Gunsmoke on Radio


Gunsmoke  had a nine year run on radio from 1952 to 1961.  The radio show had a much different feel than the later television show, grittier and more morally ambiguous.  William Conrad played Dillon,  a much lonelier, angrier, tired and driven Dillon;  Howard McNair, later to achieve fame as Floyd the Barber on the Andy Griffith show, played Doc as something of a broken down hack, Dodge being his last chance;   Miss Kitty Russell, played by Georgia Ellis, is a saloon girl, and it is strongly hinted she is also a prostitute who Dillon “visits” on occasion;   Parley Edward Baer, who later played the mayor of Mayberry, played Chester Proudfoot Wesley, the limping deputy of Dillon.  Tame by our decadent standards, I imagine in the fifties some parents turned it off when it came on, or shooed the kids from the room.  As entertainment it holds up quite well and many of the episodes can be found on YouTube.




Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting.

Western Maxim

Dillon gets divine assistance in a fight over water.


Published in: on January 18, 2023 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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  1. I became a devoted listener at six when ‘Gunsmoke’ launched. I listened to it every Saturday afternoon when WWVA ran it. Two years later, when I saw the sanitised TV version, I wept. The radio show was gritty, real radio noir, demanding intense concentration and imagination.

    Its first show dealt with miscegenation, a very touchy topic weeks before Eisenhower’s first election. Beloved Doc was a drunk with a professional past that made the frontier town a necessity. In its first years, Kitty is explicitly a prostitute. All in the cast — which is uniformly brilliant, including regular villains like John Dehner — are the kind of jetsam washed up on the frontier.

    Thirty years after listening to them, I found them on tape, and my sons and I listened to all of them. I wasn’t disappointed, nor were my sons. Without question, the best radio drama ever made.

  2. Conrad had one of the best voices for radio in history. Whatever they paid him, it wasn’t enough.

    • No question. His ‘Linnegan (sp?) and the Ants’ is a classic. From the evidence, I’d say he played well with others. The ‘Gunsmoke’ regulars were real pros, e.g., Harry Bartel. Love his ‘Rocky & Bullwinkle’ roles. In 1954 or so, Gunsmoke changed its intro, inserting two lines from Conrad. Maybe the best ever in radio.

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