The inability of WGR sports talk host Mike Schopp to recognize the voice of Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula on a recent Saturday morning call to a sports card-themed program surprised me.
After all, I think Pegula has one of the most recognizable voices and speaking styles. I’m 99 percent sure that even if I only had heard Pegula identify himself as “Terry” I would have known Pegula was speaking within five seconds.
That’s because I’ve always been a connoisseur of voices. Local radio legend Danny Neaverth always kids me when I mention someone has a good or weak voice. He also kids me when I don’t mention someone’s voice.
I enjoy playing “Name That Celebrity” when George Clooney, Jon Hamm, Kiefer Sutherland, John Krasinski, Jeff Bridges, John Corbett or some other star does the voice-over for commercials.
In any event, the Schopp-Pegula exchange got me thinking about the Top 30 most distinctive and recognizable voices in the local television and radio media.
They include the best voices and the weakest voices. Both categories are memorable. I have ignored the voices in between those categories
Unquestionably, a strong voice can compensate for weaknesses in reporting and a weak one can hurt a presentation that is strong.
Here’s one man’s assessment of the top 30 most distinctive and recognizable voices in local media. If I heard them making an anonymous call to a talk show, I bet I would recognize them in five seconds or less.
• Rick Jeanneret, Buffalo Sabres: Boy is he missed on Buffalo Sabres games. Of course, his excitable voice probably wouldn’t help Sabres fans much this National Hockey League season, because there hasn’t been much to get excited about.
• John Murphy: The radio play-by-play voice of the Buffalo Bills has one of the best voices in Western New York history, whether he is calling the games or making an advertising pitch for a local oil company.
• John Zach, WBEN: The ageless radio wonder is the best at delivering radio news. Of course, there isn’t much radio news competition these days.
• Brittni Smallwood, Channel 4: The anchor-reporter has the best and most commanding female anchor voice in the market and that eventually should propel her to a larger market.
• John Borsa, formerly of Channel 7: He had the station’s strongest voice and was one of the station’s strongest reporters. However, I’m told he might have spoken up too often about things that irritated him, which may have led to his voice getting a rest.
• Maryalice Demler, Channel 2: See, I can say something nice about her. Her smooth voice is an asset. It would be more of one if she didn’t feel she had to speak after every news story.
• Jeremy White, WGR: He comes across as arrogant to some, but you have to pay attention to his strong opinions because of his distinctive voice.
• George Richert, Channel 4: He has a great, clear voice and he is one of the most underappreciated reporters in town. If he ever leaves TV, he could do voice-over work for commercials.
• John Beard: He may have originally been from the South but he has the perfect Midwestern voice for TV. It is pleasant-sounding and comforting.
• Sal Capaccio, WGR: He has a powerful voice ideally suited for an opinionated sports talk show host.
• Al Vaughters, Channel 4: He has a reassuring, distinctive voice that makes his reports sound reasonable and fair-minded.
• Kevin O’Connell, Channel 2: He’s the best ad-libber and the most comfortable performer on TV and his voice has Western New York written all over it.
• Claudine Ewing, Channel 2: She has a pleasant voice and is one of the few staffers of this station who doesn’t make the stories she covers about her.
• Luke Moretti, Channel 4: A former Channel 7 anchor, Moretti’s voice adds to his veteran presence.
• Kendra Eaglin, Channel 7: She has a strong anchor voice that grabs a viewer’s attention.
• Jonah Javad, Channel 2: He comes off as arrogant and obnoxious and appears to be auditioning for SportsCenter, but his voice and attitude just might help him get there if he ever learns to restrain himself.
• Mike Randall, Channel 7: He has the perfect reassuring voice for doing weather, light features and playing Mark Twain.
• Lauren Brill, Channel 4: Some of my blog readers have called her unwatchable. She is more unlistenable than she is unwatchable. In fairness, she has improved, and you have to admit her voice is easier to recognize than the words that she is saying.
• Matthew Coller, WGR: The sports producer who occasionally does on-air work is as knowledgeable about hockey as anyone, but his weak voice is a distraction.
• Dave McKinley: His speaking style sort of reminds me of “Dateline” reporter Keith Morrison in that his inflection seems to be telling viewers as much as his words.
• Laura Gray, Channel 7: She has a smooth, pleasant voice that is easy to listen to in the morning.
• Rob Lucas, 102.5: He has one of the smoothest radio voices, though I’m told he lost it for awhile when he got sick.
• Autumn Lewandowski, Channel 7: The judges on NBC’s “The Voice” probably would say she is a little “too pitchy.” And that can irritate a viewer. She also sounds like she is screaming at viewers, rather than talking to them.
• Tom Bauerle, WBEN: He’s got a great voice, which makes this talk show host’s distorted views even more dangerous.
• Sandy Beach, WBEN: Love his voice, too. But his laugh is more distinctive.
• Steve Tasker, CBS: Like Beard, he has a classic Midwestern voice, which is perfect for selling cars.
• Teresa Weakley, Channel 4: The “Wake Up!” co-anchor has gotten to this market more because of her pleasant personality than by virtue of her distracting high-pitched voice.
• Stu Boyar, Channel 2: He may know as much about sports as any local sportscaster. But the next time his voice gets excited will be the first time.
• Keith Radford, Channel 7: He has the calm Canadian vibe.
• Mike Schopp, WGR: You wouldn’t have to wait until he is rude to a caller.