Steve Allen - Innovator
For nearly 50 years, Steve Allen he distinguished himself in the spontaneous creation of humor in front of audiences. The first telecast of the American Comedy Awards presented their Lifetime Achievement Awards to only five American comedians: Steve Allen, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Sid Caesar and Jonathan Winters.
Allen has also been referred to as "the most imitated man on television." He was the first comedian to do funny and totally ad-libbed interviews with studio audiences or on the street, originated the Question Man in which the answer comes before the question, originated the idea of taking close-up pictures of people in his audience and building a comedy routine around them, and was the first comic to regularly do crazy and sometimes dangerous physical stunts on his shows.
In the history of television, there probably was not a more durable and versatile personality than Steve Allen. Dating back to 1950, when he made the guest circuit on such programs as This is Show Business and What's My Line?, and continuing through the early 1980's when he hosted NBC's The Big Show, the Steve Allen Comedy Hour and the Emmy Awards Show, as well as four seasons of his award-winning Meeting of Minds on PBS, there were few weeks when Allen did not grace the tube on one network or another.
- Created and hosted the "Tonight Show" (September 27, 1954 - January 25, 1957). When Steve left the show, the format was continued by Jack Paar, Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. It remains the highest rated series on late night television, and is the longest running entertainment series in television history.
- Starred in the critically-acclaimed NBC series "The Steve Allen Show" (June 24, 1956 - 1960). This Sunday night show had a neck-and-neck rating battle with Ed Sullivan's Sunday night CBS show, which saw Steve in the lead one week and Sullivan ahead the next. Regulars were Louis Nye, Tom Poston, Don Knotts, Dayton Allen, Gabe Dell, Pat Harrington, Skitch Henderson and announcer Gene Rayburn.
- Starred in numerous other Steve Allen shows (1960 - 76) for ABC, CBS and various syndication companies, including episodes of late night comedies which David Letterman has credited as the single biggest inspiration for his show today.
- Created the award-winning “Meeting of Minds” (1977-1981), one of the most popular series presented by the Public Broadcasting Service.
Tape recorder ever in hand, with a battery of typists on the ready, author Steve Allen spent a lifetime producing an outpouring of novels, short stories, plays, musical comedies, poems, magazine and newspaper articles, as well as comedy material. His published books to date number 54. His articles, verse and stories have appeared in magazines, newspapers and syndicates such as: Look, Saturday Review, Television Quarterly, New York Times, Cavalier, Frontier, Redbook, The Progressive, The Los Angeles Times, Chicago American, Indianapolis News, United Press International, Chicago Tribune, Associated Press, Coronet, Playboy, America, Cosmopolitan, National Review, Wall Street Journal, Esquire, and InterContinental Press -- to name a few.
Although he was best known as a comedian, Steve Allen's primary gift was for the composition of music. For more than 50 years he enjoyed a stellar career as a composer, lyricist, conductor, singer and pianist.
Honored in the 1985 edition of the Guinness Book of Records as the most prolific composer of modern times, Steve Allen wrote more than 8,500 songs during his extraordinary lifetime.
Although Steve produced more than 75 albums/CD's, his musical training was limited to three years of piano lessons, starting at the age of seven. Despite his lack of training, he continued to create highly melodic numbers at the rate of about 40 per month, and in one recent instance, in the sight of over 200 witnesses in the lobby of a Kalamazoo, Michigan, hotel, wrote a total of 400 songs in one day. Many of his songs, strangely enough, were not created at the piano. They "happened" while he was driving, taking a shower, at work, even asleep. (He actually dreamed one of his biggest hits: "This Could be the Start of Something Big.")
Among the dozens of prominent artists who have recorded and performed Steve's work are Aretha Franklin, the Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Joe Williams, Andy Williams, Ann Jillian, Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Diane Schuur and Mel Torme.