Voice of the CTA Lee Crooks isn’t a familiar name, but we’ve been listening to him for over two decades

He lives in Milwaukee but has become a symbol of Chicago thanks to being heard on the L since 2000 and on CTA buses since 2003. The inspiration for his “train voice” was a Walt Disney World monorail announcer.

SHARE Voice of the CTA Lee Crooks isn’t a familiar name, but we’ve been listening to him for over two decades
Lee Crooks, who was first hired as the voice of the CTA in 1998. His voice has remained a fixture on Chicago buses and trains since the early 2000s.

Lee Crooks was first hired as the voice of the CTA in 1998, and his voice has remained a fixture on Chicago buses and trains since the early 2000s.

Morgan Ciocca / Vocalo

Across Chicago, maybe the most recognizable sound is one drilled into the brains of commuters saying things like, “This is State and Lake.”

The disembodied voice isn’t a robot or AI. It’s voice actor Lee Crooks, whose words have echoed through the CTA’s L trains for more than two decades.

As an audio engineer in the early 1990s, Crooks transitioned into the voice industry after receiving encouragement from colleagues who saw potential in his vocal abilities.

He was invited to audition for a “train voice,” and he drew inspiration for his iconic CTA voice from an unexpected source. After a family trip to Walt Disney World, Crooks remembered the voice of the monorail announcer at the time, Matt Hanson.

“We’d just ridden the monorail down in Disney World, and I remember very distinctly what the guy sounded like,” he said. “He was the voice of Disney for a long time. And so I just did my imitation of that within the parameters of what CTA wanted me to do.”

Crooks was first hired in 1998 to be the voice of the CTA and began making recordings then. His announcements actually have been heard on the L since 2000 and on buses since 2003.

His vocal chords have made Crooks a symbol of Chicago, even though he lives in Milwaukee and commutes in for recording sessions.

He says he feels the responsibility that goes with being the “voice of the CTA.”

It’s a role he never imagined he’d hold for 25 years, figuring it would be five to 10 years before the CTA moved on to someone else.

Over time, he says there have been significant changes in his voice.

“It’s been 25 years, and I’m trying to match things I did 25 years ago to sound like the same person,” Crooks says. “I’ve read things that people have said, ‘Yeah, his voice has changed. It’s not the same. You can tell it’s the same guy, but he’s a little bit older.’ And that’s just life.”

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