I’ve been having a fine time lately listening to the old radio tales of Gunsmoke. The show ran from 1952-1961 and starred William Conrad of Cannon fame as the Marshall of Dodge City. It overlapped the TV version which started in 1955 and ran through 1975.gunsmoke
Some of the episodes have featured real characters from the history of the old west such as Doc Holiday and Billy The Kid. I’m sure there will be others as a I progress through the list of shows.
The history I’ve researched says it started with the idea of a hardboiled Philip Marlowe type western and two audition tapes were made, the first what they were after and the second a more traditional western. The actor in the second wasn’t available for a western, so the project was shelved. An interesting note in the two audition shows was that the character’s name was Mark Dillon.
Jump three years when two men were looking to create an adult western, as opposed to The Lone Ranger and The Cisco Kid, more for younger listeners. Mark became Matt, William Conrad took the role, and history was made.
The role of Doc was played by Howard McNear and Chester was Parley Baer, both veterans of the Andy Griffith Show as Floyd the barber and Mayor Stoner respectively, and Georgia Ellis as Kitty. The photo is a publicity still made for the program.
The characters here are a bit different from their television versions. Matt was a bit more ruthless, though not a killer mind you, Doc was nastier, almost a drunkard at times, and Kitty was more the traditional saloon owner. They never mentioned on TV that most saloons kept a string of “girls.” I’ve never seen the early television episodes, so they may have been the same back then. I don’t know. Television sometimes tames them as the years role by and the show becomes more favored.
The set I’ve started on comes from the good folks at Old Time Radio Catalog. I’ve been having a great time exploring the site to see what they have available.
The entire Gunsmoke series(400+ episodes) is available on five discs in the Mp3 format, which allows up to fifty hours per disc(the first I’m working on has 94 half hour programs, including the two audition shows). They won’t play in regular audio players, but I listen to them on my computer as well as an Mp3 player.
I like the format as it keeps the number of discs small, making one able to have extensive collections, even without a lot of room for storage. Very convenient.
Old Time Radio Catalog has a large number of shows available of all types: westerns, mysteries, sci-fi, variety, comedy, drama. Here\'s a link to their site. Anyone interested in the old radio program can certainly find what they like there, whatever they favor. The prices are very reasonable as well. Myself, I plan to pick up more and will report on them as I do.
Now back to the first disc. It will take a while to get through over four hundred episodes.

Final note: one thing I find of interest in these shows. They carry the original broadcasts completely, with commercials and announcements as well. Normally I’m not a commercial liking person. But these give one a little insight into life during these times. The first broadcast was April 26, 1952.
Some announcements talk about the network’s coverage of the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions. Those would have been the ones that selected Dwight D. Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson to run against each other.
Fascinating stuff!