86 years ago today, on Friday, October 23, 1925, a woman named Ruth Carson gave birth to a son in Corning, Iowa… but Johnny was on vacation, so Ruth gave birth to Joey Bishop!
I couldn’t resist. That joke has been around for decades.
But truly, the “King of Late Night,” was born on this date in this house, in 1925. John William Carson was born to Homer and Ruth Carson, and he would go on to leave a gigantic imprint on the world of television.
Although born in Corning Johnny didn’t stay there long. Due to Homer’s job with a utility company the Carson family moved quite a bit. After relocating to several western Iowa towns, the Carsons eventually settled in Norfolk, Nebraska. It was in this classic version of small-town America that Johnny began performing. And it was in this home that Johnny grew up.
After learning magic young Johnny appeared around town as The Great Carsoni and built the foundation for his career.
Years later, his first big break came as a writer for Red Skelton. When Skelton got hurt during a rehearsal Carson went on in his place. CBS executives took note and soon Carson was host of “The Johnny Carson Show.”
By the late 1950s Johnny was based in New York and hosting a game show. The show was originally called “Do You Trust Your Wife?” but later became “Who Do You Trust?”
As you all know, Johnny Carson went on to host “The Tonight Show” from 1962 to 1992. In his almost 30 years at the helm Carson turned “The Tonight Show” into an institution. It became a nightly “must-see” for many and Johnny Carson himself became a barometer of public opinion.
Carson left “The Tonight Show” in 1992 and pretty much retired from public life. He died on January 23, 2005 after a long battle with emphysema.
Johnny Carson became one of television’s biggest stars ever, but he never forgot his hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska. Carson donated nearly $5-million to various causes in Norfolk and the people there returned his love. So if you stop in at the Elkhorn Valley Museum in Norfolk, be sure to see the Johnny Carson Gallery there.
Johnny Carson was born 86 years ago on this date in TV history.
Photos from Corning, Iowa and Norfolk, Nebraska ©Richard DiGangi