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VOL. 126 | NO. 19 | Friday, January 28, 2011

Tarrant Brings Voice Talents to the Airwaves

By Allison Buckley

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It’s no secret that Hollywood and New York City are major centers for acting. But that major-market talent also can be found in Memphis.


(Photo: Bob Bayne)

Voice-over actor and producer Rick Tarrant, the owner of Memphis-based Rick Tarrant Productions, said the region has plenty of its own talent to boast about. That includes his own voice, which has been heard on a range of mediums, including Christian radio stations, commercials and Sirius XM.

Although Tarrant was born in Memphis, he moved to Seattle, Wash., at an early age. It was there that he became captivated by the radio, specifically after having heard The Beatles for the first time.

“When I was supposed to be going to sleep, I would sneak the radio into the bed with me and I would listen to the disc jockey. I was enamored by it,” Tarrant said. “I didn’t know it at the time that the radio was going to be a part of my life, but as I look back, I can see what an important role it was playing.”

At the age of 15, Tarrant moved back to the South, where he landed a disc jockey gig at KBSA, a radio station located just outside of McGehee, Ark. This began his now-extensive background in radio. At 21, he returned to his roots in Memphis and landed a job at WHBQ, where Tarrant worked with Rick Dees.

“I’m the Rick that got fired when Rick Dees got hired,” Tarrant joked.

However, when one door closed, another door opened, and from WHBQ, Tarrant went to the William B. Tanner Co., where, for the first time, Tarrant was taught how to produce.

“The lights just came on for me,” he said.

Tarrant took his new fascination for production and went to work for WDIA, the first radio station in America programmed by African-Americans, where he was able to form friendships with black radio pioneers, including A C Williams, Theo Wade, B.B. King, Rufus Thomas and Robert Thomas. In fact, Tarrant said Rufus Thomas was always stopping by to tell him stories.

“At the time I didn’t really appreciate it because I was thinking, ‘You know, I got to work today and here you are bending my ear,’” Tarrant said. “Now I am thinking, ‘Why wasn’t I rolling tape?’”

In 1982, Tarrant unveiled Rick Tarrant Productions. This is where he began his career in voice-over acting. In the beginning, his regular customers were Christian radio stations and record labels, which were growing rapidly in popularity.

Between family life – wife, Kristy, and children, Leslie and Michael – and his busy career, Tarrant still makes time to practice his skill.

“In this business – I guess in any business – if you want to continue to work, you better continue to improve because I promise you somebody else is,” Tarrant said.

Tarrant traveled to Southern California to work with other voice-over actors and voice-over coaches, as well as attend seminars, workshops and conferences. By exposing himself to the same education many well-known voice-over actors receive, Tarrant was able to return to Memphis and use his local talent.

“I wouldn’t want to paint the picture that it’s been all success, all success, all the time,” he said.

Like many companies, Tarrant Productions has been affected by the recession. After 20 years of success, Tarrant lost the radio show he was producing – one that aired on more than 200 stations and in 23 countries around the globe.

“I went into a dark place of despondency,” Tarrant said.

Through the life-changing tragedy he experienced, “Words of Encouragement” was born, series of podcasts Tarrant thinks saved his life.

“When I would wake up with anxious thoughts, I would hear Jesus’ words replacing my anxious thoughts,” he said.

Hoping his recordings would help others struggling with a difficult time, Tarrant created www.wordsofencouragement.net, where visitors can download and e-mail encouragement to themselves or others or even subscribe to Tarrant’s podcasts via iTunes.

Recently, Tarrant fulfilled a longtime dream. He will be the voice and producer behind the movie trailer for “The Grace Card,” a movie following race relations and racial reconciliation between two Memphis police officers.

Tarrant is also developing a website, www.voiceovermemphis.com, that will feature many voices heard throughout Memphis through the years including Jack Parnell, former host of WHBQ and successful voice-over actor, and Tom Kent, host of WKQK.

Tarrant continues to gain success, an achievement he feels becomes easier as technology progresses.

“The tools are now available for people to get in the game, but it takes more than just the tools,” he said. “There’s an old proverb that says, ‘Tools doth not a carpenter make.’ If you want to stay in the game, you need to keep learning.”

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