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Welcome to Down These Mean Streets, a weekly trip back to the Golden Age of Radio where we rub elbows with the era's greatest private eyes, cops, and crime-fighters. Since 2013, I've been podcasting everything from cozy mysteries to police procedurals, spotlighting characters ranging from hard boiled gumshoes to amateur sleuths. 

Be sure to tune in each Sunday for adventures of a radio detective and the behind-the-scenes stories of their shows. Join me as we spend time with Sam Spade, Johnny Dollar, Sgt. Joe Friday, and more!

"The man in the saddle"

Sep 20, 2017

"The man in the saddle is angular and long-legged. His skin is sun-dyed brown. The gun in his holster is gray steel and rainbow mother-of-pearl, its handle unmarked. People call them both 'the Six Shooter.'"

Today in 1953, James Stewart rode on to the radio range as Britt Ponset, the wandering plainsman and infamous gunfighter known far and wide as The Six Shooter. In his only regular starring role in a radio dramatic series, Stewart lent his trademark screen persona to the character of Ponset, a hero who had to reluctantly live up to his reputation as he traveled the plains. With Stewart's amazing performance in the title role, engrossing scripts, and a talented troupe of supporting players, The Six Shooter stands up today as one of the finest frontier offerings from the Golden Age of Radio.

Each week, Ponset drifted into a new town and a new adventure. He encountered everything from gunslingers looking for revenge to a dangerous sibling rivalry on a cattle drive to being strong-armed into marriage. Whether the story of the week was intense and dramatic or played for laughs, Stewart was an amiable hero. His drawl was put to excellent use as the show's narrator, and he would drop his voice to a whisper as Ponset crept up on a gun-toting villain.

The series was created by Frank Burt, the writer who two years later penned Stewart's film western The Man from Laramie, and it was directed by Jack Johnstone (who later helmed the Bob Bailey era of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar). Despite the caliber of talent on and behind the microphone, the show ended after only 39 episodes. For most of its run The Six Shooter aired without sponsorship, but it wasn't because potential sponsors weren't interested. Jack Johnstone later recalled  "Chesterfield begged and begged and begged for months trying to get sponsorship, but Jim didn’t feel that, because of his screen image, it would be fair for him to be sponsored by a cigarette." Without sponsorship, even the best shows fell to the rise of television in the early 1950s, and Britt Ponset rode off into the sunset on June 24, 1954.