Born Muzyad Yakhoob, he began his show biz career in 1932 as a singer at a Detroit radio station; he began performing as an MC-comedian in nightclubs in 1938 and gradually gained popularity and national recognition over the next decade. He debuted onscreen in 1947, going on to a brief film career in corny lead roles or comic supporting parts. He was much more successful on TV, starring in the long-running sitcom Make Room for Daddy (later re-named The Danny Thomas Show); he also starred in a number of specials and made guest appearances on variety shows. In the late '50s Thomas began producing for TV, forming a partnership with Sheldon Leonard and later Aaron Spelling; he produced such series as The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gomer Pyle, and The Mod Squad. He also starred in several failed TV shows including The Danny Thomas Hour and Make Room for Granddaddy. He founded the St. Jude's Research Hospital, which is dedicated to finding cures for catastrophic chidren's diseases. He was the father of actress Marlo Thomas. He authored an autobiography, Make Room for Danny (1990).
Biography by Rovi
- Father changed family surname from Yakhoob to Jacobs, and Thomas was renamed Amos Jacobs. He took the moniker of Danny Thomas on August 12, 1940, for a performance at a Chicago club.
- Started working at 11 years old, selling candy and ice cream at a burlesque house; dropped out of high school after freshman year.
- Began showbiz career in 1932 on a Detroit radio program, "The Happy Hour Club"; a guest appearance on Fanny Brice's radio show led to his own radio program, "The Danny Thomas Show" (1944-49).
- Made TV debut in 1950 on Four Star Revue as a rotating weekly host with Ed Wynn, Jack Carson and Jimmy Durante; did not fare well and later declared the new medium "for idiots."
- Began producing television in the late-1950s and eventually partnered with Sheldon Leonard and, later, Aaron Spelling.
- Considered his greatest contribution to be the founding of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which opened in Memphis in 1962.
- Received Congressional Gold Medal in 1983.
- Inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 1991.
- Penned the 1990 autobiography Make Room for Danny.