I was a lucky baby: My grandfather read aloud to me from the time I could sit up straight on his lap without falling off. He had a great voice and he read with tremendous expression. I guess you could say that's where I got my start: My parents put my reading-aloud skills on display whenever they had guests. My first, second and third grade teachers all put me to work reading aloud to younger or slower kids, so I got lots of practice.
When I was 12 or so I read a Reader's Digest article about how your voice can make or break you and followed the tips and advice they gave to train my voice and keep from getting a Texas accent. (To be fair, I had inherited my father's, two grandfathers' and a great-grandmother's velvet-steel singing voice.)
My first job, obtained for me by my mother, who worked in the lobby taking classifieds, was telephone soliciting newspaper subscriptions for the San Antonio Express-News. It made me an unaccustomed amount of money, but lord it was boring! I must have done OK at it, because they didn't fire me; I quit to go get married and have babies. I did telephone sales again, but the company was ahead of its time and went bust. And another such job, selling display ads for a "Jewish American News," followed but lasted only a few months. At length I joined the USAF so I could afford to get a divorce and still meet my kids' medical needs.
My voice "career" really started when I was in the Air Force, stationed on Guam. I answered the phone and called folks as part of my job, and all the guys just raved about my voice. So I went to the Armed Forces Remote Entertainment Services (I think that's what AFRES stands for) radio station on base and asked if I could do any voice work for them. They put me to work reading — and doing my own recording — on some 93 two-minute scripts describing different jobs that airmen could cross-train into, a program called PALACE CHASE. Only when I had finished did they inform me that you could make money doing this, and that there was a guy downtown who was always looking for voice talent.
Rather flattered to hear myself called that, I called "the guy", Joe Couch. A refugee from the rat race of, ironically, the Dallas advertising scene, Joe co-owned Glimpses of Guam, the only advertising agency in Micronesia; he worked for all the big brands. I went and auditioned in a closet-size room, reading a 60-second Borden ice cream radio commercial; he promptly said, "I'm gonna use that. Send me an invoice for $45 (TV, I discovered, paid $60!), and see what you can do with this spot" — for Chevrolet.
For the next two-and-a-half years I worked nearly every week, often with Joe Cunningham; a real character and a real voice talent, besides doing commercials he made his living, I think, as a musician and guru in four or five languages including Tagalog, Chamorro and some Samoan. And maybe buying and selling just enough pakalolo to get his own for free. I was the only female voice on the air, and local radio station KUAM, the only 50,000-watt station in the Pacific, came looking for me, flattered me, offered me incredible money ($10 an hour) and hired me. I got my Class IV license (paid money and filled out a form, learned to read gauges and monitors and do all the legal paperwork), and I became a weekend broadcast announcer and newsreader. The program (and on-air talent) manager, though, was an ex-Navy weenie who reminds me now of William Macy. He ran far too military a ship for my liking, so I jumped ship and went to work for KSTO ("Kay-steree-ohhhhhh!"), still part-time but now on nights. That was the only FM station in Micronesia, way off in the boonies on a mountainside. It was fun.
At my next assignment, Rapid City, I worked briefly at KOTA but quit to do commercials. Radio is actually boring to me, and I find I do much better with a script than spontaneously. When I got out of the service and moved here to Fort Worth in 1982, I was too absorbed in trying to help my landlord and lover manage several careers — farming, excavating and hauling, truck brokering and running a front-end loader on the sand and gravel pit we had somehow acquired — to think about voice work.
But in 1986, fresh from owning a Jacksboro Highway bar we similarly somehow had acquired and only too happily sold, we ran straight into the Recession. In desperate need of money to pay notes or lose land, I looked up "Recording Studios" in the YP and asked the guy who answered at one of the few in Fort Worth whether they needed any non-union voice talent.
Eagle Audio was a brand-new studio destined for big things, even though it's smack in the middle of what the founders laughingly called "Fort Worth's wine-tasting district." I went there and auditioned for them, reading scripts they supplied with lots of different voices and accents, and they put me on their demo reel. I've worked mainly for them — and often, to my delight, with fellow quick study Art Jones — ever since, though I've also worked for other studios on industrial and private gigs. And I never did join the union, so I never went super-national or got into cartoons: I've not been great at auditions, but now that my voice is older (and so am I!), I feel more comfortable about the way I look, so maybe that will change.
I don't really see that I did anything different or extraordinary, @BronxLens, but if any of this helps, I'm glad. It's been interesting!