Dick Carson Dies: Director Of The Tonight Show And Brother Of Johnny Was 92

Dick Carson Dies: Director Of The Tonight Show And Brother Of Johnny Was 92

Dick Carson, brother of TV legend Johnny Carson and a former director for The Tonight Show, died at 92 at his home in Studio City, Calif. on December 19, 2021 following a brief illness, his family said.

Richard Charles Carson, was born in Clarinda, Iowa, the youngest of three children of Homer Lloyd (“Kit”) and Ruth Hook Carson.

He began his career in Nebraska radio. Later, at San Diego television station KOGO-TV, the local NBC affiliate, he first worked as a “floor man” for local programming, and then began  directing commercials and local news and sports shows.

When a summer job opportunity as a stage manager and associate director for ABC in Los Angeles became available in 1960, he commuted to fill it. Within months, that led to moving his family to the city to take a permanent position directing children’s programs  including “Chucko the Birthday Clown.”  He later moved on to directing “The Soupy Sales Show.

In 1962, The Tonight Show called. Recommended by brother Johnny, his interview and hire predated his brother’s takeover of the talk show. He directed many celebrity guest hosts during the weeks before Johnny was free to begin his tenure on October 1, 1962.

The Tonight Show” was then 1¾ hours of unedited live television every weeknight, After almost seven years, Dick Carson decided to return to California as director of The Don Rickles Variety Show,” which had only a short run.

He then did freelance work for a time, directing episodes of Arthur Godfrey’s Your All-American College Show, an award-winning episode  of Get Smart, and The Sammy Davis Show, as well as commercials and pilots. His resonant announcer’s voice  brought  an audition as host of a quiz show, but he realized that he was more comfortable behind the camera than before it.

Carson was hired as director on “The Merv Griffin Show” in 1972, and continued in that role until Griffin retired in 1986, except for a brief hiatus. That program, which was syndicated, did frequent shows from Las Vegas, and traveled to Paris, Monaco, Venice, and Israel, showcasing a wide array of guests.

Before the talk show ended, Carson also began directing Griffin’s popular “Wheel of Fortune” game show, which he continued to do for 22 years. until his own retirement.  He also directed several years of live New Year’s Eve programs for Merv Griffin from Atlantic City after Griffin’s talk show ended.

Survivors include his loving wife of thirty-three years, Karlyn; son Douglas (Nola); son Christopher (Deborah); daughter Kathleen Ann Tucker (Kevin); granddaughter Lindsey Ann Ritenour (Chase); granddaughter Melissa Ann Pregler (Justin); granddaughter Chase Alexandra Carson; great-granddaughter Peyton Jane Ritenour;  sister-in-law Alexis Carson and an extended family of nephews and nieces by marriage.

Memorials are suggested to the Providence St. Joseph Medical Center’s Minutes Matter Emergency Services Campaign  c/o  the Providence Saint Joseph Foundation at 501 S. Buena Vista St. Burbank, CA 91505.

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