Four more voice talents we’ve lost this month:
Jim West (1924-2009)
Radio industry legend, jingle and jazz singer/musician, and voice-over actor described as “America’s Story-teller” James Robert West died Friday, March 27th from complications due to his long struggle with Parkinson’s disease and COPD. He was 84.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, West served with the U.S. Infantry during World War II as a drill sergeant and participated in the Army’s USO musician program.
On his music and voice-over career, Radio Daily News reports:
West became a musical fixture on the San Francisco jazz scene in the late 1940s, playing a coveted nightly gig at the Fairmont Hotel’s Cirque Room as well as frequent appearances with noted jazz music legends like Dave Brubeck. Jim’s work with radio jingles, production music, syndicated radio and his representation of prominent radio consultants helped to revolutionize the radio industry and he was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2002 [Links: TRHOF Profile and Real Audio clip of West accepting his 2002 award].
[In 1970], he put his voice to work in what started as a hobby and became yet another successful career. West became a highly sought after voice-over talent. His voice was the anchor of the TV campaigns for both of Ross Perot’s presidential campaigns, and he was heard on everything from commercials for Tony Roma’s and Dairy Queen Restaurants to ads for medical, retail and specialty stores. His distinctive vocal style and delivery garnered him an Emmy only a few short years ago as the voice of Disney’s internationally produced “Legends of the Ring of Fire” animated shorts.
West’s passion later in life was his desire to help others with Parkinson’s disease and he was instrumental in raising tremendous amounts of money for the Dallas Area Parkinson’s Society as well as the Texas Voice Project and the National Parkinson Foundation. He also had deep ties to Dallas’ Bucker Children’s Home and was a constant supporter of their efforts to help children worldwide.
For more details on West’s life and career, please see the following links:
– A Story of Hope: Jim West, by Michael Manning
– An Orphan Comes Home, by Beatriz Terrazas [The Dallas Morning News]
– 440.com Radio Broadcasting History: Jim West, Page 1, and Jim West, Page 2.
– YouTube Video Tribute from the 2008 Phoenix Music Awards.
– Jim West’s profile and voice-over demo at Voice123.com
– 2005 “Unfinished Business” album of love song favorites by Jim West, includes cover scans, liner notes, and song samples at Amazon.com.
George Kell (1922-2009)
The Baseball Hall of Famer, sports broadcaster and voice of The Detroit Tigers died in his home Tuesday, March 24th. He was 86.
Obit from The Boston Globe:
George Clyde Kell was born on Aug. 23, 1922. His father, a barber who played semipro baseball, envisioned his three sons as major leaguers.
Kell, a Hall of Fame third baseman was considered one of the greatest contact hitters of baseball’s modern era.
Mr. Kell retired from playing baseball in 1957, but never quit the game. He became the voice of the Tigers for generations of Detroit fans, serving as a television broadcaster for 37 years.
Mr. Kell joined the booth after Tigers broadcaster Mel Ott was killed in an automobile accident in 1958. On Mr. Kell’s recommendation, Ernie Harwell came to Detroit in 1960 as the radio voice of the Tigers, beginning a legendary 42-year career with the team.
“He had two outstanding careers, one as a baseball player, one as a baseball announcer,” Harwell told the Detroit Free Press. “He was certainly an icon in Detroit and Michigan.”
Mr. Kell was joined in the booth by fellow Hall of Famer Al Kaline for 15 years. “He was like a big brother to me,” Kaline told the Free Press.
Bob Arbogast (1927-2009)
Comedy writer, radio/TV personality, and voice actor Bob Arbogast died Saturday, March 21st of lung cancer at a hospital in Fresno, CA. He was 81.
In addition to his storied career in TV and radio production, Arbogast performed character voices for a number of animated cartoons. He was the voice of Gen. G.I. Brassbottom, Noodles Romanoff and Ma Ramjet on Roger Ramjet, Jack Wheeler and Doc Warren on the 1969 Hot Wheels cartoon, Snogs on Monchhichis, and provided additional voices for The Smurfs, The Jetsons, and other animated programs.
He was the voice for the original “What would you do for a Klondike Bar?” advertising campaign and of the animated Granny Goose for the Granny Goose potato chip campaign (What is Granny’s secret? I won’t say…”) Not to be forgotten were Arbo’s stylings of Barry Bear and Drummy Drummer, popular seventies pull-string toys – “I’m Barry Bear, like to meet my paw?” “I’m Drummy Drummer. I went to school at the school of hard knocks.” – and his renditions of hamburgers in early McDonald’s commercials. While in elementary school at Franklin Avenue in Los Angeles, his son John was scolded when asked by his teacher, Mrs. Horowitz, what his father does for a living. John replied “he is a bear.” Refusing to recant, a meeting with the teacher, principal and Bob resulted in free hot dogs on “Hot Dog Friday” for John for a year.
For more details on Bob’s life and career, please see the following links:
– Obit from The Fresno Bee
– Obit from Mark Evanier’s NewsFromME.com
– Bob Arbogast at IMDb.com
– Muppet Wiki: Bob Arbogast
– Wikipedia: Bob Arbogast
– Bob Arbogast and Stan Ross perform “Chaos – KOS – Speedy Clip” via YouTube.com
Elizabeth “Betsy” Ames MacFarland, an actress and voice-over artist whose career selling products, narrating TV programs and promoting Republican candidates spanned more than 40 years, died Saturday, March 14th of cancer at her Oxford home. She was 66.
Mrs. MacFarland, who was known professionally as Betsy Ames and billed herself as “The Best Damn Voice in the Business,” also had appeared in several Hollywood films.
For the past 20 years, Mrs. MacFarland was the exclusive female announcer at WJLA-TV, Channel 7 in Washington, and had been the promotional voice of the Discovery Channel and public television station WETA.
For more on Betsy’s life and career, please see the following links:
– Official site: BetsyAmes.com
– Obit from The Washington Times
– Obit from AFTRA-SAG DC/MD
– Persuasive Voices, CNN Live At Daybreak Transcript
– Out of Sight and Just as Outspoken, by Paul Schwartzman [The Washington Post]
– Voice-over woman in ‘Celeb’ ad a secret, by Daniel Libit [Politico.com]
– How Voice Actors Are Chosen for Political Ads (print and video interview) [Newsweek.com]
– WJLA-TV Betsy Ames Tribute on YouTube.com
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