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Don Pardo, voice of 'Saturday Night Live,' dead at 96

By Josh Levs and Todd Leopold, CNN
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Don Pardo was 96 years old
  • He was best known for introducing "Saturday Night Live" hosts
  • Pardo was among first to report on JFK being shot
  • NBC personalities remember him as legendary

(CNN) -- Don Pardo, the announcer whose velvety baritone voice introduced "Saturday Night Live" hosts on NBC for decades, has died at age 96, the network announced.

Pardo was the announcer for "SNL" for all but one season over the program's 39-year run. Prior to announcing for the comedy show, he was a familiar voice on NBC, handling the announcing duties on such programs as the old "Price Is Right" and the Art Fleming-hosted version of "Jeopardy!"

In a tweet, "NBC Nightly News" described Pardo as "legendary," and cast members from "SNL's" long run chimed in with approval.

'SNL' announcer Don Pardo dies at 96

"Any SNL actor will tell u:the ultimate moment of your career was hearing Don Pardo say your name. Each week he represented a dream come true," tweeted Rachel Dratch, who appeared on the show from 1999 to 2006.

Seth Myers, who spent years on "SNL" before recently beginning his own late-night talk program, wrote, "RIP Don Pardo. A voice that meant so much."

Pardo was born in Westfield, Massachusetts, on February 22, 1918. He began his career in theater in his native New England, but switched to announcing after being offered a job by a Providence, Rhode Island, radio station.

While visiting NBC in New York in 1944 -- there to see some of his heroes at work -- Pardo was offered a job with the network, according to The New York Times. He stayed for the next seven decades.

He became a familiar voice to generations of radio listeners and, later, TV watchers. Indeed, he was the NBC staff announcer on November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was shot.

"He was among the first to tell the nation about the assassination attempt on President John F. Kennedy," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The next year, he became the announcer for a game show that almost rivaled Pardo himself for longevity: "Jeopardy!" The original version, with Fleming as host, ran from 1964 to 1975.

Pardo could regularly be heard telling viewers that the show's questions came from the Grolier encyclopedia and promising contestants some nice parting gifts, including a supply of Rice-a-Roni, "the San Francisco treat."

In 1984, Pardo got a chance to parody himself on "Weird Al" Yankovic's recording of "I Lost on Jeopardy," informing the floundering Yankovic that he was "a complete loser." He also had a bit part in the video.

"Very sad to hear of the passing of my old friend Don Pardo - truly one the all-time greats," tweeted Yankovic..

But for most people under 50, Pardo will always be the voice of "SNL." Though he was on staff at NBC, he seemed an odd choice for the show, his seemingly strait-laced bearing contrasting with the wild antics of what was, originally, the most iconoclastic comedy show on network TV.

But that, said "SNL" creator Lorne Michaels, was the idea.

"It couldn't have been a more different culture," Michaels told The New York Times. "But it was perfect for us."

Pardo also appeared in the movie "Radio Days" and on an episode of "30 Rock," among other credits.

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