People who know me are in general agreement that a Big Ego isn’t one of my worst problems.

Still, every so often I catch my overly-humble self missing a real treat because I think “Oh, I already know all about that.”  This turned out to be one of those treats. And if you think you already know all about “Old Radio”, or voice acting, or creating worlds with words and sounds and music, you need to re-think…and enjoy this book.

raisedonradio_bookcover2What I thought was just another book on Nostalgia turned out to have new insights and details on the era of network Radio which I had never encountered…and I’ve been collecting recordings and books on the subject for 40 years.  If you have any interest at all in knowing how people discovered and developed the art of entertaining (and selling) through sound alone…in effect, how the business you as a voice talent proport to be part of came about, “Raised on Radio” should be on your reading list.  This is the origin of your voiceover career, whether you acknowledge it or not!

Author Gerald Nachman goes far beyond the “gee whiz” nostalgic whitewash or dry academic catalogue of so many radio histories.  His is a “warts and all” description of this Theatre of the Mind which still lets all the “beauty marks” show.

Newscasts, Sponsorships, Production and Sound Effects, Soaps, Dramas, Kiddie Shows, Quiz Programs, the relation to Vaudeville and later to TV, tie-ins to movies, music, and the history of the moment, even the development of what’s now known as the situation comedy – it’s all laid out here, in a personal, conversational tone still laced with authority.  And while not a textbook on performance, I noted several sections that would serve as guidance on things like mic technique and character development.  You may even take a fiendish glee in the section about the big movie stars who were absolutely no good in front of a microphone!

It’s a big story, in a big book.  But if you enjoy it as much as I did, you’ll wonder at how fast it goes by.

I think I’ll have to keep it around for a re-run…just to remind myself every once in awhile how much fun it is not to “know it all”.

— over and out —

“It’s A Gift…”

I don’t think I’ve ever done a “re-run” on the Clogged Blog.  But this one came to mind during a serious moment in Jesse Gephart’s otherwise hilarious stage production of David Sedaris’ “Santaland Diaries”.  This talented performer, in a one-man show, seamlessly shifted from satirical monologue to genuine concern when he noticed an audience member having some very real health issues.  Shifting his focus to solving an unforseen problem, he turned a show-stopping incident into something that seemed completely natural and in character.   That, plus the part of the script detailing all the awkward things Santa gets asked for…brought back an experience I may not have told you about, if you’ve just recently “tuned in”.  This is from 2008.

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I can’t reveal names, lest I jeopardize any cherished Christmas traditions, but this really happened. I know because I was there in the studio.

A local radio station decided to whisk Santa Claus into town to take phone calls from area kids. It’s a situation just waiting for a misstep.  And sure enough, just fifteen minutes into the hour, it happened.

Santa was cheerily chatting up a sister and little brother, with plans of innocent avarice dancing in their heads. At one point, Santa asked the boy if there was anything else he’d like. There was the briefest hesitation, and then the little guy continued…words carefully chosen, and voice starting to quaver a little.

“What I’d really like…would be…to be able to…talk to my Papa again.”

It was more a simple statement than a request. But I couldn’t imagine how the old guy was going to get through this one. Before I’d even finished the thought I heard Santa, in a very soft and sympathetic voice: “Ohhhh, I know what it’s like to miss a papa, especially around the holidays. It’s extra difficult, isn’t it.”

“Yeah,” the little voice replied.

“Well,” continued the old gent at the microphone, “I’m not sure exactly how much I can fix, but…I’ve got an idea. You put your mom back on the phone, and meanwhile we’ll work on getting that game system you and I talked about to maybe lift your spirits a little, okay?”

“Okay.”

And darned if it didn’t sound like that was just enough for the young fellow. He handed the phone back to his mother and I heard Santa, in that same caring voice, ask if she had any old recordings of the dad she could lift a little something from, and wrap up a small tape or disc for the boy…with a note that it was the best Santa could do. Those of us in the studio half expected the lady to brush it off, but she immediately brightened to the idea, saying she’d never thought of that, and knew of something that might just fit the bill.

Sincere wishes for a season of comfort were exchanged and the call was ended. The editor went to work and condensed what actually went on the air, though I was surprised he left in the conversation about “papa”.  A brief adlib was attached alluding to the “talk to mom/got an idea/lift the spirits” ending and the call went out over the air.

I don’t remember much about the rest of that hour. But later I had to wonder how differently it could have gone, if the station had just yanked in some guy with a funny voice who could go “Ho Ho Ho!” on cue and talk about toys.

I post this “long winter’s tale” not so much as a credit to quick thinking, but as an encouragement for all of us who are tasked with using our talents to really connect with the person(s) we’re being paid to talk to.

Yeah, it helps if you can nail the sound and read the words without stumbling. But when the person at the microphone can let some part of what’s truly inside come out in what’s being voiced, whatever’s on the page…there’s potential to transform the everday into something a little more.

But who am I to say: maybe he WAS the genuine article!

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays and a Season of Comfort to us all.

— over and out —

     I consider myself pretty knowledgable in things involving voice recording over the years…especially in Radio, film and animation. 

     But voice talent Scott Reynes just boosted my knowledge by leaps and bounds with a chart he created, which chronicles the history of the voiceover. 

                                                   

You’ll find it at http://scottreyns.com/history-of-voice-over.php   Once you get there, click on the thumbnail that looks like the picture here, and you’ll get the full-size graphic.

    Thanks, too, to the BillyBlog over at http://www.billyvoice.com/blog/.  If I hadn’t seen it mentioned there, I might have missed it.

— over and out —