Voice of SNL, Westfield Native Don Pardo Dies at 96
NEW YORK (AP) — Don Pardo, the durable television and radio announcer whose booming baritone became as much a part of the cultural landscape as the shows and products he touted, died Monday. He was 96.
Pardo died peacefully at his home in Tucson, Arizona, where he moved after retiring from “SNL” in 2006, said his daughter, Dona Pardo. Creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels asked him to continue with the show, so many weeks he recorded his introductions from his Tucson home, she said.
Few recognized the face of Pardo, a handsome man with a strong chin and confident smile. But Pardo’s majestic delivery, with its swoops in pitch and pregnant pauses, graced newscasts, game shows and TV programs for more than 60 years. During the original version of “Jeopardy!,” his answers to the question, “Tell ‘em what they’ve won, Don Pardo,” became a memorable part of the program.
And he was an integral part of “Saturday Night Live” for almost four decades in his role heralding the cast’s names to kick off each show, which led former cast member Jimmy Fallon to comment later, “Nothing is like the moment when Don Pardo says your name.”
During his career, Pardo’s resonant voice-over style was widely imitated and became the standard in the field. His was no ordinary voice and he guarded it closely, with cough drops always at the ready.
“My voice is my Achilles’ heel,” Pardo said in a 1985 interview with The Associated Press. “When I get sick, it’s always my voice.”
Dominick George Pardo was born in Westfield, Massachusetts, on Feb. 22, 1918, and grew up in Norwich, Connecticut.
One of his first jobs was that of ticket-taker at a local movie theater; even then, his voice was commanding.
“I’d go out there with a cape and say: ‘Standing room only in the mezzanine. Immediate seating in the balcony.'”
His father, Dominick, owned a small bakery and had wanted his son to join the business. But Pardo followed his own dream and, after graduating from Boston’s Emerson College in 1942, began his vocal career at radio station WJAR in Providence, Rhode Island.
Two years later, he met a supervisor at NBC who hired the young Pardo immediately upon hearing his voice. He moved to NBC’s New York affiliate, and never left the network.