 track. somewhere, around the stereo. it was a great day in radio history, 97 rock was back and rockin’ I want to say thank you to john hager for bringing great music, and d j’s we all loved to hear throughout the years.

Big Tom Wilczak


I remember like it was yesterday when i heard your returning i yelled through out my house and the neighborhood yelling 97 rocks returning!!! It was the greatest day of my life i was in happy tears!!

Henry Cousineau


When I heard 97 ROCK on the air waves I was SO EXCITED. I carried a mini radio with ear plugs to my college courses to that I could listed while I was in class ( I did get in trouble in one of them lol ). So I couldn’t bring it any more. I have my Slick Tom T-Shirt and I love it. I listen 97 ROCK now and forever.

Collene Gandy


When 97 Rock came back it was a matter of sitting near the radio listening to the time filler that was going on until you started broadcasting again.

On the other hand the day you went OFF… I didn’t know it was going to happen, obviously news of things didn’t get around like they do now. I was working midnights, drove to work early ’85 with 97 Rock on (Seger?). Worked 11 to 7. Got out of work, started up car and on my radio was Barry Manilow. Waited to see if it was a joke. Nope it wasn’t.

Jeff Sick

I was 17 years old and now only can remember being glad you came back!!! I always thought it was crazy how the best station left. When the station returned I couldn’t wait to request Tom Sawyer again because that was my first song that I ever requested when it originally came out.   I don’t remember what year it was but I road the Giant Wheel at Darien Lake with Larry Norton as well.

Dave Lysiak

It’s funny as I always had 97 Rock on at work and one day after morning break the format just changed out of the blue to like a soft easy listening. Well the knob to change the station didn’t work so we left it on that horrible station until about 3 years later you all came back and saved us from Air Supply! We eventually bought a new stereo but we kept 97 Rock.

Jeff Rzepka

Yea I Kind of Remember

Actually, I remember when you guys went off the air more vividly because it coincided with my relocation to Indianapolis Indiana.

Background (you’ve got to read this):

I moved to Buffalo late in June 1977 to marry a local girl. I was born in September 1951 in a small town about 25 miles west of Philadelphia Pa. After leaving the USMC in Jan. 1975 after 4 years of service including a stint in Vietnam in 72-73 I moved to Elmira NY to live with a fellow Marine I served with overseas (I didn’t want to return to my old haunts for fear of going back to who I was before I went in the USMC.) until he got married. Which is when I meet the girl I married in July 1977. After my buddy got married I moved to Omaha Nebraska for about 4 months working for another Marine buddy painting apartments and other misc. work.  While in Omaha I kept in touch with my ex-wife (snail mail – no email then). Then in early August 1976 I left Omaha for Tampa Florida to go to college. I stopped off here for a week or so as it’s where my Elmira fried was living. I pawned a couple of my big speakers to take out my now ex-wife. Then it was on to Tampa where I attended Hillsborough Community College for a year. Then up to Buffalo to get married.

Well I worked in a Steel Foundry in Depew until it closed in late 1984 after which I got entry level position as computer programmer with EDS (Ross Perot’s old company) after GM bought them. Taking the job I had to go to Detroit for 1 (or 2?) weeks of orientation. On the last day you found out where you were going to work. I ended up getting assigned to Allison Gas Turbine in Indianapolis.  You have to realize that I was married with 2 young daughters the oldest in the first grade at the time! My wife had to take care of everything – selling the house

Well before I left for Detroit in April 1985 I remember 97 Rock going off the air. One morning I got in the car and when the radio came on it was tuned to a station playing some bullshit music. I found out later that the a-holes who owned the station decided to go to a different format. That really pissed me off. I don’t remember when I first started listening to 97 Rock but I know it wasn’t long after I arrived here in 77.

Just a note: I just returned to Buffalo in August 2016 after living in Thailand since Jan. 2008.

Al Spencer

Slick Tom comes to mind as we tuned in to the 97Rock Radio station once again. It was memorable for many reasons, however, this can explain it best.

We had a long, hot summer in 1988, I know because I was a new mom on leave from work. My second daughter was born in March of 1988, we had a heat wave that year and so it was a beautiful summer off for me. My husband worked afternoons at a local Riverside restaurant. September was a popular month as the restaurant sponsored Bills games including transportation, buffet lunch, and 50 yard line tickets!!!

So the evening was one of those special BlackRock/Riverside sunset nights. We lived a few blocks from the Niagara river. I would sit out on the little front porch after the girls went to bed. And that summer, we planted morning glories to use as a curtain for the front porch and for privacy. They grew that summer and we had lots of vines and flowers. No one could see me and so I opened an ice cold beer and poured it into two icy cold mugs we keep in the freezer for having beers!

My husband had walked up and sat down….had his chef’s hat on and I handed him an ice cold beer. He took a swig and swiped off the hat. We had a joke on how flat his hair became from that floppy hat.

I turned on the radio that we had used for camping. It was set to a station called WPIG from the country. So I turned the dial and it was on AM. Toggled to FM and 97Rock was on….the Slick Tom show….I’d know that voice anywhere….and heard that this was a moment in time….that Buffalo had missed it’s all time Rock station and they were back.

And soon to be a fantastic football season and how lucky for us on that September night my husband and I able to enjoy our little porch as our girls fell asleep. And we talked of how it felt good that Buffalo felt again like being at home!

We drank our beers and enjoyed getting the Led out……

Now the second beer we cheered for what we hoped would be the year finally….Super Bowl winners!! Most of all, that night, we enjoyed our favorite tunes and being outside sharing our hopes and dreams. It felt right, it felt like we came back home to 97Rock and the Buffalo Bills, but for one thing, we never left. Yet hearing our 97Rock DJs made our Buffalo world so much better. It felt like we could all get back together on the same page. And so my little story ends….that like old friends and book ends welcome back our 97Rock friends… don’t think of ever leaving again!!

Debra Popp

I remember 97 rock coming back on the air because my cousin won tickets to AC/DC show (Blow up your video tour) and couldn’t wait to tell me. 

Louie Falsone

I was dancing and squeezer Floyd’s when did this Jackie Larry came on said 97 Rock is on the air and rocking a gun the whole place was jumping up and down Bobby Byrne’s couldn’t settle everybody down but we all had a great time screaming disco’s dad Brock is back Carry on 97

Charles Sardo


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