Ken Roberts

Show Count: 274
Series Count: 9
Role: Old Time Radio Star
Old Time Radio
Born: February 22, 1910, New York, New York
Died: June 19, 2009, New York, New York

Ken Roberts (February 22, 1910 – June 19, 2009) was an American radio and television announcer known for his work during the Golden Age of Radio and for his work announcing the daytime television soap operas The Secret Storm, Texas and Love of Life, each for a two-decade span.

Early life and education 

Roberts was born on February 22, 1910 in Manhattan as Saul Trochman and grew up in The Bronx. His father, Nathaniel, an insurance salesman and English tutor from Latvia, and his mother, Fanny Naft, from present-day Ukraine, were both Jewish immigrants to the United States. Roberts attended attended DeWitt Clinton High School. He briefly attended law school and worked inFiorello H. La Guardia's law office as an intern, but quit the unpaid position after the firm wouldn't cover his bus fare. He changed his name after entering the radio business so that it would not "sound so Jewish".

Radio and television career 

His first announcing job was at WMCA in New York lasting three weeks. Next at WLTH in Brooklyn. In an interview for the book The Great American Broadcast, Roberts told Leonard Maltin that he had started at the Brooklyn station in 1930, where his responsibilities included answering phones and sweeping the floors, in addition to on-air roles playing piano and reading poetry.

During the 1930s and 1940s, at the height of the radio era, Roberts' voice appeared widely in live programming to introduce programs, moderate game shows and do live reads for commercials. Despite his Errol Flynn-like good looks and the frequent broadcasts featuring his voice, as often as several times each day, few listeners knew who he was or would have recognized him in public.

Radio credits include The Shadow (including the 1937-38 season on the Mutual Broadcasting System with a 22-year-old Orson Welles starring in the role of Lamont Cranston), the comedy Easy Aces, along with soap operas Joyce Jordan, Girl Intern and This is Nora Drake. He also announced or hosted a number of game shows, such as What's My Name? and the parody It Pays to Be Ignorant, in which he would pose questions to actors portraying contestants such as "Who came first: Henry I or Henry VIII?" that would be answered incorrectly. At various times, he performed on eponymous programs for Fred Allen, Milton Berle, Victor Borge and Sophie Tucker.

In 1941, he achieved his goal of hosting his own quiz show, with Quick As a Flash on the Mutual network. Among the elements of the program, Roberts would dramatize an historic event which contestants would have to correctly identify. Other prizes were awarded for identifying the common element in three songs played by the orchestra and for solving descriptions of staged crimes.

On television, he was the original announcer for Candid Camera and introduced popular soap operas Love of Life from 1951 to 1980, The Secret Storm from 1954 to 1974 and Texas from 1980 to 1982. On Jan Murray's comedy game show Dollar a Second, Robert's on-air duties included advertisements for sponsor Mogen David wines.

He parodied himself on the 1970s educational television program The Electric Company, in which his bits included announcing a supposed program called Love of Chair, a spoof of Love of Life, in which Roberts would describe the attachment of a boy and his chair, ending each skit with the cliffhanger "And what about Naomi?". He had an off-screen role as an announcer in the 1987 filmRadio Days, in which his son Tony Roberts appeared.

Radio historian Jim Cox described Roberts' voice as neither "Yankee, Southern, Western or anything else". It was a voice that didn't "irritate anybody" and that "you just naturally liked to hear", making him "one of the leading lights of radio". Steve Beverly of The Daily Game Show Fix described Roberts as having "what executives called a golden throat", with a familiar voice that was one of broadcasting's most-recognized anonymous voices. He also found time to narrate dozens of theatrical movie trailers and "intermission" segments for traditional and drive-in theaters during the 1940s and 1950s.


Roberts married twice in his youth, his first marriage annulled after two weeks and the second ending in divorce after a few months. Roberts and his third wife, the former Norma Finkelstein, were married for 50 years until her death in 1984. He was married for a fourth time in 1998 to the former Sydell Salzberg.

In 1935, Roberts was one of the founders of the American Guild of Radio Announcers and Producers one of the predecessors of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists(AFTRA).

Roberts died in Manhattan's NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital at age 99 on June 19, 2009, due to pneumonia following a stroke he had suffered five years before his death. He was survived by his fourth wife, Sydell, as well as a son, daughter, two stepchildren, one granddaughter and four step-grandchildren. His son, actor Tony Roberts, described his father's voice as accentless with perfect tones, sounding to him "as though it came from God" and telling him "Don't be an actor", at least at first.

Source: Wikipedia

Fred Allen Show, TheFred Allen Show, The
Show Count: 89
Broadcast History: 23 October 1932 to 16 April 1933, 4 August 1933 to 1 December 1933, 3 January 1934 to 26 June 1940, 2 October 1940 to 25 June 1944, 7 October 1945 to 28 December 1947, and 4 january 1948 to 26 June 1949
Cast: Fred Allen, Portland Hoffa, Helen Morgan, Sheila berrtt, Roy Atwell, Charlie Carlisle, Jack Smart, Minerva Pious, Lionel Stander, Eileen Douglas, Town Hall Quartet, Merry Macs, Alan Reed, John Brown, Charlie Cantor, Peter Donald, Parker Fennelly, Kenny Delmar
Producer: Roger White, Sylvester Weaver, Vick Knight, Howard Reilly
It Pays To Be IgnorantIt Pays To Be Ignorant
Show Count: 36
Broadcast History: 25 June 1942 to 28 February 1944, 25 February 1944 to 27 September 1950 and 4 July 1951 to 26 September 1951
Sponsor: Philip Morris, DeSoto, Chrysler
Cast: Ann Thomas, George Shelton, Harry McNaughton, Lulu McConnell, Tom Howard
Producer: Bob Howell, Ruth Howell
Host: Tom Howard
Let Yourself GoLet Yourself Go
Show Count: 1
Broadcast History: 1944 to 1945
Cast: Al Jolson, Milton Berle, Joe Besser
Host: Milton Berle
Life Of Mary SothernLife Of Mary Sothern
Show Count: 227
Broadcast History: 1930s
Cast: Minabelle Hutchins, Linda Carlon, Betty Caine, Jack Zoller, Joseph Julian, Leon Janney, Florence Golden, Bess McCammon, Rikel Kent, Jay Jostyn
The Life of Mary Sothern was a long-running soap opera - there were at least three hundred episodes broadcast during the 1930s - and follows the daily ups and downs of Mary, a wife and mother, who worked hard for her family.
Shadow, TheShadow, The
Show Count: 243
Broadcast History: 31 July 1930 to 26 December 1954
Sponsor: Wildroot Cream Oil, Blue Coal, Street and Smith Love Story Magazine, Perfect-o-Lite, Grove Laboratories, US Air Force
Cast: Bill Johnstone, Bret Morrison, Dwight Weist, James La Curto, Mandel Kramer, Orson Welles, Santos Ortega, Various, Agnes Moorehead, Everett Sloane, Gertrude Warner, Lesley Woods, Keenan Wynn, Marjorie Anderson, Grace Matthews, Alan Reed, Ted de Corsia, Arthur Vinton, Kenny Delmar, John Barclay, Robert Hardy Andrews, Jimmy LaCruto, Bob Maxwell
Director: Wilson Tuttle, Bill Sweets, Harry Ingram, John Cole, Dana Noyes, Chick Vincent
Producer: Wilson Tuttle, Bill Sweets, Harry Ingram, John Cole, Dana Noyes, Chick Vincent
The shadow was amateur criminologist Lamont Cranston. He had learned “the hypnotic power to cloud men’s minds so that they cannot see him”. The opening to the show, “Who knows … what evil … lllllurks … in the heart of men? … The Shadow knows! His “friend and companion, the lovely Margo Lane, is the only person who knows to whom the voice of the invisible Shadow belongs”. Together they confront the maddest assortment of lunatics, sadists, ghosts and werewolves ever heard on the air.
Broadcast: November 3, 1938
Added: Nov 26 2023
Broadcast: 14th February 1948
Added: Jul 08 2012