‘Wheel of Fortune’: Why Did Original Host Chuck Woolery Leave the Show?

by Madison Miller

Pat Sajak and Vanna White have been hosting “Wheel of Fortune” together since 1981. Together, the two have met thousands of contestants and have seen more word puzzles than most people see in a lifetime.

It’s hard to imagine a “Wheel of Fortune” without Sajak and White.

Former ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Hosts

However, the show didn’t start with Sajak and White hosting. “Wheel of Fortune” first premiered in 1975. This network version of the show was hosted by Chuck Woolery and Susan Stafford.

They hosted the show from 1975 until 1981. According to Paley Matters, the two ended up leaving over a salary dispute with the show’s creator, Merv Griffin, and NBC. This is when Sajak and White stepped in as their replacements.

Woolery wanted his pay to go from $5,000 per week to $10,000 per week. He wanted to make what others doing similar jobs were making. He also cited the increase in viewers as a reason for the suggested pay raise. Griffin offered $7,500 and NBC said they would pay the rest. However, when Griffin threatened to move the show to CBS, that offer was rescinded. Ultimately, during all that mess, Woolery left the show after his final episode on December 25, 1981.

In addition to hosting “Wheel of Fortune,” Woolery has also hosted shows like “Love Connection,” “Scrabble,” “Greed,” and “Lingo.” He also had his own radio commentary show called “Save Us, Chuck Woolery.” After that, he started a podcasting show called “Blunt Force Truth.”

He had also dabbled in music. Woolery was a part of a folk trio called The Bordermen and another psychedelic pop duo called The Avant-Garde. He released several records as a solo artist in country music. He released songs like “Love Me, Love Me” and “Forgive My Heart.” He is also the co-writer of “The Joys of Being a Woman,” which is a Tammy Wynette song.

Susan Stafford and the Show

According to Looper, when Stafford left the show she didn’t return to acting or modeling. Instead, she decided to move to Houston and work alongside cancer patients. She only briefly made onscreen appearances after that. She also wrote a book called “Stop the Wheel, I Want to Get Off!” regarding her time on the show.

Before she left, she helped train Vanna White to take her spot. She called her “grateful” and “harmless.” She also said she would become “just the girl on the game show turning letters.”

”I mean, for seven years I stood there and turned letters. I had to ask myself if that was any way for a grown woman to live her life,” Stafford told the Chicago Tribune.

White and Sajak have been firmly in place on “Wheel of Fortune” since they left. They have only left due to emergency situations over the years.