A New Adventure

The man of a thousand voices

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One of the benefits of attending a top-ranked university, like the University of Missouri in Columbia, is the speakers and entertainment they bring in.

In my four years of attendance — plus the years I dated my wife while she was there — I attended several live concerts and more than one speaking engagement at the University.

Being a “trumpet” man I have always been a fan of trumpet playing bands, even if Dire Straits didn’t give a damn about them. So I could not pass up seeing my favorite ‘70s rock band, Chicago when they appeared in concert at Hearnes Center.

This was just before Peter Cetera left the band for a solo carrier.

The most famous speaker I remember going to hear was Melvin Jerome Blank. Maybe you know him by Mel Blanc. 

If that name doesn’t ring a bell I’m sure Bugs Bunny does.

It was Jack Benny that gave him the label of “the man of a thousand voices.” He added: “There are only five real people in Hollywood. Everybody else is Mel Blanc.”

Jesse Hall in Columbia was filled to capacity that day to listen to the voice of Bugs Bunny. I glad to claim that I was able to meet the original Bugs Bunny in person.

Perhaps they were exaggerating a bit, the actual number of voices he did is listed at just over 400. These were unique voices for radio, television, movie and cartoon characters.

He created voices for an estimated 90 percent of Looney Tunes characters, including such cartoon stars as Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Pie, Sylvester, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, and the Road Runner in addition to Bugs Bunny.

Like most people my age, I grew up laughing to Looney Tunes on Saturday mornings in the ‘60s and early ‘70s. By the time my children were old enough to appreciate them I had to introduce them to the shows via VHS so I could relive a portion of my childhood.

Outside of Looney Tunes, Blanc was a regular cast member for years on the Burns and Allen and Abbott and Costello shows.

Another character he voiced-over, that many of you would recognize, was Barney Rubble in The Flintstones (1960–66). 

I say, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but if I had to choose I would reveal that my favorite has always been Foghorn Leghorn.

This year marks Looney Tunes’ 80th birthday. With other voice-over artists replacing Blanc, HBO Max, earlier this year, debuted “Looney Tunes Cartoons” — an original series produced by Warner Bros. Animation.

One thing missing in this new set of cartoons is Elmer Fudd’s trusty rifle— or any firearm for that matter. According to the executive producer Peter Browngardt, Elmer can only use his imagination when hunting that “wascally wabbit” in this new modern version. 

We all know that watching Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam shoot everything in sight did not — I repeat NOT — turn young boys into homicidal maniacs.

I’ve always been a sucker for the slapstick comedy of the Road Runner. I wonder if Wile E. Coyote can still use dynamite from the Acme Corporation. 

Another thing this new series is having problems stepping around is bullying. In the original shows, Foghorn Leghorn is basically a bully, with many episodes centered on him bullying the Barnyard Dawg. 

I’ll stick with the original shows, thank you very much.

If someone complains about the old cartoons just turn to them and politely yell “Aah-h, sha-daahhp!”

Regarded as one of the most influential people in the voice acting industry, Blanc reportedly changed his last name when he was just 16-years old after a teacher told him that he would amount to nothing and be like his name, a “blank.”

A teacher should never put down a student and make them feel they are worthless.

In his last assignment, Blanc provided voices for his most familiar characters in the feature film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988).

Blanc died one year later at the age of 81. 

Others have since taken over his duties but there will never be another Mel Blanc.

The inscription on his gravestone says it all — “THAT’S ALL FOLKS.”

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