His deep voice was a throwback to the era of old time radio staff announcers. Don Pardo didn’t start his career welcoming viewers week after week to Saturday Night Live. It just seems that way. Pardo began a lifetime gig with the Peacock Network in 1944. Seventy years later he was still at the mic for SNL.
Pardo died Monday at age 96.
As Pardo joined the roster on radio, NBC and General David Sarnoff were experimenting with television. His voice would become even more popular on the burgeoning medium.
Pardo’s personality made him a go-to-guy among the NBC stable of voices for game show duty. He was announcer on the original Price Is Right and Jeopardy!. But as the latter ended its 11-year run in 1975, Pardo got another boost as SNL started later that year.
He would handle the introductions for the cast and guests for all but one of the 38 seasons. Pardo’s talent would be heard throughout the show, including parody skits. Occasionally the man who spent a career wearing the headphones would even appear on the show.
He famously closed one show, brought on stage to celebrate his 90th birthday, complete with cake and candles.
In New York, that style was also showcased on WNBC/Channel 4. For several years he did an on-camera opening to the successful Live at Five news and interview program. The show was anchored by Jack Cafferty and Sue Simmons.
She recalls one day when Ted Brown, the longtime WNEW personality was a guest.
“Before the show, the two chatted. Don then stepped up to the mic and announced, ‘From WNEW’s Studio 6B, It’s Live at Five!'” Simmons tells Tuned In. “A small mistake to us, worth a few giggles. But to Don it was very embarrassing.”
Many years earlier, Pardo was the first voice to tell NBC viewers that President Kennedy was shot.
He was one of two NBC employees with a lifetime contract (Bob Hope was the other), but retired in 2004. Pardo, though, remained on the air each Saturday night for his signature gig.
While at WNBC, viewers would also hear his famed booming baritone on Len Berman‘s sports segments.
“When I approached him in 1987 about being the ‘voice” of Spanning the World, he said yes without hesitation,” Berman says.
Berman says Pardo was the best and a joy to work with.
“Years later I was in the NBC elevator with my daughter and her friends when Don walked in,” Berman recalls. “I told the girls he was the ‘voice’ of SNL, and he broke into…..’It’s Saturday Night Live.'”
“Weird” Al Yankovic helped grow Pardo’s pop culture status giving him a cameo in his 1984 hit and accompanying music video I Lost on Jeopardy.
Berman says, “[He was] just a delightful man with a wonderful voice. He’ll be long remembered and missed.
He was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 2010.
“Sometimes Don would walk the halls loudly practicing. I loved it. It made me feel like I was in show biz.” Simmons says. “He will long be remembered as one of the greats and beloved.
Photo courtesy: biography.com