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With his avuncular bass and pithy playcalling genius, Verne Lundquist is as popular as he has ever been, equally beloved by the green-jacketed patriarchs of Augusta as the face-painted youngs of March Madness. On the heels of his 29th NCAA basketball tournament—and as he heads to Augusta National this week to call his 29th Masters—SI caught up with the 72-year-old for an extended conversation on his 50 years in broadcasting and a life well lived.
Let's start with some things I learned about you from reading a recent Washington Post profile. Your preferred drink is Johnnie Walker Black?
Yeah, but you know.... Well, yes. When I saw that in print I kind of winced.
There's nothing wrong with Johnnie Walker Black.
No, it's quite good, as a matter of fact. I said something after a game recently that Bill Raftery and I would be going back to the hotel to enjoy unsweetened iced tea. It became code. Oh, yeah, unsweetened iced tea.
You also love Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky, and you wanted to be a conductor when you were young.
My wife, Nancy, was a voice major at the University of Texas, and she did radio and television commercials throughout the South. I sang four years in the college choir at Texas Lutheran University, and of all the things I got involved with at TLU, that experience has had the most impact in my life. I was a bass. I could not sing a melody. But I will tell you something I've never said in an interview: I once sang in a rock and roll group.
It was in high school. We were called the Flat Tops. We played what they used to call teen canteens around Austin, where I grew up. I couldn't even play guitar. My role was to sing "Doo-wah. Doo-wah."
You and Bill Raftery have received more positive press recently than Jon Hamm and George Clooney. What's it like to be a septuagenarian sex symbol?