Although Steve Allen, born December 26, 1921, was a musician, composer, actor, comedian, and writer, he is best known for his career in television. He first gained national attention as a guest host on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts and then became the first host of The Tonight Show, initiating the format that television talk shows would follow from then on.
Moving from late night to prime time television, he hosted numerous game and variety shows, most notably The Steve Allen Show, going head to head with Ed Sullivan and Maverick on Sunday evenings. It was there he developed the man on the street interviews which featured Don Knotts, Tom Poston and Louis Nye among others.
Allen was a comedy writer and author of more than 50 books, both fiction and nonfiction, including Dumbth, a commentary on the American educational system, and Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, and Morality.
Allen was also a pianist and a prolific composer, writing over 14,000 songs, some of which were recorded by Perry Como, Margaret Whiting, Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme, Les Brown, and Oscar Peterson. He won a Grammy in 1963 for best jazz composition, with his song The Gravy Waltz. He also wrote lyrics for the standards “Picnic” and “South Rampart Street Parade.” He once won a bet with Frankie Laine that he could write 50 songs a day for a week. His output of songs has never been equaled.
He died in 2000.