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Saturday, December 27, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 36.0° F  Overcast
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Will the real Charlie please stand up?
Morgan's story shows how radio careers have changed in the past 20 years.
Morgan's story shows how radio careers have changed in the past 20 years.

Will Morgan has multiple personalities.

He is Simon in Greensboro, N.C.; and Bob in Norfolk, Va. Here in Madison, we call him Charlie.

Morgan doesn't suffer from a psychological disorder. He's adopted these identities as a voiceover talent for radio stations that take on a persona to compensate for having no live DJs.

Morgan, 36, lives in Lafayette, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay Area, and every word he speaks on Madison's Charlie (105.1 FM) is recorded in the basement of his house.

There, he logs onto his computer, opens his email, and finds the daily scripts sent to him by the radio stations that contract for his services. He creates digital audio files of himself reading the scripts. He compresses them into MP3s and emails them back to the station manager. Hours or days later, a transmitter beams Morgan's voice into thousands of cars, homes and offices across Madison.

Morgan has worked in radio since he was a freshman in college. Back then, he never imagined being cast in the jockless wonderland that's become a cost-cutting staple of 21st-century radio.

"I started out as a disc jockey in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1988," Morgan told me during a recent phone interview. "I liked it so much, I quit college to keep doing it. I moved to California in '97 and I started doing more work in radio production, recording the announcements you'd hear between songs and between the live jocks."

That's when Morgan started making tapes and sending them out to producers at other stations to be used for voiceover promotions. His big break came when KROQ in Los Angeles hired him for production work.

"I started doing more production because I realized that working as a disc jockey didn't offer a lot of job security. One month you're hired, and the next month they want some new guy or new format. There were just too many people in the field exactly like me, and I felt I had to do something to position myself differently."

Morgan started his own business, Groove Tools, a company that offers sound effects and other resources for radio station production departments. Today, he earns his living through freelance voiceover work and Groove Tools sales. His story reflects the way careers in radio have changed over the past 20 years.

Morgan says voiceover work requires its own set of skills.

"I try to do something that makes each character unique. It's sad the way that radio has become so homogenized, and I try to make up for that at least a little bit by doing something different with my voice.

"When I auditioned for Charlie, I thought about the kind of music the station would be playing in making a decision about what voice to use. It was all basic hits from the '80s and '90s, so I thought Charlie should be a no-frills, honest, humble kind of guy. He can be a little bit snide, mostly to show that he doesn't take himself too seriously."

Every so often, Morgan says, he goes online to hear himself being broadcast on radio stations across America.

"I haven't gotten over how strange it is. I'm like, wow, this is very surreal."

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