LAKEWOOD RANCH — With a background in the tire industry and mortgages, Greenbrook resident Ron Babcock never gave much thought to the sound of his voice.
Although he’d been complimented on it numerous times over the years, Babcock simply smiled and brushed the thought aside.
“I never bought into the comments over the years, until I (narrated) a children’s story I wrote myself and then got feedback,” Babcock said, shaking his head.
After retiring in 2009, Babcock now is finding a new career — as the voice for audio books.
“A voice-over talent is really a voice over actor,” Babcock said. “Primarily, I use a story-telling voice.
“In the mortgage business, I was thrilled to save people money and help them,” he said. “I get the same satisfaction of helping somebody bring their story alive — that’s the real thrill.”
Babcock served with the U.S. Navy as an ammunition crew chief on aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga during Vietnam. Upon his return to the U.S., Babcock entered the tire-and-auto business, progressing quickly in the company as his skills in sales and marketing proved strong.
Seeing an opportunity to start his own company, Babcock moved in 1974 to Alaska, founding American Tire Warehouse, the first warehouse club-type distribution center in the state. Within a year, it was the largest tire distributor in the state, and Babcock was ready to open a second location.
Promoting the business through television advertising seemed a natural next step, and Babcock himself became the face for American Tire Warehouse on commercials that aired statewide.
Then, in 1985, Alaska Railroad offered him $1,000 to be the voice on a television spot they were producing.
“I really didn’t want to do it because I was so busy running the store,” Babcock said. “I did it anyway, in two takes. I had done radio and television for my company so they knew my voice.”
Babcock sold his share in his tire business after eight years in Alaska and headed to his hometown in Oregon. There, he managed a tire store for a friend until it was sold.
Babcock decided it was time to change careers, moving to Baltimore to be with his now-wife, Dana, and to try his hand at the mortgage business. His company moved its headquarters to Tampa, and he and Dana purchased in 2005 in University Place.
With four offices along the East Coast, Babcock in 2004 started a weekly radio program on mortgages. However, as the market came crashing down, even Babcock’s radio spot couldn’t combat the decline in the market. In 2008, he began losing his lending partners one by one, and by the following year, he closed his mortgage company.
“That’s when I started auditioning for radio spots, television voice-overs and audio narration,” Babcock said. “It started out by writing a few children’s stories and narrating them.”
Babcock still is working hard to make a name for himself in the industry and hopes soon to produce three to four audio books monthly. For now, however, work remains steady as he narrates mostly for friends and new authors.
Additionally, with the help of his brother, Michael, in Oregon, Babcock also is able to produce and promote the audio books himself for authors desiring extra help with marketing, he said.
FIVE THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT RON BABCOCK
• At 66 years old, Ron Babcock has 11 grandchildren.
• Babcock is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include James Michener, James Clavell, Tom Clancy and John Grisham, among others.
“My all-time favorite is Alissa Rosenbaum, better known as Ayn Rand,” he says, noting Rand authored books such as “Anthem,” and “Atlas Shrugged.”
• Babcock and his wife, Dana, have traveled extensively over the last few years. They have visited Israel twice and also visited London, Alaska and 13 states.
• Babcock’s most recently completed audio book is “Frontier Preacher” by Sam Hossler.
• Babcock says his voiceover inspiration is Don LaFontaine, who has recorded more than 5,000 film trailers and hundreds of thousands of television advertisements. Babcock met LaFontaine at a hotel in 1985, before he had even heard of the man nicknamed “Thunder Throat.”