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He began his career as a singer and even scored a number one hit in 1950 with the song, “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.” But when he filled in for Jack Paar on “The Tonight Show” in 1962, audiences loved him so much that he got his own TV talk show during the day.

Griffin is considered one of the innovators of the daytime TV talk shows but there were really two Merv Griffin shows. In the 1960s Griffin’s program was controversial. He took on the issues of that turbulent period. Griffin’s unassuming style allowed him to bring in polarizing guests who might not work on network television with a more intellectual approach. In addition, Griffin’s entertainment guests were often considered outrageous for daytime television including comedians like George Carlin and Richard Pryor.

In 1972 Griffin switched from CBS to syndication via Metromedia and this new show took a decidedly more entertainment-oriented approach. In 1986, Griffin retired from the talk show business to concentrate on his game show empire.

He went on to become a fabulously successful, wealthy television producer and hotel owner whose mark on broadcasting and pop culture is, indeed, indelible.

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