My Favorite Don Pardo Video

I think this Live at Five intro best exemplifies who Don Pardo was and why he was so damned cool.

pardoWord has just come down, Don Pardo has passed away. He was the announcer on Saturday Night Live since day one.

I’ve known his voice and face since I was a little kid. He worked on the NBC network and also Channel 4. In the fifties and sixties he was on my TV all the time.

I think this Live at Five intro best exemplifies who Don Pardo was and why he was so damned cool.

End of an era. Last of the staff announcers. Gone.

Darlene Love Means It’s Christmas

I realized I was acting like those people who’ve seen Rocky Horror Picture Show a few dozens times and now talk back to the on-screen dialog.

darlene-love-christmas.jpgIt is said Jews have written the best Christmas songs. This is what we talk about while going to the movies and having Chinese food on Christmas Day. There’s White Christmas and The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) and Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). The latter has the distinction of also being the finest Christmas song from a convicted murderer–Phil Spector.

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) was performed tonight on the Letterman show by Darlene Love. She’s been doing it on his last show before Christmas as long as I remember and I look forward to it every year. I’m not alone.

For late night TV this is a big budget production. Along with Paul Shaffer and the band there was a nine voice chorus, six string players plus a few brass pieces and other instruments I surely missed.

Darlene’s still got it. She belts the song. She hits the notes while staying mainly on key. She wears a skirt short enough to shame women a third her age and gets away with it.

Darlene is always on last. That makes her appearance late enough that I’d never watched it with company until tonight. I had to drop off something at my friend Rick’s house and we watched from his basement.

What a scam! The man works from a studio in his basement. Sorry–jealousy getting the best of me.

Rick is an announcer. You have heard him a million times. He sounds like God.

I always wanted to be an announcer, but wasn’t born with the equipment. I told him tonight he is my Mickey Mantle.

Darlene finally came. I waited a year for this. I was excited. Rick, not so much.

As the song began I told him what was coming next. I realized I was acting like those people who’ve seen Rocky Horror Picture Show a few dozens times and now talk back to the on-screen dialog.

It made no difference. Darlene was magical. The song is hers alone.

I left Rick’s a few minutes after Darlene’s exit. I watched her again a few times on the DVR at home.

This is obsessive behavior right? It’s the way I know it’s really Christmas.

Ed McMahon

I have one Ed McMahon story and it involves my very secretive friend from the San Fernando Valley and his spectacularly beautiful wife. I asked if he could get me tickets to see The Tonight Show and he asked her.

ed-and-johnny.jpgFor the past few days I’ve been torn as to whether there should be an Ed McMahon entry in the blog. Though a huge presence on television he struck me as a man with little personal integrity. He sold what can politely be called “crap” on the Atlantic City Boardwalk and never really changed. Seemingly he’d shill any product.

His moral code aside, where he was really excellent was as Johnny Carson’s announcer/sidekick. Howard Lapides coined the term we liberally sprinkled Ed’s way. It was “FL” for fake laugh. If Carson intended something to be funny then it was funny to Ed! His laugh was loud and recognizable.

Don’t underestimate this power. The Tonight Show was ‘sweetened’ in real time by Ed. No post-production house could add a laugh track that would help as much.

I have one Ed McMahon story and it involves my very secretive friend from the San Fernando Valley and his spectacularly beautiful wife. I asked if he could get me tickets to see The Tonight Show and he asked her. She had been a page at NBC. She’d even appeared on The Tonight Show giving Johnny the prize envelopes on Stump The Band!

Her specialty was making sure you’d be seated “DIF” or “down-in-front.” That’s where I sat. Thank you Sue.

There are few places I’ve been that immediately seemed so eerily familiar–Mission Control in Houston and the big digital clock at the shuttle launch facility in Florida, CNN’s newsroom, the floor of the NYSE and Carson’s studio on West Alameda in Burbank. I’d seen it a thousand times before I ever set a foot inside.

The crowd entered and politely sat. We were excited. As taping time approached the band played a number and Ed came out to warm everyone up.

“There seems to have been a mistake–a clerical error,” he said.

The audience sighed worrying what was wrong and how it would affect our best laid plans.

“I don’t know how,” he continued, “but Johnny, Doc and I have been scheduled to work on the same night!”

The audience went nuts!

I remember that moment as if it was yesterday–in fact it is the only part of my Tonight Show experience I remember.

Local Radio Is Dead And I Am Sad

Radio isn’t fun any more. Radio doesn’t have larger than life personalities any more. And, rapidly, radio isn’t local any more.

When I was a kid I loved radio–listened to it intently. I wanted to be on radio and once college told me I was through being educated radio is just what I did.

Radio was everything I expected it to be and I loved it. Sure I fought with my bosses (Peter–I’m talking about you among others) and even got myself fired a few times, but radio was satisfying.

Doing mornings at WPEN is probably my all-time favorite job. I was given reasonably free rein and had a great time. I’d do it a little differently today, but I have no regrets.

I fell in love with radio because of the people I listened to on radio. They were smart, often witty and funny. I listened to Brucie and Dan Ingram on WABC and Gary Stevens on WMCA. Jean Shepard talked to himself for 45 minutes a night on WOR and I never missed him.

My favorite station was WKBW in Buffalo. I couldn’t hear it until the Sun set. I was a member of Joey Reynold’s “Royal Order of the Night People” and listened to Danny Nevereth, Bud Ballou and Sandy Beach. Rod Roddy, who later became the announcer on “The Price is Right” did overnights on KB–and I listened.

Radio was full service back then. Even stations ‘for kids’ had hourly newscasts. It was tough to be an uninformed teen. That’s much easier today.

Radio isn’t fun to listen to any more. Radio doesn’t have larger than life personalities any more. Radio isn’t local any more. What was local is evaporating rapidly.

The radio stations I listened to created a community. There is no more community. I can’t see anyone loving radio the way I loved radio… the way some of my friends loved radio. There is little to love.

Today Clear Channel Communications announced they were cutting another 600 jobs. They cut nearly 2,000 back in January. Local people are being hatcheted and replaced with nationally syndicated shows. Local people used to talk about local things in the time slots now devoted to Ryan Seacrest, Billy Bush, John Tesh and Rush Limbaugh.

R&R has a list of some of those let go. It’s sad to see. Lots of 10 and 20 years veterans. Lots of people whose shows were getting good numbers.

Helaine often says when TV is through with me maybe I should go back into radio. I don’t think there will be any radio left.

I am saddened.

Don LaFontaine–The Deepest Throated Guy Is Dead

Aside from being the preeminent voice in the movie trailer industry…Don has also been the voice of Entertainment Tonight and The Insider, CBS, NBC ABC, Fox and UPN, in addition to TNT, TBS and the Cartoon Network.

Just got this from my friend Rick:

Voiceover Master Don LaFontaine died Monday afternoon 9/1/08 at 2:10 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at the age of 68. Don’s agent, Vanessa Gilbert, tells Entertainment Tonight that he passed away following complications from Pneumothorax, the presence of air or gas in the pleural cavity, the result of a collapsed lung. The official cause of death has not yet been released.

Over the past 25 years, LaFontaine cemented his position as the “King of Voice-overs.” Aside from being the preeminent voice in the movie trailer industry…Don has also been the voice of Entertainment Tonight and The Insider, CBS, NBC ABC, Fox and UPN, in addition to TNT, TBS and the Cartoon Network. By conservative estimates, he has voiced hundreds of thousands of television and radio spots, including commercials for Chevrolet, Pontiac, Ford, Budweiser, McDonalds, Coke, and many other corporate sponsors. He recently parodied himself on a series of national television commercials for Geico. At last count, he has worked on nearly 5000 films, including appearances as the in-show announcer for the Screen Actors Guild and Academy Awards. Based on contracts signed, he has the distinction of being perhaps the single busiest actor in the history of SAG.

Don was an active supporter of AFTRA & SAG, giving of his time, opening his home, lending his experience & stature to the AFTRA Promo Announcers Caucus, as well as generously giving his advice & help to his fellow voice-over artists, in addition to the many causes & friends he helped over the years.

Don is survived by his wife Singer/Actress Nita Whitaker, and three children, Christine, Skye and Elyse.

Don was the deep throated guy on the GEICO commercials and the voice of nearly everything.

An earlier email from Don himself was ominous, because the condition that killed him was probably brought on by a medical error.

This required an exploratory surgery called a Media Stenoscopy, which was performed At Cedars Sinai Hospital in late November of ’07. The biopsy ultimately proved negative for any tumor, but there was a spot on the lung that still needed to be checked. Unfortunately, sometime during the operation, one of my lungs was nicked, and I developed Pneumothorax, which basically means that the lung collapsed, releasing all the air into my upper body, causing a condition called Subcutaneous Emphysema –

Which blew me up like a balloon from the ribs up to my eyebrows

Oh Hugh

This is not about journalistic integrity. Hell, though they won’t let me, I’m not above doing commercials.


I use Gmail, which means I get to stare at ads (if I wish) while I check my messages. I can’t tell you why this particular ad arrived, but it did and it distressed me.

I have watched Hugh Downs most of my life. Though he was a ‘newsman’ on 20/20, he was first Jack Paar’s announcer and a game show host–I used to watch him on Concentration every day. He did TV commercials for Mobil Oil (I believe). He even appeared in an episode of “Car 54 Where Are You,” where he was stopped for speeding on the Hutchinson River Parkway!

This is not about journalistic integrity. Hell, though they won’t let me, I’m not above doing commercials.

I just would have thought at this point in his life, Hugh could sit back and relax and not sell his name to bring credibility to a product.

Maybe I’m just being too judgmental?

My Stevie Wonder Story

As Stevie begins moving into the second song, a voice is heard calling, “What key? What key?” Who was that… and why? That’s what I wanted to know.

little-stevie-wonder.jpgI went to dinner with Noah Finz, our sports anchor, tonight. Somehow the conversation turned to Stevie Wonder and I got to tell a story that flashed back to me. It was about the day I interviewed Stevie.

I was working in Cleveland at WGAR radio. I was a disk jockey, working nights. Stevie Wonder was appearing, probably at the Blossom Music Center.

I watched the show, then headed backstage with my little tape recorder. It seemed to take forever for Stevie to appear and when he did he was escorted by two men with their hands under his arms. I assumed he was pretty stoned by the time we spoke. I’m not really sure why I thought that, except the long period of time between his performance and my interview.

There’s not much of the interview I remember today, except the one question I really wanted him to answer. It had to do with his first hit as Little Stevie Wonder, “Fingertips Part 2.”

Fingertips was recorded at a live show. Stevie finished singing and as the applause rose and an announcer gave his name, the band began to play him off. But Stevie didn’t leave the stage. Instead, he started playing the harmonica, breaking into another song. It is one of the most exciting live performances ever on record.

As Stevie begins moving into the second song, a voice is heard calling, “What key? What key?” Who was that… and why? That’s what I wanted to know.

As I remember him tell it, back then all the artists would play with a single large ‘house band.’ Because the show was long, players would take breaks from time-to-time, moving offstage to go to the men’s room or smoke a cigarette.

In this case, a horn player was returning to the stage. He was caught unaware Little Stevie was about to continue. He was ready to vamp and fake it with the rest of the group, but he didn’t know what key they were playing in!

I always wanted to know and I found out from Stevie Wonder himself about 35 years ago.

Baseball That Doesn’t Sound Right

I’m not sure what it is the Atlanta broadcasters have done, but every time the ball hits the bat, it sounds like a home run.

Helaine and I are watching the Phillies-Braves game on the computer. If we had our druthers, we’d be watching the Phillies play-by-play team. Major League Baseball doesn’t give you that option. We’ve got the “Peachtree TV” Atlanta oriented broadcast instead, as we had last night.

Baseball isn’t always action packed, so I’m doing other things on the computer, and bringing up the baseball window when warranted. The sound stays on 100%.

I’m not sure what it is the Atlanta broadcasters have done, but every time the ball hits the bat, it sounds like a home run. Crack!. Pop fly, grounder to second, line drive… It makes no difference. Crack!.

It is disconcerting, to say the least. Does the baseball experience really need to be hyped this way?

Speaking of sound. For the first time, play-by-play announcer Skip Caray sounds really old. There’s a weakness and quiver in his voice. I wonder if he’s not well?

The Announcer Who Wasn’t There

The scores and stats were real, but the flavor of the game was totally the product of Keiter’s imagination.

I was talking with Chris Velardi (anchor/reporter) at the station tonight.

He’s a big Mets fan, so I found it necessary to remind him of their current plight. I’m like a sixteen year old in this regard.

I talked about our MLB video purchase and then he trumped me – he actually bought a minor league video package. Chris Velardi – you are hardcore!

Pretty soon the conversation moved to an announcer I remembered from when I was a kid. Hopefully my dad will leave a comment, because he’s the reason I know this guy.

Back in 1958 (when I was 8), the Giants moved from New York to San Francisco. What had been a three team town, was left with the Yankees alone.

You’ve got to remember – neither team (NY Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers) left because of lack of support. They just got much better deals out-of-town. There was plenty of pent up National League interest and support in New York.

One radio station, WINS, decided it would make the best of the situation and continue to broadcast the Giants’ games. Instead of sending announcers out with the team, then paying for a remote line, they put Les Keiter in the studio.

I remember hot summer nights, driving in the car with my dad. The windows were rolled down. The radio was on. It was a summer of Mays, McCovey and more than one Alou. Juan Marichal was becoming a genuine ‘phenom’.

Keiter worked with a background loop of crowd noise&#185, the sound of a bat, and a reasonably steady stream of wire service reports. He recreated the games.

The scores and stats were real, but the flavor of the game was totally the product of Keiter’s imagination.

Alas, the experiment didn’t last. That Marichal was covered meant it went at least to 1960.

Maybe Les Keiter’s call wasn’t as exciting as the real thing, or maybe New Yorker’s got the message the Giants weren’t coming back and lost interest. The broadcasts ended. Keiter moved on. The Yankees went back to being the only game in town.

Les Keiter is in his 80s now, retired in Hawaii. He spent a few seasons recreating the games of the Hawaiian minor league team.

He’s why I still remember most of the names from the ’58 San Francisco Giants and why I missed a departed team I was really too young to remember.

&#185 – The crowd noise loop was much too short to be used every day, especially with an irritating and predicably timed, “woo hoo” every few minutes.

A Night From The Sixties

Eric Burdon was next… Hold on… That can’t be Eric Burdon. It looks like someone from my folks condo… and not one of the younger residents.

It’s nearly 1:00 AM. While gorging myself on fruit, I sat down to watch a little TV.

Click. Click. Click. What’s the average length of time a man spends on any – click – channel?

CPTV, Connecticut’s public television network is running a special with music of the sixties. Hey, that’s my era. I put down the remote.

I’d like to tell you what it is I’m watching, but CPTV is officially listed as “Off the air.” Go figure?

As a vintage clip of the Loving Spoonful ended, the very laid back female announcer read some over-written overly dramatic copy. I think it’s Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and Papas,

The Zombies came on, performing “Tell Her No.” Nice job. One of the guys looks a little old, but they sound good.

Eric Burdon was next… Hold on… That can’t be Eric Burdon. It looks like someone from my folks’ condo… and not one of the younger residents.

He doesn’t look burned out (and you could almost understand that). He just looks old!

Quick, to Wikipedia. You’re kidding? That’s what I’ll look like in nine years? Shoot me now!

The next act, The We Five (interestingly enough, with at least seven on stage), old too! Is there an epidemic?

The lead singer, a very middle aged woman whose name I never knew, had a hair color never seen in nature and certainly not available north of Orlando.

A vintage clip of Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction was next, and then Jackie DeShannon.

Hallelujah. She looks great! She’s not a twenty year old, but she’s trim and pretty with great legs and that amazing voice.

Jackie – you’re still a babe.

As it turns out, this is a pledge break special, used by local PBS stations to raise money. Regular PBS programming… Nova, Frontline, Bill Moyers, The News Hour and Nightly Business Report, no longer pay the freight. That’s a shame.

When the commercial networks do this, run unusual programming just for ratings purposes, it’s called stunting. The sad truth is, there’s little difference between this and a late night infomercial, except the CDs being shilled here are priced much higher.

I don’t know where PBS’ place is in today’s channel lineup. I don’t think they know either.

Begging for cash is demeaning.

Come On Down

Let me tell you something about Matt Scott, fellow meteorologist at the TV station. He LOVES game shows. Matt is obsessed. That’s why it was no surprise when he asked me, last week, if I’d like to go to Foxwoods to see The Price Is Right Live tonight.

TPIR Live is an offshoot of the TV show. There’s a version playing semi-permanently in Las Vegas and another show which travels. That’s the one that was here tonight.

If he had his druthers, Matt would be hosting a game show right now. Seriously, now, as you’re reading this. Of course he’d have to fight me for it. Hell, I even offered to host a game show in Singapore (an offer that was not accepted, much to my dismay).

Frustration aside, we both thought this might be fun and it was.

The live version was hosted at the Fox Theater at Foxwoods, which seats around 1,400. We got our tickets and signed in around 5:00 PM.

Yes, you sign in. Someone really does take a Sharpie and put your name on a sticky price tag. Yes, I wore mine. Matt wore his too.

We had split for dinner (Steakhouse – excellent) and returned to the theater a little before the 7:00 PM show time. The place was packed. Up front, ushers were leading the crowd in a cross between calisthenics and cheerleading.

The Price Is Right is a show dependent on the collective power of its studio audience. This group would be primed.

At 7:00 PM the announcer came out, continuing the warm-up and keeping the audience up. Clips of Bob Barker and the long running&#176 Price Is Right showed on large screens.

A few minutes later came ‘the’ music. You know it. You can hum it. Edd Kalehoff’s timeless theme music was blasting through the theater.

And then, they came on down!

Finally, an introduction for the host, and Roger Lodge appeared. Thin and of medium height, he was wearing a dark suit and carrying a stick microphone.

It wasn’t Bob Barker, but no one minded. Lodge hosted Blind Date in syndication, so he was a reasonably known commodity. He was their celebrity host and they embraced him.

The actual show lasted over an hour and a half. Each pricing game had a new set of four contestants. Lots of people won $25 in free slot play, which was doled out like sand at the beach.

As for the larger prizes, I’m really not sure how much was given away. An excited woman won $525 on PLINKO. I wanted to yell at her when she dropped one puck from the far edge of the game.

Oh yeah, PLINKO was there as was the big wheel and that Astroturf putting green. The set, somewhat worn from travel, was a dead ringer for the on-air set (which also looks a little tired when seen live).

The show ended with the Showcase Showdown in which both contestants overbid (one by over $25,000)! Neither won the 4-day Carnival Cruise nor the Honda FIT (a car I’d never heard of before tonight). Still, the audience left happy.

It’s probably time to say nice things about Roger Lodge, and I will. He did an excellent job as the host. It’s a job that’s significantly more difficult than it looks.

You’re not only hosting, you’re the guest wrangler – trying to make sure the contestants are entertaining.

Matt had arranged for us to see the backstage area. The producer, Chris, was ready to take us when Roger appeared to join us. He could not have been nicer.

I wouldn’t have been surprised to run into jerk! This is a position that could easily attract an ass, especially after a long run on-the-road.

He was friendly and talkative and obviously proud of his body of work. I always thought he was very funny on Blind Date. He was very good at this too.

We said our goodbyes and Matt and I headed to the car.

As some sort of wannabe intellectual, I should look down my nose at tonight’s adventure. I can’t. I had a genuinely fun time. And, I spent the evening in a room with well over a thousand other people who can say the same thing.

&#176 – Long running, yes. Original, no! Price was on NBC when I was a kid, hosted by Bill Cullen.

Back On The Radio

Yesterday, I wrote about my bad decision… sleeping late on Sunday. That came back to bite me on the ass today!

My alarm was set for 4:00 AM. I went upstairs around 8:30, fell asleep by 9:00 and was awake again before midnight.

I assumed that position you assume when you’re awake, but don’t want to give in and get up. I wanted… no, I needed more sleep. Not to be.

I went downstairs and watched the clock.

I was in the car by 5:00 AM, heading to Hartford for my radio appearance on WCCC. My only detour was for coffee at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Cromwell.

WCCC is old school. It’s not owned by a conglomerate. Its promos have the old, fun feel of a station close to its listeners. It’s live 24-7 with no voice tracking.

Even cooler, WCCC is in an old house, near St. Francis Hospital, in Hartford. This is not some chi-chi refurb. If you moved out the radio gear, you could move a family right in!

WCCC’s air product is a little hard edged for me. After all, 20hours a day, this station is really rocking. I’m not sure I am equal to that task.

I made myself comfy in the studio while the show’s producer, Jen, handed me a packet of ‘nearly’ news to read. I could sense things were going to be really casual… and they were.

Sebastian runs the show. He is the ‘name’ talent around which the show revolves. He’s been in the market forever, in good times and bad.

It’s a very good time right now.

In the studio with Sebastian are Pete Lamoureux, who does sports, and Don Steele, the all around announcer guy and the person who runs the ‘board’, the audio console which controls everything you hear. As was the case with Sebastian, they could not have been nicer.

Sebastian walked in the studio at 6:00 AM and we were off and running. Over the years morning shows have started moving to earlier start times. Lots of shows begin at 5:00 or 5:30. Like I said, this is old school.

I wonder if they know how good they have it? They got reasonably good hours and carte blanche to say nearly anything&#185

My job was to be second (or possibly third or fourth) banana. There was a time I would have objected. Not now. I embraced this opportunity for what it was – a chance to have a good time in a medium I’m still madly in love with.

When Sebastian said anything funny (or was intended to be funny), I laughed. That’s part of the job. Ask Ed McMahon.

I was fresh meat so there was lots of conversation that centered around me. How Helaine and I met. What it was like after 23 years at the TV station. Who was fun and not fun to work with. Stuff like that.

There are some stories I’ve told a million times. I had no trouble telling them again.

Sebastian can be tough, but he was easy on me. I was glad for that. OK – he did ask if I color my hair (NO!). The four hours went quickly.

I spent some time with Michael Picozzi, the program director, before heading south down I-91 toward home.

I was back to the bed around 11:30. There was no trouble falling asleep this time. I was ready.

&#185 – I shied away from a funny use of the acronym MILF. Later, when I told Sebastian I’d censored myself, he laughed and asked why?

It Only Hurts When They Speak

From my Cousin Michael in sunny, crispy, Southern California:

According to Melissa, on KTLA radio this morning the announcer said that the switch to daylight savings time was good news regarding the Anaheim Hill fire, since there was now an extra hour of darkness when the fire was less likely to spead. Then the other announcers agreed. We live in a land of morons.

KTLA is a TV station. There’s no KTLA radio, so they’re off the hook.

That leaves us with three points here.

  1. The days of Edward R. Murrow are over
  2. Some listeners perceive news anchors as announcers – people who read and add no expertise to the situation.
  3. Some radio station needs a better name recognition campaign

As with Major League Baseball, is it possible we’ve expanded media to the point we’re thinned the herd a little too much?

Audio Tape – How Quaint

When we cleaned out the house last month, a lot had to be thrown away. There were certain items, however, where I drew the line. Specifically, I kept audio tapes. These little five and seven inch reels chronicle my time in radio.

I know I work in television, but in many ways I still maintain my undying love for radio. It’s where my broadcasting career started. In high school, it was the career I lusted after.

Radio has changed. What I found romantic has been beaten out of the medium by national chains and their bean counters. I still love radio.

Unfortunately, my audio tapes represent a dead storage format. I’m not sure audio tape recorders are made anymore. I don’t have one.

We used to have a very nice audio deck at the TV station. Where it is now is a mystery to me. Audio, like everything else, is recorded digitally, not on tape.

Luckily, my friend Rick still has two audio decks in his basement. One is in the studio, the other sadly sits in storage. Even the deck in the studio needed to be re-cabled before we could roll on the tapes.

They’re too nice to chuck, too dated to use.

First, we listened to an aircheck from the early 1970s. I was working at WBT in Charlotte, NC. 1110-WBT was a blowtorch – a 50,000 watt AM station that could be heard from Canada to Florida (and we had a jingle which claimed just that).

I thought I was a pretty good disk jockey then. Wrong. This aircheck will never see the light of day again.

There were a few things of note on the tape. Our hourly IDs were voiced by Johnny Olsen, who was the announcer on virtually every Goodson-Toddman game show of the era. Rick, who can recognize most contemporary VO guys, drew a blank.

Trust me, back then he was immediately recognizable.

This tape was meant to get me a job. In order to attract some attention, I opened with a medley of jingle singers trying to sing my name – and failing. That was actually pretty cool.

The other tapes included more recent airchecks, a few custom jingles and the “TM Song.” TM, a jingle company in Dallas, produced a sales presentation jingle, singing all their clients call letters.

There’s just no way I could have let these tapes become unplayable. And now, they’re stored digitally and protected from another era of electronic obsolescence.

Blogger’s note: I have worked on this audio for over an hour. How frustrating!

For some reason you sometimes have to click on the play button twice. I wish I knew why. Adding this reminder is much simpler than fixing it.

Why I’m Envious of Rick Allison

When I was a kid, growing up in the heart of the 50s, I knew the name and voice of every booth announcer on TV. There were men like Wayne Howell, Gene Hamilton, Don Pardo, Bill Wendel, Ed Herlihy, Fred Foy, Don Robertson, Bill Baldwin, Carl Caruso – you get the idea.

Back then, even when the show wasn’t live, the announcer was. There was someone sitting in a darkened announce booth at each station every hour of the broadcast day. It was all part of the agreement the New York stations, and networks, had with AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists – I’m a member).

So, when you heard someone say, “This is NBC,” or “That’s tomorrow at 8, 7 Central time,” it was one of these guys, live. I knew them all. Secretly, I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to say, as Mel Brandt did, “The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC.”

It was not to be. In order to be a booth announcer you needed something I never had, and even at age 54 still don’t have – pipes.

When I was a disk jockey, doing mornings in Philadelphia, Julian Breen (who was in charge of programming at the station I worked for, WPEN) thought it might be a good idea to use a “Harmonizer” on my voice. That’s a device which would allow them to change my pitch – make me sound more grown-up.

When I worked at WIP in Philadelphia, at that time the premiere adult station in town, they gave me a pass on doing voice over production. With Tom Moran, Dick Clayton and Bill St. James on staff, there was no reason to use me.

It’s been a disappointment, but I understand. I just don’t have the most important natural tool for the job. My voice is unique, just not in the right way.

Today, I got an email from Rick Allison. He’s a friend who lives here in Connecticut. He is an announcer.

I’m not sure if that’s the job description he would use, but that’s what he does. From a studio in his basement, as well maintained and acoustically perfect as any, Rick reads other people’s words into a microphone and cashes checks. With high speed data lines carrying his voice, it’s usually not necessary to leave the house.

He is the voice of MSNBC and Bob’s Stores. He’s on ESPN, HBO and USA and a load of radio stations. You have heard him on a thousand commercials, a deep voice with a touch of gravel. It is friendly and assuring.

In person, he resembles everyone I knew in the 60s and 70s. That is one of his most charming features. He is at once commanding and disarming with long hair on his head and more on his face.

Rick does a show on Sirius satellite radio. My guess is, he does the show for the same reason other men raise tomatoes. It takes time and money to raise tomatoes. It’s not like you can’t buy them at the store – maybe for less than you can grow them. Still there’s an immense satisfaction in creating something of value.

Rick’s in radio for the satisfaction of growing something. I can’t believe he’s in it for the money.

Anyway, hearing from Rick today just reminded me of this childhood fantasy that would never be. It’s what got me into radio – and probably what finally got me out and into television.

I am envious of Rick, not because of the work he does, but because of the talent he has. It’s a talent I always wanted – a gift I never received.