My room was right next to the living room in our small, frame house on Briarwood. That made listening to The Tonight Show easy, and I did so frequently. I recall Jack Paar from his time hosting the show. Then came Johnny Carson in late 1962.
I knew Johnny Carson from a game show - "Who Do You Trust?" - which came on mid afternoon. I would come home from school and watch Johnny, whose loyal sidekick, Ed McMahon, sold the products of sponsors. Those commercials and the show appeared to be live. The commercials Ed did were often funny, and not always because they were planned that way. From home appliances to dog food, Ed put it all out there and was a good foil for Johnny.
I delighted in watching Johnny Carson on the game show, and was ecstatic when I learned at age thirteen he was becoming the host of The Tonight Show. We had moved from Briarwood to a bigger house on Paul Avenue by then, but the acoustics of our house made listening to The Tonight Show easy. My bedroom was the one nearest the den, where the television was located. In 1962, no family had more than one television. Our TV was in the den, and that's where Daddy watched The Tonight Show.
By leaving my room's door open, I could hear every word of the opening monologue and Johnny's comedy sets done typically the first thirty minutes of the show. As I entered high school, I would stay up and watch the show until eleven, sometimes later. In the mid to late 1960s, watching The Tonight Show together was a regular event for Daddy and me.
In 1968, I joined the military and came home on leave in December of 1969, departing for Southeast Asia in January of 1970. One of the last things my Dad and I did together before I left was watch Johnny on The Tonight Show. We saw a hysterical show with Bob Hope, Dean Martin and George Gobel. My old buddy, Mike Capps, was with us watching it.
In mid 1971, I was whisked back home after word came through the Red Cross that my father was terminally ill with cancer, and not expected to live much longer. Five weeks later, he died. The memory of our watching Johnny together has been a treasure the past forty-three years since his passing.
When my son was in grade school, I let him stay up to watch the first fifteen minutes of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. My son was not born until ten years after my father passed away, but Johnny Carson remains a link between my dad, my son, and me. All three of us loved Johnny and his Tonight Show hosting. He remains the undisputed king of late night television. All the other late night hosts have shows because Johnny Carson was so wildly successful at it for so long.
© 2014, Jim “Pappy” Moore,
All Rights Reserved.