The 60 Year Old Voice or It’s Never Too Late (unless your skull is being used as a geranium planter)

Eight years ago (12 years after my mid-life crisis. He’s 19 now and calls himself ‘The Closer’) I embarked on an adventure for the ages. A complete and total career (and life) change–a decision to take the visions and voices in my head and unleash them (in a good way) on the masses of mankind. How’s THAT for drama?

Since my last audio production stint in St. Louis (a full 30 years previous) things had changed. A LOT!! Analog became digital, audio studios moved from back lots to garages, basements and closets and thanks to technology it was now possible to produce broadcast quality audio from the comforts of home.

Sounds like a sweet set-up. All I have to do is get myself a computer and a mic, read in a deep voice and the cash just rolls in, right? Heh, heh, heh–no.

Reading, training with others, constant regular practice, constant skill sharpening and investing in the right equipment is the order of the day. The Great Don LaFontaine didn’t become the great Don LaFontaine without being ready when the opportunity arrived. Somebody didn’t show up for work and Don was ready. Not because of his legendary voice (it wasn’t legendary yet), but because he was available and had the skills. Dreams CAN come true, but you need to invest in them–in YOU. I am grateful for the wonderful opportunities, fun collaborations and great projects that I’ve been blessed to be a part of. But without the work ethic that’s needed to present yourself as a professional, voice over becomes a ‘hobby’ and not a lifelong craft.

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What has the 60 year old voice learned?

  • that no matter how gifted or talented, any ‘blade’ must be sharpened before it is effective.
  • that it’s better to show up on time and ready for work–or they’ll never remember your name.
  • that no matter how old you (or your dreams) are, you can still blow the dust off of ‘em and (with a LOT of help from your friends) make them real.
  • Listen to ALL criticism–throw out the bad stuff.
  • that having a voice that is being heard is a powerful tool. Some of that power should be used to help the powerless–those who may not have a voice. A voice that is shared will get stronger everyday.
  • Reject rejection and never give up!

And finally–The people who hire you (and you audition for) deserve your absolute best! And that includes your attitude: toward the script, the director, the engineer, the equipment and all those others who are listening. Humility gets you remembered; haughtiness gets you edited out.

The Legendary (?) Herb Merriweather is extremely grateful and God-ly thankful to be turning 60 this year and has plans to voice epics, laugh at himself and enjoy his time “In A World…” for at least another 60 years…

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Thanks, Dad–For Everything!

THANKS, DAD:

For being so excited by the news of our impending arrival, that you actually say YOU are pregnant, too.

For the 2:00 am feeding/changing. They’re a lot more fun when you do ‘em!

For smiling and lifting us up when we face plant into the floor.

For having tea with The Dainty Ladies Social Society (and having the prettiest hat!)

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For hitting all those grounders, tossing all those footballs, kicking all those soccer balls, dribbling all those basketballs and training, chauffering, and coaching some of the greatest athletes on the planet.

Thanks for putting aside selfish attitudes and maintaining a relationship with me–even though you and Mom (might not be) together anymore.

For coming to our rescue in the middle of a cold, rainy night (AFTER you advised us to get that spare tire. We didn’t.)

For some of the greatest fashion faux-pas in history (love me some Dad Plaid)!

For working all those crazy hours for my (choose one): a. skateboard  b. college education  c. Hello Kitty Ensemble  d. music lessons  e. all of the above

For bailing us out of jail after we went out with those people you warned us about.

For some of the corniest gags, re-told stories and best slapstick this side of The Stooges (‘Pull my finger–NOT THAT ONE!!!’)

For making Momma giggle. I don’t know what that means, but when Momma is happy, we is ALL happy…

For loving us, caring for us, coaching us, covering us, backing us up, praying for us and all points in between.

Thanks, Dad–for everything…

Welcome to–’The Hole’…

 

As an “old school” creative artist, I find that I have to surround myself with pads of paper and scads of pens/pencils/markers. Mainly because creativity is unpredictable–it may hit you anywhere, anytime! Many times I’ll come home from a day of networking (or just working) with all kinds of napkins, notes, scribbles and scratches–all creative tidbits to be acted out, acted upon or optioned for action in the future.
My longsuffering and lovely wife, Cora (watching as I empty my pockets of all this ‘creativity’)immediately ushers me and my stuff into the one place in our home where my creative crap is not only welcome, but necessary. The sanctum sanctorum known as ‘The Hole’!

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‘The Hole’ (better known by its nickname-’The Hole’)is the place of peace…the cove of creativity…the oasis of artistry. It’s a place where lunacy and alliteration collide with very interesting effects. Birthplace of Big Mike, Tuff Guy Percy and a host of other unusual characters, it is less man-cave in it’s usefullness but more like an intimate sound stage. Indeed, sound takes center stage as we work with voices, music and sound effects to come up with something that will inform, entertain and amuse.
Here are some of the house rules of ‘The Hole’:
1. All are welcome (especially kids…they always hang around outside listening to all the mayhem going on inside.)
2. It’s a place of solace–not only do I show up to work, but I also show up to meditate and pray.
3. No cussin’ spittin’ or fightin’ (although some yellin’, screamin’ and singin’ is allowed!)
I’m sure that everyone should have a special place to pray, create, work and laugh. It may not all happen in the same room, but be sure to carve yourself out some precious space: to be who you are, to sharpen your craft, exercise your gift and entertain the world! 

God Bless–and Happy Voicing!

Happy Mother’s Day To Those Who Didn’t Give Birth (but they didn’t let that stop them)

I don’t have any pictures of her, but 59 years ago Ruby Blevins (later she married Leroy Smith) took on a herculean task–trying to turn me into a useful, productive member of society. My stepmom (through arrangement with my REAL mom–it’s a long, crazy story) loved me, shaped me, sharpened me and turned me loose on an unsuspecting world. 

She was a fanatic for education, so she surrounded me with books of all kinds–everything from Bishop Fulton J. Sheen to Alex Haley to Mickey Spillane to Iceberg Slim. She was a believer and a disciplinarian and (although she never went) she made certain I was in attendance in Parochial school (which was like church everyday). I was blessed with a mother who was a bit older so I was exposed to history and discussion other kids my age had no knowledge of.

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I remember scratching her head for her while she yelled at the television when watching ‘Wrestling at the Chase’. I remember her sneaking shots from a glass hidden behind the toaster. After a few ‘cocktails’, she would go to the piano and play ‘What A Friend We Have In Jesus’. She would play–and I would sing. I remember she had the loudest, goofiest laugh I’d ever heard on a woman. Her laugh (which always ended with a loud ‘OOOoooo, LORD’) was laugh-inducing.

I remember her always for her work in my life–her patience, her discipline, her sacrifice. I wasn’t her kid–but you’d better not try to say that to her…

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY TO THOSE WHO DIDN’T GIVE BIRTH (but they didn’t let that stop them)…

Blind Media Professionals Open Hollywood’s Eyes to Watching TV

Blind Media Professionals Open Hollywood’s Eyes to Watching TV

Make Media Accessible Event and Live Streaming Interactive Webcast Set for May 14; Entertainment Industry, Educators and Disability Community Invited to Attend 
Los Angeles, CA. (April 29, 2014) — Nationally renowned video description expert Rick Boggs, of Audio Eyes, LLC. and his team of production professionals who supply video description for broadcast TV networks, will demonstrate the process they use to produce effective video description in a May 14, 2014 event and webcast at webinar.dcmp.org

The event, “Inside Video Description: How Pictures Become Words,” will take place from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. (PST) in Burbank at the Dolby Labs, Umlang Theater, 3601 West Alameda Avenue BurbankCA 91505, along with the live interactive webcast on webinar.dcmp.org.

“This is a unique opportunity to bring together Hollywood executives, TV producers, educators and a number of professionals from within the disability community to reveal state-of-the-art techniques on ways professionals with vision loss are adding value to the description production process,” says Rick Boggs, whose company, Audio Eyes LLC, provides accessible media services to the entertainment community.

Boggs and his team will demonstrate his company’s Quality Control Process to those attending the event as well as broadcast it online in partnership with the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP), the nation’s largest free-loan educational described and captioned media library.

Boggs believes all these communities have a great deal to learn from one another in making commercial and educational media accessible.

Josh Miele, director, Video Description Research and Development Center (VDRDC) agrees. “We all find ourselves wondering how to make media more usable and enjoyable for persons without sight.  We wonder about the cost and the time involved in making media accessible, and how to tell whether the video description accommodation is effective and worthwhile to students and consumers,”

In particular, Miele and Boggs believe this process offers the film and television industry, the creators of America’s most powerful cultural and economic export, a new opportunity to make media inclusive and to work inclusively with “disabled” professionals.

A television celebrity host and a nationally renowned video description expert will lead a demonstration and discussion to review the process and to answer questions.

“Holding the event in Burbank will give executives and producers from Hollywood who attend the chance to see firsthand the live demonstration of the critical video description quality control process, with plenty of time to ask questions about how the process can impact their work,” says Boggs.

He adds that blind consumers who attend the web event will be invited to submit their comments and questions live during the video description process.  He also notes that those with vision loss will have an unprecedented opportunity to learn about professional opportunities in the field of accessible media.

About Audio Eyes: The company is a leading provider of video description and accessible media for broadcast television networks, major movie studios, independent filmmakers, educational institutions, and government agencies. Based in Los Angeles, Audio Eyes was founded by Rick Boggs, a blind audio engineer and pioneer who has championed the inclusion of blind professionals in the production of description and accessible media. His commitment saw him awarded the California Governor’s Trophy and the Barry Levine Memorial Award for Audio Description. Audio Eyes describers, engineers and producers have delivered Video Description for first run and syndicated TV shows, theatrical movies, DVDs, award winning documentaries and online published videos. Additionally, they have extensive experience producing audio dramas, audio books, music, radio programs, radio ads, and a variety of business-to-business audio products. For more information, visit www.audioeyes.com.

About The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP): The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) provides the nation’s largest free-loan educational described and captioned media library. DCMP also offers an accessible media information center, providing information on accessible media, a database of accessible media available for purchase, and guidelines for vendors and other wishing to learn to add description and captioning to media. DCMP has also developed an accessible event/webinar platform, providing an accessible event experience for attendees who are deaf or blind. The DCMP is administered by the National Association of the Deaf and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. More information is available online at www.dcmp.org

For information contact:

Rick Boggs: 818-439-9698

Email: rickb@audioeyesllc.com

Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

Micah Grossman: 818-815-5865

Email: micahg@audioeyesllc.com

 

Ruth Dickerson: God Bless The Queen

…”That’s Esther McIsacc and the Gospel Girls singing ‘Showers Of Blessings’. And you are listening to the ‘Showers Of Blessings’ program. I’m your host, Ruth Dickerson and we are going to continue on with the music because when the praises go up, the blessings come down.”

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The smooth, comforting voice that spoke those words has opened thousands of night-time radio broadcasts in Los Angeles. For over 50 years, the great Ruth Dickerson has presided over gospel music; speaking in mellow, measured tones and ministering to all insomniacs. She was more than a ‘radio personality’.  She was a gospel music historian, playing everything from the obscure to the popular; she played the hits and some of the misses. When people talk about ‘free form radio’ and it’s influence during the 60′s and 70′s, it was Ruth Dickerson who was among the first in broadcasting to go beyond a playlist and play music that was neither heavily promoted nor performed by ‘stars’. It was simply great music and she would put it on the air, no matter who wrote it!

My first night in the KALI 900 AM studios with her was both exciting–and harrowing. Having already been coached by my sister Rosalind (“Don’t screw up! Don’t try to talk on the air! Sit quiet and LEARN something!”), I didn’t want to make any mistakes–or turn out to BE one. She came into the studio that night carrying two huge cloth shopping bags full of CD’s and cassettes. She had a box of Vinyl LP’s in her car. She had everything from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to the O’Neal Twins to James Cleveland to Mahalia Jackson to the Dallas/Ft. Worth Mass Choir (featuring a young musician by the name of Kirk Franklin). Her music collection was a combination of star power mixed in with ‘who was that’. She looked over her glasses at me sitting there grinning at her. Before I knew it, she was introducing me on the air! In the 3 seconds that it took her to say “Brother Herb Merriweather” and turn on the mic in front of me, my tongue swelled, my eyes popped, and a lump the size of East St. Louis rose in my throat. I remember mumbling something about being blessed to be there and thanks for the opportunity. Sister Ruth KNEW she had surprised and stunned me. She smiled and started showing me how to keep the music logs.  As time passed she allowed me even more on-air opportunities, even referring to me as her ‘co-host’

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She was a wonderfully stern teacher who loved God and His music. She didn’t suffer fools nor foolishness as was evident in the way she chided preachers and laymen alike about doing things the right way.  She was set in her ways and that was a good thing because more often that not, her way was the right one. She instructed me on matters of radio etiquette and advertising principles. She worked with me and gave me substantial airtime to read announcement and commercials. But it wasn’t all work and seriousness. I had built a rapport with the late night/early morning listeners and we started ‘The Coffee Club’–with listeners calling in with their freshly brewed beverages in one hand while making requests over the phone.

I was especially saddened and hurt to hear of her passing last week. She was like a grandmother to me–guiding  and instructing me fearlessly and challenging me to rise above the ‘mess’ that she used to dislike so much.

She has gone on to be with the Lord her King–and on to her new job as program director and night-time personality on HEVN Radio…

Shirley Temple Black: An Appreciation (from a somewhat different perspective)

  Growing up in St. Louis in the 60′s was–ummm–different, to say the least. Beyond baseball, old TV favorites and comic books, there wasn’t a whole lot of entertainment to be had!  Being a voracious reader helped me a lot, but entertainment choices were severely limited according to today’s standards. One of my Mom’s favorite things were Shirley Temple films. There they were; being aired on a semi-regular basis by the independent TV stations in all their black-and-white splendor! 

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“Look at how that little girl can sing and dance!”, Mom would bellow. “Why can’t you do something like that instead of clowning in school all the time!?” Somewhere during the course of the movie I would get my comeuppance. Shirley or the ‘little Colonel’ or the ‘little darling’ or the little whatever-she-was-in-this-one would surely (!) be held forth as a shining example of everything I WASN”T doing. OK, OK–she could sing and dance but that was during the 30′s! I wouldn’t have even had the opportunity. Besides, I was trying to be cool, funky, groovy, hip and far-freakin’out. And what was up with them curls, huh? Good luck gettin’ on the good ship Lollipop with a ‘Fro!

I began to find ways to duck out of the screenings–volunteering for store runs; household chores; smoke jumping; ANYthing that would keep me from having to hear about the wonder, talent, beauty and generally great spirit (all true, of course) that Shirley Temple exuded.

Well–as always happens–the passage of time changes things, sometimes from the inside out. When faced with the news of her passing, I of course remembered that she was my Mom’s favorite (right up there with ‘Wrestling At The Chase’). But then I also realized the reason my mother was able to be such a fan.

When Hollywood stopped calling, Shirley didn’t meltdown or implode. Something in her let her know that she could indeed have a life beyond the celluloid. She found her calling in serving others. By being an ambassador, she represented her country with excellence. By making herself available to be something else, she outlived the moppet and showed us all how to mature with purpose and poise. And when the entertainment industry DID seek her out on occasion, she appeared with professionalism, not petulance. She was complete and comfortable, not callous or conniving.

All in all, not a bad role model! Looks like Mom was right (again!) after all…

Revisit The Future

Yes–it’s a bold, new look. And, no–I don’t miss seeing my face at all!

The Future

In an attempt to be faithful to my original vision, I wanted a concept that would showcase more of the zany characters I’ve helped to create. As I look toward the future, not only am I wearing shades, but I am armed with a fresh zeal and a fervent desire. A ‘fresh zeal’ in the ardent pursuit of my craft. A ‘fervent desire’ that what I learn can pay effective, heartfelt dividends to everyone around. Dividends in information, inspiration and imskibobolism (yes–I made that word up!)

As always–stay connected and ‘keep watching the web’ for new sounds, words and concepts.

Never forget the ancient proverb–”Bedompti Vanump’!…

Holiday Greetings from ‘The Hole’

…Well, I’m nowhere near finished with gifts, food, decorations and all the other stuff attached to this season. But I did want to take a moment tell you all–’Thank You and Merry Christmas’.

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I really appreciate your love, instruction, patience and friendship. It means a lot to my supervisor (Cora) and me. You’ve opened your homes hearts, wallets and minds to help me along my adventurous VO journey. ..I am deeply humbled and eternally grateful!

A side note about the audio greeting: I was moved to get a few of my ‘lesser known’ family members to participate this year. Let me just say–I’ll never do that again…

What If You Couldn’t Read This?

Let’s use our imaginations and enter into another dimension, shall we? Upon entrance to this otherworldly dimension, your sense of vision has dulled, been reduced or most likely, has disappeared. After an initial period of severe disorientation (both physical and mental), you begin to realize that survival and accomplishment are a possibility. You lean and depend more heavily on tactile methods of communication and learning. And—because you can still hear, your auditory senses have become a key component to your advancement. There are tools available in this universe that can link you to a wider scope, a means to vanquish, if you will, your chief disability. YES—even in this shadowy dimension of light and dark and blurred image, a type of ‘sight’ can be achieved!

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 There’s just one little thing—one detail—one infinitesimal flaw that stands between you and enlightenment. None of the tools work—together. It’s like using traditional tools with metric components; awkward and clumsy. It’s like finding a flathead screwdriver small enough to work with a Phillips-head screw. You get the idea. The technology leads to a point of frustration because it’s just not finished.

Now let’s awake to a very real, current time dimension—Earth today! Millions of blind/vision impaired people around the world function at astounding levels in spite of their challenges. And much technology has been developed and even laws passed to assist in enhancing quality of life. But, there’s just one little thing…

Audio description* is available on many network television shows as well as many current (and upcoming) feature films, but nobody talks about it except maybe those who are directly involved. Why? Because it’s just not finished! Can any vision impaired person readily pick up a remote and dial up his favorite program complete with description? Not unless he’s been trained by a sighted person. What about the interactive audio screen provided by cable/satellite providers instructing how to use said remote if you are vision impaired? I haven’t seen that one, either. Even though mandated by federal law, has the FCC implemented a universal operations code by which accessible media could truly be accessible—something like a simple unified dial-in code (not unlike 911), where useful information can be dispensed clearly and universally? Something that can assist those in New York as well as Compton and Oahu? Uhhh—not yet.

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The dimensions have collided ( as Rod Serling might say)—your imaginary dimension of frustration borne from a small, yet extremely important missing concept and the very real daily frustrations of those who are constantly called ‘inspirational’ for just wanting to function like you do.

I’m reminded of a question some used to ask at the start of the civil rights movement.

“What do those people want?”

The answer? The right tool for the job. They want it finished.

 

 

*audio description: Audio Description involves the accessibility of the visual images of theater, television, movies, and other art forms for people who are blind, have low vision, or who are otherwise visually impaired.  It is a narration service (provided at no additional charge to the patron) that attempts to describe what the sighted person takes for granted — those images that a person who is blind or visually impaired formerly could only experience through the whispered asides from a sighted companion.