July 29, 1928|
|Died||July 18, 2003
Roswell, Georgia, U.S.
|Occupation||Voice actor, singer|
Jane Barbe (pronounced BAR-bee; July 29, 1928 – July 18, 2003) was an American voice actress and singer. She was known as the "Time Lady" for the recordings she made for the Bell System and other phone companies. The ubiquity of her recordings eventually made her a pop-culture figure, and her death drew national attention.
After graduating, Barbe worked as a copywriter, though due to her poor spelling, she opted to read her first commercial out loud to her boss instead of submitting it in writing. He asked her to record the commercial herself. In 1963, she began recording messages for the Audichron Company, announcing time, temperature, and weather, as well as recordings for early voice mail systems. In the 1970s and 1980s, she regularly recorded the intercept messages used when a number is disconnected, and started sharing recording duties with AT&T voice Pat Fleet in 1981, who eventually took over Barbe's role.
Barbe was selected to be the first voice on the Octel Communications voice mail systems and retained that role for many years. Her voice was used on all the prompts (which numbered in the thousands). People often referred to the voice on Octel systems as "Jane", and Barbe and her husband John were named honorary life employees of Octel in 1992. Over 150 million people used Octel systems prior to the company being acquired in 1997 by Lucent Technologies. By 2000, Barbe's voice was heard by about 300 million people each week. Through the years, Barbe's voice became well-known through the phone companies' use of her recordings, as well as her messages recorded for customized greetings for various corporations who bought Octel voice mail systems. The time announcements she recorded for NBS (now NIST) are used on radio station WWVH.
Recordings with her voice are also used in Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. Although her native dialect was Southern, she learned to adopt her trademark "General American" speech while studying drama. When asked to record time and temperature messages for the Australian phone company, she perfected an Australian accent by listening to recordings of Australian speakers.
Barbe was also a former professional singer, meeting her husband while touring with the Buddy Morrow Orchestra, and gained a bit of notoriety in later years appearing in commercials and on television shows based on her recognition as the “Time Lady.” As a result of her extensive work, she was an early member and a Board member of the Atlanta branch of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Barbe and her husband created several hundred singing commercials (jingles). She performed on many of them. She also did voice-over work on TV and films, including the voice of Southern author Margaret Mitchell in the 1988 documentary The Making of a Legend: Gone With the Wind.
- Koppel, Ted. "Nightline." Voice Mail Jail on YouTube. ABC News, 1996. News Program. American Broadcasting Company. 18 Sep 1996.
- David Lazarus. "Time of day calling it quits at AT&T". © Los Angeles Times, 2007. Newspaper. Los Angeles Times. 29 Aug 2007.
- "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" radio appearance
- National Public Radio obituary
- ETC biography
- Information from Electronic Tele-Communications, Inc.
- The Jane Barbe Collection from Telephone World
- Jane Barbe sample recordings
- Jane Barbe at the Internet Movie Database
- Video medley mash up of famous Jane Barbe recorded announcements on YouTube.
- Video of telephone voices Pat Fleet and Jane Barbe on YouTube.
- Rare outtake recording of Jane Barbe from PatFleet.com.
- Jane Barbe at Find a Grave
|Voice of AT&T
1 January 1963 - 1 January 1984