Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Relationships and Isolation

…are basic human adversaries.

When I decided to start winding down toward retirement from my full-time employment as a media relations practitioner, I never really considered how important relationships are to the human being. I often counseled others on the merits of relationship building in the public and media relations worlds. I have conducted workshops on the most important factor when doing PR – relations. Students have often come to me for advice on how to do media relations and I have always focused their attention on relationship building.

Now that I have retired from the outside employment, I am focusing my attention on my voiceover business. It's a business I have conducted for more than thirty years. Building relations has always been a very important of the business matrix. I always took it for granted and it was something I just did. The various on-camera and voiceover jobs always came from those relationships. I can't think of any time that I got a job directly from a cold call. It's just not part of the environment.

So the cold water that was just poured over my head is the realization that isolation is my biggest enemy. If I stay at home where my business is located and spend my entire day in the studio, I create a very unhealthy situation for me, a people person, and my business which is based on relationships. The comment recently said to me in jest, “you need to get out more often,” really hit home.

I recently watched a webcast on the East West Audio Body Shop with guest J.S. Gilbert. He talked about the same issue. Isolation is the enemy to a healthy voiceover business. He lamented that some health issues have kept him somewhat isolated and have changed the dynamics of his voiceover business. He discussed the importance of relationships. Sometimes isolation is unavoidable for various reasons, health being one of them. So, I can't personally give that as a reason for my isolation. It was self induced.

I know I can't be all things to all people and I can't join every organization. But, while I have my health I need to get out more. I have recently started getting involved in organizations where I can build relationships again. Being selective is important so that I have a healthy balance of external exposure to foster new relationships and the settings to build on existing ones, while still being able to do the voiceover work.

So, imagine the movie scene where Mrs. Robinson (Ann Bancroft) tells Ben (Dustin Hoffman) that the key word is plastics. Picture this. New scene. We are face to face and I simple say to you - “relationships.”

We need them for business and for our own personal health. Relationships and isolation are not compatible roommates.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Voices on the Pop Charts

                                   ...the Voiceover Hit Parade

Joel Whitburn has made a living compiling statistics from the Billboard® magazine's charts. Back in my days as a Top-40 radio DJ, I relied on his books as an instant source of information about the songs that made it to the Hot 100 Singles chart. I can remember a great deal of the info and trivial information contained in his books because I lived during the timeline – 1955+. However, I did consult with a version of Joel's Top Pop Singles to pull up some statistics for today's blog question – Were there any artists that make their living primarily as voice talents and also had a charting Top Pop single? That sounds like a Casey Kasem AT40 question, doesn't it? I was surprised to find so many. Most are still living and working and two that I'll mention have since passed away.
The earliest I could find on the Billboard® Hot 100 remains one of my favorites - Shifting Whispering Sands by Billy Vaughn. Ken Nordine did the famous narration for this chart topper. It made it to #5 on the Billboard chart and was on the charts most of the fall of 1955. Nordine is also famous for his Word Jazz series of off-beat poetry record albums that sold millions of copies over the years and still have an eclectic following.

The main announcer for the Perry Como Show on TV and voiceover artist Frank Gallop actually had two charted hits. In the first, he had only three lines -”Hey there. Got a match?” which he said twice and the third line was “Hey there. Never mind.” “Got A Match” hit the chart in 1958. But, his best known charted hit was a parody of Lorne Greene's Ringo – "The Ballad of Irving"  (“the 142nd fastest gun in the west”).  Frank Gallop died in 1988.

Green was a voiceover artist in his own right and had the above mentioned powerful hit Ringo, which some bought thinking that it was about Ringo Starr.  But,  the name certainly helped calling attention to the disk in 1964.  Most knew Lorne as Ben Cartright.  He died the year before Gallop in 1987.

The next one I just have to include is Stan Freberg. While his career of chart topping parodies is monumental, he also remains one of the most recognizable voices in Hollywood. His first hit pre-dates the Billboard Hot 100 chart – John and Marsha from 1951 and only has two different words throughout - John and Marsha. Both parts were played by Stan. There was a reenactment of this parody on an episode of "Mad Men."

There were others after John and Marsha. Freberg's first charted single on the Billboard® Hot 100 chart came in 1955 ( the year the chart first appeared in the magazine ) – The Yellow Rose of Texas. He later included that song and other previous hits in this radio show on CBS, which lasted only 15 weeks.

Some have started as performers and now have a large presence in the voiceover industry. I couldn't do a story like this and leave out Beverly Bremers. Today she is a well known voice artist, teacher and coaches others in singing, songwriting, voice-over, acting, and accent reduction. You'll find her million seller "Don't Say You Don't Remember" on the charts in 1971 and 72.

I could go on and on. There have been many over the years. The above are just some I remember. Can you name some that I didn't mention? Please leave your comments.  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Petrified Buffalo Heart

...and stories I like to tell.

My grandfather and grandmother were both great at telling stories. As a young boy, I never doubted they were true. Oh, they had some truth but like all storytellers, the story had been expanded a bit. My first opportunity to retell one of those stories came when I was in first grade of elementary school. It was in Mrs. McDonough's class at Schuyler Lake School. It was my turn for Show and Tell.
That day I had brought with me this strange looking object. It was reddish brown and white and had a polished look about it. My grandfather, who had a bit of a dry sense of humor, with a straight face, told me that my great great grandfather had found this curious looking rock in the desert out west about 1900, in Arizona. He had taken a trip cross country visiting all of his relatives that had followed the westward migration of the late 1800's. Grandpa seemed to think the object came from the Petrified Forest. And he said it was a petrified buffalo's heart.

And I believed him. So I made the other kids eyes bug out and jaws drop as I showed them the object and retold the story. Of course I had to improve on the story a little bit and said he met Buffalo Bill along the way. Mrs. McDonough was not impressed because we were supposed to tell about real things and not make up stories. She deflated my pride by telling me that it was only a cinder and that I shouldn't be making up stories like this. But that incident only set me back for a little while.

I absorbed as many stories as I could from my grandparents and tried to pass them along to my own children. Oh, I also told my children some doozies, all made up of course. That'll be the subject of another story on another day, my obsession with puns. I do like telling stories.

For some reason I never read any of the Grimms Fairy Tales while growing up and only saw the stories as retold by Disney. Then, along came the TV show Grimm on NBC which has some loose connections to the bizarre tales told by the Grimm brothers. I was hooked. So, last year I decided to actually read some of them. I was so fascinated by these strange tales that I decided to play storyteller and record sixty-two of the Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. I had a lot of fun and gained a new appreciation of their stories. (At one time these were all available for listening on-line but have been removed due to web storage space limits. I ran out of space. )

Coming up next week.... Voices on the Pop Charts...The Voiceover Hit Parade