Old Time Radio Western

Old Time Radio Western Rarities

Old Time Radio Programs usually become Rarities because at the time they were produced no one in the Production Staff thought that we would be enjoying their show today on old time radio mp3s.

Often it is the case that the show was broadcast live, and if it was recorded, recording media of the time was notoriously fragile. Many times the recordings may have been saved, but left in a closet or locker. After collecting dust for years the space is needed later and the recordings are simply thrown away.

Many of the missing Westerns have simply blown away across the Lone Prairie.
This makes the surviving recordings all the more valuable.

  • The original Rin-Tin-Tin appeared on the Radio in the 1930s and used his own voice (and did his own stunts). The 1955 episodes presented as part of this collection tell stories of the famous Dog’s adventures with the 101st Calvary.
  • It is hard to believe that Death Valley Days could have become a rarity; the TV show featured Ronald Reagan! However most of the long running radio episodes are lost. Did you know that the very realistic program was created by a lady who had never been in the West until she started writing for the program?
  • Saunders of the Circle X featured Andy Devine, and was broadcast on the West Coast at the same time Devine was working on Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch.
  • One of CBS’s earliest attempts at an Adult Western was Hawk Durango (later changed to Hawk Larrabee.)Enjoy the other Rare Westerns in the Collection!
Old Time Radio Western

Western Radio Sampler: A Hollywood Staple of Pulp Fiction

You say that you don’t like Westerns? Have you ever seen a Western on the Radio?

Westerns usually take place on the American Frontier during the period between the end of the Civil War and the Massacre at Wounded Knee. They have long been a staple of pulp fiction and Hollywood.

Radio Westerns in this collection include:

  • American Trail – featuring true stories from American Western History
  • Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders – Juvenile show with a Western Twist
  • Cisco Kid – The Robin Hood of the West with sidekick Pancho (Mel Blanc)
  • Death Valley Days – Rare Western show takes place in the hottest, driest region of the West
  • Dr. Six Gun – Friend and physician in the lawless 1870s
  • Fort Laramie – From the creators of Gunsmoke, starring Raymond Burr
  • Frontier Gentlemen – British Correspondent travels and reports about his adventures in the West
  • Frontier Town – Tough guy lawyer enforces the law in the tough town Dos Rios
  • Gunsmoke – One of the best radio shows with gruff Matt Dillon
  • Have Gun Will Travel – Gunfighter Paladin could wine and dine fine ladies and shoot with the best of them
  • Hawk Larabee – Tells the stories of the people in a 1840s Texas town
  • Lightning Jim – Rare Western Radio Show about “How the West was Won”
  • Lone Ranger – “Hi Oh Silver, Away!” Long Lived and popular western radio show with The Lone Ranger and his sidekick Tonto
  • Luke Slaughter – Featuring Civil War cavalryman turned Arizona cattleman
  • Red Ryder – Popular Newspaper comic hero and “America’s famous fighting cowboy,”
  • Roy Rogers – “The King of the Cowboys” with “The Queen of the West” Dale Evans, “The Smartest Horse in the Movies” Trigger, and “The Wonder Dog” Bullet
  • Six Shooter – Jimmy Stewart stars in this excellent old time radio Western
  • Sky King – Part Cowboy Part Aviator in this juvenile western radio show
  • Straight Arrow – Mild Mannered rancher turned warrior with a secret cave
  • Tom Mix –Real-Life cowboy Tom Mix sings, ropes, and rodeos
  • Wild Bill Hickok – With Sidekick Jingles fights bad guys in the American West
Comedy Old Time Radio Western

Western Spoofs

Why did the Chicken cross the Road? Because the Family across the Street is listening to Old Time Western Radio Programs?

Judging by the Laughter, it is more likely that they are listening to one of the many Western Spoofs played by some of Radio’s Greatest Comedians!

The West is a place where it doesn’t pay to take yourself too seriously. Cowboy’s laughing at themselves is a staple of the Western Musical Variety Shows like Melody Ranch, 10-2-4 Ranch, and The Hollywood Barndance. But when a professional comedian gets in touch with his “Western Side” it is best to hide the women and chickens!

Jack Benny made several episodes around his Western alter-ego, “Buck Benny.” Red Skelton made an interesting if off-beat Cowboy, but who could be a more off-beat Cowboy than New England sour-puss Fred Allen. And as for Edgar Bergen– wasn’t one of Charlie McCarthy’s uncles a cactus after all?

Musical Old Time Radio Western

Old Time Radio Western Music Sampler

“What kind of music do you usually have here?” “Oh, we’ve got both kinds. We’ve got Country and Western!”

“Both Kinds”

Maybe it was a better joke in the Blues Brothers than it is here, but it brings us to the point: Just what is Country and Western Music?

Country Music and Western Music were two distinct styles of music until they were lumped together by Billboard Magazine for charting purposes. Both have their roots in the folk music of the British Isles.

What would become Country or “Hillbilly Music“? came from the folk music of the Appalachians and the American Old South. The cultural diversity of the South lent a variety of instruments to Hillbilly Music- the Irish fiddle, the German dulcimer, the Spanish Guitar, and the Italian mandolin. Different cultural styles of music blended as well; Negro Spirituals, Blues, English Ballads all would shape Country.

Western music is thought to have developed around the cowboys campfire. The migration of Southerners to the Southwest mixed styles with the music of the Mexican Cowboys. The distinctive result would be glorified by Hollywood and Radio with the rise of the Singing Cowboys.

A fusion of many styles played in Dance Halls became known as Western Swing. Along with Western and Country music, elements of Dixieland jazz, polka, blues, and Big Band sounds combined to become very danceable and popular music in the pre-War years. In contrast to the tightly arranged, horn driven Big Band sound, Western Swing usually follows the Fiddle’s lead, and stylistically allows for more on-stage improvisation.

Western Swing didn’t die, but it was gravely injured during WWII when the Federal Government placed an 30% excise tax on “Dancing Night Clubs.”

Western and Country Music is growing in popularity, even among those who didn’t spent the day breathing cattle dust of spreading what the cows left on the crops. Many of these shows from the Golden Era feature a lot of comedy, but fair warning- this is also the forum where “Corn-ball” humor developed.

Comedy Debut Episode

70 Years ago today, The Great Gildersleeve Audition Episode was recorded…

The Great Gildersleeve old time radio show was centered on Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve. Gildersleeve (the Great Man himself) came from the Wistful Vista of Fibber McGee and Molly. The Great Gildersleeve receives a lot of notice for being the first successful “Spin-off” program, where a character from one show leaves and a new program is built around them.  When he got his own show it enjoyed almost as much success as its parent program, although it was really a much different type of program.

Here is the debut The Great Gildersleeve episode which was recorded 70 years ago today, starring Harold Peary in his own series:

Gunsmoke Have Gun Will Travel John Dehner Old Time Radio Western William Conrad

“Have Gun, Will Travel” and “Gunsmoke”

Two very high quality Westerns from the Golden Age of Radio are Gunsmoke and Have Gun, Will Travel. Comparison of the programs should prove educational and entertaining.

And they are both very entertaining, but adult oriented programs. And both were, to a greater or lesser degree, products of both Radio and the junior medium, Television. Gunsmoke came to the radio in the spring of 1952, and from the start fans began asking when the show would come to TV. The TV version of the show began airing in the fall of 1955, and go on to have the highest number of scripted episodes of any US primetime series. Have Gun, Will Travel is unique in broadcasting because the series began on television during the 1957 fall season and came to radio on Nov 23, 1958.

In both cases the old time radio shows and the TV programs had a somewhat different “feel.” Part of this is due to different casts on radio and TV, but other differences may be due to differences in the medium.

The heroes on each program contrast. William Conrad’s “Matt Dillon” is the hardened product of a hard life, with a strong sense of justice and duty to the law he is sworn to uphold. He tries to keep the peace, but the listener won’t be surprised to hear him flatten a no-good with his fists. “Paladin,” first portrayed by Richard Boone on TV and later on the radio by John Dehner, is highly educated. In his back story we find that he was educated at West Point, and served as an officer in the Union Calvary. (Dehnermade several appearances on Gunsmoke, usually as a Bad Guy, but not as a recurring character.) Although he carries an impressive arsenal of weapons, it is his education that usually saves the day. Matt Dillon is a representative of the US Government, but Paladin charges highly for his services (however he usually winds up defending the “little guy.”)

Marshall Dillon is the lead character, but Gunsmoke is an ensemble story. Chester Proudfoot is the somewhat slow-witted but likable Deputy. Doc Adams is the grumpy town doctor; somewhat mercenary ion early episodes, he becomes more warm-hearted as the seasons pass. Kitty Russell is a saloon girl who may or may not be a love interest for the Marshal; she does provide a feminine perspective on Dodge City.

The only recurring characters besides Paladin in Have Gun, Will Travel are “Hey-Boy”, the Chinese bell-hop at Paladin’s Carlton Hotel headquarters, and his girlfriend Miss Wong. The Chinese bookend each Radio Episode, helping to define the setting in San Francisco, and also function as a Greek Chorus, commenting on Paladin and the situations he encounters.

Gunsmoke has been praised for its “realistic” treatment of the Old West. Have Gun, Will Travel is more fantastical, Paladin sometimes called a Western James Bond for his sophistication. Dehner’s “Paladin” is both more refined and more formidable than Boone’s TV “Paladin”. William Conrad‘s “Matt Dillon” is much closer to the Radio Noir/Philip Marlow roots of the program; James Arness comes closer to the mid-50’s matinee ideal for a western hero. Most of the women that Paladin encounters fall into the “damsel in distress” role (unless they turn out to be a female Bad Guy, and even then they usually start out appearing as Damsel in Distress). Miss Kitty on Radio’s Gunsmoke works in a saloon, drinking with and “entertaining” customers. On TV she is the good hearted owner of the Long Branch Saloon.

One last Radio/TV difference: there were only 106 weekly episodes of Have Gun, Will Travel on the radio; the TV program lasted until 1963. However on the closing Radio Episode, Nov 22, 1960, we receive the resolution of Paladin’s character. We find out that he retires in the East to manage the large estate he has inherited.

Amos and Andy Comedy Detective Radio Dr Christian Dragnet Jack Webb Mother's Day Old Time Radio

Happy Mothers Day, Even to Mother in Law

“Never depend on the glory of the Morning or the Smiles of your Mother In Law.”

-Japanese proverb

In the world of Old Time Radio,  Amos ‘n’ Andy Kingfish’s Mother in law comes to stay with him when Sapphire goes to Chicago, “That’s like trading Dracula for Frankenstein!”

Mother in Law Shaming

You have to wonder if it counts as returning from a pleasure trip when you come home after taking your Mother in Law to the airport…

Mother in Laws may not be the villain in your favorite Soap Opera, but they are not always a wife’s, or a wife-to-be’s. Just ask Dr. Christian’s young friend Wilma; how many times will her wedding be postponed by Howard’s mother getting sick? Maybe the Vaseline Hair Tonic will make life better in River Bend.

Behind every successful man is a proud wife. and behind her is a surprised Mother in Law!

George sure knows that feeling on The Burns and Allen Show. Gracie’s mother just isn’t pleased because George is so far from being handy. If only he could show her that he can fix things she would go back to San Francisco. If only faucet wouldn’t run when the doorbell is rung.

One man sadly told how he hadn’t talked to his mother in law for eight months. He didn’t want to interrupt her.

When Sgt Joe Friday has to investigate the “Mother in Law Murder” on Dragnet is it any wonder that the Daughter in law is the primary suspect- who could blame her?