When Ken Nordine‘s passed away in 2019 at age of 98, I got to thinking about iconic voices I’ve heard during my lifetime. Ken may more universally known, thanks to his “Word Jazz” recordings in 1957 and ’58. Nordine’s narration over cool jazz by the Fred Katz Group featuring Chico Hamilton recording under an alias, emerged at the peak of the beat era and became associated with the poetry-and-jazz movement, the 50s equivalent of Rap. (Video)
His is but one of the iconic radio voices that populated the soundtrack of our lives. Here are some others along with links to their work. The names may not all be familiar, but their voices are:
Westbrook Van Voorhis – The Voice of Doom, narrated The March of Time during radio’s golden age. (Video)
Alison Steele – The Nightbird on WNEW FM. (Video)
Fred Winston – WLS’s big mid-day voice in the 60s (Video)
Carol Ford – Who gained national fame during her late night sojourns across WOWO’s 50,000 watt magic carpet. (Video)
Charlie Van Dyke – The king of commercials and radio imaging. (Video)
John Bartholomew Tucker (Video) and Mason Adams (Video) were ubiquitous commercial voices.
Don Cornelius – The king of cool, host of Soul Train (Video)
Don LaFontaine – Famous in movie trailer circles for his unique delivery and creating the classic opening: “In a world where..”
Paul Frees – Heard everywhere from commercials to cartoons to Disney’s Haunted Mansion. Seen on film only once, in the 1953’s “War of the Worlds”. (Video)
Ernie Anderson – Who’s hip delivery became associated with ABC-TV promos and program intros. (Video)
John Facenda – The original narrator of NFL Films. (Video)
John Doremus – Who created an industry, leveraging his “Passing Scene” into “Music in the Air” when airliners first installed headphones. (Video)
J.P. McCarthy – The long time WJR morning show host and superlative commercial pro. (Video)
Arthur Penhallow – Who’s memorable “Baby!” typified the WRIF vibe. (Video)
This only scratches the surface. Every radio market had their J.P. McCarthy, Fred Winston and Charlie Van Dyke. If you drifted off to sleep with Alan Almond in Detroit or Dick Summer in New York, once upon a time, radio was more than just a box and some wires. It was a plethora of iconic voices who were an important part of our lives.
Whether reading innovative commercials that kept us from punching the button or helping us make sense of the ever evolving world, these were the voices of our generation.
Today in History:The First BC Comic
1947 The Voice of America begins broadcasting to USSR.
1958 Johnny Harts comic strip “BC” 1st appears
1967 The Beatles release “Penny Lane” & “Strawberry Fields”
1969 “Cloud Nine” 9th studio album by The Temptations is released (Grammy Award Best Rhythm & Blues Performance by a Duo or Group 1969, Billboard Album of the Year 1969)
1972 US President Richard Nixon leaves Washington, D.C. for a groundbreaking trip to China
1972 Sales of the Volkswagen Beetle model exceed those of Ford Model T
1974 16th Daytona 500: Richard Petty first driver to win back-to-back titles at Daytona; his 5th Great American race
1985 1st class postage rises from 20 cents to 22 cents
Today’s Birthdays:Lou Diamond Phillips
1874 Thomas J. Watson, Sr., American businessman (Chairman and CEO of IBM, 1914-1956), born in Campbell, New York (d. 1956)
1908 Walter L “Red” Barber, sports announcer (Brooklin Dodgers, NY Yankees) (d. 1992)
1925 Hal Holbrook, American stage and screen Tony and Emmy award winning actor (All the President’s Men; “Mark Twain Tonight!”) (d. 2021)
1934 Alan Bates, Allestree England, actor (Zorba the Greek, Unmarried Woman)
1936 Jim Brown, American NFL Running Back (Cleveland Browns), born in St. Simons, Georgia
1962 Lou Diamond Phillips, (La Bamba, Stand & Deliver)
1963 Hoop legend, Michael Jordan
1965 Michael Bay, who directed Armageddon and Pearl Harbor
1971 Denise Richards, 90s heartthrob.
1981 Paris Hilton, (The Simple Life)
1991 Bonnie Wright, (Ginny Weasley in “Harry Potter” franchise)
1991 Ed Sheeran, (Shape of You, Thinking Out Loud)
Les Crane (born Lesley Stein; December 3, 1933 – July 13, 2008) an iconic radio voice. He was a radio announcer and television talk show hostwho also scored a spoken word hit with his 1971 recording of the poem Desiderata, winning a “Best Spoken Word” Grammy. He was the first network television personality to compete with Johnny Carson after Carson became a fixture of late-night television.
Thanks for listening!
Host and Producer – Rock and Roll Revisited
Author: Motor City Music – Keener 13 and the Soundtrack of Detroit