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Tommy Shannon at KB's 1430 Studios in the late 50s
Tom Shannon was watching "The Simpsons" the other night when he suddenly heard his old radio theme song, "Wild Weekend," being played on the program. "It flipped me out; that damn song just keeps playing," said Shannon, 66, who today caps a 50-year broadcasting career when he retires from WHTT-FM 104.1. He will host his regular afternoon drive shift, from 3 p.m. until 7.
Shannon started at the old WXRA in 1955 while still a student at Bishop Ryan High School. A few years later, he became one of the hottest disc jockeys in the country working at WKBW-AM. While at KB, Shannon teamed with Phil Todaro to write "Wild Weekend." A local group called the Rebels recorded the instrumental version, and it became a Top 10 hit.
"People still identify me with that song," Shannon said, noting he still gets royalties from it. Shannon was asked if he will play "Wild Weekend" in today's final show. It would be a perfect final record from a guy who not only pioneered but grew up with rock radio.
"I'm thinking about playing it," is all Shannon would say. Shannon is a member of the Buffalo Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame, the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame and the Buffalo State College Communications Department Hall of Fame. He has worked in radio and television in Detroit, Toledo, Denver, Canada and Buffalo.
Shannon came to WHTT about eight years ago and is thinking about retirement. "All this hasn't hit me yet. I never expected people to make this much of a fuss," Shannon said. Today has been proclaimed "Tom Shannon Day" in Buffalo, and he was presented a key to the city.
"I've got a lot of mixed emotions but I'm happy," Shannon said. "I'm just glad I was able to come back to Buffalo for this part of my career." Shannon was different than most radio personalities.
"He wasn't the wise guy or the funny guy," said Marty Biniasz, a radio historian. "Tommy was the epitome of cool. I think he made his listeners feel cool. The people who listened to him as teenagers felt that way; and when they listen to him now he still has that persona and brings back that same feeling."
Radio is a ruthless business. It's unusual for someone of Shannon's age and stature to have such a happy ending. "I thank God, I must be doing something right," he said. "You think by now I would have gotten bounced, but here I am. I wasn't the greatest DJ in the world, but I was a guy who loved what I'm doing."
Shannon will still do short music specials for WHTT and commercial endorsements. "I just want to thank all the people who have listened to me all these years," Shannon said. The feeling is mutual.
Shannon on Ch. 7's Buffalo Bandstand in the Early 60s
Tommy began his career in radio at WXRA (now WUFO) in 1955. Then a few years later he joined the staff of WKBW in the days of the Hound Dog, KB Cook, The Clock Watcher, Spotlight Serenade etc. When the station went rock and roll in 1958, Tommy would dominate not only Western New York but also about 17 states and a couple of Nations. He was a member of the staff that included Perry Allen, Russ "the Moose" Syracuse, Art Roberts and Dick Biondi along with Jack Kelly (all Night). In later years Tommy would also work with the like of Gene Nelson, Danny Neaverth, Sandy Beach, Jim Pastrick, Tom Donahue, John Summers, Hank Nevins, Bob Christian, Jim Flynn, Jack Armstrong, Irv Weinstein, Bob Diamond etc.
After a short stint at WGR-AM, Tommy moved to the Motor City in 1964 and took a job with another 50,000 watt AM radio station, CKLW. The physical station was in Windsor, Ontario, Canada (just a mile across the river from Detroit) and it was #1 in Detroit, Toledo, Ohio huge in Cleveland, Ohio and another long list of states at night. While on radio Tommy did a lot of Television, including a 90-minute Morning show, called "The Morning Show" for the ABC network owned station WXYZ-TV. Shannon would spent 5 years in Denver for TV work at KWGN-TV, doing an afternoon movie and interviewing guests. Also did radio work for KHOW and KLZ (afternoon drive).
He returned to Buffalo in the 80s to work for Capitol Cities KB, and did one year at WGR before heading to Detroit to spend some more years on the radio there. WMJC-FM. CKMR-FM -CKLW-FM etc. Finally in 1997, Shannon was lured back to where it all began (Buffalo) and to spend time in the community he loved. He will retire on March 13, 2005