Carson was born October 23, 1925 in Corning, Iowa to Homer Lloyd "Kit" Carson, a power company manager, and Ruth (Hook) Carson, who was of Irish descent. He grew up in the nearby towns of Avoca, Clarinda, and Red Oak in southwest Iowa before moving to Norfolk, Nebraska, at the age of eight.

At the age of twelve, Carson found a book on magic at a friend's house and immediately purchased a mail-order magician's kit. He debuted as "The Great Carsoni" at fourteen and was paid $3; many other performances at local picnics and country fairs followed.

Johnny Carson's Family Tree