voices Southern Of
Glory by Jon Rawl, Publisher
AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2007 • Y’ALL
In the South, college football is king. A large part of the reason for the success of the sport is its longtime connection to radio and the beloved broadcasters that have illustrated the games, the players, the coaches and the pageantry for more than 70 years. Most Southern boys like myself often dreamed of scoring that winning touchdown as we played in the yard. And to help with the imagination, we mimicked a broadcaster’s tone, usually your favorite collegiate team’s voice. Bob Fulton, a longtime announcer for the South Carolina Gamecocks, was my hero. His influence was a major reason I decided as a teenager to go work at the local radio station in Batesburg, S.C. Twenty years later, I’m still trying to be Mr.
Fulton, to no avail. The power of radio – literally – allowed me and millions of others to hear the many messengers of gridiron glory. WLACAM in Nashville boomed John Ward’s “Touchdown Tennessee!” across the country. And the great calls of Larry Munson on the Georgia Bulldog Radio Network, including “Hunker down you guys” or “This is ungodly!” after Kevin Butler’s 60-yard gamewinning field goal against Clemson in 1984 – this was the stuff of legends. Y’all Magazine is proud to salute 21 of the South’s legendary collegiate voices, who for decades gave – or continue to give – their talent to their beloved school.
Bob Barry, Oklahoma Sooners
Bob Barry has the unique distinction of having served as the broadcast voice for both the Oklahoma Sooners (1961-1972;1991-present) and the intrastate rival Oklahoma State Cowboys (1973-1990). The Oklahoma City native pulls doubleduty as a TV personality on KFOR-TV. His most memorable game was the 1971 clash between Oklahoma and Big Eight rival Nebraska, a 35-31 Cornhusker victory.
Otis Boggs, Florida Gators
The “Voice of the Gators” for 42 years, Otis Boggs never got to broadcast a National Championship game for Florida. But, he did get to watch Steve Spurrier capture the Heisman Trophy in 1966. The Florida alumnus began his Gator playby-play duties in 1940, when he was still a student. Boggs died at the age of 82 in 2002.
Al Ciraldo, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Legendary Georgia Tech radio voice Al Ciraldo made expressions like, “Toe meets leather,” “Brothers and sisters,” and “Gttttt!” as much a part of Georgia Tech as Bobby Dodd, the Ramblin’ Wreck and Buzz. For 38 seasons, Ciraldo called the great plays of Tech football and basketball, starting in 1954. He retired from the booth in 1992. In 1997, he passed away at the age of 76.
Jack Cristil, Mississippi State Bulldogs
Having served as Mississippi State’s sole football play-by-play broadcaster since 1953, Jack Cristil has called over 500 games for the Bulldogs. He has also broadcast MSU basketball games since the 1957-58 season. Cristil, 81, grew up in Memphis, Tenn., with dreams of becoming a broadcaster. After serving as a member of the Army Air Corps during World War II, he returned home to start play-by-play work for minor league baseball teams in the South. Cristil makes up for announcing Mississippi State football games for over a half-century on Shabbat by serving as a lay leader at his Tupelo synagogue. “I get the best of both worlds,” Cristil says.
Y’ALL • THE MAGAZINE OF SOUTHERN PEOPLE
AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2007 • Y’ALL
Gene Deckerhoff, Florida State Seminoles
Gene Deckerhoff has to be the second-busiest broadcaster in Dixie (see Eli Gold). Not only has the Southern-accented Deckerhoff served as the football voice of the Florida State Seminoles since 1979; he’s been the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio identity for 18 seasons, and he’s been the basketball broadcaster for FSU since 1975. The Jacksonville, Fla., native is the father of three sons and six grandchildren.
Woody Durham, North Carolina Tar Heels
“Woody’s enthusiasm, his love for Carolina, is something that is extremely special,” North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams shares. Durham, an Albermarle, N.C., native and UNC grad, has been the radio voice of the Tar Heels since 1971. At 65, he’s been behind the mike for three Tar Heel basketball national titles, and he’s voiced countless games for Carolina Football, both at Kenan Stadium and beyond. He’s also influenced his family to enter the radio broadcast business -- son Wes is the play-by-play man for ACC rival Georgia Tech.
Paul Eells, Arkansas Razorbacks
Known throughout Arkansas for his fantastic broadcasting voice and his trademark “Oh My” and “Touchdown Arkansas” radio calls, Paul Eells was the “Voice Of The Razorbacks” for 27 years, until he was killed in an auto accident at the age of 70 in 2006. Before moving to Little Rock in 1978, he had been the radio voice of the Vanderbilt Commodores for 11 years. Eells left behind a wife, three children and five grandchildren.
John Ferguson, LSU Tigers
From 1946–1987, LSU fans heard Louisiana native John Ferguson’s baritone pipes belting out the action live from Death Valley, including Billy Cannon’s unbelievable run against Ole Miss in 1959. An Army Air Corps pilot in World War II, Ferguson also served as a voice for the New Orleans Saints. In 2005, Ferguson died at the age of 86.
Jack Fleming, West Virginia Mountaineers
Jack Fleming’s colorful descriptions during his more than 40 years (1947–1996) of broadcasting West Virginia football and basketball earned him the reputation among his peers as one of the best play-by-play men. “I came here in 1980, and he was literally ‘Mr. Mountaineer,’” former WVU football coach Don Nehlen said. Fleming also was the Pittsburgh Steelers voice for decades. In 2001, he died at the age of 77.
Bob Fulton, South Carolina Gamecocks
For 43 years, Pennsylvania import Bob Fulton was a welcome addition in the Sandhills of Central South Carolina. As “Voice of the Gamecocks,” Fulton broadcast more than 1,900 South Carolina football, basketball and baseball games from 1952–1995, including a Cal Ripken-like 512 consecutive USC basketball broadcasts before his retirement. He lives in Lexington, S.C., where he runs a fantasy play-by-play business for sports fans eager to hear “The Voice” again.
Y’ALL • THE MAGAZINE OF SOUTHERN PEOPLE
Jim Fyffe, Auburn Tigers
Jim Fyffe will always be known for his signature call, “Touchdown Auburn.” He called play-by-play for the Auburn Tigers football and basketball squads for 22 years, until his death in 2003. Fyffe was 57. “He really brought a special element to our radio broadcasts and he will always be remembered for his great calls of our games,” Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville reflected.
Eli Gold, Alabama Crimson Tide
It’s been a busy road from Brooklyn, N.Y., to the Heart of Dixie. Since 1988, Eli Gold has been the football voice of the Alabama Crimson Tide. The 53-year-old can certainly multi-task, as evidenced by his side jobs as a 31-year member of NASCAR’s MRN broadcast team, NBC Sports broadcaster, Fox Sports Net broadcaster and play-by-play voice of the NHL’s Nashville Predators. And did we mention the Vestavia Hills, Ala., resident squeezes in time to also be a dad and husband? Broadcasting Bama Football and NASCAR races is one heckuva gig – even if you are from New York City!
Bob Harris, Duke Blue Devils
Bob Harris grew up in Albemarle, N.C., where he was a high school teammate of UNC broadcaster Woody Durham. For 31 seasons, Harris, 64, has been the “Voice of the Blue Devils.” He broadcast his 1,000th Duke basketball game in 2006. Although the Football Blue Devils may not perform as well as their basketball brethren, Harris is right there with his velvet voice call every Saturday.
Jim Hawthorne, LSU Tigers
Following a legend like John Ferguson was tough. But, since Mr. Ferguson was the guy that hired Anacoco, La., native Jim Hawthorne, everything was good. Since 1979, Hawthorne has been voicing Tiger baseball, basketball and football games. His sensational Southern voice is heard in two-thirds of the country at night, as LSU games are heard on two 50,000-watt clear channel powerhouses: WWL-AM 870 and KWKH-AM 1130. When he’s not in the booth, you might find Hawthorne picking and singing country songs across the Pelican State; passing the time until Death Valley is back open.
Cawood Ledford, Kentucky Wildcats
Cawood Ledford was the longtime play-by-play announcer for Kentucky Wildcat football and basketball teams, beginning his tenure 1953. He also worked as the play-by-play announcer for national radio broadcasts of the NCAA Men’s Final Four, and called many runnings of the Kentucky Derby. He died at the age of 75 in 2001. His final words on the air in 1992: “From Rupp Arena in downtown Lexington, this is Cawood Ledford saying thanks to each of you from the bottom of my heart for letting me share this great 39 years. Till we meet again, goodbye.”
Larry Munson, Georgia Bulldogs
Although he says he’s in a “hell of a mess” health-wise, 84-year-old Larry Munson is going to give his best effort for the Red and Black this 2007 season. Munson may have to skip a road game along the way, but the legendary voice of Georgia Football will be back for his 42nd season. A prostate cancer survivor, he says he has taken “quite a few spills,” recently. Munson first came to Georgia to broadcast the Atlanta Braves in 1966, which was also his first year with the Dawgs. The native Minnesotan’s dramatic delivery, along with an unabashed partisanship for the Bulldogs, has endeared him to generations of Georgia fans, who’ll never forget unique calls like “Look at the Sugar falling out of the sky!” or “We just stepped on their face with a hob-nailed boot and broke their nose!” AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2007 • Y’ALL
Lindsey Nelson, Tennessee Volunteers
The man who gave birth to the University of Tennessee’s Vol Network in the 1950s, UT alum Lindsey Nelson had a distinguished national broadcasting career beginning with the Liberty Broadcasting System and continuing through four decades. After retiring, he was an adjunct professor of broadcasting on “The Hill” and taught journalism. The Vols baseball stadium is named in his honor and memory, commemorating his service to NBC, ABC, the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants with America’s national pastime. The Campbellsville, Tenn., native died at the age of 76 in 1995.
Jim Phillips, Clemson Tigers
For 36 years, Clemson Tigers broadcaster Jim Phillips filled the airwaves of South Carolina with his classic pipes. His sudden death in 2003, at the age of 69, was hard on two generations of Tiger fans. Phillips was the dean of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the only ACC play-by-play announcer to call football, basketball and baseball.
Dave South, Texas A&M Aggies
During the last 47 years, it’s estimated Dave South has done over 15,000 live broadcasts and over 12,000 interviews. He has been the “Voice of the Aggies” since the 1985 season. His call on Sirr Parker’s 32-yard, double overtime touchdown reception against Kansas State in the 1998 Big 12 Championship Game was selected as one of the top 100 calls of the last century. In addition to his duties in the Texas Aggies football and basketball press box, South has taught a graduate level sales class at Texas A&M, where his wife, Leanne, also works.
Stan Torgerson, Ole Miss Rebels
Can a Wisconsin native be a Rebel? Stan Torgerson sure proved it. As the radio voice for Ole Miss in the last years of celebrated football coach Johnny Vaught’s reign, Torgerson called all of Archie Manning’s famous moves. In all he spent 15 years broadcasting the Johnny Rebs football team, and 17 years behind the microphone of Ole Miss basketball broadcasts. His last season on the air was 1984. Torgerson died at the age of 82 in 2006.
John Ward, Tennessee Volunteers
John Ward knew exactly the right time to hang it up – the 1998 National Championship season for the Tennessee Volunteers. For 30 years (33 years for basketball), Ward was the Vols man behind the mike. His trademark “Touchdown Tennessee” was broadcast when UT hit the checkerboard end zone. With both a B.A. and J.D. graduate from UT, Ward donated over $2 million to the athletic department in 1994. He retired with his wife Barbara to Concord, Tenn., but he still drops in occasionally to the Knoxville campus filled with decades of great memories.
Y’ALL • THE MAGAZINE OF SOUTHERN PEOPLE