Heeeere’s Johnny! John William Carson

“Johnny Carson” was born John William Carson on October 23, 1925 in Corning, Iowa. He was a well-loved show host and comedian. Before becoming famous, Carson served in the U.S. Navy. In 1949, he married his first wife, Joan Morrill Wolcott, with whom he fathered three sons. His career started in 1950 when he landed a spot on the radio with Ken Case, in Nebraska. Soon after, Carson became the host of a TV show called “The Squirrel’s Nest”. In one of his routines, he would go out to the roof of the local courthouse and interview pigeons.

“The Squirrel’s Nest” was such a hit, it lead to Carson being an MC at local church basement dinners. The wife of a local politician and civic leader owned stock in a Los Angeles radio station and referred Johnny to her brother, who was a big shot in the emerging television market in Southern California. Soon after her referral, Carson took a job with KNXT, a CBS-owned station, which soon led to his entry into the big time. Later, Carson joked that he owes his success to the pigeons back in Omaha. “Carson’s Cellar” ran on KNXT from 1951-1953.

A fan of the show, Red Skelton, asked Carson to join his show as a writer. Carson agreed, and filled in for Skelton on an episode where Skelton knocked himself unconscious an hour before the show went to air. Other shows that Carson hosted include “Earn Your Vacation”, “The Johnny Carson Show”, and “Who do you Trust?” In 1962, Carson became the host of “The Tonight Show,” following Jack Paar’s departure from the show. Ed McMahon became his sidekick and announcer. The show soon became known as “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and the opening line, “Heeeere’s Johnny”, became an instant classic. Originally produced in New York City, the show had occasional stints in California. In May of 1972, the show moved to California. After the move, the Monday shows had guest hosts, and Carson did the other four shows each week. In 1983 “The Tonight Show” received
its first permanent host, Joan Rivers. She was fired in 1986 for accepting a spot on a competing television show without consulting Carson. In the fall of 1987, Jay Leno became the exclusive guest host.

Johnny’s Personal Life

In 1972 Carson divorced Joanne and married Joanna Holland. After the divorce, Joanne received alimony of $100 thousand dollars per year, as well as nearly half a million dollars in cash and art. In 1983, Joanna Holland filed for divorce. In 1985, his divorce to Joanna became finalized. Joanna received $20 million in cash and property. He married 35 year old Alexis Maas in 1987. This marriage would come to be Carson’s longest, lasting until his death in 2005.

On March 19, 1999, 73 year old Carson suffered a heart attack at his home in California. He underwent quadruple-bypass surgery at a nearby hospital in Santa Monica. At age 79, on January 23, 2005, John William “Johnny” Carson passed away at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical center due to respiratory arrest and emphysema. Following his death, his body was cremated, and his ashes were given to his wife, Alexis.

Albert Walker

Special thanks to ConoverGenealogy.com
(Descendants of Wolphert Van Kouwenhoven)