Gene Rayburn

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Gene Rayburn (December 22, 1917 – November 29, 1999) was an American radio and television personality. Born Eugene Rubessa (pronounced /ruːˈbeɪʃə/) in Christopher, Illinois, he was an only child of Croatian immigrants and graduated from Lindblom Technical High School and later from Knox College. While a student at Lindblom, he was Senior Class President and acted in the plays, "Robert of Sicily," and, "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch."[1]

Rayburn was married to Helen Ticknor from 1940 until her death in October 1996. They had one child, a daughter, Lynn. After the birth of their child, Rayburn enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.


Radio career

Before appearing in television, Rayburn was a very successful actor and radio performer. He had a popular morning drive time radio show in New York, first with Jack Lescoulie (Anything Goes) and later with Dee Finch (Rayburn & Finch) on WNEW-AM (now WBBR). Radio history pegs Rayburn's pairings with Lescoulie and Finch as the first two-man teams in morning radio. When Rayburn left WNEW, Dee Finch continued the format with Gene Klavan.

He also landed the lead in the Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie after Dick Van Dyke left the production to star in the classic sitcom which bears his name.

Television career

Breaking into television as the original announcer on Steve Allen's Tonight, Gene Rayburn began a long association with game-show producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman in 1953. He first appeared on Robert Q. Lewis's The Name's the Same; Rayburn frequently sat in for regular panelist Carl Reiner, lending a comic touch to the panel. In 1955, he took over as host of the summer-replacement game show, Make the Connection, from original host, Jim McKay. From there he hosted shows such as Choose Up Sides, Dough Re Mi, and the daytime version of Tic Tac Dough (which, unlike the rigged nighttime version hosted by Jay Jackson, was "clean" and unaffected by the quiz show scandals). On radio, Rayburn became one of the many hosts of the NBC program Monitor in 1961 and remained with the show until 1973.

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