The Official Johnny Carson Website
The Official Johnny Carson Website
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Johnny Carson’s Shure SM33 Microphone

In April of 2005, 4 month’s after Johnny Carson passed away, an anonymous bidder snatched a piece of TV history, offering $50,787 for the microphone that sat prominently on the desk of late-night king Johnny Carson from the late 1960s until the 1980s. The 10-pound Shure model SM33 ribbon microphone had a label on it that bluntly declares: "Johnny's Mic... Not Ed's... Not Fred's" — a reference to announcer Ed McMahon and producer Fred DeCordova.

The microphone was saved from a trash bin two decades before by "The Tonight Show" chief boom operator Stan Sweeney. It was still in great working order when it was auctioned. 

The story of how it was rescued is a cool one, we’ve attached a letter of provenance from Stan Sweeney that tells of how he rescued the mic when Studio #1 was being remodeled and upgraded.

Since it’s auction we believe the microphone has remained in the collection of the anonymous bidder. We’d love to know more about the collector and the collection and what’s become of this one-of-a-kind collectable. A mic like this had never come to auction before and I wonder what would a Carson fan pay for this today?

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  • Elgin MacMillan on

    I acquired my SM33 in the early 90’s, brand new in the box and metal case from an elderly man who used to be a microphone dealer from the 1950’s to the 70’s. He knew I was a collector so he sold it to me at his cost, really love this mic and it’s history, so thank you very much for the Carson story as i grew up with Carson and that mic. I also remember seeing Dean Martin singing into one of these on a live TV show and it sound great though there may have also been a boom mic above.

  • NBC Son on

    The unmarked SM33 is in the possession on a son of a retired NBC engineer. In the box it was stored in.

  • Brian on

    Just this morning, I bought a couple of microphone stands from a gent that worked for NBC at the Carson show before he retired. In his “radio room”, he had one of the RCA 77 microphones that was installed up in the rafters to catch audience sounds; they were literally throwing them in the trash cans when they remodeled the studio. One microphone stand I bought — for $5 — is the same as the one pictured above; I’ve never seen one like it before. I’m curious to know if it ever served with any distinction on the Carson show.

  • Jerry sanchez on

    I just acquired a microphone used by the late johnny Carson. Cher the gal that sold me the Mike was a guest as a baby. She tells me Johnny Carson held her in his arms on an episode. She has the episode, her father was a broadcaster at wow at that time.

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