Steve Allen created the grand
daddy of all Late Night talk shows, the Tonight show, and was its first
host. This landmark in Late Night TV started as the local Steve Allen
Show on WNBT-TV in New York in July of 1953.
original producer was Johnny Sterns, the director, Dwight Hemion.
Bill Harbach replaced Sterns before the show moved to the full
network. The announcer was Gene Rayburn. The show's orchestra
was first conducted by Bobby Byrne and then Skitch Henderson.
Click to see a clip
of the first "Tonight" show.
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September 27, 1954, the show moved to the Hudson Theatre at 44th
and Broadway and was broadcast for the first time over the full NBC
network. It ran, at that time five nights a week, one hour and
forty-five minutes each night, with national airing beginning at 11:30 pm,
after 15 minutes of local production just for the original New York fans.
regular features that became classics were Steve’s Man-on-the-Street
interviews, his passionate readings of “Letters to the Editor,” and his adlib
interviews of his audience.
Crazy Shots was
an original idea setting eccentric sight gags to music that later was used on
such shows as Laugh-In.
Steve writes in his book, Hi-Ho Steverino!, "The program
appealed to TV viewers tired of a diet of old Charlie Chan movies and the
frenetic tempo of Broadway Open House, which it replaced, and it enjoyed
popularity from the start. For the first time since coming to New York
I felt completely in my element in television, partly because the new program
was much like my old Hollywood radio show, only instead of a table I now sat
at a desk. There was very little script, mostly ad-lib chatter,
questions from the audience, guest and audience interviews, piano music, and
songs from Steve and Eydie, the band and myself.”
"When we first started the
show, I had no writers at all; none were needed. Occasionally I would
write a comic monologue or a simple sketch for a guest and myself, but all I
actually required on a typical night was a piano, a couple of amusing letters
form viewers, a newspaper article that had caught my fancy, an unusual toy
that a member of my staff had picked up, a guest or two to chat with, and an
audience to interview."
Steve Allen hosted the Tonight Show from 1954-1957, when he turned the reins
over to Jack Paar so he could focus on his new hit primetime comedy hour,
“The Steve Allen Show,” also on NBC.
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Steve Allen's 38th book is an autobiography covering his fifty years in
radio and television. Filled with comedy, both on- and off-camera, this is
Allen's first-person look at the Golden Age of TV. Hi-Ho, Steverino
includes Steve's experiences as creator and first host of the Tonight Show,
and his years as star of his own primetime comedy series The Steve Allen
Show, where he worked with such gifted comedy players as Don Knotts, Tom
Poston, Louis Nye, Pat Harrington, Jr., Gabriel Dell, Bill Dana, Dayton
Allen, Buck Henry, Tim Conway, The Smothers Brothers, and Jim Nabors. In
recalling the glory years of these series, Allen reminisces about getting to
know such luminous guests as Jack Kerouac, Lenny Bruce, Elvis Presley, and
Jerry Lee Lewis. There's a chapter on Allen's award-winning PBS series
Meeting of Minds, and reports on his other comedy-and-talk shows, series
and specials, in which he relates on-the-air TV boners, mistakes, and
technical mishaps that are now part of the comic folklore of television
history. Along the way, Steve Allen pays tribute to Arthur Godfrey, Ernie
Kovacs, Jack Paar, Dave Garroway, Jerry Lester, and other video pioneers.
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Makes a great gift!