Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson Episode from August 1964 Recovered and Restored

An August 1964 episode of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson has been recovered and restored by DC Video. The company specializes in preserving obsolete videotapes formats. Recovered were the opening, monologue and first hour of the episode–which may have aired on August 24th, 1964. If so, it may be the earliest surviving color videotape of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

DC Video uploaded the opening and monologue to YouTube, which I’ve embedded below:

The exact date the episode aired is unclear. From the YouTube description:

Note that Johnny Carson talks about it being Friday, presumably the Friday before the Monday in which this tape played. This Two-Inch Quad Videotape had no labels, color bars, tone or slate. But it did have a portion of the local newscast before the show which mentions that evening’s baseball scores. From that information it was determined to be an air date of 8-24-64.

Previously, the oldest known color videotape from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was an excerpt from the September 1st, 1964 episode featuring musician Stan Zabka (also restored by DC Video).

(via Steve Hoffman Music Forums)

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13 Replies to “Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson Episode from August 1964 Recovered and Restored”

  1. I was six years old when this was broadcast, so I only remember the “beautiful downtown Burbank” Johnny Carson years, with Doc Severinsen & Ed McMahon. But I do remember the NBC peacock and the announcement about the show being in living color — which was wishful thinking in our home, since we didn’t get a color TV until the 1970s.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. I’ve already seen this 5-minute clip thanks to a link from last Friday. I noticed right away that this episode could not have been taped on August 24, 1964, since that fell on a Monday, and Carson referred to Friday, and he also referred to the Democratic Convention opening the following Monday, which was August 24. It’s possible that KNBC-TV reran this episode the Monday after it was taped, and previously broadcast, on Friday, August 21, if there was no new episode produced or aired August 24, but usually, at least by the 1970s, NBC would rerun TONIGHT episodes that were at least a few months old.

    1. The Yogi Berra incident with the harmonica and Phil Linz occured on August 20 1964.It does seem likely that the show was taped on August 21, 1964.The Willoughby,Ohio News Herald on August 21 1964 it lists Keely Smith,The Tommy Dorsey Band with Frank Sinatra Jr and the Pied Pipers as guest.It does not list for some reason either Henny Youngman or Shari Lewis.

  3. Apparantly Ed McMahon was either sick or on vacation since he clearly didn’t announce Carson’s appearance that night.

    1. “The Tonight Show” went color in 1960 when Jack Paar was still host.

      I believe the show was still an hour and 45 minutes in length then; I only wish a color tape of the final 45 minutes of that episode could be found (not to mention full-length color tapes of other early Carson shows).

      Note the show opening featured film footage shot at night of the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Although this episode was taped at it’s usual (at the time) home base of NBC New York, I wonder if Johnny did any “Tonight Shows” from the Fair during either of it’s two seasons (1964 and 1965).

      1. I remember that a former host had said he was offered the tapes if his show by the network as they took up a lot of room. He didn’t take them up on it and they were thrown out.

  4. There were few years in the mid 1960s when the Tonight show was apparently seen on the West Coast on a 1 day delay (or Friday’s show on Monday) Always pre-recorded earlier in the day in New York and broadcast at 11:30 pm Eastern Time, the West Coast 3 hour time delay meant Burbank would record a videotape of a videotape that traveled 3,000 miles on coax cable — with some microwave jumps in the Rockies — as an ANALOG signal, and the 15 kHz audio reduced to 5kHz telephone voice quality. Obviously sending Burbank a 2-inch master quad, by overnight air would let Burbank originate Carson’s show with much higher quality video and audio. We know from old TV Guides that there was a 1 day delay from about 1963 to 1967. I can’t prove they were shipping a 2 inch quad tape from New York, but it would not be an excessive effort. In the late 1930s through the 40s, before audiotape, most network radio programs originated Live from Los Angeles, and to avoid West Coast listeners hearing a recording on disc, it was standard on NBC and CBS to have a 2nd live performance of the same program 3 hours later

  5. I am amazed at image quality in 1964. Yes I know it isn’t HD but compare this to episodes of The Carol Burnet Show produced in the 1970s at CBS Television City. Those are terrible by comparison.: fuzzy, flaring of brighter objects, poor color registration and noisy. It appears NBC engineers knew how to get the most from those early RCA cameras and VTRs.

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