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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Remembering Don Pardo and Other Announcers of the Past

Before we kick off today's edition of the Tube Talk Thursday for this week, I have some condolences that I wish to leave in this entry.

How many of you are fans of "Saturday Night Live"?  I imagine some of you watch it every Saturday on NBC.  I know I used to watch it all the time when I was old enough to laugh at and understand all the jokes.  Hard to believe that the show will celebrate it's fortieth anniversary next year.

I found it even more unbelievable that one man was on the show's cast for thirty-eight of those forty years!  But yet, you might not remember him for any sketches.  He never really appeared on any.  I mean, yes, we all know of names forever linked to "Saturday Night Live".  Chevy Chase, Mike Myers, Tracy Morgan, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Dana Carvey, and the late Phil Hartman.  But this guy took on a more behind the scenes role.  You might not have known it, but you heard his voice on nearly every single episode of Saturday Night Live. 

And on Monday, August 18, 2014, he breathed his last breath.

Although longtime announcer Don Pardo has passed away, he did so at the ripe old age of 96.  And would you believe that his career in radio and television lasted a grand total of SEVENTY years?  I don't even think Regis Philbin has lasted that long yet!  But again, you probably wouldn't have known that because he liked to work on shows as the announcer.  And, of course, "Saturday Night Live" was his most well known work.  But I bet you didn't know that he began his career in 1938 as a radio announcer for Providence, Rhode Island station WJAR.  He was hired by NBC six years later, and spent the rest of his life working for the station in some form or another.

Would you believe that he also was an official announcer for a series of game shows before the game shows became popular?  It's absolutely true!  Don Pardo was one of the very first announcers for the game show "Jeopardy!"

(Well, the old version of the show.  Not the modern one that's been hosted by Alex Trebek the last three decades.)

He also served as an announcer for "The Price Is Right", "Jackpot", and even the NBC Nightly News! 

So, the death of Don Pardo got me thinking about a possible topic for today.  What about other television and game show announcers who made a career of working behind the scenes announcing all of those fabulous prizes that you could win by answering questions, solving puzzles, or deciding whether you'll take the deal or not?  We've had quite a few talented people who made a living on those shows off camera, and sadly many of those famous voices have since passed on. 

So, I suppose you could make this an "In Memoriam" of all the game show announcers we've lost over the years.

Let's begin by talking about one of my favourite announcers that I remember from my childhood.

ROD RODDY (1937-2003)

Okay, so anyone who watched "The Price Is Right" sometime in the 1990s knows who this guy is.  This Texas born announcer had a voice as loud as his brightly coloured suits.  Seriously, this guy could have given Don Cherry a run for his money in the style department.  But, regarding his wild style, he started wearing the wild colours on "The Price Is Right" merely by accident, and Bob Barker's encouragement helped him keep his bright fashion sense for good.  He even flew to Bangkok, Thailand to have his suits custom made.

So, naturally, because of his wild attire, he was dressing to get noticed.  Certainly he made more on-screen appearances than any other announcer that I can remember.  And those of you who were into game shows know that he appeared on several over his career.  Of course, the ones that he was most associated with were "Press Your Luck" (which he announced between 1983 and 1986), and "The Price Is Right" (which he announced between 1986 and 2003). 

Sadly, on September 11, 2001, Roddy was diagnosed with colon cancer, and despite battling the disease courageously for two whole years, Roddy lost his battle on October 27, 2003 - just one month after turning 66 years of age.

JOHNNY OLSON (1910-1985)

Interestingly enough, Rod Roddy secured the permanent announcer job on "The Price Is Right" for a couple of reasons.  One because "Press Your Luck" had not been renewed for the 1986-1987 season, and another because he had been hired to replace the previous announcer, who passed away on October 12, 1985 at the age of 75.

But here's the interesting thing about Johnny Olson.  Although his most well-known gig was announcer of "The Price Is Right" between 1972 to 1985, he had his hand announcing a grand total of THIRTY-TWO different game shows during his career!  That is mighty impressive.  Sadly, I don't really remember Olson that well.  I was only four when he died, and anything before 1986 is pretty hazy for me.  But anyone who was alive during the 1950s and 1960s would remember him very well as the voice behind "Name That Tune", "What's My Line", "To Tell The Truth", "Match Game", and selected episodes of "Supermarket Sweep" (the original, not the ones hosted by David Ruprecht or Tino Monte). 

One final footnote.  Several of Olson's final episodes of "The Price Is Right" were aired posthumously, as his death of a cerebral hemorrhage was so sudden.  His final episode aired November 8, 1985 - almost a month after his death.

GENE WOOD (1925-2004)

Of all the game show announcers on this list, I thought that Gene Wood had one of the coolest voices.  Here he is in action from a classic episode of "Family Feud" - the show that he is best known for.

Oh, but Mr. Wood did so much more, yes he did.  He served as the announcer for "Beat The Clock", "Card Sharks", "Tattletales", "Match Game-Hollywood Squares", "Classic Concentration", and "Win, Lose, or Draw".  Many of those shows I remember watching as a kid.  I particularly loved "Win, Lose, or Draw" myself. 

Anyway, Gene Wood's career lasted quite a long time - almost three and a half decades total.  After retiring from game show announcing in 1999, he passed away on May 21, 2004 at the age of 78.


The last name on our list, this man's voice was almost as much of a staple on "Wheel of Fortune" as Pat Sajak and Vanna White.  For two separate stints, O'Donnell served as announcer for the program.  The first one lasted from 1975-1980, back in the days in which Chuck Woolery hosted the program.  He left for a few years to do other projects, and returned to the show at the tail end of the 1980s, remaining there until his death from heart failure on November 1, 2010 at the age of 78.

So, when he wasn't describing trips, cars, or those really wacky shopping spree segments during the 1980s where people would buy lamps for $500 and elephant statues for $1,111, he was working on other game shows.

You might have heard him as the announcer for such game shows as "Tic-Tac-Dough", "The Joker's Wild", and "The $100,000 Pyramid".

But here's an interesting fact as well.  Did you know he also served as the official announcer for many awards shows such as "The American Music Awards", "The Emmy Awards", and even "The Academy Awards"?  How about that?

Can you think of any other names to add to the list? 

1 comment:

  1. Jay Stewart (1918-1989) best known from "Let's Make a Deal" should definitely be added.