Johnny Gilbert in a 1945 advertisement
July 13, 1924 |
Newport News, Virginia, U.S.
|Occupation||Game show host/announcer|
John L. "Johnny" Gilbert III (born July 13, 1924) is an American show business personality who has worked mainly on television game shows. Originally a nightclub singer and entertainer, he has hosted and announced a number of game shows from various eras, dating as far back as the 1950s. He has become known primarily for his work as the announcer and audience host for the syndicated version of the quiz show Jeopardy!.
Gilbert was born in Newport News, Virginia, and began his career as a choir boy in the Lutheran Church in that city. Although his parents had never worked in the theatrical profession themselves, his grandmother had been a church singer. While he was still in high school, Gilbert decided to take up a professional singing career and learned from an opera teacher. Although he never sang any opera independently, he was the regular vocalist with Shelly Harmon and His Orchestra, a group which toured the Virginia area.
A few years after graduating from high school, Gilbert heard about an audition as regular vocalist for the Dean Hudson Orchestra which was being conducted in Jacksonville, Florida. Unfortunately, Gilbert was confused about the dates and upon his arrival, he learned that the position had already been filled. However, a local agent in Jacksonville needed a master of ceremonies for the Sky Way club there. Gilbert was asked if he was an emcee, but was unaware of what an emcee was, as in Virginia there were no clubs at the time, and he had never lived outside that state. While he was trying to figure everything out, the agent told him that he had received his job as emcee. Gilbert resided in Florida for three months, during which time he received on-the-job training, and learned to walk on stage, speak in front of a public crowd, and tell jokes and stories.
The famous "Dead End Kids," a group which comprised such young actors as Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, and Gabriel Dell, were organizing a revue. Gilbert joined that group and played throughout the southwestern portion of the United States for sixteen weeks. When they played in Norfolk, Gilbert himself even got special billing.
Stage and early television career
In the 1950s, Gilbert joined the United States Army's Seventh Army Special Services in Germany, and was cast as the lead in Xanadu: The Marco Polo Musical, an original musical comedy inspired in part by the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem Kubla Khan, which chronicled Marco Polo's trip to China. The company toured throughout Western Europe, performing for an audience of servicemen and civilians alike.
After resigning from the service and returning to the United States, Gilbert continued singing and hosting in clubs throughout the nation. However, one day, when a manager of a well-known group in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania asked Gilbert if he was interested in auditioning for television, he accepted that offer, and came to receive his first television assignment as a singer and emcee on WDSU in New Orleans.
Gilbert went to New York where he was quickly signed with the William Morris Agency and shortly thereafter, received his first job on national television—as the host of a newly created game show titled Music Bingo. The show ran for two years, airing first on NBC and then on ABC. His popularity on that show led him to record an album and several singles. From there, Gilbert went on to emcee the local game show Words and Music on KTLA-TV in Los Angeles.
Gilbert was later contacted by Avco Broadcasting to host his own local talk/variety show, The Johnny Gilbert Show, which aired on WLWD-TV (now WDTN) in Dayton, Ohio. He continued with that show for two years, until he left Dayton on short notice to move to New York, where he became the host of the Metromedia-produced game show Fast Draw. His slot was then given to Phil Donahue, who at that time was working as a reporter in WLWD-TV's news department.
Following his year-long run on Fast Draw, Gilbert was contacted by Bing Crosby Productions to host the game show Beat the Odds, produced in Los Angeles by Bill Carruthers. Afterward, he went on to host the local weekday program Dialing for Dollars for two and one-half years.
In 1963, Gilbert was selected by Mark Goodson to replace Don Pardo as the announcer and audience host for the original Bill Cullen-hosted version of The Price Is Right when it moved from NBC to ABC. Gilbert also served as the announcer and audience host for Dinah Shore's syndicated daily talk show, which ran from 1974 until 1980.
When Merv Griffin's quiz show Jeopardy! was re-introduced to television in 1984 as a daily syndicated program hosted by Alex Trebek, Gilbert was selected as the show's new announcer, a role he has held ever since. He has become well known for opening each of the show's nightly episodes with the announcement, "This... is... Jeopardy!"
In addition to announcing for Jeopardy!, Gilbert has also worked as a guest announcer on that program's sister show, Wheel of Fortune. He announced on the episode that aired on April Fools' Day in 1997, as well as a few weeks of episodes in 2010 following the death of the show's longtime announcer, Charlie O'Donnell. Gilbert also guest announced on Wheel in late 1995, when O'Donnell was ill.
Other game shows for which Gilbert has announced over the years include The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime, The $25,000 Pyramid, The $100,000 Pyramid, Anything For Money, Blackout, Camouflage, Chain Reaction, Dream House, Every Second Counts, Fantasy, Go, Headline Chasers, Jackpot, The Joker's Wild, Make Me Laugh, Money in the Blank, The Movie Game, Perfect Match, Quiz Kids Challenge, Sports Challenge, Supermarket Sweep, Tic-Tac-Dough, Win, Lose or Draw, and Yours for a Song. Gilbert has also substituted for Gene Wood on several Goodson-Todman game shows, including Family Feud, the CBS version of Card Sharks, and Child's Play. He succeeded Rich Jeffries (another part-time substitute for Wood) as permanent announcer of Chuck Woolery's game show Love Connection during the 1988-89 season, only to be replaced by John Cervenka, a former alumnus of The Groundlings.
Outside the game show genre, Gilbert's voice has been heard on the CBS television special Circus of the Stars, in People's Choice Awards and Emmy Awards ceremonies, and on episodes of the animated series The Angry Beavers and Johnny Bravo. He announced a fictional episode of Jeopardy! in the "Ellen's Energy Adventure" show at EPCOT Center's Universe of Energy attraction, and appeared in a subplot of the 1992 movie White Men Can't Jump in which a character played by Rosie Perez attempted to pass the Jeopardy! auditions. Gilbert also lent his voice to an announcer in a 1989 episode of the TV series 227.
- "Official website of Johnny Gilbert". Retrieved 2 November 2010.
- "Johnny Gilbert: Three Talents and Two Voices". The Milwaukee Sentinel. May 17, 1959. p. 2.
- "Bio of Johnny Gilbert on official website of Jeopardy!". Retrieved 2 November 2010.
- Harris, Bob (2006). Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy!. Random House Digital. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-30-73395-60.
- Original opening line of the syndicated version of Jeopardy!, heard on nearly every episode since that version debuted on September 10, 1984.
- Encyclopedia of Observances, Holidays, and Celebrations. MobileReference. 2007. ISBN 978-1-60-501177-6.
- Johnny Gilbert at the Internet Movie Database
- Official website
- Johnny Gilbert's bio on the Jeopardy! website
- Johnny Gilbert at the Internet Movie Database
|Announcer on Love Connection
John Cervenka (1989-1994; 1998-1999)
|Announcer on The Price Is Right
September 9, 1963-September 3, 1965
(in the 1972 revival)
|Announcer on Jeopardy!