The original announcer of The Price Is Right, Johnny Olson is widely regarded as the greatest game show announcer of all time. His broadcasting career spanned over half a century, during which he was a well-known host and announcer on both television and radio.
Johnny worked on The Price Is Right from its debut up through October of 1985. During that time, he continued to work on many other shows, and it has been speculated that his hectic schedule may have been what caused his death. Johnny suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on October 6, 1985, and passed away on October 12. At the time, there were still 20 Price episodes he had announced that had not yet aired; his final show was broadcast on November 8.
Johnny had a surprising amount of influence on some aspects of The Price Is Right; many of the seemingly unimportant lines heard daily on the show, such as, “and now, here’s Bob Barker with our Showcase Showdown!” were not scripted, but were in fact ad libs. After Johnny’s death, Frank Wayne, the show’s executive producer at the time, had to watch tapes of several Price episodes to write down all the lines so that they could be put in the scripts for Rod and the other auditioning announcers.
While the man himself is gone, Johnny's legacy continued to live on at The Price Is Right long after his passing. At different times during their careers, both Rod Roddy and Rich Fields attended tapings of the show to seek his advice; Rod was searching for help with transitioning from radio to television, and Rich was looking for guidance as he attempted to break into the broadcasting business. The latter has frequently joked that when he was allowed to come onstage during an audience warmup and do a "come on down," he did such a good job that Johnny got scared and sent him back to his seat.
Best known as “the guy with the sparkly jackets,” Rod was The Price Is Right’s second announcer, a job he held for over 17 years. Rod’s career began in the 1950s, when he worked in top-40 radio; he began announcing on TV shows in the 1970s. His most notable work other than Price came on Soap, the cult favorite Whew!, Press Your Luck, and the short-lived game Hit Man; the latter is best-known for Rod’s contestant plug on its final episode – “If you would like to be a contestant on Hit Man, forget it!”
Rod was one of four announcers who auditioned on The Price Is Right during Season 14 after the death of Johnny Olson. Interestingly, he was not the producers’ first choice for the job; the position was actually offered to Bob Hilton, but he turned it down because of a commitment to a show called “Bamboozle” that never got past the pilot stage. As a result, Rod got the job; he debuted as the permanent announcer on February 17, 1986.
Rod was arguably most famous for his fashion sense. Whereas Johnny and Rich have always worn standard suits or sport coats, Rod began in the late ‘80s to wear loud, ridiculously bright jackets that were often either sparkly, multicolored, or both. The jackets were made especially for him by a friend who lived in Thailand, and over the years, they became one of the show’s most recognizable features. If you need a fix of Rod’s outlandish outfits, we’ve got several photos of him in the “Remember When?” section of our Golden Gallery.
In September of 2001, it was discovered that Rod had colon cancer; although he subsequently underwent several treatments and surgeries, the cancer continued to progress and eventually to spread. The treatments also caused Rod to be absent from The Price Is Right many times during Seasons 30 and 31. He returned, sporadically, for the final time at the beginning of Season 32, with his last show airing on October 20, 2003. A week later, on October 27, Rod passed away.
Rich was Price’s third announcer, appearing on the show from April of 2004 through the end of Season 38; his first “official” show aired on April 23, 2004, and he was introduced to the nation by Bob on April 27. Prior to this, he had done several weeks of on-air auditions on the show.
Prior to joining Price, Rich had a fairly extensive history in broadcasting. Most notably to game show fans, he was at one time the announcer and subsitute host of the Florida Lottery’s game show. He is also a certified meteorologist; his last job before Price was Chief Meteorologist at the Palm Springs CBS affiliate, and he did his last few weeks of weather reports live from Studio 33.
Rich showed a great deal of respect for the position of Price announcer; he recognized Johnny and Rod each day during his warm-up, and the podium that they announced from is on display in his house –- it was replaced soon after he took the job, and he saved it from the trash.
Rich was fired from the show at the end of Season 38, when Mike Richards decided to try a different style of announcer.
George was hired as the show's announcer during the second half of Season 39. A short biography of him will be posted eventually.
Has anyone ever subbed for Johnny, Rod, Rich, or George?
Aside from four tapings that occurred between the time of his brain hemmorhage and his death six days later, Johnny never missed a show. Gene Wood filled in for him on those last four shows, as well as on the next two weeks' worth of tapings; subsequently, Rod Roddy, Rich Jeffries, and Bob Hilton all auditioned on the air before Rod finally took the reigns permanently in February, 1986. Gene was also the only fill-in on the Tom Kennedy version, which was on the air at the time.
Rod never missed a taping for a reason other than his health. The first time he was out, in November and December of 2001, Burton Richardson filled in for him. Burton also announced the first three primetime Price Is Right Salutes in 2002, presumably due to a salary dispute between Rod and the production company. He also filled in during Rod’s second and third absences, in November and December of 2002 and starting in May of 2003; however, these were interspersed with other fill-in announcers. Paul Boland announced the first five shows during Rod’s second absence, and Randy West announced a number of shows during the third. Rod returned to work for the last time on a part-time basis on the Season 32 premiere in September of 2003; between that time and his last show exactly four weeks later, Randy was at the mic whenever Rod wasn’t. After that last show, Burton and Randy continued to fill in, along with several other announcers -- Daniel Rosen, Art Sanders, Roger Rose, Rich Fields, Don Bishop, and Jim Thornton -- until Rich was finally hired the following April.
Rich missed one taping -- the December 22, 2006, episode. He had laryngitis, and Burton Richardson was called in to sub for him. After his firing, J.D. Roberto, Jeff Davis, Brad Sherwood, David H. Lawrence XVII, George Gray, and Steve White auditioned on the air for the first several months of Season 39 until George's hiring at the end of February.
George has thus far never missed a taping.
I thought I heard Burton Richardson announcing on the show in the '90s.
You did. Burton announced the nighttime version of the show hosted by Doug Davidson in 1994 (except for the pilot, which was announced by Bob Hilton).
Why were the announcers not shown on-camera during Seasons 31-36?
I don't know the details, but it had something to do with Bob.
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