Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bob Crane and Mel Blanc - Two Men, Each of a Thousand Voices

When I was a kid growing up during the 1970s through the mid-1980s, I - along with most every other kid in America - relished in Saturday morning cartoons. At the time, I was an aspiring artist, drawing everything around me, and even making up my own comic books, complete with their own stories. I even attempted to make my own live-action cartoons by drawing in the corners of notebooks and flipping the pages to make my creations move. I had toyed with going to art school, but instead, obtained my English/Liberal Arts degree and then went on to pursue a career in writing and publishing.

Far and away, my favorite Saturday morning cartoons were Looney Tunes, produced by Warner Brothers, with the voice talents of the late, legendary Mel Blanc. Bugs Bunny was my favorite, but not far behind were the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Porky Pig, Sylvester and Tweety, Speedy Gonzales, Pepe Le Pew, the Tasmanian Devil, and Melvin the Martian.

Mel Blanc, of course, was the genius voice talent behind Looney Tunes as well as many other cartoon characters, such as Mr. Spacely in The Jetsons and Dino the Dinosaur and Barney Rubble in The Flintstones. At one time, he was providing 90% of the voices for cartoons produced by Warner Brothers, and thus, he became known as the "Man of a Thousand Voices." He had also worked as a regular on The Jack Benny Program, and further, had his own radio program, The Mel Blanc Show, which ran from September 3, 1946, through June 24, 1947. Mel Blanc died at the age of 81 on July 10, 1989. His epitaph on his headstone is simple: "That's All Folks," and beneath his name is inscribed, "Man of 1000 Voices."

During his tenure at KNX, Bob Crane provided countless voices and sound effects as part of his radio program - a technique and skill he had perfected since his childhood and his earliest radio days at WLEA in Hornell, New York, in 1950. Because of his extraordinary skill at being able to change his voice and impersonate just about anyone and anything, Bob had been dubbed radio's "Man of a Thousand Voices."

The other day, I was going through a collection of audio tape recordings given to me by Bob Crane's son, Robert Scott Crane. Most of the recordings are Bob's airchecks from KMPC in Los Angeles and KAYO in Seattle. One recording contains a series of voice impersonations, sound effects, and interview clips that Bob had simply labeled, "Bob's Best." And on this tape is a short clip of an interview Bob had done with Mel Blanc, which most likely aired during Bob's KNX show. The clip with Mel Blanc is not long, barely a minute at most, and leads into Frank Sinatra's "When Somebody Loves You" (lyrics by Sammy Cahn). But the real treasure here is not the interview itself, but the 10-seconds where Mel Blanc introduces Bob Crane's show in the voice of Porky Pig.

This 10-second clip of Porky Pig stuttering and stammering his way through the introduction to The Bob Crane Show and then giving up, calling it the Sammy Cahn Show, while short, is one of my favorite discoveries in any of Bob's airchecks. Two men, each with a thousand voices and geniuses in their own right, sharing air time together. 

Simply fantastic.