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His Professional Life Mute Audio

Walter came into this world graced with many gifts chief among these were a sonorous voice, a remarkable gift for music and perfect pitch; facts which no doubt have some bearing on his success in a variety of careers. 

One of Rochester New York’s best known voices he is most remembered for his career in radio which began in 1946.  During his two decades at WHAM, Rochester’s 50,000-watt clear channel station heard throughout 38 states and Canada, Walter built up a loyal following with some of the station’s most popular programs which he wrote, produced, directed and narrated.

On air staff at WHAM circa 1972 from left to right: David A. Sennett, Tom Gallagher, Ed Hasbrouck, Mike Morgan, Walter Dixon, Ed Grimsly and Tom Badger.

On air 1968

Most memorably, “The Time Between,” a late night show which took its listeners into their own wonderful reveries and the “Justice” program for which he twice won the New York State Bar Associations Press Award.  He was the “Voice of the Rochester Philharmonic” for many years, writing producing and narrating for radio, live concerts from the stage of the beautiful Eastman Theater.  His green room interviews with such world-renowned artists as Leopold Stokowski, Alec Wilder, Eric Leinsdorf and his good friend, Fred Fennell, to name a few, complimented their live performances.

On three occasions, the Eastman School of Music turned to him for scripts, narration and acting in their annual “Arranger’s Holiday,” performed at the Eastman Theater.  Walter was also a member of the Renaissance-performing group, Ars Antiqua; a two-year side adventure which he thoroughly enjoyed.  He covered the Formula One races at Watkins Glen interviewing such racing greats as Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart.  While at WHAM, he served as assistant program director, producer and sales coordinator.

Voice Of The Philharmaonic
Photo by Lou Ouzer

From Webster Post - Click on photo above for complete article

Walter left WHAM in 1979 to start his own company, which provided a number of clients with public relations and advertising services in the audiovisual medium.  He especially loved making documentaries and he made a number of them, most notably, The Horns of Morning, on the history of fox hunting in the Genesee Valley and Letchworth: Man, Land and Legend, the story of how Letchworth State Park came to be. 

But Walter’s favorite career was as a piano soloist.  Although his musical training was largely informal and sporadic, his innate mastery and his natural facility for memorization gave him an uncanny ability to play, perfectly, any music he heard.  His mental repertoire grew to over 1,400 songs individually styled and arranged.

Songs, Walter insisted, are associated with episodes in a person’s life; a first date, a first love, a special star-filled evening.  Of today’s romantic music Walter said, “There’s no subtlety anymore.  The mystery of the female has been totally lost.”  He made a point of saying, “music is a force-field all by itself.  It touches people where nothing else does.”  He added, “I play the room and when the crowd grows silent, it’s the most incredible feeling in the world.”

As one of his admirers put it, “When Walter sat down at the piano people knew he was gonna’ knock their socks off…and he did.  “A killer romantic he was.” Said another.

Circa 1950

For nearly fifty years Rochesterians enjoyed listening to Walter’s music. He played at such favorite dining spots as the Town and Country, Maplewood Inn, Rio Bamba, Rochester Yacht Club, Top of the Plaza, the Water Street Grille and many private parties. 

Walter Dixon at Water Street Grill 1997

Nationally, he was tapped by NBC to play piano background for their “Mr. District Attorney” TV program.  He also played at a number of clubs across the country often finding in his audience such notables as Monty Wolley, Sol Hurock, George Shearing, Charles Laughton, Charles Boyer Kay Windsor and Parker Fenley.  On one occasion he played a few Swedish folk songs for a Swedish countess which, Walter said, “moved her deeply.”

A true Renaissance Man, Walter could, and did, do it all.  He had an unerring eye for visual layout.  He was a genuine wordsmith with a commanding vocal gift.  He wrote wonderful words and, most powerfully, spoke those words; earning him the humorous epithets “Thunder-throat” and “Words-wonder-throat,” or just plain “Words.” 

Walter was a real charmer.  Always the consummate gentleman in his manners, tastes and habits, he was kind, intelligent, learned, witty and inquisitive. “He was a conversationalist extraordinaire. Whatever the conversation, Walter gave it dimension.”