September 10, 2008
“Mr. Sound Effects” Wes Harrison Still Having Fun With Shure LAKE DELTON, WI, September 10, 2008 — The Tommy Bartlett Show went on throughout the summer here on the scenic shores of Lake Delton, all this despite catastrophic weather events early in the season that caused the body of water to drain into the nearby Wisconsin River. With only a sea of mud remaining where the world famous trick water skiing portion of the Bartlett act normally thrilled gathered crowds, the show called upon the talents of its land-based crowd favorites to save the day, with legendary comedian and voice actor Wes Harrison leading the charge. "Regardless of what Mother Nature had in mind, the show is indeed going on," Harrison said with hard-earned bragging rights midway through the season, which ended September 1. "The water skiers may be taking a break until the lake can be filled again, but that hasn't stopped the crowds from coming out. Many of these people have been coming here for years, even generations. Even the fact that the water was gone couldn't keep them away." Better known in many circles as "Mr. Sound Effects," Harrison uses only his own vocal chords and a vintage Shure model 530 Slendyne microphone to realistically create the sound of roaring locomotives, galloping horses, passing jet aircraft, speed boats, race cars, and a gamut of other spellbinding aural delights. Beyond the Tommy Bartlett stage, he has been a regular on TV talk shows over the years and contributed to many Hollywood soundtracks like Peter Pan, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the Tom and Jerry cartoon series. A diehard Shure fanatic, Harrison says he couldn't do his act if it weren't for his Slendyne mic. "This microphone has been with me a long, long time," he imparts with fond feelings reserved for old friends. "Its sound is really a big part of who Wes Harrison has come to be and still is." According to a Shure data sheet dated December 1954, the omni-directional Slendyne microphone is a "slender, moving coil microphone built to provide wide-range reproduction of music and voice." The same data sheet says nothing about being waterproof; however, that's something Harrison put to the test this year when flooding preceding the draining of Lake Delton submerged his Slendyne and kept it there until rescuers arrived days later. Nervously wondering if he could ever replace the out-of-production, out-of-stock element so vital to his act, Harrison did what logically was the first step on the road to recovery: Try to dry the mic out."I cleaned it off and let it air dry at normal room temperatures," he relates, "and was totally stunned when I plugged it in and it worked as well as the day I first got it. Thanks to Shure, my portion of the show did indeed go on." Harrison launched his career in 1941 while working as a counselor at a YMCA boy's camp on the Chesapeake Bay. In charge of summoning stray campers over the camp public address system, he began using the opportunity to hone his sound effects skills. Radio/TV host Ted Mack gave him his real start in show business in the late '40s, and by the early '60s, he had appeared on the Ed Sullivan, Jack Paar, and Gary Moore shows as well as on the national nightclub circuit. Still as active as ever today, Harrison appears regularly at fairs, festivals, sporting events, and on cruise ships, performing one of four different routines.