August 06, 2022

SATURDAY MORNING MASTERS: GARY OWENS

 


GARY OWENS
(May 10, 1934-February 12, 2015)

 
Notable Roles: Roger Ramjet, Space Ghost, Blue Falcon, Captain Squash, Commander Ulysses Feral, Powdered Toast Man, 1950s Batman
 
Born Gary Bernard Altman, Owens was notable for his baritone speaking voice and deadpan comedic delivery that made him an ideal narrator and announcer for various projects—particularly of the humorous kind. He began his career as a news reporter on radio station KORN in 1952 in Mitchell, South Dakota, and was promoted to news director two years later. In 1956 he left to be a newscaster at KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa, before becoming a disc jockey at KOIL in Omaha, Nebraska. After bouncing around a few other stations, he finally ended up in California in 1959. He began a two-decade tenure at 710 KMCP (now KSPN AM) where he displayed his surrealistic humor and tendency for puns, as well as inventing nonsense words and doing amusing radio promotions. He also developed several alter-egos: gruff old man earl C. Festoon and his wife Phoebe, stuffy businessman Endocrine J. Sternwallow, goofy good ol’ boy Merle Clyde Gumpf, and crochety old Mergenthaler Waisleywillow. In 1961 he started transitioning into film and television by providing the uncredited prologue narration for The Naked Witch (although it wasn’t released until 1964). In 1965, he made a couple of appearances on McHale’s Navy and voiced the titular character in the animated Roger Ramjet. His most well-known role came in 1968 as the announcer for the sketch comedy series Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, where he established his trademark routine of holding his hand on his ear as he spoke into the microphone. Owens had a long association with Hanna-Barbera Productions, providing either opening narrations or episode narrations for various shows like The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, Yogi’s Space Race and Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, as well as various roles including the heroes Space Ghost in Space Ghost and Blue Falcon in Dynomutt, Dog Wonder and supporting antagonist Commander Ulysses Feral in SWAT Kats. Additionally, he voiced various cartoon characters on Sesame Street, the characters of Powdered Toast Man in The Ren & Stimpy Show and Captain Squash in Bobby’s World, and was even one of the prospective voices for Inspector Gadget in one of the pilot episodes. In 2004, Owens co-wrote the book How to Make a Million Dollars with Your Voice (Or Lose Your Tonsils Trying) with Jeff Lenburg, an anecdote-laden guide on how to get into voice acting. In his final years, Owens served as the promotional announcing voice for retro network Antenna TV until his death in 2015 due to complications from his life-long bout with Type 1 diabetes.
 
Saturday Credits:
Space Ghost and Dino Boy
Sesame Street
The Perils of Penelope Pitstop
Dynomutt, Dog Wonder
Scooby’s Laff-A-Lympics
Yogi’s Space Race
Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels
Space Stars
The Mighty Orbots
Inspector Gadget (1 pilot version)
Garfield & Friends
Yogi’s Treasure Hunt
Bobby’s World
Defenders of Dynatron City
Tom & Jerry Kids Show
Eek! the Cat
Goof Troop
Raw Toonage
Skeleton Warriors
The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat
The Mask: The Animated Series
Nightmare Ned
101 Dalmatians: The Series
The New Batman Adventures
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command
Teamo Supremo

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