Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite, the dean of American journalists 1916-2009. I was very happy and lucky to have met, recorded and interviewed him.

Walter Cronkite was the voice of much of the 20th century on radio, TV, and in many other fields of entertainment and education. His voice was the one I remember during the Kennedy assassination. His voice was what I remembered during the moon landing. His voice was what I remembered with the Watergate scandal and hearing. His was the voice. Many called him "Uncle Walter", as he was a trusted member of the family it seemed. To me he was always a great and powerful voice in the world of media. Today, although he lived a very long and rich life, his legacy and what he was and represented, was always felt. Therefore now there is a great loss to ourselves as we have lost a favorite uncle. I was very lucky to have met him and spent a wonderful cold January day in his offices in CBS. I thought it would be good to record the voice of Cronkite on wax for a project that I had designed. After a number of phone calls and letters all was set and we had the session on January 21, 2000. It went very well and I recall how charming and delightful he was. He was truly modest and kind.
I recall the question that we asked, it was a simple one, but one that may of interest to many people reading this. How did you learn to speak like you do?
One has to remember that one of the greatest things about Cronkite was his wonderful cadence. He answered the question this way. "I was born in Missouri, and moved to Texas, and I had a father who would rap me on the knuckles every time I showed any sense of a twang." That is why he spoke as he did.

He told us many stories of his past, and how he recalled the voice of General Patton was quite high pitched as he was always yelling in the field. He talked about his youth and how his family had an old fashioned wind up phonograph. He said it was always his job to wind it.

He also said he was one of the greatest fans and critic of the Space Program. In the interview it was talked about how his voice was translated in many languages during the Apollo 11 voyage and moon landing. He asked "How did they translate my WOW!"
He told me he started going to college to learn Print journalism, he said that was the only kind they had at that time. Nothing was taught about radio and of course TV really wasn't a factor yet.

We made the recordings and they came out perfectly. His Secretary called him "One take Walter". After we finished we listened to some recorded music and had a sing along in his office. We listened to a recording of "By the light of the silvery moon." Walter danced a little for us and everyone said how much we had enjoyed ourselves.
After this I was able to get a picture with him and he wrote me a lovely little note wishing me every success. That was Walter Cronkite, a great man and truly a lovely one too.
A photo taken at the end of the the interview and recording.
Making the recordings on wax in his office at CBS.