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Merv Griffin – So Much More Than ‘Talk’

The Life and Career of Merv Griffin 

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While hosting his TV show

Merv Griffin may be best known for his fabulously successful TV talk show, but there is much more to this performer than just talk. During his long and active career, Griffin was also a singer, band leader, actor, media mogul and TV personality. In terms of TV talk shows and their influence, the Merv Griffin Show, which got its start in 1962, was second only to Johnny Carson and his Tonight Show. During its decades on the air, the show hosted not only actors and actresses but authors, philosophers and even politicians. Everyone who was anyone in the 1960s and 1970s wound up on the Merv Griffin show eventually. 

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He also hosted Jeopardy

If you know Griffin mainly from his TV talk show, you may not realize that he is also the brains behind some of the most successful and most influential TV game shows in history. Griffin is created as the mastermind behind the Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, two of the biggest mainstays in the world of television game shows. Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy remain two of the most popular shows on TV to this day, all thanks the Griffin Group he founded.  


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In His Early Days

Griffin seemed destined for a career in the world of entertainment right from the start. Born in a San Francisco suburb, Merv Griffin worked his way up through the ranks from an early age, entering local talent contests, singing at local radio station KFRC and even writing his own songs. Merv Griffin would later go on to tour with Freddy Martin and His Orchestra. During his time touring and performing, Merv Griffin become increasingly popular with the nightclub audiences he entertained.



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His Famous Song

Pretty soon the name Merv Griffin would become a household name. That happened in 1950, when Merv Griffin had a solid gold hit with “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.” The song was a number one hit on the influential Hit Parade ranking and went on to sell more than three million copies.  


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Play Your Hunch

That early musical success was far from an isolated incident, and Merv Griffin went on to have many more hit songs throughout the decades. It was during this rise that the world of television first discovered the singer and performer. Merv Griffin soon became a regular performer on the Arthur Murray Party in the early 1950s and the Jack Paar Tonight show later in the decade. Eventually he was offered his own television series – called Play Your Hunch – in 1958. While he was doing that show, Merv Griffin came up with the idea for the game show Jeopardy. He also substituted for Jack Paar on his famous talk show, an event that would become a turning point in his life. 

His stint as substitute host led to some of the highest ratings in its history and prompted NBC to give Merv Griffin his own hour-long talk show. That show, known as the Merv Griffin Show, premiered on NBC in 1962 and became one of the longest running daytime talk shows in history.

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