March 27, 2014 at 9:15 AM ET
You may not have heard of Elwood Edwards, but you’ve heard him — many times, in your own home.
The TODAY Orange Room’s mystery guest for Throwback Thursday was the man who uttered the simple phrase that ushered in a new era of pop culture: You’ve got mail!
For more than 13 years, Edwards has been a video and graphics editor at NBC’s Cleveland’s affiliate, WKYC. But his real claim to voice-over fame came in 1989, when he recorded four phrases for America Online that became legendary: "Welcome. You’ve got mail. File’s done. Goodbye."
Edwards said he recorded those phrases in his living room on a cassette deck. (Google it, kids.)
His voice and the famous phrases he uttered reached far beyond AOL subscribers, representing a generation raised on email and inspiring the 1998 movie, “You’ve Got Mail," starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. At the height of AOL's popularity in the mid-1990s, Edwards' voice was heard more than 35 million times a day.
Yet, he said very few people have recognized his voice on the street.
“At my bank, they do. But when I’m out and about, people normally don’t have any clue who I am,” he said.
Sufficient compensation has helped soothe his undeserved anonymity.
“Let’s just say that I have a good relationship with AOL,” he told the TODAY anchors.
His voice is so iconic it raised this question from Al Roker about another well-known voice actor: "Is it true you got into a fist fight with the Movie Phone guy?”
On Wednesday, Edwards announced his plans to retire after working for 47 years. On Thursday, he made a pitch to TODAY bosses for his dream post-retirement gig.
“What I would like to do next is voice-overs right here. Or graphics, right here,” he said.
Carson Daily then put him on the spot with an impromptu audition.
“Welcome to the Orange Room!”