Charles John O'Donnell|
August 12, 1932
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
November 1, 2010 (aged 78)|
Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Heart failure|
Charles John O'Donnell (August 12, 1932 – November 1, 2010) was an American radio and television announcer, primarily known for his work on game shows. Among them, he was best known for Wheel of Fortune, where he worked from 1975 to 1980, and again from 1989 until his death.
O'Donnell, a native Philadelphian, began his career as a teenager at WCHA in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. In 1956, he worked as program director at WHAT, a 250-watt R&B station in Philadelphia, where he discovered and launched the career of future Philadelphia radio legend Hy Lit. When WIBG became top-40 in 1957, O'Donnell was named news director. In 1958, he became the sidekick of Dick Clark on WFIL-TV's afternoon dance program, American Bandstand.
This led to several stints as a disc jockey on Los Angeles radio (most notably on legendary Pasadena station KRLA, 1964–67), and later as news anchorman and staff announcer on Los Angeles television station KCOP-TV, the home of The Joker's Wild and Tic-Tac-Dough during its initial syndicated reigns.
He made a full-time career as an announcer on many television shows throughout the decades, with such series as The Joker's Wild, Tic-Tac-Dough, Bullseye and The $100,000 Pyramid (again working with Dick Clark). He also served as announcer for the American Music Awards, the Emmy Awards, and the Academy Awards.
Wheel of Fortune and other game shows
O'Donnell was perhaps best known as the announcer of the game show Wheel of Fortune. He filled this role from 1975 to 1980 (including two unaired pilots hosted by 77 Sunset Strip actor Edd Byrnes), acted as a substitute for his successor, Jack Clark, and returned to the show permanently several months after Clark's death in 1988. Between Clark's death and O'Donnell's return, disc jockey M.G. Kelly announced the show for most of its 1988-89 season.
Among the game show companies O'Donnell worked for as a primary announcer were Merv Griffin Enterprises/Sony Pictures Television (1975–87 and 1989–2010), Barry & Enright Productions (1981–86), and Barris Industries/The Guber-Peters Entertainment Company (1986–89) He also announced game shows for Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions (including Card Sharks, Trivia Trap, To Tell the Truth); Bob Stewart Productions (The $100,000 Pyramid); Hill-Eubanks Group's All Star Secrets and The Guinness Game; and Scotti Bros.-Syd Vinnedge's Wordplay.
He and John Harlan filled in for Rod Roddy on different occasions on Press Your Luck. He also announced on the game show version of Monopoly. Many pre-1994 episodes of Jeopardy! as well as 1984-88 and 92-93 episodes of Wheel and Headline Chasers when rerun on GSN would often have O'Donnell announcing the Columbia TriStar Television logo after the Merv Griffin logo since Sony has the rights to the series on GSN. In addition to announcing on The All-New Dating Game, he appeared as a bachelor during the show's 1987-88 season.
O'Donnell died overnight in his sleep at his home in Sherman Oaks, California of heart failure on the morning of November 1, 2010. He is survived by his wife, Ellen, 4 children and 2 granddaughters.
After his death, the show began rotating announcing duties among several guest announcers, including Jeopardy! announcer Johnny Gilbert. Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak described O'Donnell as "the perfect voice of the show." O'Donnell's last announced episode aired on October 29, 2010, three days before his death. O'Donnell was succeeded by veteran LA radio announcer Jim Thornton. The "Call a Clambulance" episode of the preschool show Bubble Guppies was dedicated to his memory. It was also on Wheel of Fortune.
The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia posthumously inducted O'Donnell into their Hall of Fame in 2011.
- Biography, wheeloffortune.com; accessed August 16, 2017.
- "Charlie-O: Sense of Humor Behind the Innocent Look" (PDF). KRLA Beat. December 4, 1965. p. 10. Retrieved March 4, 2011. (PDF)
- Video on YouTube
- Gary Lycan (November 1, 2010). "'Wheel of Fortune' announcer Charlie O'Donnell dies at 78". The Orange County Register. Retrieved November 1, 2010.
- Lycan, Gary (November 3, 2010). "Services set for 'Wheel of Fortune's' Charlie O'Donnell". The Orange County Register. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
- Nelson, Valerie J. (November 3, 2010). "Charlie O'Donnell of 'Wheel of Fortune,' as remembered by the show's host, Pat Sajak". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 15, 2010.
- Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame, broadcastpioneers.com; accessed August 16, 2017.
- Charlie O'Donnell on IMDb
- Charlie O'Donnell Interview 2008 for HyLitRadio/Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
- Charlie O'Donnell on KRLA Pasadena, June 16, 1967
- Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia website
| Announcer of Wheel of Fortune
January 6, 1975–August 1, 1980
M. G. Kelly
| Announcer of Wheel of Fortune
February 20, 1989–October 29, 2010