It was a crisp October morning in 1959. As Stan Ervasti hugged his wife Lois and pre-schooler son Dick before heading off to his job at the millwork company, the NBC Today Show played on the TV in the background.
Host Dave Garroway smiled and held his long condensor microphone close to his chest, swaying it back and forth as he interviewed people on the Manhattan streets just outside the NBC set.
Young Dick Ervasti ran to the closet, grabbed the broom and raced back to his mom’s side, holding it by the handle as a make-shift microphone, announcing that he was “Dickie Garroway” as he interviewed his happily complicit mother.
Fast-forward a year later, when young Ervasti came dashing home after school to proudly present his mom with an A in reading on his first report card. The teacher, Sister Romana, had written a comment next to the grade, “Richard’s voice is loud and clear. People listen to what he is saying.”
And so it was that Dick Ervasti came to know that microphones and public speaking would play a very important role in his life.
Another year later, Sister Cecelia started to teach Dick piano lessons. It became clear that he also had a proclivity toward music. The piano lessons didn't last more than a few months, however. Ervasti could not get used to the constraints of sheet music and preferred, instead, to play the music he heard in his heart.
As an adolescent in the 1960’s, Dick’s natural music abilities developed rapidly. By the age of thirteen, he had already performed as a drummer and lead guitarist in several neighborhood rock bands, and was also orchestrating original scores as a student conductor of his high school concert band.
After graduating from high school, Dick had some important decisions to make. He had finished one year at Normandale College as a music major, and by then, it was 1975. Even though he had performed and sung in plays and musicals, Ervasti just couldn’t see himself embarking on a theatrical career.
A music career held even less potential, offering paths that only led to teaching or performing pop-music in clubs and living the so-called “nightlife”.
Dick’s only other choice was to go to Brown Institute’s broadcasting school with an eye toward becoming a radio announcer.
While he attended Brown, Ervasti worked part-time as a news dispatcher at KMSP-TV, the local ABC affiliate in the Twin Cities. It only took a couple of weeks for Dick and the station’s veteran booth announcer, Al Tighe, to become good friends.
Tighe instantly recognized Dick’s talent behind the microphone, and introduced him to Al Leighton, who owned several radio stations in Minnesota and Iowa.
Even though Dick was scheduled to graduate from Brown in October of 1976, the school allowed him to take early leave to begin working at KDLM, one of Leighton’s stations in Detriot Lakes, MN.
Ervasti had worked only two months at KDLM when the company moved him up the chain to work at the Leighton flagship property, Top-40 formatted KCLD-FM in St. Cloud, MN. Although he started on the late night 10pm to 2am shift, he was placed after a few months into the 9a to 12noon listen-at-work shift.
It was there in St. Cloud, that Dick performed his first freelance voiceover. In May 1977, a local recording studio specializing in commercial jingles had just landed a big regional radio account for John Deere Company. They didn’t even bother to audition Ervasti for the gig. He just showed up one afternoon and they handed him more than a dozen radio scripts for John Deere. You could hardly say that Ervasti’s VO career was off to the races, but he gained much experience that proved to play a pivotal role in the years to come.
Ervasti climbed the ranks in radio at light-speed. In October 1978, a mere 2 years and 2 months after starting in Detroit Lakes, he was doing morning radio at Doubleday Broadcasting’s Album/Top-40 formatted KWK in St. Louis, MO.
Over the course of the next ten years, Dick’s radio career enabled him to work in midwest markets such as Fargo/Moorhead, Omaha, and back in his hometown of Minneapolis-St. Paul on such stations as 1500 KSTP, KS95FM, K102FM, WDGY, WWTC and WLOL-FM.
In 1988, an old radio pal whom Dick worked with at KVOX in Fargo-Moorhead, Dan Keiley, asked him if he was interested in doing radio station imaging voiceovers for KDWZ-FM in Des Moines IA, where Keiley was PD. Ervasti jumped at the chance, and over the next two years, his list of imaging clients grew from 1 station to 112 stations in markets like Boston, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Omaha, Charlotte and West Palm Beach.
“I really enjoyed doing the radio imaging,” Ervasti recalls, “but I wanted to expand into commercial voiceovers and TV promos.”
The Twin Cities commercial VO market was a tough nut to crack in 1990. Producers were starting to look for a more youthful, guy-next-door type of delivery. Dick’s voice was anything but that. After a few consultations with legendary voiceover coach Marice Tobias, Dick was able to get representation with Linda Jack in Chicago with Tobias’ help.
Talent agents Moore Creative in Minneapolis and Linda Jack in Chicago were able to keep Dick pretty busy for two years. During this time, he commuted back and forth between the two cities on a monthly basis. It was getting to the point where it looked as though Dick and his wife Mary would be moving to Chicago and putting down roots there.
But, as fate would have it, a move to Chicago never happened.
In February 1993, Dick hired Marice Tobias to produce a movie trailer VO demo, which required him to travel to Los Angeles. While in LA, Linda Jack had arranged for him to meet Steve Tisherman, agent for the uber-legendary trailer narrator, Don LaFontaine (DLF).
Within 72 hours, Dick was able to procure representation with Tisherman, so he needed to remain in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Mary packed everything up, sold the house, and moved westward to join him. The Ervasti’s were finally able to settled into the Southern California lifestyle by August 1993.
As a Tisherman talent, Ervasti did fairly well during the first year or so, voicing a good mix of commercials, promos, political ads, syndication packages and even a few B-movie trailers and behind-the-scenes A-movie productions called EPK’s, electronic press kits.
In March 1994, Ervasti was shocked to read the front-page headline in Daily Variety, “Upstart FOX wrests NFC rights from CBS.” It was an epic development that would make TV history by causing the eruption of TV station ownership changes that ensued over the summer of 1994. It also changed the trajectory of Dick’s VO career forever.
FOX TV’s owner Rupert Murdoch spared no expense in launching his network’s NFL franchise. He brought in trusted Aussie lieutenant, David Hill, to head up FOX Sports. Hill brought in ABC Monday Night Football marketing legend George Greenburg to drive marketing and promotion for the new brand.
Some of Greenburg’s most famous campaigns included utilizing country star Hank Williams Jr. in a special football version of one of Williams’ hits, “Do You Wanna Play Some Football?!” Monday Night Football promos used two of the most bombastic and powerful promo voices in the history of TV, New York’s Scott Muni and LA’s Ernie Anderson.
One lazy Wednesday afternoon in April 1994, Greenburg’s office called The Tisherman Agency and requested a few talent demo cassettes be delivered immediately. The search was on to find the new voice of FOX Sports. Steve Tisherman selected four demos (DLF’s and three others). Dick Ervasti’s was not among them. Tisherman’s assistant tossed two more cassettes into the package before it was sealed for courier delivery. One of those demos was Ervasti’s.
Of the six Tisherman talent whose demos were sent over, only two, Dick Ervasti and Al Chalk, were asked to come into to FOX for an audition. Only two others out of all the remaining talent agencies in LA were also auditioned.
After just one round of auditions, Ervasti “won the toss,” and was chosen to be the voice of FOX Sports.
If Hollywood is predictable about anything, it’s the characteristic habit of copying something successful – perhaps more than is necessary or even advisable. Such is the case with almost every new voiceover talent.
Between 1994 and 2000, Dick Ervasti was one of the hardest working voices in Hollywood. In those days, there were 3 VO talent who were so busy, they each had hired a driver and limo to take them to their many daily recording sessions.
DLF started it back in the mid-1980’s. For many years, Don had a minimum of 18 sessions a day, five days a week.
In 1996, VO talent Jim Cummings (Winnie The Pooh, Tigger, Smokey Bear) also used a limo to go to work.
Dick Ervasti joined the club in 1997.
As a result of being the voice of FOX Sports, Dick also became a voice for some of FOX’s new primetime shows. During a brief time when DLF was unavailable, Dick was chosen to replace him as the in-show and promo voice of FOX’s popular America’s Most Wanted as well as the voice for FOX’s owned and operated station in New York, WNYW-TV.
In 1996, the daily news magazine show EXTRA hired Dick as its in-show and promo voice.
Then, in September 1997, Dick’s FOX contract was expanded to include the newly created Fox Sports Net cable channel; 33 regional sports networks all combined under David Hill’s FOX Sports brand.
If DLF’s session-per-day average was 18, Ervasti’s was probably second at 14. Dick and Don used to laugh about it during the many lunches they would have together in the lobby of Larry Gonhue’s Sound Vendors on Magnolia Blvd in North Hollywood, now McCoy Productions.
Ervasti recalls a particular limo story that happened around 5pm one Thursday on FOX’s old lot near Sunset Blvd at the 101 Freeway. “My limo was pulling out of the driveway, and Don’s was just pulling in. As we passed each other, I rolled down my window and yelled at Don, ‘Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?!'”
Dick learned a lot from DLF back in the limo days, and eagerly expresses his gratitude to the master. “He showed me how to be myself, and how to make totally sure that the folks who ran the session were thrilled with every performance that was recorded.”
Many people think Dick is still the voice of FOX Sports, but his contract ran for 8 years, finishing in February 2002. “That’s about how long MASH and Cheers ran for, so I feel pretty good about that particular body of work,” he reminisces.
Since his VO career began in 1987, Ervasti has been a VO spokesperson for every major broadcast television and cable channel as well as dozens of worldwide commercial brands ranging from automobiles to beverages, food, technology, and even religion. A comprehensive list of his clients appears as a crawl above this section.
These days, Dick and Mary are back in hometown Minneapolis where he has built a professional sound studio in the basement of his home in suburban Chanhassen. The town's name may sound familiar. For over thirty years, it was also home to the pop musician Prince’s Paisley Park Studios.
“The technology now enables me to work at home and send my voice all over the world,” he says with a big smile.
Any thoughts on retirement, we ask?
After a long pause, Ervasti finally collects his response, “As long as the phone keeps a-ringing, I’m happy to keep a-talking!”