Sunday, November 28, 2010


(Updated Thursday 12/2/2010 see SCREENINGS - LITTLE BIG MAN)
About a year ago at this time, I had just finished reading THE GIFT OF THE MAGI to a 4th grade class, and I told them that its author, O. Henry, was also the creator of The Cisco Kid. It’s the sort of dumb thing I often say to kids – it means as much as telling them, “Aristophanes also wrote ‘The Clouds.’” But to my surprise and delight, a girl said, “Really? I love the Cisco Kid!”
“Where have you seen the Cisco Kid?” I asked.
To my yet greater astonishment, she replied, “I haven’t seen him. I love the radio show. My dad has a collection of them, and when we go on driving trips, he brings them along and plays them.” If you’ve never heard radio drama, or if you have kids who haven’t been exposed to it yet, it’s time.

I’m a big fan of old time radio, or OTR, as the aficionados call it. I mostly listen in transit – on tape or CD, depending on what the car in question plays – and the biggest problem I have with it is the cost. Good collections, which I’ve reviewed in the past and no doubt will again, generally cost $29 and up – a considerable investment for shows I’ll only listen to once – at least only once every few years.

But the good news is that a tremendous amount of great OTR programming – including great Western programming – is available absolutely free online. If you have an iPod, iPhone, or any other gadget that can play mp3 files, you’re good to go – I’ll tell in a moment how to hook yourself up. The reason that these shows are available for free is that most radio shows were never copyrighted: they’re in the public domain. In fact, many radio shows were performed and broadcast live, and never professionally recorded at radio stations; they’d be lost if they hadn’t been copied by fans with amateur equipment.

One of the great podcast-sharing benefactors is known as ‘Botar’ – if you search that name on-line or in the iTunes Store podcast directory, you’ll find a ton of shows, including some of the best Westerns. He told me, “My grandfather used to read through Louis L’amour novels like they were candy. I grew up in Denver, Colorado, and all my kin live in Nebraska, so I do have a little western blood in me. Tales of the Texas Rangers was one of the first OTR series that I fell in love with. Then I started listening to Fort Laramie, and thought that it was the greatest.” It didn’t hurt that, as a child, he’d spent time in both Laramie and Cheyenne, Wyoming. Each series he found he liked better than the one before. “Then I found Six Shooter, started listening to Frontier Gentleman, then Have Gun Will Travel. And now I’m sixty shows deep into the 480 episodes of Gunsmoke, and I think it was the best OTR series ever.”

(pictures, top to bottom: Gunsmoke cast, William Conrad, Geirgia Ellis, Howard McNear, Parley Baer - as they looked doing the show; as we imagined them; Raymond Burr in his Fort Laramie days; John Dehner in his radio guise; John Dehner onscreen; James Stewart doing a radio show with Roy and Dale; James Stwart in Winchester 73; Young Buffalo Bill poster; two more Chiefs from the series)

Why did he get involved with podcasting? “My website evolved out of frustration at the amount of money ‘they’ charged for OTR CDs, and the free but incomplete and low quality OTR shows available in the early days of ‘peer 2 peer’ (i.e. napster, etc.) sharing. So I keep my site free of charge, and use podcasting to keep OTR listening and collecting as painless as possible.”

For those not familiar with those series mentioned – all of which are available as free podcasts, Tales of the Texas Rangers is a western crime series, based on Texas Rangers files, and starring Joel McCrea as Ranger Jayce Pearson. Six Shooter, starring James Stewart as Britt Ponsett, is a sometimes serious, sometimes light-hearted series about a man famous for his speed with a gun, but who tries not to use it. It later moved to television as The Restless Gun, starring John Payne. Have Gun Will Travel went the opposite direction: already a popular TV series starring Richard Boone, a radio version was created, starring John Dehner in the role of Palladin. Frontier Gentleman had the unusual premise of following a reporter for the London Times as he travelled across the American west, writing his column. This series also starred John Dehner, who rarely tried to sound British, but settled for ‘classy,’ which is how he always sounded. Fort Laramie starred pre-Perry Mason Raymond Burr as Lee Quince, Captain of Cavalry at the Fort, and was pretty dark, adult western stuff.

How do you get the shows? Go to the iTune store and click ‘podcasts.’ In the search window on the upper right, type the title of the show of your choice, followed by the word ‘botar,’ and you’ll be directed to a page where you can choose from at least forty shows from each series, whether you wish to get single episodes, several, or to subscribe and get them weekly – if they’re currently being posted weekly. If you have an iPhone, you need to purchase an ap that’ll cost you two bucks, but that’s it. Otherwise, just like all podcasts, they’re free.

If you’re looking for a wider mix of shows, shows for the whole family, or the classic Gunsmoke, you’ll need to search for programs provided by a company known variously as Radio Nostalgia Network and HD Productions. They offer a regular podcast of Cisco Kid, and one of The Lone Ranger. And of course, they offer the finest of all Western radio series, Gunsmoke, with Matt Dillon portrayed by William Conrad, considered by many (like me for instance) to be the best radio actor of all time. Under the title Western Wednesdays is a wide variety of shows, from Roy Rogers to Tom Mix to Gene Autry, and a host of others. Often you can’t tell what you’re getting until you’ve downloaded it, but that’s part of the fun. They’ve also recently added a few TV episodes, from Wagon Train and Stories of the Century, an early Republic series. Under the titles Wagons West and Cowboy Theatre you’ll find other varied western selections.

I’ve focused on the two outfits who put out the most western shows, and whose material I’ve listened to for a few years. But there are others, and it’s worth searching around, especially if you have a specific want that’s hard to find. For instance, if you want to listen to William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy, the bad news is that no one is doing a regular podcast. But the good news is, if you search under ‘Hopalong Cassidy podcast’ you’ll find 35 individual episodes posted by different outfits.

So happy listening, and if you give OTR podcasts a try, let me know how your experience was.


This Saturday, December 4th it’s Young Buffalo Bill (1940), again directed by the great Joe Kane, and featuring Gabby Hayes, and a tale of dubious Spanish land grants. And there’s still another airing or two of this week’s West of the Badlands (aka Border Legion). Dusty and Dustin continue their hosting duties from Mickey Gilley’s Theatre in Branson, and the program wraps up with musical clips of Roy and Dale, and Dusty and the High Riders performing.

And because it’s not too late to correct problems in future episodes, I’m going to make a couple of suggestions. First, giving the cast and crew at the beginning helps get you in the mood, but they’re giving so much of the plot away that, unless you plug your ears and yell (like I do), you’ll know so much going in that there’s no sense in watching it. Second, considering that almost all the commercials are selling Bullet and Trigger gear and subscriptions to the RFD-TV magazine, is it also necessary to have additional ads for those subscriptions running, during the movie, on the bottom of the screen, for minutes at a time?

Also on RFD-TV Wednesday Dec. 1st at 12:30 pm on Equestrian Nation, you can see Roy Rogers in one of his last interviews.


Here are the next two cigarette insert cards in the set I started running last week. The actual cards measure 1 ½” by 2 ¾ ”, and are the ‘Celebrated American Indian Chiefs’ collection, from Allen & Ginter of Richmond, Virginia, and date from 1888. The cards are so beautiful that I’ve decided to share the fifty-card set with the Round-up readers, two at a time. I hope you enjoy them.


Monday, November 29th, the Academy will present GRIFFITH IN CALIFORNIA – HOLLYWOOD’S EARLIEST FILMS FROM A CENTURY AGO at the Linwood Dunn Theatre. The bad news is that the show is sold out, but the good news is that there are always some no-shows, and people who show up early usually get in. For more details, CLICK HERE.


In tribute to the late Arthur Penn and the late Dede Allen, the New Beverly Cinema will screen a double bill of BONNIE AND CLYDE and LITTLE BIG MAN. They play at 7:30 and 9:45 respectively. I have great respect for both filmmakers, loved Bonnie and Clyde, but much as I enjoyed Chief Dan George, I absolutely despised Little Big Man. But hey, it's all subjective.


Built by cowboy actor, singer, baseball and TV entrepeneur Gene Autry, and designed by the Disney Imagineering team, the Autry is a world-class museum housing a fascinating collection of items related to the fact, fiction, film, history and art of the American West. In addition to their permenant galleries (to which new items are frequently added), they have temporary shows. The Autry has many special programs every week -- sometimes several in a day. To check their daily calendar, CLICK HERE. And they always have gold panning for kids every weekend. For directions, hours, admission prices, and all other information, CLICK HERE.


Across the street from the Hollywood Bowl, this building, once the headquarters of Lasky-Famous Players (later Paramount Pictures) was the original DeMille Barn, where Cecil B. DeMille made the first Hollywood western, The Squaw Man. They have a permanent display of movie props, documents and other items related to early, especially silent, film production. They also have occasional special programs. 2100 Highland Ave., L.A. CA 323-874-2276. Thursday – Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. $5 for adults, $3 for senior, $1 for children.


This small but entertaining museum gives a detailed history of Wells Fargo when the name suggested stage-coaches rather than ATMS. There’s a historically accurate reproduction of an agent’s office, an original Concord Coach, and other historical displays. Open Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Admission is free. 213-253-7166. 333 S. Grand Street, L.A. CA.


A staggering number of western TV episodes and movies are available, entirely free, for viewing on your computer at HULU. You do have to sit through the commercials, but that seems like a small price to pay. The series available -- often several entire seasons to choose from -- include THE RIFLEMAN, THE CISCO KID, THE LONE RANGER, BAT MASTERSON, THE BIG VALLEY, ALIAS SMITH AND JONES, and one I missed from 2003 called PEACEMAKERS starring Tom Berenger. Because they are linked up with the TV LAND website, you can also see BONANZA and GUNSMOKE episodes, but only the ones that are running on the network that week.

The features include a dozen Zane Grey adaptations, and many or most of the others are public domain features. To visit HULU on their western page, CLICK HERE.


Every weekday, TV LAND airs a three-hour block of BONANZA episodes from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. They run a GUNSMOKE Monday through Thursday at 10:00 a.m., and on Friday they show two, from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m.. They're not currently running either series on weekends, but that could change at any time.


Check out your cable system for WHT, which stands for World Harvest Television. It's a religious network that runs a lot of good western programming. Your times may vary, depending on where you live, but weekdays in Los Angeles they run DANIEL BOONE at 1:00 p.m., and two episodes of THE RIFLEMAN from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.. On Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. it's THE RIFLEMAN again, followed at 2:30 by BAT MASTERSON. And unlike many stations in the re-run business, they run the shows in the original airing order. There's an afternoon movie on weekdays at noon, often a western, and they show western films on the weekend, but the schedule is sporadic.

That's it for now, pards. I've got a few interesting things cooking for the next few report, but I'm not gonna jinx myself for talking about them before they're a done deal.


All Contents Copyright November 2010 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved


  1. Thanks so much for the piece on OTR. I grew up on this stuff and when I hear an old show am surprised at the quality of the writing and the performances. William Conrad makes a great Matt Dillon. He was also a fine character actor in movies - invariably stealing scenes from the featured cast members. I don't remember watching his TV series, CANNON, but when I've listened through to the last of his GUNSMOKE episodes, I'll look for that one.

  2. A great post with much of interest. Thanks. I listen to a lot of OTR and some of the British comedy available is excellent but on the western front I especially enjoy Have Gun will Travel and Gunsmoke.

  3. Thanks so much for the piece on OTR