Actor, Comedian, Author. He was the first host of the NBC night time talk show "The Tonight Show", and Frequent guest panelist on the 1950s television show "What's My Line." Born in New York City, New York, his parents were the vaudeville comedy team of Montrose and Allen. His father, Carroll Allen, died when he was a small child and his mother, Isabelle Montrose Allen, moved the family to Chicago, Illinois to live with her parents. He claimed that he had an unhappy childhood, going to 18 different schools. For a while he attended college in Iowa and Arizona, where he met and married his first wife, Dorothy Goodman, with whom he had three children. During World War II, he joined the United States Army, but was released early due to asthma. After his military service, he began work for a Phoenix, Arizona radio station, and in 1946, moved to Los Angeles, California as a radio disk jockey. In 1950, he moved to television, and in 1953, he created the "Tonight Show" for CBS, which became an immediate success. In 1952, he divorced his first wife and married Jayne Meadows, and together they had one child, a boy. In 1956, he left the "Tonight Show" to host his own television variety show, which featured a number of beginning comedians such as Don Knotts, Tom Poston and Bill Dana, and was one of the first to have Elvis Presley on television. He wrote more than 50 books and 7,400 songs, and was listed in the 1985 Guinness Book of World Records as the most prolific composer of modern times. Yet he considered himself musically illiterate, because he could not read music. He died in Encino, California, after suffering a coronary caused from a traffic accident.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson
1919–2015 (m. 1954)