It's a word I seldom used before meeting John Mitchell. It’s a word he uses often on the air to describe a performer or a composer. Outstanding.
Ralph Graves, John Mitchell (photo: Ralph Graves)
I remember listening to John's morning classical program "Sleepers Awake!" and thinking it was a great way to start the day. John's stentorian voice, softened by a natural amiability, commands attention. It harkens back to an earlier era of radio announcing while simultaneously letting the true personality of the speaker shine through.
John has an outstanding voice, and a memorable one. And it’s one he’s had a long time. While still a youngster, his mother urged him to do something with his voice because even then it was so striking. After going to Northwestern for graduate work (and majoring in broadcasting), he did just that.
John’s radio career started shortly thereafter at WNWK-FM. After college, John went into the military and served in Korea from 1952-54, working for the Armed Radio Services. According to John, it was more like “Good Morning, Vietnam,” than “M.A.S.H.” He ended up broadcasting from a truck sometimes a little too close to front lines. But even then, he was picking his own music (as he would later at WTJU).
After Korea, John continued to work in radio. Eventually he transitioned to working for the Federal Government as a writer and editor. After retiring in 1991, he and his wife Gloria moved to Charlottesville. Two years later he was back on the air – on WTJU.
John's voice has a vibrant energy coming over the airwaves -- an energy that’s even more intense in person. John always sounds happy to be on the air, and genuinely excited about presenting whatever recording he’s about to play. It’s usually an outstanding performance -- whether he says so or not. John knows how to program a show! And his enthusiasm is infectious. In some ways, John Mitchell seems larger-than-life on the air. The image listeners build up of an announcer are often at odds with reality But there's no mistaking that wide smile or twinkle in the eye. John looks the way he sounds -- friendly, outgoing, and energetic.
WTJU benefits greatly from John's knowledge and experience. And so do the listeners. John’s final broadcast of “Mitchell with Music” is January 26. It's been an amazing eighteen-year run.
Thanks, John, for some truly memorable radio moments over the years. You've been outstanding.
- Ralph Graves