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Conversational dialogue with Joe Van Riper

Van Riper, Joe
Female voice
Raider, Amy
Date of Interview: 
Overcoming obstacles; Stories and storytellers; Then and now
Joe Van Riper talks about becoming a better disc jockey.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Amy Raider interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
AR (Amy Raider): This Joe Van Riper.
JR (Joe Van Riper): ( ) [Clears throat] Well.
AR: ( )
JR: Just give it to me. I did about 70 one hours scripts for A&E Network on a series called American Castles. That's an example of the sort of thing I do. I do commercials, I sell cars, and I have this nice big voice. And I, for a long time, thought this was all about language, you know, it was all about, uh, having a pretty voice, really sounding pretty. I should have known better. My, uh, my uncle, Dr. Charles Van Riper founded the field of speech pathology but, uh. Here I am doing commercials, I was disc jockey on the radio, I was a folk singer for a while. It always seemed to have something to do with communicating. Back in the 60s I went from one radio station to another. This is what disc jockeys do, when you get fired you move on. And at one station WWDC in Washington I, uh, was doing the graveyard shift, which is what you do when you're first starting out. And one day the program director called me in and said, uh, "Joe I'm going to have to let you go. I'm sorry but you're fired." And I didn't think that was anything unusual for a disc jockey that's, you know, if you don't fired you're not really trying [laugh] that's what happens to disc jockeys. But at the same time I said, "Well why? What did I do wrong?" He said, uh, "You didn't do anything wrong, I just found somebody who was better." I said, "Oh I should have ( )." ( ) Of course. And I was wondering 'cause people been telling me, "Man you've got a great voice. You've got this wonderful deep resonance. You are an announcer." And I thought you know I felt ( ). So I went home and started job hunting but I knew a few days later my air shift was going to come around and this new guy, the guy who was better than me, was going to be on the radio. So the appointed hour came around on the appointed day and I was sitting at the radio dialed into WWDC Silver Springs, Maryland. "And this is Ron Star on WWDC Silver Springs, Maryland." I went, "Oh my god. What kind of joke is this? This guy's got a voice like broken glass." And I listened and I was horrified. He was [laugh] terrible, I mean it was almost painful to listen to. He had this nasal high-pitched nasty voice. And I had this mellifluous you know flowing basso profundo. And I kept listening and after about three or four nights I realized that I was really looking forward to ( ). I want to hear him and I started thinking about it. I listened to him again for several nights and I finally realized what was happening was this guy was talking to me. He wasn't playing an announcer, he wasn't listening to his own voice in his set of headphones trying to sound pretty. ( ) Just a little bit to make it work. He was very natural he was very honest he had a terrible nasal voice, but he was real. ( ) Like he meant it he said it honestly straight out and he said it to me as if I was the only person in there. He was talking to one person and I was the one person listening so it had to be. All of a sudden it dawned on me, "He's communicating," and this is what my industry is all about. It doesn't have a thing to do with thunder throating and beautiful voice and technique and, uh, you have to keep a little cup of, uh, olive oil and wa-.
BREAK IN RECORDING AR: Irene can you please tell me-?
FV (Female voice): No I can't.
AR: About- [laugh].
BREAK IN RECORDING JR: Learned that lesson in 1968. And I've become very successful in my field. ( ) just say, "Boy, I wish I had a voice like yours." Did I give you anything?