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‘Mr. Sound Effects’ mic survives Wisconsin Dells flooding

Despite catastrophic weather events that caused Lake Delton to drain into the nearby Wisconsin River last spring, the “Tommy Bartlett Show” in the Wisconsin Dells vacation area went on throughout the summer. With only a sea of mud remaining where the world-famous trick water skiing act normally would occur, the show called upon the talents of its land-based crowd favorites to save the day, with legendary comedian and voice actor Wes Harrison leading the charge.

Better known in many circles as "Mr. Sound Effects," Harrison uses only his own vocal cords and a vintage Shure model 530 Slendyne microphone to realistically create the sound of roaring locomotives, galloping horses, passing jet aircraft, speed boats, race cars and a gamut of other spellbinding aural delights. Beyond the Tommy Bartlett stage, he has been a regular on TV talk shows throughout the years and contributed to many Hollywood soundtracks, including “Peter Pan,” “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” and the “Tom and Jerry” cartoon series. A diehard Shure fanatic, Harrison says he couldn't do his act if it weren't for his Slendyne mic.

"This microphone has been with me a long, long time," he said. "Its sound is really a big part of who Wes Harrison has come to be and still is."

According to a Shure data sheet dated December 1954, the omnidirectional Slendyne microphone is a "slender, moving coil microphone built to provide wide-range reproduction of music and voice." The same data sheet says nothing about being waterproof; however, that's something Harrison put to the test this year when flooding preceding the draining of Lake Delton submerged his Slendyne and kept it there until rescuers arrived days later.

Nervously wondering if he could ever replace the out-of-production, out-of-stock element so vital to his act, Harrison did what logically was the first step on the road to recovery: try to dry the mic out.

"I cleaned it off and let it air dry at normal room temperatures," he said, "and was totally stunned when I plugged it in and it worked as well as the day I first got it. Thanks to Shure, my portion of the show did indeed go on."

Harrison launched his career in 1941 while working at a YMCA boy's camp on the Chesapeake Bay, where he used the camp’s PA system to hone his sound effects skills. Radio/TV host Ted Mack gave him his real start in show business in the late '40s, and by the early '60s, he had appeared on the Ed Sullivan, Jack Paar and Gary Moore shows as well as on the national nightclub circuit. Still as active as ever today, Harrison appears regularly at fairs, festivals, sporting events and on cruise ships.

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