KPAC Blog
1:00 am
Wed January 2, 2013

Charles Booker: Big Heart, Big Voice

I suppose it is because I have largely made my living these past 20 years with my voice -- though certainly not as a singer -- that I have come to value the sound of a voice and what it reveals; both when the voice is alive, and perhaps more importantly, when that speaker is no longer with us.

I also place a high value on photographs, yet I often think that our mind's eye has a much better memory than the mind's ear when it comes to remembering people. This is why I place such a high value on audio recordings I've managed to gather over the years. It also explains my profound regret that I don't have any audio of my younger brother Mike, who passed away much too young at age 34, and I only have scant audio of my good friend Bill Ginn, also gone away too young.

On the other hand, I am thankful for the fact I have for a number of years carried both a camera and an audio recorder, and that I have not been reluctant to use them. Though it might seem intrusive at first, most subjects eventually forget you're taking pictures or recording conversation. Certainly years or decades later, these visual and audio mementos will be treasured.

Roland audio recorder
Roland audio recorder
Credit Roland.com

These days many of us already carry the tools we need built into our Smartphones. Learn to use these features and practice them regularly to gather your own photographs and sound recordings.

2012 is a year I won't forget.

My mother passed away on Mother's Day and my sister Brenda asked me to put together a video presentation to be played at her funeral. I was happy to oblige by drawing together various collected pictures and, more importantly, sound bites gathered over the final 10 years of her life. As time passes, we will have this to reinforce our memories of her life, the sound of her voice, and her always present laughter.

Over my 20 years in radio, I have collected almost two decades worth of interviews. One thing I have learned is to never discard this work. Sadly, in the beginning I would discard the parts of an interview which didn't make it through the editing process. I have since learned not to do that. So often something which might seem without value at the time becomes poignant at a later time; I guess it's much like the out-takes in movie making.

Of course, the most obvious lesson is to hang onto the finished projects. It's all too easy to become careless with these, misplacing them or even tossing them out. Don't do it!

During 2012 we also lost a former voice on Texas Public Radio in Charles Booker. I had a complicated friendship with Charles, to put it bluntly, I found him careless on the job. His politics worried me, and Charles never had to think about stepping on toes. It came naturally to him. That said, I must admit that he was also one of the most generous people I have ever met. And he also had a voice and presence which could take over a room (or microphone).

Despite my earlier sermon about always having an audio recorder at the ready, I have no recordings of informal conversation with Charles. However, I found him more than willing (generous) in participating in a couple of radio projects.

Back in 2003, he agreed to assume the voice of H. L. Mencken for a program called Mencken, Bethlehem and Bach. I mixed together some of Mencken's writings on music, in particular his accounts of various visits to hear Bach performed in Bethlehem, PA, with a recording of Bach's "Mass in b," made by the Bethlehem Bach Choir. I often thought Charles had a bit of the bluster of Mencken, and like Mencken Charles loved language as only a writer can. Here's the opening segment to Mencken, Bethlehem and Bach.

In 2004 I invited various Texas Public Radio colleagues to join me in a celebration of American Christmas Songs. Most agreed, but asked me to write for them their 60-90 second scripts. With Charles I simply gave him the materials he needed and he did the writing himself, telling about the making of the classic "Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" through fact, fable and good humor.

Once again, here's Charles Booker, a blast from the past.

Make sure your feet are tucked up under your chair, otherwise this blustery character of TPR just might step on your toes. RIP, Charles Booker.