Born: December 16, 1921 | Died: October 30, 2000 Primary Instrument: Composer/conductor
Creator and host of the original Tonight show. Authored 52 published books, including: the 1998 publications of Murder in Hawaii, Die Laughing and Dumbth...(and 101 Ways to Reason Better and Improve Your Mind); the 1996 publication Wake Up to Murder & But Seriously; the 1995 publication of The Bug and the Slug in the Rug; The Man Who Turned Back the Clock and Murder on the Atlantic; 1994's Reflections; and 1993's The Murder Game, More Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion & Morality, Book Two, and Make 'em Laugh. Steve Allen’s 100 Song Lyrics are to be released in 1999.
Allen starred on Broadway in The Pink Elephant; Starred in motion pictures, most notably in the title role of Universal's The Benny Goodman Story. Written over 7,400 songs, including This Could Be The Start of Something Big, Picnic, Impossible, Gravy Waltz, and South Rampart Street Parade, Pretend You Don’t See Her, etc.; Written the score for several musicals, including the Broadway production of Sophie and the CBS-TV version of Alice in Wonderland.
Allen recorded over 52 record albums/CD’s, including the May 1993 release of Steve Allen Plays Jazz Tonight for the Concord Jazz label; the 1996 releases of Steve Allen Plays HI-FI Music For Influentials; Steve Allen On The Air! The Classic Comedy Of Steve Allen ;Words & Music: The Songs Of Steve Allen for the Varese Sarabande label; Keep Swingin’ & Fast Cars & Fascinating Women: The Tom Kubis Big Band Plays Steve Allen on the SeaBreeze Jazz Label; and Steve Allen’s 75th Birthday Celebration released on March 10, 1998 for the Valley Entertainment label.
Wrote the stirring Irish drama, The Wake, which won an L.A. drama critics' nomination as best play of 1977; He starred in the critically-acclaimed NBC series The Steve Allen Comedy Hour.
Creator, writer and host of the Emmy award-winning PBS-TV series Meeting of Minds. And been inducted into the TV Academy's Hall of Fame.
In 1993, Mr. Allen became Abbot of the world-famed Friars Club, succeeding Milton Berle, and in 1994 the Museum of Television and Radio honored him with a six-month retrospective of his work. He was married to actress-comedienne Jayne Meadows.
Before Jay, Johnny, or Jack, there was Steve. It was Steve Allen who in 1954 created the Tonight Show, a pop culture institution that has become America’s longest-running and most successful late-night program. It all seems so simplethe desk, the monologue, the announcer/sidekick, the bandleader as comic foil, the breezy chats with celebrities, the wacky stunts, the comedy sketches, the roaming cameras, the irreverent observations of passersby, the offbeat and eccentric guests, the fun with exotic animals, and the ad-lib banter with the studio audience.
Steve Allen invented this formula. He revolutionized America’s viewing and sleeping habits by establishing the grammar of late-night TV and hosting Tonight during its first three formative years. In so doing, he paved the way for Paar, Carson, and Leno. Much of what exists on late night today is derived from Allen’s early years in television. Even conventions identified with later hostslike “Jay Walking,” “Stupid Human Tricks,” “The Tea-Time Movie with Art Fern,” and “Carnac the Magnificent”owe their origins to the early Allen shows. As Jay Leno acknowledges, There’s nothing new. It all started with Steve.
Tonight's first monologue was given with Steve Allen seated at the piano: In case you're just joining us...this is Tonight...and I can't think of too much to tell you about it, except I want to give you the bad news first: this program is going to go on forever. I wouldn't call it a Spectacular....you might say it's more a Monotonious .
NBC was the most adventurous network in music programming throughout the 1950s, particularly through Steve Allen's efforts to present pop, jazz and classical artists on the Tonight Show. Allen also hosted an NBC special, All Star Jazz, in December 1957. Allen featured a number of black acts on his variety show in the 1950s. Although most acts were comics and dancers, musical performers included W. C. Handy, Billy Eckstine, Lena Horne and T-Bone Walker. Jazz was always an important ingrediant in Allen's life, showcasing many of the West Coast Jazz musicians on his televison shows. Jack Sheldon made his acting/comedy debut on The Steve Allen Show. Drummer Gene Krupa was a special guest on several nights including the original premier when the show was only a New York local program then called Knickerbocker Beer Show.
Early TV appearances by Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, and poet Jack Kerouac reading from On The Road as Allen accompanied on soft jazz piano from The Steve Allen Plymouth Show in 1959. A young Frank Zappa performed music on his bicycle, (as the instrument). The show also featured plenty of jazz played by Allen and members of the show's band, the Donn Trenner Orchestra, which included such virtuoso musicians as guitarist Herb Ellis and flamboyantly comedic hipster trombonist Frank Rosolino.
Jerry Lee Lewis was so touched by Allen's booking of him for the first time before a national audience that he named his first son Steve Allen Lewis after him. Allen also had many black jazz artists on his early Tonight show, all exposed to a national audience for the first time, including Earl Hines, Billie Holiday, Bobby Short, Coleman Hawkins, Lionel Hampton, Sarah Vaughn, Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and Count Basie. Allen was honored with numerous awards from black organizations for that very same trailblazing.
Allen later produced a second half-hour show for Westinghouse titled Jazz Scene which featured West Coast jazz musicians such as Rosolino, Stan Kenton and Teddy Edwards. The short-lived show was hosted by Oscar Brown,Jr.