Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wild Bill Hickok Radio Show

James "Bill" Butler Hickok died on August 2, 1876 and thus never saw a radio, heard radio, or heard of radio in his life time. He was only 39 and had he not been shot down, he might have toward the end of his life. He surely saw telegraphs, but that was as far as it went. Nonetheless he had his very own radio show in the 1950s.

In 1951, the Mutual Network launched the Wild Bill Hickok Show. Episodes were 25 minutes long and the first hundred or so were sponsored by Kellogg's. Most episodes seem to plug Corn Pops or Rice Krispies. Breakfast cereals were common sponsors of juvenile programming.

Guy Madison starred as Wild Bill Hickok. Andy Devine played Deputy Marshal "Jingle" Jones who was his sidekick. Unlike other dynamic trusty sidekick's "Jingles" is more of a comic diversion. The book "Don't Touch that Dial" by J. fred MacDonald describes the character as "a slow-witted type who offered little help to the star."

Each episode was scored by organist Dick Aurandt. Paul Pierce was the director and Larry Hayes was the head script writer. Other secondary parts were played by Paul Frees, Forrest Lewis, Charlie Lung, Howard McNear, Tyler McVey, Ralph Moody, Jack Moyles, Barney Phillips, Clayton Post, and Will Wright. Charles Lyon did the announcing. Great blog on westerns here.

Most interestingly when the Wild Bill Hickok Show made the leap from radio to TV they kept the original cast. The television show was started a few months later in 1951 and lasted until 1958. This was a childrens show of course. It was in the same vein as Hop-a-long Cassidy and The Cisco Kid, Zorro and The Lone Ranger. The radio show ran for a total of 271 episodes.