Carson’s Mic Up On The Auction Block

Heritage Galleries & Auctioneers of Dallas gained possession of “The Tonight Show” desk microphone used by Johnny Carson in the 1970s through a former crew member of the late-night program. The company sold the microphone on April 22 for $50,787.
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Carson’s Mic Up On The Auction Block

Apr 26, 2005 5:24 PM

Heritage Galleries & Auctioneers of Dallas gained possession of “The Tonight Show” desk microphone used by Johnny Carson in the 1970s through a former crew member of the late-night program. The company sold the microphone on Friday, April 22, during a live floor auction for $50,787. The Shure SM33 ribbon microphone was presented to Carson from Shure in the 70s with the inscription, “Johnny’s Mic… Not Ed’s… Not Fred’s.” Shure was and still is a fixture on “The Tonight Show” to this day. The company is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.

"I was always amused by the engraving on the mic. It read 'Johnny's mic…not Ed's…not Fred's,'” recalls Michael Pettersen, director of applications engineering for Shure. He visited “The Tonight Show” set on several occasions in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

“This inscription meant that Shure gave the mic specifically to Johnny Carson, to be used by Carson on his desk. And the mic was not meant for announcer Ed McMahon, nor for producer Fred DeCordova. Shure was proud to give this mic to Carson, and to have a longstanding association with the King of Late Night Comedy."

The Shure SM33, no longer in production, was rescued by Stanley Sweeney in the mid-80s, when he and the rest of “The Tonight Show” crew were instructed to give the studio a complete technical upgrade. As equipment was being discarded from the set, Sweeney realized the microphone should be saved, and it remained in his possession ever since.

“Of the two SM33s I know of that were used on the show, a nondescript one was stored and the other one with the distinctive etching was used on a daily basis,” declares Stanley Sweeney, former “Tonight Show” crew member. “It was and still is a working, useable microphone. It was never considered a prop!”

Heritage Galleries & Auctioneers began taking online and phone bids almost three weeks ago. The Carson mic skyrocketed in price immediately, once the public caught wind of the auction. Proving itself to still be a robust workhorse to this day, the mic was used to call the actual auction up to the point of its sale.

For more information, visit www.heritagegalleries.com or www.shure.com.

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