Born in Huntington, West Virginia, he graduated from Huntington High School in 1983 and then moved to Los Angeles in 1984 where he would start his broadcasting career a year later. He also has a degree in linguistics from Marshall University.
Thornton is best known as the afternoon anchor on all-news radio KNX 1070 in Los Angeles, having been promoted from traffic reporting. He has also announced on Celebrity Deathmatch and did narration in a portion of Monsters, Inc.
Thornton did substitute announcing work on The Price Is Right following the death of former announcer Rod Roddy. In December 2010, he auditioned for the same role on Wheel of Fortune following the death of the show's announcer Charlie O'Donnell, and was confirmed as the show's new announcer on June 13, 2011. Because of this job, Thornton has scaled back from his job at KNX.
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