Way Off the Mark: A Tribute to Will Jeffrey

By Mark Margulies

This is a personal tribute written to a man I had the pleasure of working with for four very wonderful years. It was originally run in the April version of our BENMAReview newsletter, and I’m reprinting it here. Please excuse the personal indulgence in this month’s article.

March 30, 1999 may have been a little tempestuous for you in regards to contacting us or talking to us personally. There’s a reason for that. The evening before, in Washington, DC, Will Jeffrey passed away.

Some of you may have known Will.  He spent his entire professional life in Washington DC, growing up in the burgeoning field of television with his friend, Willard Scott. He then set out on his own, first with an advertising agency, and finally establishing one of the premier production facilities in the nation’s capital.

When BENMARadio came into existence in 1987, well before we built studios of our own, we worked with Will and his talent pool, creating memorable spots for clients up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

This may seem trivial to you, but it‘s important that you understand Will Jeffrey was a throwback to the days when people actually cared about this business. More times than not, a creative effort became a collaborative one, not because we couldn’t do it right ourselves, but because Will had the experience and know-how to take our work and make it better. Will stressed teamwork and creativity above all and made sure his clients were represented only by the best. He would have nothing second rate with his name on it, despite what a client said they wanted or lobbied for. Will believed in the power of radio and the power of creativity. He hated to see either stifled.

As radio became more and more formatic and sales driven, Will’s brand of  service and dedication took a back seat to the “just get it on the air and the audience will take care of the rest” mentality. And he hated that. He hated seeing the passing of standards, standards which he himself helped to set. But he was also a realist and understood that the business end of the of the business had to be placated. He did his best to survive it.

When we came upon him in DC, he was like a breath of fresh air. Greg, (my former partner and co-founder of BENMARadio) and I had been looking for a producer with an opinion, an idea, a feel for pacing, for quality, and for value in a 60 second commercial. Will had those traits, and I’m proud to say that, as good as some of the spots we created and developed were, he helped make them better.

He mentored many young voice talents, not only in DC, but throughout the East Coast. He was always available to help, and his opinions, while old school, still rang true. Will Jeffrey was a great friend for anyone to have, but especially for those who were trying to make their ‘mark’ in the business.

You probably didn’t know Will Jeffrey. I wish you had. You would have enjoyed the experience of working with a giant in his industry. You also would have enjoyed working with a real original. He could be ribald and coarse, yet as relaxed in his studio as anyone I’ve ever collaborated with. If stress found a home anywhere in his soul, he never showed it. He always wore a smile on his face, a fresh Marlboro on his lips, and his prized loafers with no socks. His favorite pet, Honey, was always lovingly at his side through session after session, offering no advice and only raising her head for that welcome, occasion ear scratch.

His studio will sit silent now, a final testimonial to him, to that throaty vibrato which always sounded like a Harley badly in need of a tune, and to an era when people who really came into a medium without form, created it, gave it shape, and set the groundwork for what was to become the most powerful vehicle in the world. It’s too bad that, in many cases, we’ve taken that legacy and not improved upon it, but reduced it to its lowest common denominator.

Rest In Peace, Will. We’ll miss you. We‘ll miss your kind even more.

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