Over the years Studio Center has had the unique privilege of working with some of the best voice talent on the planet. Here we take a moment or two to celebrate a few of those gifted individuals in what we're calling the Studio Center Hall of Fame.
(1937 - 2015)
Warren Miller founded Studio Center in 1967, but that historical tidbit misses the essence of who Warren Miller was. Warren was the consummate entrepreneur. He had a unique gift to recognize a need for a product or service before anyone knew they needed it and then create it with the people and materials at hand. Indeed, he was as much an alchemist as an entrepreneur because he could turn common materials into gold.
Warren loved to build. Whether it was any of three homes, any of the many redesigns and reconfigurations of Studio Center in Norfolk, or studio expansions into Las Vegas and Memphis, Warren truly enjoyed designing new spaces at the drawing board and then bringing them to life by swinging a hammer.
All this was accomplished through self-sacrifice, discipline, and a great imagination. After creating the blueprints, he would create a challenging production calendar that would require late nights and early mornings and he would always meet the goals he set for himself. When he converted the photography studio to a video production and post-production facility in the early ‘90’s, Warren mapped out an ambitious 30-day construction schedule and he held the grand opening right on time.
Warren’s many skills and experiences gave him the background that would enable him to found the unique “one stop shop” that Studio Center is. Warren was a recording artist with regional hits like “Everybody’s Got a Baby But Me” and “Have Gun, Will Travel.” He founded his own record label. Warren was a radio disc jockey and program manager and even instituted his own school for announcers.
Recording music was the main focus when he opened Studio Center in 1967, but he soon expanded into the area of commercial radio production and quickly became the premiere production studio in southeast Virginia. Continuous improvement led him to develop the concept of the one-stop production house where everything necessary for radio production - booking agent, talent director, audio engineer, and paymaster - was under one roof.
Along the way Warren found other veins of gold to mine. Portra-Slide/Feature Slide delivered twelve beautiful 35mm slides to television news departments each week that gave subscribing stations a coordinated look for their news broadcasts. “Malice,” an innovative spoof of the “Dallas” television show generated great ratings for radio stations, and “Spot Shop” created pre-produced radio ads that were supported by print advertising.
Warren never stopped looking for the next opportunity, the next improvement. When he sold the company to William Prettyman in 2004, he turned his attention to hearth and home and enriched the lives of friends and family until his death in 2015.
(1926 - 2017)
The bright lights of New York City proved irresistible to Andy Roberts after fulfilling his U.S. Navy military service during World War II. The city was only too happy to embrace this fine young singer. Andy performed with the Skitch Henderson Orchestra and toured with the Sauter Finegan Orchestra. He also made his television debut on NBC’s “Broadway Open House” and he sang for a year on “The Ted Mack Family Hour.” Andy also sang with Gene Krupa and Jimmy Dorsey and socialized with Frank Sinatra, Ed Sullivan, and Rosemary Clooney.
But when his first daughter Nancy was born to Andy and wife Dottie while on the road in Las Vegas, Andy discovered that he was at heart a family man and he returned to his hometown of Hampton, Virginia to settle down.
Andy returned to television at WTKR in 1956 hosting “The Andy Roberts Show” variety program and later he hosted “People, Places and Things.” His relaxed manner and polished voice attracted the attention of Studio Center founder Warren Miller, who promptly ushered Andy into the voice booth.
Andy quickly became one of the most-requested voices in the Studio Center talent pool. His straight reads were crisp, his characters comedic, and his German accent was unassailable. When a client asked Andy if he could deliver copy like Ralph Bell, Andy listened to a sample and then promptly delivered the copy with the same wry, bemused intent as the man he emulated. This distinctive style boosted Andy’s voiceover career exponentially. He became the go-to guy for political advertising, all while maintaining a demanding on-air schedule as WTKR’s premiere weatherman.
Andy had a unique ability to whistle his esses and he would occasionally test a new engineer or agency producer by whistling each and every “s” in the script while reading a run-through. He’d watch out of the corner of his eyes for a look of panic from the newbie, but when the call came for “Take One,” he’d perform the script flawlessly.
Andy was a true professional, hitting his stride early in each session, making each production enjoyable, and each finished piece as effective as it could be. Through it all, Andy was a gentleman, but above all he remained a family man. We will always be grateful that Andy made Studio Center a big part of his extended family.
(1927 - 2016)
Look in the dictionary under “Voice of God” and you will likely see a picture of Lee Lively. His deep, resonant voice commanded attention and the radio advertising he voiced got results. But certainly he was no one-trick pony. Lee was a performer with few limits. He excelled at “hard sell” and he breathed life into characters, both real and cartoonish. From whimsical to somber, Lee could find the perfect energy, tone, and tempo to make the listener hear the authenticity of his delivery and embrace the message of the advertiser.
Lee’s acting was not confined to the voiceover booth. He was an accomplished actor on stage, screen, and film. He played King Henry II in “The Lion in Winter” and Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha.” His television credits include “Matlock,” “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles,” and the mini-series “Dream West.” Lee also appeared in the movies “The Prince of Tides” with Barbra Streisand and “Zelly and Me” with David Lynch.
Lee’s talents were also evident in the visual arts. A renowned portrait artist in oil paint and pastels, Lee was in high demand throughout the southeast. Beginning in 1972, Studio Center commissioned Lee to make twelve pastel drawings every week, six portraits and six illustrations, and marketed them to television stations across the United States. Portra-Slide/Feature-Slide gave local news departments a cohesive appearance for over twelve years and was phased out when digital alternatives gave stations the ability to create their own graphics. During this period Lee created well over 8,000 images.
His body of work in the voiceover booth was its equal. Lee regularly voiced promotions for CBN, AAA, Piggly Wiggly, Kroger, the Audubon Zoo, the United States Navy, and the Kennedy Space Center. The authority of his delivery made Lee a favorite of political candidates on both sides of the aisle. During the sessions, Lee would draw from his considerable experience to make suggestions that would turn a good radio spot into a work of art.
Marv Henry always arrived early for his voiceover sessions. He wanted to have plenty of time to study the script, read it through and then mark it so that his first read was excellent. After he was fully prepared, he would often turn the script over and draw a cartoon about himself and his interactions with the staff.
Marv frequently pictured himself as the “Hero,” always with a medal, fully in charge of every situation, and calling to task all who did not measure up. All done with tongue firmly in cheek. Or he might be a giant redwood alongside his fellow redwoods, Lee Lively and Andy Roberts, among a forest of saplings. In this false bravado Marv sought to be self-deprecating, but he actually underlined the truth - Marv was a standout.
Marv Henry brought a lot to the table, and dozens of characters to the voice booth. From his panoply of classic Hollywood characters - John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, and more - to his stock characters of the trail-worn cowboy to the punchdrunk fighter to the gossipy Aunt Blabby, Marv was a one man talent agency. These were voices born of years of experience.
After his stint in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Marv acted in Hollywood before cutting his teeth in radio in Minneapolis. In 1964, he moved his family to Portsmouth, Virginia, where he hosted “Dialing for Dollars” on WAVY-TV and “Morning Drive Time” on WAVY Radio. Marv later worked for WFOG and WTAR in the Tidewater area.
If Lee Lively was the Voice of God, then surely Marv Henry was the Voice of Wisdom. His relaxed authoritative manner sold without pandering, assured with confidence, and guided without pushing. He was the most versatile of voiceover artists and a delightful man to work alongside.