Dallas, TX (April 26, 2005)–The Shure SM 33 broadcast microphone that featured prominently on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show desk throughout the 1960s and 1970s has been sold at auction. The mic fetched $50,787 from an anonymous bidder–twice the estimated price.
The Shure ribbon microphone was part of a public auction of entertainment memorabilia conducted by Heritage Galleries of Dallas, TX. The auction also included a Grammy Award presented to the Rolling Stones.
Quoting from Shure’s spec sheet, the Heritage Gallery web site describes the SM 33 as “a compact and rugged unidirectional ribbon microphone combining wide range response and a Super-Cardioid directional pattern. The performance characteristics are ideal for studio use in broadcasting and recording and for critical sound reinforcement applications.”
Stan Sweeney, The Tonight Show‘s chief boom operator at NBC, consigned the mic to the auction, having rescued it from the trash 20 years ago. As Doug Norwine, music and entertainment auctions director of Heritage Galleries, explained, “During a period of technical upgrades at The Tonight Show in the 1980s, the offer was put out to certain members of the crew to ‘take a memento or two before we throw it out.’ It wasn’t uncommon at the time for studios to get rid of old equipment in this manner.”
Referring to co-host Ed McMahon and producer Fred de Cordova, a label on the microphone still displays the words, “Johnny’s mic…not Ed’s…not Fred’s…”
Auctioneer John Petty is reported as saying that the mic, which is still in working order, fetched “an unbelievable price.” He noted, “A mic like this has never come to auction before.”