Johnny Olson

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Johnny Olson
Johnny Olson 1956.JPG
Olson in 1956.
John Leonard Olson

(1910-05-22)May 22, 1910
DiedOctober 12, 1985(1985-10-12) (aged 75)
OccupationRadio personality, television announcer
Years active1944–1985
Spouse(s)Penelope Kathleen Powers Olson (1939) [1]

John Leonard Olson (May 22, 1910 – October 12, 1985) [2] was an American radio personality and television announcer. Olson is perhaps best known for his work as an announcer for game shows, particularly the work he did for Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions. Olson was the longtime announcer for the original To Tell the Truth and What's My Line? , and spent over a decade as the announcer for both Match Game and The Price Is Right , working on the latter series at the time of his death.


Early career

Born in Windom, Minnesota, Olson enrolled in pharmacy classes at the University of Minnesota. He also worked a string of odd jobs, from soda jerk to singer. After 1928, he landed jobs at WIBA in Poynette, Wisconsin and KGDA in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Olson joined WTMJ in Milwaukee in early 1933, organizing a five-piece jazz band called The Rhythm Rascals, and became one of the station's most popular personalities. The Rascals eventually made it to Hollywood, and would send daily recordings of their shows back to WTMJ. Olson would eventually return to Milwaukee and WTMJ, where he would go on to create the first iteration of Johnny Olson's Rumpus Room . The show attracted major national performers, including Spike Jones and The Andrews Sisters. By 1942, the immense popularity of Rumpus Room prompted WTMJ to dedicate the large unfinished television studio (plans for what would later become WTMJ-TV were suspended due to World War II) in their new facility to the program.

Olson's first network job on radio was in New York City in 1944, hosting (with his wife) the audience-participation show Ladies Be Seated , a stunt game along the lines of Truth or Consequences , broadcast on NBC Blue. [3] He had previously hosted several radio shows in Chicago, including the second iteration of Johnny Olson's Rumpus Room, a late-night variety show broadcast from 10:30 p.m. to 12 midnight, which was also the name of a later daytime talk show he hosted on the DuMont Television Network. [4] He also was host of Johnny Olson's Luncheon Club on ABC radio in 1950-1951. [3]

Work for DuMont Television Network

In 1945, Olson and his wife hosted a five-week run of a TV version of Ladies Be Seated. [5] :577 From May 1947 to July 1949, Olson hosted Doorway to Fame , an evening television talent show on the new DuMont Television Network. From January 1949 to July 1952, Olson hosted Johnny Olson's Rumpus Room , a daytime television talk show which was the first daytime show broadcast from DuMont's flagship station WABD over DuMont's small East Coast network. Olson also hosted the Saturday-morning children's show Kids and Company on DuMont from September 1951 to June 1952, with co-host Ham Fisher.

Early announcing work

On television, Olson was an announcer on Break the Bank [5] and was the announcer and sometimes the host on Fun for the Money on ABC-TV in 1949. [5] :372 Olson was the announcer on the final year of the CBS version of Name That Tune in 1958; also in that year, Olson began his long association with Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions[ citation needed ] when he began announcing for the Merv Griffin-hosted Play Your Hunch , [6] :288-289 which lasted until 1963. In the late 1960s, he was also a substitute announcer on the ABC version of Supermarket Sweep .[ citation needed ]

Beginning in 1960, Olson announced the CBS prime-time panel game To Tell the Truth . The following year, he added duties on sister show What's My Line? , and in 1962 began announcing on the original Match Game in daytime on NBC until that series ended in 1969. What's My Line was televised live from New York City in what later became the Ed Sullivan Theater. Before going live, Olson did an audience warm-up by asking questions and getting the audience ready for the live telecast.

Olson was also announcer for The Jackie Gleason Show [1] from 1962 until its cancellation in 1970. The first two seasons of the variety show were recorded in New York City, while the last six seasons were produced in Miami Beach, Florida.

Olson continued to announce What's My Line? and To Tell the Truth after both shows moved from CBS to syndication in the late 1960s. His involvement with those shows ended when he was designated announcer of the 1972 revivals of The Price Is Right and I've Got a Secret , both of which were taped in Hollywood, where he relocated.

He was the announcer, 1966-1970, for five of The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethons. [7]

The Price Is Right

While Name That Tune, To Tell the Truth, What's My Line, and The Match Game put Olson in the elite class of television game-show announcers, the revival of The Price Is Right cemented Olson's fame. [8] In addition to serving as host Bob Barker's sidekick, Olson was a beloved and valued member of the "cast." He warmed up the audiences prior to taping; during taping, he often received on-camera exposure (occasionally bantering with Barker) prior to calling out the contestants' names; he also frequently appeared in the showcases. [9]

His exhortation for contestants to "Come on down!" became a catchphrase, and a Price Is Right tradition observed by his successors Rod Roddy (1986–2003), Rich Fields (2004–2010), and George Gray (2011–present). [10]

Match Game and later career

In 1973,[ citation needed ] Olson began announcing for the revived Match Game , [6] another show transplanted from New York to California; the show's tagline, "Get ready to match the stars!" became a second catchphrase associated with him for the following nine years.[ citation needed ] Like executive producer Mark Goodson, Olson filled in on the days when a scheduled guest failed to appear in time for a taping. Olson only missed one taping of Match Game during the CBS years; Bern Bennett served as his fill-in for one week of daytime shows and one nighttime show in 1975 (a week's worth of shows was taped in one workday).

During the 1970s and early 1980s, during the peak of his announcing duties on Price and Match, he worked on several other Goodson-Todman game shows. He announced:

He also filled in for


On October 6, 1985, Olson suffered a stroke and was taken to St. Johns Hospital and Health Center in Santa Monica, California, where he died on October 12, 1985, at age 75. [9] Shortly afterwards, Bob Barker paid tribute to him at the end of the remaining episodes of TPIR that were taped with Olson as announcer before he died:

Since taping this program, we've lost our good friend, Johnny Olson. You'll continue to see and hear Johnny on the many programs he's already taped. He was dearly loved by all of us, and he'll be sorely missed.

Bob Barker


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  1. 1 2 Harris, Scott (October 13, 1985). "Johnny Olson, 'Come-on-Down' Man of "Price Is Right' Dies". The Los Angeles Times . California, Los Angeles. p. Part II - 3. Retrieved April 13, 2020 via
  2. "Johnny and Penny Olson Papers, 1927-1997".
  3. 1 2 Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio . Oxford University Press. p.  387. ISBN   978-0-19-977078-6 . Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  4. Hyatt, Wesley (1997). The Encyclopedia of Daytime Television. Watson-Guptill Publications. pp. 241–242. ISBN   978-0823083152 . Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  5. 1 2 3 Terrace, Vincent (2014). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010, 2d ed. McFarland. p. 133. ISBN   978-0-7864-8641-0 . Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  6. 1 2 Terrace, Vincent (2013). Television Introductions: Narrated TV Program Openings since 1949. Scarecrow Press. p. 281. ISBN   978-0-8108-9250-7 . Retrieved April 13, 2020.
  7. "Jerry won't rest until there's a cure". Crossville Chronicle.
  8. Randy West (2009). Johnny Olson: A Voice in Time: West, Randy. ISBN   978-1-5939-3471-2.
  9. 1 2 "TV Announcer Johnny Olson Dead at 75". Schenectady Gazette . United Press International. October 14, 1985. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  10. "Johnny Olson Come On Down". Associated Press (APnews).
  11. Johnny Olson Remembered at the end of TPIR
Media offices
Preceded by
Position created
Announcer of Match Game
1962–1969, 1973–1982
Succeeded by
Gene Wood
Preceded by
Johnny Gilbert
(in the original version)
Announcer of The Price Is Right
Succeeded by
Rod Roddy
Preceded by
Wayne Howell
Announcer of Concentration
Succeeded by
Gene Wood