The Voice of Oklahoma

You may not know the face, but you know the voice – the rich, deep baritone that heralds, “Sunday, at 8:00 p.m. on OETA,” from the TV speakers. Or how about the voice that warns, “Keep arms and hands inside the ride at all times,” while you nervously take your seat in Frontier City’s Silver Bullet? These and other announcements come from the mouth of Edmond resident Gary Owen, famous broadcast voice personality and ventriloquist. In Owen’s line of work it pays to run your mouth.

A native of California, a young Owen fell under spell of famous ventriloquists Paul Winchell and Jimmy Nelson during the 1960s. Inspired and energetic, Nelson decided to follow in their footsteps. He ordered an instructional record by his hero, Nelson, taught himself the basics and practiced ventriloquism every chance he got.

Owen’s first show wasn’t the Big Time, but it was a good start. “I was a junior at Elk City High School and my first show was at our prom banquet,” he recalls, “It was 1969, I was scared to death, but they all loved it. This was the booster shot I needed to know that I could do this.”

After a few more encouraging appearances, Owen decided to go pro with his hobby. He also began to pursue radio announcing. A voice is a voice is a voice, but a good voice has, well, legs. “I got into radio about the same time I got into ventriloquism, and the two professions began to evolve together,” Owen explains.

Owen’s now the voice of OETA and hosts the syndicated radio show, “Oklahoma Innovations.” He’s also the voice of Frontier City, doling out safety rules, directions, character voices and event announcements. Last year he announced for the Centennial Celebration at the Ford Center. His commercial work includes advertisement voiceovers for Tan and Tone America, John Vance Auto Group and Thunderbird Casino.

It’s a busy life for the man dubbed “The Voice.”

While the majority of Owen’s bread and butter comes from announcing, he’ll be the first to tell you ventriloquism is his true love. As a ventriloquist he’s performed on “Good Morning America” and shared the stage with a number of well-known celebrities.

“I like to think of ventriloquism as more than just entertainment. I like to call it VENTertainment,” he says. Owen’s developed an impressive library of characters for his acts: Rhapsody Cowboy, Buford R. Possum, Aunt Floozy and Double O’Duck. This VENTertaining motley crew’s been seen in Branson, Missouri, at dozens of corporate events and on cruise ships travelling to all four corners of the earth.

Ventriloquism, once a fading art form, has recently been given new life with the interest of a fresh crowd. “There’s been a real jump-start to the interest in ventriloquism. Thanks to “America’s Got Talent”winner Terry Fator and Comedy Central’s Jeff Dunham (creator of Achmed the Dead Terrorist and Jalapeño on a Stick), all of a sudden an entirely new audience is seeing ventriloquism.”

With four decades of ventriloquism behind him, Owen knows that the difficult climb to success is no laughing matter. “It feels really good to know that I have been in this industry long enough that I have earned respect from radio and television stations, as well as with numerous entertainment venues,” says Owen, “And this is something I take seriously.”

Like most of us, Gary Owen talks his way through life. But he gets paid for it. Not bad for a guy who shares the limelight with talking puppets.

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