PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD: Meet Ron Jones, the voice of La Jolla

If it’s a public event in La Jolla, Ron Jones is probably holding the microphone. And that’s ironic because, with his thunderous, properly enunciating baritone, he’s the only guy in any crowd who doesn’t need a microphone to be heard.

A resident of La Jolla for more than 40 years, the St. Paul, Minnesota native worked in radio, naturally, where his prodigious career included stints at San Diego’s KFMB-AM, KDEO-FM and KEZL-FM.

These days, Jones records voice-overs for video games and commercials in the full studio he converted from his guest bedroom — as well as shows for his Voice of La Jolla internet radio station (www.voiceoflajolla.com). He hosts private and public events and volunteers as both the communications director for Town Council and the president of La Jolla Meals On Wheels.

We caught up with Jones in the house he shares with his wife Cathy and their chihuahua, Coco, whose yipping at the houseguest can barely be heard above Ron’s soothing foghorn.

Did you come with that voice or did you have to get it that way somehow?

It’s a refining process, an evolution. It’s a lot of theater, projection and character study.

How far away can it project?

To the back row of any playhouse. Think Ethel Merman. You can speak, but speak with a volume, without shouting. It’s something you learn.

When you’re hanging out around the house with Cathy, does it go away?

No (laughs). It’s become me.

How did you get your start in radio?

Radio found me. In 1968, I was an air policeman at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington. And I was a terrible air policeman. I scoffed at authority, marched to my own drumbeat. And it was suggested to me that my personality might be better suited for American Forces Radio. I ended up on the North Coast of Turkey. Then I got a call from Athens, Greece and served there and went back to the Twin Cities and got a job in television, at WTCN-TV, the station that was used as the model for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Were you Ted Baxter?

There was a Ted Baxter there, but it wasn’t me. I was the guy who sat in the booth and announced. He was never a character on the show.

How did you end up here?

In 1973, I was working at ABC-TV in Hollywood. And I answered an ad in the L.A. Times for a DJ with a radio background. It was the management of Wolfman Jack, who needed a DJ for a disco that was being built on the top floor of the Le Baron Hotel. I said, “Where’s San Diego?” I had no idea. But we got here, I had a room next to Wolfman, we partied at night, and they decided that I was pretty good at what I did. So began a 20-year career in discotheques, and doing radio at the same time.

Did you always live in La Jolla?

I spent three years in the Ocean Beach area. I didn’t even know about La Jolla until I met a guy who lived on Ivanhoe Avenue at Torrey Pines Road. He was a musician and needed a roommate. So I moved here in ’76 and discovered a whole new level of people and things and getting engaged in organizations.

How did you meet Cathy?

I worked at the Harbor House for nine years. I was the house guy. That was the hottest nightclub in San Diego for a very long time. There were lines out the door. Cathy came in there on a date in 1980 and the next night, she came back in there by herself and she caught my eye as someone who was very special and very likable. And, after six years, we got married. We lived together for a long time. It was my 90-year-old grandfather who told me: “Why don’t you marry her?”

When your radio career ended, what did you do?

In ’85, I bought a good sound system and put myself in the wedding business. So I’m still doing specialty events — fewer than I did because I’m not really marketing myself. But May 12, I’ll be hosting the Old Mission Rotary Club’s “So You Think You’ve Got Talent” show.

And I do voice-overs. I have a company called Message on Hold. When people put you on hold, instead of the radio or some bad music, you get me or some of my announcers reading a script about the story of the company itself, written by the client or by us, and that makes some money. It’s been going on for 20 years.

I just did a character voice for a SEGA video game last night. They said, ‘Can you do a newscaster working in this little town that never gets anything going on except this one story now, and you’re really excited about it?’ So I read the script, made an .mp3 and sent it off. The phone rings, I never know what it’s going to be for. It’s fun. And, all together, it’s a living.

You emceed the La Jolla Concerts by the Sea series for 19 years. How do you feel about it being scuttled?

Disappointed. It was a tradition here in La Jolla and it was wonderful to be a part of it. And it was pulled for lack of funding, which is weird for La Jolla when you consider how well-heeled we’re supposed to be.

Between that, the fireworks cancellation and the sidewalks, do you think La Jolla is falling apart?

I think La Jolla’s lacking care. What I’m seeing is a lot of people moving in from elsewhere. They have no investment in the community. They live in the hills part-time, this is oft-times a second home, so they don’t have any real knowledge about the community. It’s not where their hearts are. And, as a result, we’re seeing the fallout with disappearing sponsorships for community-oriented things. If you don’t live here, what do you really care about the community?

“People in Your Neighborhood” shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send the lead via e-mail to editor@lajollalight.com or call us at (858) 875-5950.

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