If a thunderstorm comes raging and roaring out of your loudspeaker to the accompaniment of high-class “drummer” some calm midsummer night, don’t be kidded. They haven’t set up a shower-bath in the studio to get that pitter-patter effect, nor is George Bungle delivering a campaign speech to create that loud, empty, booming illusion.
If the program is from KWK studio, you can bet what little coin you have left that Jeff le Pique’s at the microphone pouring rice from one tin can to another and rattling a sheet of tin for all he’s worth, which is a lot.
For Jeff is KWK’s sound effect technician. He’s also Herbert Berger’s drummer man. The two jobs work in together. Jeff was the kind of a boy who liked to beat on tin pans when he was little. He’s working that out of his system on the kettles and traps. He was also the sort of boy who enthusiastically splashed the water with his hand to assure his fond and intently listening parents that he was taking a bath. Thus was created the sound illusion genius we have today.
Jeff’s a nice, pleasant-faced young fellow, honest-looking in spite of that mustache, and you wouldn’t think to look at him that he’s got the soul of a shell-game man when it comes to fooling people. But he has. He makes a business of fooling radio listeners, and the better he does it, the more he gloats.
For instance, to create the effect of softly lapping waves, he gently strokes a kettle drum with a wire brush. For the sound of canoe paddles, he squeezes a newspaper into a ball and pulls it out again, like a round accordion. For a train clicking over the rails, he pulls a iron bar over a set of chair springs. And when the Cannonball Express roars over a trestle-there’s a thrill. Jeff puts springs and a bar over a kettle drum and repeats the operation.
When Black Lightning gallops down the home stretch a nose in front to pay off the mortgage on the old cunnel’s plantation, it’s just Jeff tapping his drum sticks on an old derby. And don’t ask whether it’s an English or a Kentucky derby. We thought of that one and passed it up as phooey.
For the tinkle of breaking glass, he shakes a thermos bottle with the insides broken in front of the mike. The whir of an airplane motor is gotten by sticking a piece of celluloid into an electric fan. Kissing is usually done by one of the entertainers merely kissing his or her finger close to the mike.
(Originally published in Radio and Entertainment 6/11/1932).