It’s been likened to gravel. A cement mixer. Even a dump truck. So much has been made of that voice. For the legions of University of Georgia fans, it is so venerated and so beloved that it seems to exist as an entity unto itself. The voice of Georgia football. That rough and perfect voice that once cried out, “Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott!” That pleaded, “Hunker it down one more time!” That exclaimed, “My God almighty, did you see what he did?!”
It almost has a life of its own, that voice. It is Georgia/Florida 1980. Georgia/Auburn 1982. Georgia/Tennessee 2001. For more than 30 years it has been the soundtrack for the Bulldogs’ agony and ecstasy, raw emotion converted to ragged decibels.
And it is telling me to go left.
It, or rather, he, Larry Munson, who is master of the voice, is on the telephone, giving directions to his Athens home. They come out sounding like Herschel high-stepping toward the end zone: You’re coming down 316! . . . There’s a Home Depot on your right! . . . A Lowe’s on your left! They’re flankin’ ya!
Munson’s home is a tidy brick box in a quiet subdivision. The man who answers the door is clad in a green sweatshirt and black nylon sweatpants. He wears white Nike sneakers with a Georgia red swoosh. He has age spots and gray hair, a firm handshake and a vaguely stiff-legged jaunt. His pants shush when he walks.
He sits down in a living room filled with the emblems of an outdoorsman—stuffed ducks, wildlife paintings—and the first thing he wants to talk about isn’t Georgia football, or even sports at all. He wants to talk about things you’d never expect Larry Munson to talk about. Like jazz. It’s one of his first loves. Who would have thought that the voice of the Georgia Bulldogs was once accomplished enough as a pianist to perform with the legendary Tommy Dorsey Band? Or that he mourns lost loves? Or wrestles with regrets?
Being in Munson’s home, hearing him speak with such honesty, is like peering behind the Wizard’s curtain in Oz. The irony of the Emerald City was that the people all revered the Wizard, yet no one had ever actually seen him. He seemed omnipotent and otherworldly when he was really just . . . a man. Like the Wizard, Munson looms in our consciousness as something wonderfully larger than life. The Voice. But if it’s the voice that occludes the man, it’s also the voice that reveals him. Because, in his candor, in the twilight of his career, The Voice has drawn back the curtain.