Over a span of several decades McMahon has helped unknowns attain stardom and proved himself better than his predecessors at finding them.
Major Bowes's radio "Amateur Hour" was the forefather of all talent shows and included a gong, relentlessly sounded when the Major thought a newcomer fell short of expectations.
Godfrey's "Talent Scouts" was a platform for Godfrey's chunky home goodness philosophizing and comfy humor rather than a genuine opportunity for newcomers to shine.
Clark's "American' Bandstand" was more devoted to rock 'n' roll bands and kids dancing than a showcase for individual singers.
"'Next Big Star' gives hopeful young people an opportunity to show what they can do in an exciting setting," McMahon said this week.
"We broadcast from the MGM hotel with an auditorium they call Ed McMahon's Next Big Star Theater.
"It's a beautiful room with a capacity of about 500.
"It's rigged for TV. Donny and Marie and Pen and Teller did their shows from there. We get a nice crowd. All seats are wired so the audience can vote for people they want to send to the next level.
"The show airs at 6 p.m. Sunday nights. And I have a great co-host, Valeria, who is 22 and adorable. She's a wonderful singer and one of my first big stars on this show."
The bluff, cordial Irishman is a master at putting all contestants at ease, thanks to his years as host of a half-dozen game shows.
Ten performers appear on each show in five categories: two male vocalists, two female vocalists, two musical groups, two comedians, and two musical kids.
The audience vote determines who progresses in each category.
"I'm doing 26 original shows, which will be rerun," McMahon said.
"Our new format will give us more champions. The first two winners in each category face each other on the third show."
Finding talent is the most difficult -- and expensive -- element in any star stalk, however, the canny McMahon has discovered the Internet on which he relies a great deal.
"Our address is nextbigstar.com," he said. "People can download an application blank right off the Internet and send us tape, films, super-8, whatever it is.
"We encode it, digitize it and put it up on the net. People see it and cast votes to get them on the show. And I do bus tours holding auditions.
"I'm taking my own show to Branson (Missouri), which has become the music capital of the country. I'm doing my show there at the MGH Center for the Performing Arts. I also look for talent."
After 12 years of producing "Star Search," McMahon has developed a sure instinct for promising new performers.
"The difference with my new show is that I'm getting people who are just ready to break through, on the verge of stardom.
"On 'Star Search' the people were just a notch or two down from that. The new ones are ready for the top. I have comics that will be doing new sitcoms like Kevin James I found in an Atlanta nightclub."
Like it or not, McMahon is a talent scout for the recording and TV industries. Both have specialists watching his shows avidly.
"There are plenty of talented people out there and I give them an avenue, an arena, to perform their stuff and become the next big star," he said.
McMahon continues to live in Beverly Hills, and flies to Las Vegas for four-day weekends where he tapes six shows Friday-Sunday.
He stays in a luxury suite at the MGM Grand hotel.
"It's a lot of work but I love it," he said, grinning.
"PAX is counting on me to kick off their week. I've more than doubled the ratings for our time slot on Sundays.
"I like Vegas. I do my thing and then fly home. My wife Pam is a happy camper up there where she does a lot of shopping.
"For every 10 contestants we see a great many people. But we take the cream of the crop. This is their showcase.
"I tell all of them at the end of every show, 'Hopes and dreams is what this is all about.'"