MARION (WBSM) — Even though this story out of Marion from back in the 1970s is about the host of a different television game show, let’s start this off as if we were playing Jeopardy!

Here’s the clue: “This celebrated TV game show host was involved in a car crash on Route 6 in Marion in 1970, reportedly after leaving a local watering hole.”

The answer: “Who is Gene Rayburn?”

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Rayburn was best known as the host of the Match Game game show, which aired in different incarnations on NBC, CBS and in syndication from 1962-69 and again from 1973-83.

Many people remember Rayburn for the long, thin microphone he made popular on Match Game, but he had quite a career in both television in radio.

rafanie ellowah via YouTube
rafanie ellowah via YouTube

He was also the original announcer on The Tonight Show (then just known as Tonight) and appeared on and hosted numerous other game shows over his decades in the business.

In the 1970s, Rayburn had a home on Cape Cod as well as one in New York City, and would often drive between the two. In those days, Interstate 195 was not yet completed and Route 6 was a must-travel for those going to and from the Cape from the south.

On November 12, 1970, Rayburn was attempting to cross onto Route 6 in Marion – at least one local heard he was leaving a local bar, although which one is uncertain, and that story cannot be verified – when his vehicle collided with what sounds like a piece of farm equipment.

“Rayburn’s car was in collision at 8:50 last night on Rte. 6 with a machine driven by Lawrence Barboza of Pierceville Road, West Wareham,” the Boston Evening Globe reported on November 13, 1970.

The then-52-year-old Rayburn “received a lacerated scalp and bruises and abrasions,” according to the Globe. He was listed in “satisfactory condition” at Tobey Hospital in Wareham. Barboza, meanwhile, was merely “shaken up” by the crash.

Rayburn told authorities he was heading back to New York at the time of the crash.

It was probably an especially traumatic experience for Rayburn; his older brother Alfred was killed in a traffic accident when Gene himself was just a child.

“His mother actually blamed him for the death, which is something he had to live with,” Closer Weekly reported in 2020.

Rayburn’s Cape Cod home was in Osterville. In addition to driving back and forth to his other home in New York City, he would fly to Los Angeles to film Match Game.

“During the years when Match Game was taped in Los Angeles (1973–1982), Rayburn lived in Osterville, Massachusetts on Cape Cod,” his Wikipedia page reports, citing his New York Times obituary. “He commuted to California every two weeks to tape 12 shows over the course of a weekend (five daytime shows and one nighttime show per taping day).”

In 1972, the home suffered $150,000 in damage in a three-alarm fire.

Rayburn was born Eugene Peter Jeljenic, later taking the last name of his stepfather Rubessa, and then randomly picking the name “Rayburn” from a phone book when he went into show business.

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