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Joe Cipriano's 'Living On Air' :
'Incredible Job' Begins At Age 14

October 15, 2013

(VOXtra) - Star voice talent Joe Cipriano's fascinating new book, Living On Air, will be published November 1, 2013. And VoiceOverXtra is honored to bring you 'sneak peek' excerpts, selected by Joe, starting today and continuing Wednesday and Thursday. You'll enjoy these insights into the attitude and actions that have propelled Joe to the top of the voice-over world ... and the stories of his up-down-and-UP-again career in broadcasting and voice over, from Connecticut to Los Angeles. To receive email notices about each new sneak peek, please click here. And to pre-order Living On Air, please click here.

First, A Message from Joe ...
"I'm very excited about sharing my book with all of my VO friends here on VoiceOverXtra.
"Living On Air is something I've dreamed about writing for the longest time. I've been working on it now for the past three years with my wife, Ann, and I'm really thrilled that it's finally going to be released on November 1st.
"If you know me at all, you probably know me as a voice over artist, but I began my career in radio as a disc jockey.
"I was 14 years old when I first started hanging out at the Top-40 radio station in my hometown in Connecticut. I was intoxicated by the world of broadcasting. It was all I ever dreamed about and I thought that becoming a disc jockey would be the most exciting job I could ever imagine.
"That was back in1969, radio was like being a part of show business. The local deejays were the biggest stars in town and the radio station itself was where we got all of our information, news and entertainment. That’s how we heard the hottest music in America and how we first experienced what was happening in the world.
"For me, it was like a magic act and I was hooked.  
"The voice-over profession is filled with ups and downs, and there are a lot of stories and experiences on this roller coaster ride of a career. But what I really wanted to share with you today, the readers of VOXtra, was a story about the beginning of my journey into the wonderful world of broadcasting, when I was just a 14 year old kid.
"This is the very first excerpt from my book, Living On Air. Enjoy the sneak peek and come back tomorrow for another little surprise. Hope you enjoy it!"
Positive Attitude Helps Dreams Come True

By Joe Cipriano
with Ann Cipriano

I have an incredible job. It pays more than I ever thought I could earn, it’s fun, it’s creative, and I’ve met the most wonderful people, all through my work.

I like to think it takes someone with extraordinary talent and remarkable good looks to get to where I am today, but the truth is it takes hard work, determination, and a lotta luck.

I’m told my good looks didn’t help one bit. I am a voice-over actor. Some folks give me a blank look when I tell them what I do, so I describe it by saying I’m a television announcer.

Mostly I voice network promos, "Monday on CBS,” "Sunday on an all-new Simpsons,” that kind of stuff, but I’ve also worked on movie trailers, live television shows, game shows, commercials, radio, you name it, I’ve done it.

I was a kid from a small town, David Joseph Cipriano, without a college education, and yet I became one of the top people in my profession.

People always stop to ask me if they can learn to do what I do and that’s why I wanted to share my story. Through trial and error, successes and more error, I found my voice.

Whatever your dream is, I hope my journey can help you find your voice, too. 


As much as I love what I do, it should come with a warning label: "This job may be hazardous to your health.”

There are unbelievable highs and terrible lows. It has the ability to turn your stomach around and upside down, a little bit like taking a ride on a roller coaster, without a seat belt.

And the truth is, I have been unceremoniously kicked off this ride, more often than I like to remember. The worst time happened without any warning, when most people thought I had it all.


I suppose it helps that I’m a positive guy. I’m always looking for luck to come my way. I would much rather live each day thinking good things are going to happen instead of bad.

Not that I don’t get disheartened, because of course, that happens, too. But I have been able to reinvent myself every time I hit that unexpected dive on the roller coaster.

And I’m convinced my positive attitude has helped make my dreams come true. 

Whenever people ask for my advice, I always tell them to follow their heart. Take that risk, but hold on to your day job while you go for it.


If there is one thing I’ve learned, whatever gig I have at the moment isn’t mine to keep, it’s just on loan, until somebody else comes along. It goes away, it comes back, and repeats that cycle over and over again.

That arbitrary aspect of my job reminds me of when I was a kid, picking dandelions out in the yard. There’s that white, puffy ball at the top of the stem I used to blow on, and the seeds spread out all over the lawn.

Holding on to a voice-over gig is a little like trying to catch all of those seeds, scattering in the wind.

My dad used to tell me, if you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life. So far I’m still here, holding on to my seat, having the time of my life. I hope you enjoy the ride.          

Heart Set On Being A DeeJay

By 1972, I was a senior in high school and working 6 pm-10 pm every night on the air (doing my homework during the songs).  My on-air name was "Tom Collins." Here, a couple high school pals dropped by to say hi.

WWCO was a small-time radio station that hungered for a big-time sound. It was the hub of our world of entertainment for everything new and exciting that happened around my hometown, Oakville, Connecticut.

For as far back as I can remember, my mom listened to that station every single day of her life.

Each morning as I got ready for school, I woke up to the smell of fresh coffee brewing in the air and the sound of my mom humming along to a song on the air.

We used to have a tan General Electric clock radio that sat on top of our refrigerator, always tuned in to 1240 on your AM dial. Coming downstairs, I’d walk into our warm kitchen on a cold morning as the soundtrack of my young life played out on that local Top 40 radio station. 


The deejays at C-O were the most famous celebrities I could ever hope to meet. They didn’t all look like movie stars, but they had a confidence and authority that was irresistible to me.

They were talented guys who really came alive during those few hours they were on the air. I could feel their passion through our radio at home, and even out of the speaker in our car.

It was contagious, but it was the kind of disease I wanted to catch. It seemed to me that everybody who worked at the station was part of a team, one big family, and if you were a deejay, you were the star.

All the girls wanted to date him. I wanted to be him.


WWCO was owned by Merv Griffin, the talk-show host, singer, actor, and media mogul. He bought it in 1965, the first link in his radio chain, then sold it eight years later.

The AM station played my favorite music, all the popular hits of the time, while the FM station played country songs.

I didn’t even know there was an FM signal. Hardly anyone else did either. At that time, all anyone ever listened to was AM Top 40 radio.

WHEN I WAS 14 ...

I was 14 years old when I started hanging out at the station on weekends, in that summer of ’69.

That was the year Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, the Woodstock Music Festival took over Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York, and Charles Manson went on a killing spree in the Hollywood Hills.

My parents and their friends talked about a generation gap while most of their kids talked about a revolution.

Meanwhile, I was going through my own rebellion, more of an evolution instead of a revolution. I had enough self-confidence, ambition, and arrogance to think that if I worked hard enough, I could make anything happen.


With my heart set on becoming a deejay, that’s all I talked about, hoped for, and counted on coming true.

I was inspired by the NASA program, the Kennedys, the Civil Rights Movement, even the Smothers Brothers television show. Everything that was going on around the world motivated me to start making my own dream a reality.

While my friends were focused on getting their homework done for the next day, I worked on planning my future.

I had no idea how to get started. The only thing I could think of was to call my favorite disc jockey at my favorite radio station. 


Jerry Wolf had the afternoon shift at WWCO. There was no one on the radio like him. He was funny, smart, quick, irreverent, creative, everything I hoped to be.

He had this saying, his signature phrase that everybody knew, "This is Jerry Wolf, rappin’ on you and pumpin’ out too what you’re pumpin’ in on the request lines!”

I wasn’t even sure what it meant but it was original and it sounded cool. He talked so fast it felt like each word was shot out of his mouth like a machine gun. I would imitate him at home over and over again until I could talk just as fast. That must have driven my folks crazy.

I saw Jerry’s picture once at the Naugatuck Valley Mall in a print advertisement for a mod clothing store called Chess King. From that moment on his image became my vision of what every deejay should look like.

He was tall, thin, with long dark hair down to his shoulders, and a full beard trimmed close to his face.


As soon as school let out at the end of that year, I decided to make my move.

I picked up the phone in our hallway upstairs, stretched the cord as far as it would reach into my bedroom, closed the door, and sat on my bed at the window.

I practiced what I was going to say, then started dialing the WWCO request line. Two days later, I finally got through.  

"Hey man, this is Jer at 1240 C-O. What can I do for ya?”


All keyed up from waiting so long, I blurted out what I wanted to say in one breath, faster than Jerry’s own radio rap.

"Hi, Jerry? Uh, my name is Dave Cipriano and I really like WWCO and I love your show and some day I want to be a disc jockey too and I was wondering if there is any chance if some day I can come down to the radio station and meet you and see what the station is like…some day?”

"Well, cool man, that’d be really cool. Yeah, we can have you come down. Hey listen little man, just call this number and we’ll set it up for ya.” 


After I hung up the phone I sat calmly, staring out the window, for about one second before I let out a yell. I could hardly believe what just happened.

I had actually talked to Jerry Wolf, my idol, the coolest deejay on the radio. I played the conversation over and over in my head.

Right away I got back on the phone to call every one of my friends. I couldn’t wait to tell them that I talked to that guy on the radio. Even better, that he invited me to come down to the station.


During the school year my mom had to practically drag me out of bed every morning, but the day I was scheduled to visit C-O I shot off the mattress like I was launched out of an Apollo rocket.

Dad was at work and my mom didn’t drive, so I had to take the bus from Oakville to downtown Waterbury.

The bus stop was in front of the only movie theater in town, called the Mighty Oak. That’s where I saw all of my favorite films, like Steve McQueen’s "Bullitt” and "Planet of the Apes” with Charlton Heston. In the bright light of day I noticed the Mighty Oak looked kind of small and insignificant.

It was about a 20-minute ride to Exchange Place, the bus station downtown in the center of Waterbury. Across the street was a large rectangle of grass called The Green, our city park.

Summer had grabbed hold of Connecticut. I saw businessmen on park benches sweating through their suits, women in pageboy haircuts and polka-dot dresses, teenagers stretched out on blankets on the grass with their hair hanging down and their transistor radios turned up.

I heard snatches of 1240 WWCO in the air as I walked past a diner on South Main Street. There was a sign in the window advertising a Cheeseburger Deluxe Blue Plate Special for 35 cents and a chocolate shake for an extra 16 pennies.


A few doors down was an old brick building, six stories high with a wood and glass door out front. That was my destination, 65 Bank Street.

I stopped for a second to catch my breath, then yanked open the door. There was a long hallway with dark wood floors and my eyes had to adjust to the changing light. At the end of the hall was an elevator lit by a single bare light bulb.

An older man with thin grey hair was sitting on a metal stool just inside. He was wearing dark wool pants, so out of place on a hot summer day, a white short-sleeved shirt, and a rag of a skinny black tie around his neck.

As I walked over to the elevator he looked up from his newspaper and snuffed out a half-smoked cigarette. I pulled out a wrinkled piece of paper that was stuffed into my back pocket and checked out the few words I had scribbled down to make sure I was headed to the right place.

"Excuse me, sir, I’m here to see Jerry Wolf. Can you please take me up to the fifth floor?”

"Well, this thing don’t go sideways, kid, so we only got one choice.”


I stepped in as he reached past me to shut a large metal door, then tugged sideways on an accordion gate until it clicked shut. He pulled on a long-armed lever and the elevator jerked upwards towards number five.

As we moved higher I heard muffled music coming through the walls, getting louder with each floor. He guided the elevator to a smooth stop, slid back the gate, and on the inside of the metal door was a big number five stenciled in white paint.

That door was the last obstacle to the unknown adventure waiting on the other side for me, a kid from a small town, with big dreams. Once that door opened I was positive my life was going to change forever.


The first thing my eyes settled on was a pretty girl in a pink paisley miniskirt standing next to the reception desk.

"Hi! You must be David. Welcome to WWCO.”

She was about ten years older than me and she had on the shortest, totally mod micro-mini-est skirt I had ever seen.

Her long dark hair was parted in the middle with two blond streaks on either side of her face. Her wrists were loaded with a bunch of bright-colored plastic bracelets and when she reached to shake my hand, they clattered up and down with each arm pump.


I followed her toward a small lobby with my eyes riveted on her extremely short skirt. With each step I could see the line of her pantyhose where it changed to a darker color and I kept watching and waiting for her skirt to go higher.

When we got to the lobby she stopped short, turned back around and tapped her toe on the floor. Startled, I nearly bumped into her.

"Do you like this, David?”

Uh oh, I thought, did she catch me looking at her legs? But thankfully I was wrong. Looking down at the floor she said, "Mr. Griffin had this made just for us when he bought the radio station. Isn’t it fab?”

Right in the middle of the floor, set out in black tile under her white patent leather boots, were the words: "WWCO 1240 on your radio dial.”

Next to that was a picture of a classic microphone emblazoned on the white floor.


Did I think it was fab? Hell, yes. I had never before seen a custom-made sign built right into the floor. That was cool.

Next, she took me on a quick tour around the office. There were gold records on the walls in big picture frames and magazines called Billboard, Sixteen, and Tiger Beat all over the place.

There was a knockout secretary named Dorsie Dues who typed up the log of commercials that ran on the air. She had legs that went on forever.

We walked past women in tight T-shirts, pounding away on their typewriters, and salesmen yakking on the phone wearing big ties under big collars. I saw a sports coat hanging on the back of a guy’s chair with a badge on the pocket that said, "WWCO A Merv Griffin Station.”


All of that action was enough to make my head spin, but suddenly it was overshadowed by the sound of the Top 40 hit "In the Year 2525” by Zager and Evans pouring out of a speaker mounted on the wall.

As the song began to fade, the voice of Waterbury’s favorite deejay shouted out over those last few notes.

"Zager and Evans man, ‘In the Year 2525’… phew, that’s a long time from now. I hope chicks are still wearing minis ’cause if not, I mean, what’s the point?”

A female chorus of peppy, sweet harmonies sang out cheerfully, "Double-You-Double-You …SEE OHHH,” then the opening bars of the next song instantly started up, "Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone. 

"WWCO man! Jer’ Wolf rappin’ on you and pumpin’ out TOO what your pumpin’ in on the request lines, ’cause we’re all in this together man, can you dig it, you, me, and Sly Stone … we’re just ‘Everyday People’!”

BAM, Sly Stone’s voice cut through immediately, loud and clear, right on beat, singing the opening lyric.


I was pulled back into the room by the sound of a young woman’s voice.

"So, are you ready to go upstairs to the studio to meet Jerry?”

"I sure am!” I was curious about everything I saw that day and innocent enough to say whatever was on my mind. I had plenty of questions but there was one that to me was the most important.  

See Sneak Peek #2: 'A Brand New Adventure - Voice-Overs'
Joe Cipriano has worked on the air for the Fox, NBC, ABC and CBS TV and Radio networks, achieving success on and off camera. He is the original and best known "Voice” of FOX, has been the signature voice of numerous TV series and hosted many live awards shows including the Grammys and Emmys. His new book, Living On Air, is a humorous and uplifting account of his roller coaster broadcasting and voice-over career - inspiring for voice actors at all career levels.

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Comments (2)
Daryl Smith
10/15/2013 at 9:48 AM
Joe, I can tell your book will be a must read...especially for me. Our experiences are so similar it's almost scary. When I saw WWCO it brought an instant memory back to me. I once owned a 78RPM record that was recorded as a joint effort by WWCO in Waterbury and WEIM in Fitchburg, MA (the last radio station I worked for).

Although it's no longer WEIM, it was my home town's local top 40 AM that I grew up listening to during that same period. The record was the story about a guy who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel, only to die later after slipping on a banana peel! I wish I still had that record but unfortunately it was left near a window and damaged by the sun many years ago.

As I mentioned earlier, I eventually got to work at that very station, albeit my last stop on the radio dial. Funny thing is, a Disc Jockey by the name of "Ray C" who I listened to for years was still on the air after 45 years and is now my best friend. Great stuff so far. I can certainly relate and can't wait to read the book! All the best.
Tracy Elman
10/15/2013 at 3:06 AM
Wow! I am enjoying this story and looking forward to more.
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