Steve Allen was a beloved television and radio host, musician, comedian, actor, and writer. He first rose to fame in September 1954, when he became the host of the very first late night television talk show, "The Tonight Show." During his 60-year career, he won countless fans over to his side and certainly won his fair share of awards and nominations!
Steve Allen was born on December 26, 1921, in New York City. His parents, Billy and Isabelle Allen were a husband and wife vaudeville comedy team! Growing up, he was raised by his mother’s Irish Catholic family on the south side of Chicago. After graduating from high school, he attended Arizona State University in Tempe, although back then it was known as Arizona State Teachers College. He left the college in his Sophomore year to work on a radio station, KOY, in Phoenix, Arizona.
When World War II drew America into it’s grasp, he enlisted in the United States Army, where he served as an infrantryman. Although he never served overseas, he worked hard at the Camp Roberts, California base to help with the war effort. When the war drew to an end, he moved back to Arizona, only to miss California enough to return. He then went on to be an announcer for the KFAC radio station in Los Angeles in 1946.
After moving to CBS Radio’s KNX station, his hour-long late night talk show format began to draw large crowds. It wasn’t long before he was so beloved that there was "standing room only" in his audiences because of everyone wanting to be there. In 1949, he got his first television position, working as a TV announcer for professional wrestling. He discovered that many of the holds commonly used did not have names widely used by announcers, and created his own names for the moves. Many of those terms are still in use all these years later.
He started "The Tonight Show" on a local New York Station, but when NBC got wind of how popular his show was, they took it national. The show ran from 11:15 pm to 1 am, and he was the man who created some of the most beloved parts of late night television today. He remained the host of "The Tonight Show" three nights a week, with guest-hosts filling in two nights, until early 1957. He left the show then to devote his attention to his new Sunday night program, "The Steve Allen Show."
When he wasn’t acting, writing, singing, or bringing smiles to people’s lives, you could find him with his family. He married Dorothy Goodman in 1943, and during their nine-year marriage, they had three children, Steve Jr., Brian, and David. After the divorce in 1952, he remained single until he married again in July 1954 to Jayne Meadows, sister of famous actress Audrey Meadows. They had one son, Bill Allen, whom they named after Steve's father.
His final appearance on "The Tonight Show" was on September 27, 1994, on the show’s 40th anniversary. At the time, Jay Leno was hosting and he even knelt and kissed Steve’s ring, thanking him for all he had done to create the show. Steve Allen gave us much laughter and joy with his comedic work, and we’re so grateful we were able to have all of those years with him.