[This ran last year on this day. Now it’s been 31 years…]
Thirty-one years ago today, one of the great voices in TV history was stilled. Johnny Olson died at the age of 75.
Of course, TV has pictures, so many never noticed Johnny O announcing a game show. But his voice was so distinctive that if you went to YouTube and heard it, you’d say, “Oh, I’ve heard him.”
Johnny O broke into the big time in 1944, running a game show called “Ladies Be Seated.” He also hosted shows on the Dumont Network, the remnants of which years later would became Fox. Eventually he found his niche as an announcer best remembered for working on “Match Game” and “The Price Is Right” for Goodson-Todman.
There were plenty of deeper voices around (“better pipes,” the radio guys used to say), but game show moguls Mark Goodson and Bill Todman gave Johnny O all the work he could handle because of his ability to warm up audiences. They called him their “audience ambassador,” and he was the best in the business.
Johnny O invented the catchphrases “Come on down” and “Get ready to match the stars.” In the latter stages of his career, he appeared on camera more frequently on “The Price Is Right,” as a sidekick to Bob Barker.
John, R.I.P. As for you, Barker, I haven’t forgotten about that spaying and neutering thing.
True “Match Game” fans know all about the day John had to fill in on the panel when Gary Burghoff was late for a taping. From YouTube, the intro to that show: http://tinyurl.com/popckq5