Last month, I reminisced about some of my favorite voices from a lifetime of TV, radio, movies and music. I asked you to share your most unforgettable voices from past and present, and I received enough to fill several columns. Here’s the beauty of it. Even though you’re reading the printed word, the mere mention of their names will trigger the sound of their voices.
We don’t have many distinctive voices among our leaders in 2022, but we sure had them a few decades ago. Many of you recalled the Massachusetts accent of President John F. Kennedy, the evangelical fervor of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and the rich baritone of Sen. Everett Dirksen. They truly don’t make them like that any more.
I mentioned a few newscasters, but you contributed some additional voices to the list. The authoritative style of Walter Cronkite, the folksy delivery of Charles Kuralt, and the other “Charles” at CBS: Mr. Osgood, who sounded like he was having a conversation with us. CBS had some other memorable voices at the desk. Remember Hughes Rudd? He sounded like he had just smoked a few packs of Camels, and needed more coffee. My personal favorite was Douglas Edwards, who grew up in Troy, Alabama, and shed his southern accent so that every word was pronounced perfectly.
A reader pointed out that ABC’s Sam Donaldson had a “loud” way of speaking that could not be ignored. To be fair, he was often shouting at President Reagan, who was hard of hearing. Sam succeeded in getting his attention.
Those of you who are sports fans added some great voices to my list. Alabama’s amazing Eli Gold, Tennessee’s iconic John Ward, and Georgia’s legendary Larry Munson are atop the regional list. On the national level, many of you miss “Uncle Verne” Lundquist and his jolly laugh that accompanied many an SEC football game.
Unlike many of today’s interchangeable sportscasters, the guys we grew up with had unique styles. Dizzy Dean mangled the English language, but he sure knew baseball. Ernie Johnson Sr. was born in Vermont to Swedish immigrants, and his heritage was reflected in his kind, gentle delivery. Dodgers icon Vin Scully could tell a story like no other broadcaster. Dick Vitale and Al McGuire taught basketball to millions of fans.
For a few decades, we couldn’t have an Olympics broadcast without the “thrill of victory” voiced by Jim McKay. If there was a big football game, chances are Curt Gowdy, Ray Scott, Dick Enberg, or Don Criqui was at the microphone. More recently, we enjoyed the best two-man team of all time: Pat Summerall and John Madden. Summerall’s economy of words was the perfect complement to Madden’s “bang, boom, pow” enthusiasm.
Several of you pointed out foreigners with thick accents who somehow sound All-American when they are acting or singing. Brits Mick Jagger, Kate Winslet, and Daniel Day-Lewis come to mind. I mean, Mr. Day-Lewis played Abe Lincoln and had me believing he grew up in an Illinois log cabin!
From the music world, nobody, and I mean nobody sounds like Tom Jones. Also, the Man in Black didn’t have to say “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” because we already knew it, but I’m glad he did. Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young inspired scores of imitators, but none measured up to the originals. And how about Karen Carpenter? From the age of 19, she had a full, rich voice like no other.
Is it any wonder that actors with commanding voices like Orson Welles, Vincent Price, and Morgan Freeman were often called upon to endorse products? Not to mention James Earl Jones: “THIS is CNN.”
I’m glad many of you remember the voices of a thousand game shows: Don Pardo, and “This is Johnny Olsen speaking.”
How shocked were you to learn that Jim Nabors didn’t really talk like Gomer Pyle? But he sure was good at it.
You also mentioned Andy Griffith, Casey Kasem, Raymond Burr, Lorne Greene, Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood (“Make my day”), Mel Blanc (“What’s up, Doc”), Ed Sullivan, John Wayne, and may others.
Many are gone. But their voices make up the soundtrack of our lives.
(David Carroll is a Chattanooga news anchor, and his new book “Hello Chattanooga” is available on his website, ChattanoogaRadioTV.com. You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405, or at RadioTV2020@yahoo.com).
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