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Johnny Carson Debuted as "Tonight Show" Host 50 Years Ago

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images (NEW YORK) -- Monday marks a special anniversary in the history of The Tonight Show.  Fifty years ago, on Oct. 1, 1962, Johnny Carson began his long run as host of NBC's late-night program.

Carson was The Tonight Show's third host, following Steve Allen and Jack Paar.  Alongside his sidekick, Ed McMahon, Carson enchanted audiences and introduced several famous comedy bits, including Carnac the Magnificent.

Carson's stint on the show ended on May 22, 1992.  He was succeeded by Jay Leno, following a behind-the-scenes battle for his job that also involved then-NBC Late Night host David Letterman.  Letterman would eventually move on to CBS.

Carson died in 2005, at the age of 79.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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