Don Pardo was a radio/TV announcer’s announcer. He was the model that all announcers aspired to be.
Born Dominick George Pardo in Westfield MA on February 22, 1918, he started with NBC Radio in June 1944 after visiting their studios with a friend, Hal Simms, who also became a prominent radio/TV announcer. When Don thanked the supervisor of the announcers, Patrick Kelly, for arranging the tour, Don ended up with a job. He was only one of two people that had a lifetime contract with NBC, the other being Bob Hope. Back then radio announcers were the engineer, getting the radio programs up and running, and cuing the right segments at the right time. If you were not able to do those tasks, you wouldn’t last very long.
Don was assigned to a number of shows when television started, including The Colgate Comedy Hour and some early game shows, including the 1956 season of The Price Is Right with Bill Cullen. He also was the first to tell viewers in the New York area over WNBC-TV that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated, breaking into an episode of “ Bachelor Father” to do it. He also could be heard on the NBC Radio Network show, “Monitor” with those familiar chimes, a succession of three distinct pitches: G3, E4, and C4 (middle C).
As a kid who was a couch potato and watched tons of TV then and now, my first recollection of Don was as the announcer on NBC Daytime’s ”Jeopardy!” with host Art Fleming. After Don would toss it back to Art to continue, Art always said, “thank you, thank you Don Pardo!” And that stuck with me as I knew as a young kid I wanted to be on TV!
Today, Pardo is best known as the announcer on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”. His voice was a deep baritone with authority, so distinctive and recognizable. Pardo retired in 2004 but continued to do SNL. After his wife passed away in 1995, he moved to Arizona and would fly to New York for SNL. In later years, he recorded his material in Tucson. The executive producer and creator of SNL, Lorne Michaels, was born the year Pardo started at NBC. Michaels always said that Don was a perfect fit on a show known for its wackiness.
Don passed away this past Monday at age 96. What a life and career he had. Thank you, Mr. Pardo, for being a part of our lives.
See you next time.
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