Daily Dirt: Our TV lineup once featured 31 westerns each week 


Gunsmoke (CBS)

Daily Dirt for Sept. 16, 2021

Imagine turning on your television set and seeing nothing but westerns most nights on every channel. Vol. 69 of the Daily Dirt provides some insight with the first of today’s three thoughts.

1. We love westerns at the Daily Dirt, and spend considerable time thinking and talking about them. Here are some tidbits I have come across in recent weeks I find incredibly interesting. Hope all you cowboys and cowgirls do, too:

A. Television was once in love with westerns, but never more so than the 1958-59 TV season. That was when there were 31 weekly western-themed programs on CBS, NBC and ABC. Thirty-one!!

B. “Gunsmoke,” the iconic western anchored by James Arness as U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon, held the record for most episodes (653) of a single program in TV history until surpassed by “Law and Order: SVU” in 2019.

C. Jay Silverheels was long recognized as Tonto, the Long Ranger’s (Clayton Moore) famous sidekick. Silverheels, who died in in 1980 at age 62 due to complications from pneumonia, was the first Native American to have a star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. Silverheels’ real name was Harold J. Smith, a Mohawk from the Six Nations Reserve in Canada and the grandson of a Mohawk chief.

D. The first TV western to feature a single father was “The Rifleman,” starring Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain.

E. When westerns first dominated the TV lineup, they were primarily 30 minutes of shoot ’em up fireworks, with little depth to any of the stories. That all changed with the arrival of “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp,” starring Hugh O’Brian. “The “adult” western had been born and was soon copied. Relationships and issues replaced, or at least complemented, bar fights, shootouts and scalpings. “Wyatt Earp” ran until 1961.

2. Mickey Dolenz, who is now 76, is one of two remaining members of the Monkees, who ruled AM radio in the mid-to-late 1960s and early 1970s. I thought I was well-versed on the Monkees, but I never knew that Dolenz was once a star of an NBC series entitled “Circus Boy,” which aired 1956-58. The reason I may have missed that historical footnote was that his name in the credits was Mickey Braddock. Dolenz was his birth name, which he, of course, later used with the Monkees. Mike Nesmith, 78, is the other surviving Monkee. Davy Jones died in 2012 at age 66. Peter Tork died at age 77 in 2019. The Monkees’ 1966 album, “The Monkees,” was one of the first three albums I ever owned. The other two were “Vanilla Fudge” by Vanilla Fudge and “Idea” by the Bee Gees. 

3. Fun fact: The most common uniform number in the NFL is No. 26. Thirty-one of the 32 NFL teams have a player wearing that number.

Steve Fact O’ The Day

The first film I ever saw at a drive-in movie was “Cat Ballou” in 1965, a film starring starring Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin.

Steve Eighinger writes daily for Muddy River News. No one will ever call him Hanoi Steve.

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