[Listen to an interview with Jeff Winter from the Georgia State University archives.]
I’ve been blessed to have met many successful professionals in my industry and call them friends. These people have voices as different as they are.
About 50 years ago, I heard a voice like no other. That voice belonged to Jeff Winter.
Jeff’s voice was not the typical “radio voice” we were accustomed to hearing. By that I mean big pipes, or a somewhat deeper voice. His voice wasn’t high, but it wasn’t low, either. It was smooth, casual, and velvety. Not weak by any means, but natural and unaffected. Many radio types yell, grunt or growl. And there are other adjectives that could be used to describe their delivery: one technical term we use in the business is “puking.”
A New Yorker heads south
I first heard Jeff on WQXI FM, the sister station of WQXI, “Quixie in Dixie,” the legendary Top 40 AM station that produced a list of well-known radio and voice talent long enough to rival any station. (A fact many Atlanta radio fans don’t know is that WQXI FM once had the call letters WKXI. When Jeff began his radio tenure in Atlanta, he actually started on KXI.)
Jeff is a native New Yorker who started his career after being bitten by the radio bug in the nation’s Number One market. As a young 15 year old, Jeff was allowed to observe onsite remote broadcasts by WNBC for hours at a time. The program director was impressed by his enthusiastic interest in the station. Jeff was invited to visit the studios and sit in with people on the air to watch real live radio from a heritage station in the famous RCA Building.
Fast forward a few years. After getting his first full time job at 17, then volunteering and working at a handful of New York area stations, Uncle Sam invited Jeff to join the U.S. Army.
While he was stationed at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Jeff was assigned to the Public Information Office as a Broadcast Specialist. During his stay, he entered a talent show at the service club with a comedy act that had him lip synching records. He won! His artistic abilities, along with his comedy later got him transferred to Fort McPherson in Atlanta, and he joined a “traveling troupe of soldiers.” This group toured the Southeast, and that’s how Jeff finished his military career. I guess it was the Southern hospitality that lured this northern young man to stick around for a while.
Atlanta’s legendary 96 Rock
This is the beginning of his time at WKXI-FM, later known as WQXI FM. Jeff later became the morning man at a brand-new station called WKLS, perhaps better known as 96 Rock. Both of these stations changed the landscape of Atlanta radio in major ways.
Jeff worked in many different jobs at the stations but recording commercials with clients interested him the most.
Commercials are how stations generate revenue. They were the only way in those days. Jeff really dove into creating and voicing these spots. He’d always enjoyed great commercials, and what was required to make them work.
Working the morning show left him plenty of extra time to pursue auditions for freelance voice work. Once he succeeded in getting some really big accounts in the region, more exposure meant more attention from agents…locally, and nationally. Long-time Atlantans may remember the HiFi Buys spots voiced by Jeff. The first national TV account he landed was for Fresca. “National” translates to “huge” in the voiceover industry.
While home for the summer in New York, Jeff pounded the pavement and had dozens of auditions…but turned up nothing. He still pursued his dream. After leaving 96 Rock, Jeff went back to New York, and won two of four auditions. One of these led to network TV. “Network” means “huge,” too! He never looked back.
Based in Atlanta, Jeff spent a lot of time over the next several decades commuting to New York to do voice work and network TV. He was heard by millions. Jeff has slowed down a bit, but he is still one of the most respected people in the voiceover world, both as a talent and a person.
I called this article “The Voice of Winter.” Now you know it has nothing to do with the season. Jeff Winter is voice actor. Many voiceover people are doing admirable jobs, but true voice actors take their gifted instruments to much higher levels. Not only with audio commercials, but anywhere a recording of a voice is needed. Maybe you’ll be fortunate enough to hear Jeff.