Michael Mayer: RIP

Michael Mayer

I was sad to learn today that Michael Mayer, probably South Africa’s most prolific voice artist passed away over the weekend.

Voice artists, especially those who work in advertising, give texture and feeling to the television and radio commercials that fill our lives. Their ability to modulate, squeeze in words, interpret copy and give life to a copywriter’s words is priceless. The best ones work all the time and they have become a part of the nation’s cultural landscape.

Most South Africans would know Michael Mayer’s voice well. But almost every South African copywriter working in the business today would have had the opportunity to work with him. To hear him make something of your copy. To sometimes, dryly advise on better placement of a pause, or a simpler structure to make the lines more punchy.

He put the artist in voice artist. For him it was more than a craft, it was a life.

UPDATE 1: Memorial service to be held at Milestone Studios in Bloem Street, Cape Town on Wednesday 1 February – at 5pm.

UPDATE 2: Johannesburg memorial to be held at St. Columbus Church, Parkview at 11am on Monday 30 January. (Thanks, Irene)

  1. Lisa baylii said:

    This is SUCH sad news. Michael gave so much to the industry, the airwaves and indeed the world, and he still had so much more to give. A true professional and a true gentleman, I feel blessed to be able to call him my friend.

    Does anyone know what exactly happened, and who to get hold of RE plans for a funeral / memorial service…?

    Lisa Bayliss (copywriter and one of Michael’s greatest admirers)

    • Lisa, my understanding is that he died in his sleep during Friday night – due to a heart attack. Very sad.

  2. Colleen Smith said:

    A true artist – what a shame to lose such a great talent – part of SA’s Voice History.

  3. Neil Gillett said:

    A true legend and someone who was able to make radio come alive as real theatre of the mind. I bumped into Michael a good few years back and mentioned to him that I had remembered him from “Next Stop Macouvlei” (spelling!) on Springbok Radio, along with Darryl Jooste and a cast of others – such good memories. RIP Michael.

  4. A terribly sad loss – Michael was a consummate artist with vocal dexterity second to none.

  5. Archie Henderson said:

    Very sad.
    Michael recently made Charles Fortune come alive for us when we collaborated on a 30-min mock radio commentary of a test match at Lord’s.
    Will miss him terribly. There was so much cricket still to cover!

  6. A true professional, a great talent and sadly someone who was not always appreciated in his own backyard! RIP brother. Your friend and admirer.

  7. Mike Burger said:

    What a sad loss to all – including those who might have known Michael even briefly.
    A true gentleman. Go well Michael.

  8. Gordon Stuart said:

    I was a fan of Michael’s from the days of his early radio work with Darryl Jooste. A few years ago, my brother and I bumped into him in a pub in Craighall Park and he regaled us with some of his hilarious characters from ‘Take a chance’ and the succeeding comedy programmes which the duo created. As an advertising copywriter I worked with Michael Meyer and was amazed how he was able to lift one’s words onto a different level of impact. Out of loyalty to his former creative partner, Michael Meyer never reprised the ‘Take a chance’ shows (after Darryl’s untimely death) and nothing on earth could induce him to do so.
    Go well Michael.
    Gordon Stuart

  9. One of South Africa’s voice legends,.. teacher and mentor. His level of skill and professionalism will be extremely missed.

    Mikey – I hope you finally get your ”great voice gig in the sky!”


  10. Helen Chin said:

    Just heard on 702 Michael’s passing. So sad, will miss his impeccable voice. Was at the Sonovison Studios once to witness the recording of our FNB radio ads. Michael was so prefessional!


  11. I am very saddened to hear that this great legend has left us. I share so many memories and owe Michael so much as he was always my first choice as a voice artist when I was a young very stroppie agency producer. His quality voice always made me look so good! In fact I did my very first job with him in the early 80’s,yes..Morkels your two year guarantee store! What a loss for us all.

  12. Mike Smith said:

    I knew Michael for over 50 years. We were together in our band, ‘The Barons’ in the ’60s. He was a larger than life character and a wonderful friend to all who knew him. I will really miss our lunches together on the rare occasions when we were in the same city. His passing was a terrible shock and I will greatly miss his wry humour and awesome talent. God bless, Buddy, and rest in peace.

  13. Gavin said:

    Michael Mayer was the Voice of our Nation.
    An uncanny ability to recreate, mimmick and program his voice with every nuance of that of an English speaking “Seth Effrikan” to a heavily guttral accent of a waarde Boere seun , he was a superb voice over artist. His American accent was also impeccable and so many accents resided in this superb actor’s vocal box.
    I recall Michael and Darryl Jooste’s radio show on the A program entitled “Take a Chance” and “Take another Chance”
    What talented geniuses these two were with characters like Miems Meiring to Charles Fortune( Mike imimtated him to the T)
    I stared into my transistor radio marvelling at their abilty to bring “pictures” to my mind through their words. R.I.P. Michael.

  14. Graeme White said:

    How very sad to hear of Michael Mayer’s sudden passing. The Icon of the South African Voice Industry. The Best we’ve ever had … Good Bless you Michael and thank you for sharing your gift with us. RIP.

  15. Jono Shubitz said:

    Sad, sad news. I worked with Michael thirty years ago and one year ago, and many times in-between. A legend, a character and an absolute professional, blessed with a truly beautiful and powerful voice. RIP Michael

  16. Dear Michael, who signed his emails “Markle” – amongst a menagerie of nom d’plumes as wide as his vocal impressions of South African stereotypes and celebrities. Take a Chance had me glued to their weekly broadcast on radio. In lamenting his premature demise I can only share my disappointment by saying “The guest room still awaits you (and all your personae) to create those projects we plotted in Joburg.

    With a huge sense of loss
    Roy Clucas

  17. Jonathan Erickson said:

    I was terribly saddened by the news of Michael’s passing. A wonderful talent, always understated, and a true gentleman and friend. Michael, why did you have to go? I was going to have you around for lunch. Last time when I invited you, you were incapacitated as you had recently injured yourself while walking (running!) your dogs! Anyway, it was really great meeting and talking with you. Your eloquence, charm and humour will be seriously missed. I so enjoyed our chats of which you so generously offered your time. Thanks for the “Take a Chance/Totally Rediculous” CD. It’s a true classic! RIP.

  18. Chris Smith said:

    The news of Mike’s passing hit me like a ton of bricks.
    I had the fortune to knowing and experiencing Mike outside of the industry. He was as generous as he was talented. The Fender Bassman amp from the 60’s that Mike gave me still sits in my “studio” – (ok – garage) and I will always think of him when I fire her up. Mike took such an interest in others.
    Although my fascination with his amazing talent began when my dad (Mike’s former rhythm guitarist from The Barons) introduced us almost 20 years ago and Mike was doing the odd rendition of radio ads and skits in between sips of an afternoon tea in Tamboerskloof, it was his well of knowledge and wonderful enthusiasm for people and friendships that inspired those who truly knew him.
    My most recent visual memory of Mike is of him singing karaoke at my wedding, and I will never forget how much it meant to us that he was there.
    God bless you, my dear friend. May your voice be heard forever.

  19. What TERRIBLY sad news! I was shocked to see the death notice in the paper and had to make sure it was ‘the’ Michael Mayer whose work and absolutely ‘magical’ voice I’ve admired and loved for as long as I can remember.
    There never will be another like him.
    To his family, close friends and colleagues I extend my sincere condolences.

  20. John Richards said:

    Will be sadly missed. I remember Mike at school (Jeppe Boys’) and later in radio/TV. Remember with affection producing a few episodes of Take a Chance with Mike and Darryl – usually rather chaotic and finished just a few minutes before going on the air. But great fun and – the rest is history! R I P Michael.

  21. Radley Craig Turner said:

    Michael Mayer will be sadly missed and lovingly remembered for his unique, spontaneous radio comedy with Darryl Jooste.
    Fare thee well Mr Mayer, thanks for the pleasure you have given me since I first heard you…….(that was 1973ish)……You Will always remain in my thoughts !

  22. Alexandra Amiss said:

    Michael – you wrote me the most beautiful poem “Romanova” will never ever forget you – you had such a brilliant astrological chart!! What a LEO you were (always larger than life). My friend of over 30 years (the last time we skyped was wonderful) – always generous, always eccentric and brilliant one of my true sould mates – your muse, Alex xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  23. Eddy du Toit said:

    Michael Mayer – what a gift you were to our family. We used to listen to ‘Take a chance on Saturday mornings and literally roll about crying with laughter. My mother would sometimes fall off her bed laughing and not be able to move.
    Thanks mate.
    You gave us real wealth and we’ve still got it.

  24. John Seeliger said:

    As a producer for Herrick-Merrill and Manley van Niekerk radio productions way back in the ’60s I cast Mike in SO many dramas and commercials, and we became close friends. We stayed in touch long after I moved to the USA in the early ’70s … when he visited the States he would share some of his time between Donald Monat’s place and mine … my then-young son adored him. But in the last few months I hadn’t heard from Mike, though I tried to reach him pretty much weekly through emails and Linked-In. Tonight I decided to Google him on the off-chance of learning where he was … and discovered this awful, horrible, devastating news. Rus in vrede, my liewe ou pellie Migal … ek mis jou alreeds vreeslik baie.

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