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Frank Muller, Gone Too Soon (May 5, 1951 – June 4, 2008)

An Audiobook Legend Passes Away

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My plans were to post a post-Audie Awards blog today, to share some memories, photos and video of the gala held here in Los Angeles this past weekend, but sadly, life has intervened. Frank Muller passed away yesterday. I received the call last night and spent a very sad evening, wishing I had had the chance to know him. For those of you unaware of Frank’s work, he was a legendary audiobook narrator, the first real giant of the industry, whose talents brought the medium new attention…

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My plans were to post a post-Audie Awards blog today, to share some memories, photos and video of the gala held here in Los Angeles this past weekend, but sadly, life has intervened.

Frank Muller passed away yesterday. I received the call last night and spent a very sad evening, wishing I had had the chance to know him.

For those of you unaware of Frank’s work, he was a legendary audiobook narrator, the first real giant of the industry, whose talents brought the medium new attention and the respect it deserved. This was back in the days when the idea of walking into your local bookstore and actually finding anything you were looking for on cassette was a virtual impossibility, when most people assumed audiobooks were done for the blind, not the general public. Frank lent his voice to numerous literary giants and helped convey their words to an entirely new audience, and for that, he should always be remembered, respected and revered.

Sadly, Frank suffered a debilitating motorcycle accident in 2001, which left him unable to work further in the industry that so embraced him. Sadder for me personally, I never had the chance to meet Frank until after his accident. It was a quick meeting, I was one of many people crowding around him at the 2003 Audie Awards in Los Angeles, when he made his first public appearance after his accident and was on hand to receive an award he won that night. It was a lovely moment, and I was honored to be present, but it was nearly impossible for me to convey to him how much I appreciated his work in so little time.

In any industry, any discipline, there is an inherent respect and admiration that must be present for the generation that came before, for the trailblazers who helped lead the way and establish opportunities for those who come later. Any African-American baseball player should have a deep-seated gratitude toward Jackie Robinson for breaking the color barrier, any modern-day actor should thank God for Charlie Chaplin having run the gauntlet of international celebrity years ago, and if any modern-day NASCAR driver has no respect for Richard Petty, he should be kicked out of the sport. Similarly, anyone who makes a living recording audiobooks as I do should kneel down and thank God for Frank Muller. I know I do. I just wish I could have conveyed that to Frank in person.

Another person we should give thanks to is Stephen King. Stephen wrote lovingly about Frank and his work in DARK TOWER V: WOLVES OF CALLA, the first novel in the series he wrote after Frank’s horrible accident. He dedicated the novel to him and wrote a moving description of their friendship in the Afterword. He also, with fellow authors John Grisham, Peter Straub and Pat Conroy, held a reading of their work in order to benefit Frank’s recovery in 2002. He helped create a charitable foundation, WaveDancer, to help Frank’s family through the long and arduous process. Damn decent of him, a truly extraordinary thing to do.

For those of you, like me, mourning the loss of such an extraordinary talent and wishing you could hear him talk about the business he loved so much, I encourage you to check out this rare gem: in 1999, Frank recorded John Grisham’s THE TESTAMENT, and as a bonus feature, voiced a six-minute discussion of the process that went into its creation. He talks about everything from the research he did, to the joys of voicing each character in the story, to the very state of the industry as he saw it late in the 20th century. It’s altogether too brief, only six minutes long, but it’s a gift he gave us, a rare insight into the mind of someone so amazingly talented. Its official title is FRANK MULLER ON READING THE TESTAMENT, and you can find it at Audible.com by doing a keyword search under “Frank Muller.”

If you have problems downloading it, you can click the listen icon and hear it in its entirety. You can also hear Stephen King’s Wavedancer benefit on Audible by going to their site and plugging in the keyword “Wavedancer.” I hope you’ll give them both a listen.

If you knew Frank or knew his work and are moved to make any kind of charitable contribution, I hope you’ll visit his website and do so. You can find it at www.frankmullerhome.com.

I wish there were more to say, but given our loss of so great a voice, silence seems more appropriate.

Frank Muller (b&w)

Comments

wendy bird says:

frank was the first audiobook narrator to make me pick up the library book jacket for the cassettes and see who THAT was.  his talent was extraordinary, and his silence has affected this house, and the hearts in it, deeply.  he set his bar among the heavens he spoke of so sublimely of in the Left Behind series.

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Scott, thank you so much for posting the sorrowful news about Frank and your heartfelt tribute.

In 1996, before I decided to pursue voice-over and audiobook narration work, I found Frank’s site and sent him an e-mail with some questions. He was very generous with his answers. I shared his reply with his wife in 2001 after his accident, and I still have his message.

Frank inspired me not only with his brilliant characterizations and narration, but with his kindness to a newcomer to the industry. I think of his answer as I respond to the many inquiries I receive. I can only hope that my words will be as meaningful and encouraging to someone else as Frank’s were and are to me.

I had always hoped that Frank would be able to recover for a long, joyful life with his family and bring joy to others in lending his voice once again to an audiobook. I am saddened to learn that he has left this world. He will be missed.


Karen Commins
http://www.KarenVoices.com
http://www.KarenBlogs.com

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John Woods says:

Scott,

Thanks very much for sharing this news with the people on your list. Frank’s funeral will be June 7 according to his Web site and people can and are encouraged to send e-mails to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with their thoughts for the family. You’re a good guy, Scott and thanks for passing this sad news on. And to all who ride motorcycles, please wear a helmet, and be careful.

John Woods

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Hi Scott,

This is the first time I have read your blog and I wanted to say thank you for the lovely tribute you’ve paid here to Frank Muller. 

I am also saddened by his passing as I wish I could have known him.  Take care of those memories :)

Best wishes,

Stephanie
Co-founder of Voices.com

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Thank-you Scott for bringing to attention the passing of someone who, while I may not have known him, should be honored for his achievements in advancing the art form.
RIP Frank…and thank-you.
James

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Ron says:

I’ve been an avid listener of audiobooks for years. There were so many great books butchered by their readers. More then than now. I learned to look for Frank Muller’s name. If I saw it, I knew the book was in good hands. He saw his craft as the art it was, and showed us in turn the art it could BE. I was crushed so long ago when I learned of his accident, and I am heartbroken tonight to know of his death. Frank Muller, sir, I tip my hat to you one final time. You will be missed.

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Dan M says:

Frank was a prince among men and an absolute treasure.  I, for one, will miss him terribly.

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I first enjoyed Frank Muller as the voice of Roland in Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series.  Over the years, I have listened to his skilled narration many times.  When I learned of Frank’s accident in 2001, I was saddened beyond measure, as I felt he was a friend whose life would never be the same.  I have yet to find another narrator with the same magic that he conveyed in telling each story.  At present, I am listening to “The Vampire Chronicles” and know I will treasure this listening experience.  Farewell to you Frank/Roland/Lestat.  Your voice will be sadly missed.

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Mark S. says:

Scott, Thank you for your moving tribute to Frank Muller. For the longest time he was the ONLY audio-book narrator who actually made listening to an audio recording of a book MORE enjoyable than reading. Having been a long time fan of audio books and one of the first ever subscribers to audible.com, I quickly learned that most narrators simply couldn’t do the books that they were reading justice. Frank was the one consistent exception to that rule until you came along. So I went from always looking for books narrated by Frank to books narrated by either you or Frank. Now I’m back down to looking for books by only one narrator. Don’t get me wrong, I give other narrators a try when I have to, but when it comes to books like Donaldson’s Covenant series, I always breathe a heavy sigh of relief when I hear you will be doing the narration, much the same as I used to react to Frank being the narrator of a beloved book/author/series. Thank you for all you do and for your recognition of Frank, truly one of the pioneers of the audio book industry.

Sincerely,
Mark S.
Atlanta, GA

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Angella says:

I can’t believe I’m just now hearing about this. I first learned of Frank’s accident on King’s afterword on DT3. Frank was a tremendous talent and will be deeply missed by devoted audiobook listeners. He was truly the voice of the Dark Tower. Blessings and prayers to Frank’s family.

~A

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Anita says:

I have my favorite readers and Frank Muller was one of my favorites. I was so sorry to hear he had died.
All of you wonderful readers bring audio books to life. You are also one of the greats.
Thank you,
Anita

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Anita says:

I just read the remarks by Mark S. He hit the nail on the head. I will listen books sometimes because of the narrator,I find they usually only read the good ones. I keep a list of the good and the bad, and have returned books I would have liked but the narrator ruins the books with bad reading. So again I don’t know how you do it, but you are a great narrator.
Anita

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louise says:

Great narrator, great loss.

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MADELENE says:

I WAS VERY SORRY TO HEAR OF FRANK MULLERS PASSING, I FELT THE PAIN SO DEEP BECAUSE I HAD JUST FINSHED LISTENING TO ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTING AND HIS VOICE JUST PULLED ME IN.  I WILL LISTEN TO HIM AGAIN AND AGAIN BUT WILL ALWAYS FEEL THE PAIN OF HIS DEATH. REST IN PEACE FRANK WE WILL MISS YOU.

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Ted says:

I just finished listening to Dark Tower 6 and decided to find out why Frank didn’t do 5 and 6.  This is sad.  Dang.  Now I’m all weepy.

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