NEW YORK — Few would recognize his face, but most knew his voice: the booming baritone that for nearly four decades heralded “Saturday Night Live.”

Don Pardo, the eras-spanning radio and TV announcer whose resonant voice-over style was celebrated for its majesty and power, died Monday in Arizona at the age of 96.

Pardo’s strong jaw and leading-man smile were seldom on display, but for more than 60 years his elegant pipes graced newscasts, game shows and especially “SNL,” where he played an integral role through last season, heralding the lineup, like always, as recently as the May finale.

“There was no greater thrill than hearing Don Pardo bellow your name for the first time in the opening credits of ‘Saturday Night Live,'” said long-time cast member Tina Fey. “It meant you were officially ‘on television.'”

Fey described Pardo as “a sweet, sweet man,” adding, “Late night will never sound as cool again.”

“My whole life changed once Don Pardo said my name,” echoed Amy Poehler, a fellow “SNL” alum.

His was no ordinary voice and he guarded it closely, with cough drops always at the ready.

“My voice is my Achilles’ heel,” Pardo said in 1985. “When I get sick, it’s always my voice.” But it long served him well.

Dominick George Pardo was born in Westfield, Massachusetts, on Feb. 22, 1918, and grew up in Norwich, Connecticut.

One of his first jobs was that of ticket-taker at a theater; even then, his voice was commanding.

“I’d go out there with a cape and say: ‘Standing room only in the mezzanine. Immediate seating in the balcony.'”

His father, Dominick, owned a bakery and had wanted his son to join the business. But young Pardo followed his own dream. After graduating from Boston’s Emerson College in 1942, he began his vocal career at radio station WJAR in Rhode Island.

Two years later, he was hired by a supervisor at NBC immediately upon hearing his voice.

Pardo made his mark quickly, reading dispatches on the radio filed from the front lines during World War II. After the war, he was the announcer for such shows as the “Arthur Murray Party,” “Colgate Comedy Hour” and “Your Show of Shows.”

In 1954, he was brought in to announce “Winner Takes All,” beginning a long run in game shows.

When NBC launched the cutting-edge “Saturday Night Live” in 1975 with Pardo as its charmingly old-school patriarch, he was discovered by a new generation – although, on opening night, he made a rare stumble, Instead of saying “The Not Ready for Prime Time Players,” Pardo introduced the show’s new comedy troupe as “The Not for Ready Prime Time Players.”

Aside from Season 7, when he was rudely displaced, Pardo remained an “SNL” mainstay.

Pardo retired from NBC in 2004.

“But (‘SNL’ executive producer) Lorne Michaels called me soon after and asked if I would continue for three more weeks, so I did,” Pardo told the AP in 2010. “Then he called and asked if I would do five more, and so on. I never really left.”

For several years, Pardo commuted from Tucson each week the show aired. At the end of the show on Feb. 23, 2008, he was brought on camera in honor of his 90th birthday.

In later years, he more often recorded his introductions from home, where he died peacefully, said his daughter Dona Pardo.

Pardo appeared in several movies, mostly as himself or an announcer like himself, including Woody Allen’s “Radio Days.”

In 2010, he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame.