For my regular readers who might have noted that I’ve neglected to mention some recent voice talent-related passings, I should explain that I generally prefer to take the time to write a proper tribute article, sometimes going as far as to contact friends and family members and spending a considerable amount of time researching before publishing an obituary.
I realize that’s not common in media journalism, but this blog has been a hobby for me for ten years and reporting about death is normally something I prefer to postpone until I’m ready to write about it.
But all the hype surrounding recent celebrity deaths has overshadowed others who are worthy of mention, such as TV/radio announcer Ken Roberts who died June 19th of pneumonia. He was 99.
According to Roberts’ Wikipedia entry, he began his radio career possibly as early as the 1920’s, and during the peak of the Golden Age of Radio (1930s-40s) his “voice appeared widely in live programming to introduce programs, moderate game shows and do live reads for commercials.” And he worked on some popular radio programs, most notably The Shadow which starred Orson Welles.
On TV, he served as announcer for game shows (Make Me Laugh, Chance of a Lifetime, Blind Date), was the original announcer for Candid Camera, and narrated the soap operas Love of Life and The Secret Storm for 20 years. He even spoofed himself as the soap opera-esque narrator for the “Love of Chair” segments (a parody of Love of Life) on The Electric Company between 1971-72. You can view vintage clips of these sketches on YouTube: Episode 1, Season 1 Finale, Final Episode.
In animation, IMDb.com credits Roberts with providing “additional voices” on the 1995 animated series Action Man, and The Big Cartoon Database states that his “announcing talents were used in uncredited voice roles as the narrator of the Famous Studios Noveltoons Madhattan Island (1947) and Flip Flap (1948).”
The San Francisco Chronicle says of Roberts:
Ken Roberts’ voice was so comforting, it was said he had a golden throat. Welcome in millions of American homes, its resonant urbanity helped housewives and their families while away many an afternoon and evening. He was a good-looking man, too: tall and dark, with a resemblance to Errol Flynn – according to his son, anyway. But not many people knew of him, and even fewer would have recognized him if he had knocked on the front door.
In the 1930s and ’40s, the heyday of radio, this was the lot of the announcer, the man who introduced serials and other narrative shows – always live on the air – and read advertisements and moderated game show panels. And like few others, Mr. Roberts was ubiquitous, the voice of dozens of shows, a star without a name or a face.
Roberts’ Wikipedia entry also includes a few select quotes about him:
Radio historian Jim Cox described Roberts’ voice as neither “Yankee, Southern, Western or anything else”. It was a voice that didn’t “irritate anybody” and that “you just naturally liked to hear”, making him “one of the leading lights of radio”.
Steve Beverly of The Daily Game Show Fix described Roberts as having “what executives called a golden throat”, with a familiar voice that was one of broadcasting’s most-recognized anonymous voices.
His son, actor Tony Roberts, described his father’s voice as accentless with perfect tones, sounding to him “as though it came from God.”
And in an obit by The Washington Times, Roberts’ was quoted from a 1945 interview about his work as an announcer:
“I would quote some doctor’s message about some hair tonic and give out with joy. Or advise the use of a chest rub to save you from pneumonia or worse and laugh with almost maniacal glee during the one-minute announcement.
“But now I don’t feel like a phony. I can toss around atrocious puns like the one about the world beginning with an Adam and ending with an atom, and just laugh and laugh and laugh. I feel human when talking into that mike, not like a grinning, foolish puppet on a sponsor’s string.”
For more on Roberts’ life and career, please see the links below:
– The San Francisco Chronicle
– The Washington Times (includes photo)
– The San Francisco Chronicle
– The Internet Movie Database
– The New York Daily News
– The Big Cartoon Database
– A Shroud of Thoughts (blog tribute)
– We Love Soaps (blog obit)
– Bob’s House (blog tribute with video links)