John Lewis Gilbert III
July 13, 1928
Newport News, Virginia, U.S.
|Occupation||Game show host/announcer|
|Spouse(s)||Sharee Gilbert (m. 1984)|
|Service/||United States Army|
|Unit||Seventh Army Special Services|
John Lewis Gilbert III (born July 13, 1928) 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 is known primarily for his work as the announcer and audience host for the syndicated version of the quiz show Jeopardy! since 1984.
Gilbert was born in Newport News, Virginia. He began performing by singing as a boy in his hometown Lutheran Church choir. 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. He never sang opera independently, but was the regular vocalist with Shelly Harmon and His Orchestra, a group that toured the Virginia area.
Stage and early television career
A few years after graduating from high school, Gilbert resided in Florida for three months working as an emcee, during which 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 Dead End Kids, a group comprising such young actors as Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, and Gabriel Dell, were organizing a revue. Gilbert joined the group and played throughout the southwestern United States for 16 weeks. When they played in Norfolk, Virginia, Gilbert got special billing.
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 chronicles Marco Polo's trip to China. The company toured throughout Western Europe, performing for servicemen and civilians alike.
After resigning from the service and returning to the U.S., Gilbert continued singing and hosting in clubs. One day, a manager of a well-known group in Philadelphia asked Gilbert if he was interested in auditioning for television. He said yes, and received his first television assignment as a singer and emcee on WDSU in New Orleans.
Gilbert went to New York City, where he quickly signed with the William Morris Agency and in 1958 received his first job on national television—as the host of a newly created game show, Music Bingo. The show ran for three years, airing first on NBC and then on ABC. His popularity on that show led him to record an album and several singles. 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, and three other Avco stations in Ohio and Indiana. The show was a 90-minute, live telecast running 5 days a week. It included celebrity guests and a 60-person studio audience. He hosted it for two years, until he left Dayton on short notice for 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 a reporter in WLWD-TV's news department.
After his yearlong 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. After that, he hosted a local, weekday version of Dialing for Dollars on Los Angeles's KCOP-TV.
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. He hosted the show for the absent Cullen on June 19, 1964. Gilbert also served as the announcer and audience host for Dinah Shore's syndicated daily talk show, which ran from 1974 to 1980.
When Merv Griffin's quiz show Jeopardy! was reintroduced to television in 1984 as a daily syndicated program hosted by Alex Trebek, Trebek convinced Griffin to hire Gilbert as announcer; Trebek had met Gilbert at a dinner party in the early 1980s and was impressed with his voice. Gilbert has held the announcer role ever since. He has become well known for opening each of the show's nightly episodes with the announcement, "This is Jeopardy! ...and now, here is the host of Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek!". In 2017 Gilbert was honored by Guinness World Records for having the longest career as a game show announcer for a single show, after 32 years with Jeopardy! This was commemorated with a rare on-screen appearance by Gilbert just before the Final Jeopardy! segment of the episode aired September 28, 2017 (season #34, show #7599, Austin Rogers's 3rd win). He has also been the main announcer for most of the Jeopardy video games since 1992, including a few game versions where he voiced all of the clues and effectively hosted the entire game off-screen in lieu of Trebek. Gilbert briefly considered retirement after Trebek's death but chose to continue in the role. In recent years, Gilbert has handled much of his announcer load remotely, with a member of the Clue Crew providing in-studio announcements that are replaced with Gilbert's in post-production.
In addition to announcing for Jeopardy!, Gilbert has worked as a guest announcer on its 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, and on the daytime show in 1988 before the death of then-regular announcer Jack Clark.
Other game shows for which Gilbert has announced over the decades 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 (produced by Griffin); Jackpot; Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time; The Joker's Wild; Make Me Laugh; Perfect Match; Quiz Kids Challenge; Sports Challenge; Supermarket Sweep; Tic-Tac-Dough; Win, Lose or Draw; and Yours for a Song. He 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.
Gilbert's voice was 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 attempts to pass the Jeopardy! audition. Gilbert also lent his voice to an announcer in a 1989 episode of the TV series 227 and announced in The Golden Girls episode "Questions and Answers" (season 7, episode 17, on February 8, 1992) and in the Cheers episode "What Is... Cliff Clavin?" (season 8, episode 14, on January 18, 1990).
- VOICE OF ‘JEOPARDY!’ JOHNNY GILBERT EARNS GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ TITLE FOR LONGEST CAREER AS A GAME SHOW ANNOUNCER FOR THE SAME SHOW. Jeopardy.com. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
- "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Johnny Gilbert...and More!". Johnny Gilbert official website. Archived from the original on January 13, 2013. Retrieved February 20, 2010.
- Elber, Lynn (June 3, 2021). "Johnny Gilbert, the voice of 'Jeopardy!', keeps going at 92". Associated Press. Retrieved August 18, 2021.
- "'Protect Alex Trebek at all costs': Live audiences banished from 'Jeopardy!' and 'Wheel of Fortune' tapings amid coronavirus fears". The Washington Post. March 10, 2020.
- Jacobs, Julia (7 January 2021). "On Alex Trebek's Final 'Jeopardy!,' a Last Introduction From a Friend". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
- "Johnny Gilbert: Three Talents and Two Voices". The Milwaukee Sentinel. May 17, 1959. p. 2.
- "Bio of Johnny Gilbert". Jeopardy!. official website. Archived from the original on November 5, 2010. Retrieved November 2, 2010.
- "Talent Flourishes at Queen's Arms", Van Nuys Valley News. October 25, 1974.
- videoarchives1000 (7 May 2013). "The Price Is Right with guest host Johnny Gilbert 6/19/64 part 1". Archived from the original on 22 January 2016. Retrieved 28 September 2016 – via YouTube.
- "Voice of 'Jeopardy!' John Gilbert achieves a record for his career on the show". Guinness World Records. September 28, 2017. Archived from the original on October 19, 2018. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
- Harris, Bob (2006). Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy!. Random House Digital. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-307-33956-0.
- Original opening line of the syndicated version of Jeopardy!, heard on nearly every episode since that version debuted on September 10, 1984.
- "'Voice of "Jeopardy!" ' Johnny Gilbert, earns Guinness World Records title for longest career as a game show announcer for same show". Niagara Frontier Publications. Archived from the original on 2017-09-29. Retrieved 2017-09-29.
- Podplesky, Azaria. "Nine Mile Falls' Staci Huffman to appear on 'Jeopardy!' on Friday". (Spokane, WA) Spokesman-Review. Spokesman-Review. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
- "Wheel of Fortune April Fools Episode (1997)". dailymotion.com. Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
- "Wheel of Fortune (December 1, 1995): Sheila/Wayne/Mokihana - Video Dailymotion". Dailymotion. 25 August 2015. Archived from the original on 17 August 2017. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
- Lovece, Frank. "'Jeopardy!' announcer Johnny Gilbert pays tribute to Alex Trebek". newsday.com. Newsday. Archived from the original on 25 December 2020. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
- Russell, Lisa (December 21, 2020). "Voice of 'Jeopardy!' Johnny Gilbert Remembers Alex Trebek: 'Part of Me Left When Alex Left'". People. Archived from the original on December 21, 2020. Retrieved December 22, 2020.
Gilbert, now 96 [as of December 22, 2020]