Without being laid off, he wouldn’t have done Oly work
Tim Hughes, a 20-year veteran of the Salt Lake radio market, is a hard-core Disney fan and has a special appreciation for such storybook characters as “Cinderella.” So perhaps it’s no surprise that Hughes has recently experienced a “Cinderella” twist of Olympic proportions in his own topsy-turvy broadcast career.
You didn’t have to go far last month to find him as the English voice at the Olympic Medals Plaza in downtown Salt Lake City, where — if you factor in NBC’s TV broadcasts — he was heard by as many as 3.5 billion people. Add to that his voice work for CNBC and MSNBC, and his recorded announcements constantly replaying at three other Winter Olympic sites, and he could have the most listened-to voice on the planet this winter.
Under different circumstances, this talented 42-year-old broadcaster could easily have been another Tom Barberi or “Country Joe” — a long-standing and well-known fixture at a single station. However, his career has included stints at four different stations, including repeats at two of those.
Following a layoff several years ago from KNRS, AM-570, a Clear Channel station, Hughes cashed in some stocks so he could develop a studio in his home and market his voice talent with his own “On the Spot Voiceovers” company. This gave him some job security, absent in a radio career that included time at KSL, KSOP and KALL.
“I attribute my success to all the experience I’ve had along the way,” Hughes said.
In fact, he credits Clear Channel as perhaps the biggest key to his recent success, because had that station not let him go, he wouldn’t have been available to do the Olympic voice work.
He also has praise for KSL’s managers, who gave NBC his name and put him in the running for that job. NBC was also flexible enough to allow him to take on the Medals Plaza voice job, as well. Even KUTV, for whom Hughes does voice work on its newscasts, was more than willing to work things out with him. “So far it has worked out beautifully,” he said. “It really means something to me.”
Hughes admits the Medals Plaza was a pretty wild place to be. He couldn’t help but marvel at being around some of broadcasting’s biggest names — Bob Costas and Jim McKay — plus all the Olympic athletes. “Anyone who knows me knows I’m a pretty emotional person,” Hughes said, explaining perhaps his biggest challenge, not showing it when things get emotional during a broadcast.
In November, once he knew that he’d be doing this work, Hughes developed his own booklet on the pronunciation of athletes’ names and began studying them in earnest. His expertise paid off so well that other networks asked him for pronunciation assistance. “Some of the names still sneak up on you,” he said.
Another highlight of the voice work he’s doing was a chance encounter with a Disney icon. A Los Angeles broadcaster heard Hughes talking one night and thought he sounded just like Bill Rogers, who is the Disney company’s main voice — and he got Rogers to call Hughes at home.
Hughes said he wondered about the unfamiliar number on his caller ID one night, and when he called back, the man on the other end simply broke into laughter before saying anything. “You really do sound like me,” Rogers finally told Hughes.
“That’s my dream,” Hughes said. “To be standing on Disneyland’s Main Street and hear my voice narrating the fireworks. Then I could die happy.”
A Pocatello native, Hughes has 27 years of broadcast experience. His first big break was at KSL, from 1988-93, when he was a co-host with Maria Shilaos. He also worked at KSOP for nine total years on two occasions and at KALL and KNRS. His current radio show, “Utah Outdoors,” airs on KSL each Saturday from 6-8 a.m. It is an independent program he does in partnership with Utah Outdoors Magazine.
Hughes has gotten a lot of mileage out of his Olympic gig, especially with his family. His mother is a second-grade teacher at Pocatello’s Edahow Elementary School and her entire class has adopted Hughes as an Olympic penpal through e-mail. Hughes said his children are proud of his accomplishments, but were most impressed that their father would be meeting the boys of ‘NSync after their Medals Plaza concert.
Will Hughes ever step into a new, regular Salt Lake radio job? “Radio is a tough thing to get out of your blood,” he admits.
Hughes will also be the main announcer at the Closing Ceremonies of the Paralympics on March 16.