Shotgun Slade

Created by Frank Gruber
(1904-69)

The two hottest genres in the early days of television drama were the Western and the private eye drama, and within a few years, four different shows attempted to combine the two. But unlike Have Gun Will TravelThe Man from Blackhawk or Tales from Wells Fargo, TV’s SHOTGUN SLADE was perhaps the most blatant about its goals. Slade even handed out business cards that read “Slade Detective Agency: Private and Confidential Investigations.”

Shotgun, so named because of the rather unique, custom two-in-one weapon he favoured, which featured a shotgun in one barrel and a .32 caliber rifle in the other (lots of early TV westerns of the day featured leads with distinctive firearms), was a freelance detective whose clientele ranged from Wells Fargo to saloon keepers.

He also had a way with the ladies, although he rarely seemed to take advantage of it (or them), but he was always more than ready to mix it up with the bad guys. Explosions, shootouts and barroom brawls were par for the course, all set to a throbbing (and totally anachronistic) jazz score.

Make no mistake — despite the horses and the six-guns, this was as much private eye drama as a western. Women were just as likely to come off as fifties-era femme fatales as good God-fearing pioneer stock, the voice-over narration owed a lot more to detective dramas on the radio than anything Zane Grey ever dreamed of, and the attitudes of many of the people he ran into seemed far more Peter Gunn than Bonanza.

Slade (we never learned his real first name) was the sole operative for the Denver-based agency, but he wandered throughout the west, journeying from town to town on horseback, making trouble his business and letting his shotgun do the talking when it had to.

The show also boasted an impressive, if quirky, set of guest performers, including Ernie Kovacs, football star Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, WWII ace Pappy Boyington, country and western performers such as Johnny Cash and Tex Ritter, as well as many popular athletes of the day. In fact, the biggest disappointment might have been the lead, Scott Brady (Lawrence Tierney, Jr.’s brother), who may have been suitably hunky and broad-shouldered for the action scenes, but proved less than up for the task of almost everything else — while manfully stalwart and steadfast, he was also as wooden as a hockey stick.

Still, the show must have proven popular enough — or someone had high enough hopes for it — that there were several tie-ins to the show, including a Dell comic, a board game, a cap gun and holster set and even a soundtrack album.

In the end, though, it only lasted two seasons.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Creator Frank Gruber was also a co-creator of the similarly themed Tales of Wells Fargo on another network — I’m sure there’s a tale to tell about that. But he was best known for his western and crime fiction, responsible for creating several slightly-less (but only slightly less) peculiar private eyes, including Simon Lash, Otis Beagle and Joe Peel and Johnny Fletcher & Sam Cragg. He was also one of the most prolific of the great pulpsters, and recouted his experiences in The Pulp Jungle, a critical study and memoir of his pulp years..

TELEVISION

  • SCHLITZ PLAYHOUSE OF STARS
    (1959, CBS)

    • “The Salted Mine” (March 27, 1959)
      Written and produced by Frank Gruber
      Directed by James Nielson
      Assistant Director: Charles S. Gould
      Executive Producer: Nat Holt
      Music by Gerald Fried
      Starring Scott Brady as SHOTGUN SLADE
      Also starring Ernie Kovacs, Marie Windsor, Frank Ferguson
      The pilot aired as an episode of this anthology series.
  • SHOTGUN SLADE
    (1959-61, syndicated)
    78 30-minute episodes
    Created by Frank Gruber
    Director: James Nielson, D. Ross Lederman, Will Jason, Sidney Salkow, Richard A. Bartlett, Frank Arrigo
    Writers: Frank Bonham, Dwight Newton, James Hogan, Frank Chase, Barry Shipman, J. Donald Wilson, Stanley H. Silverman, Martin Berkeley, Arthur Rowe, Lawrence Kimble, Sydney J. Pollack
    Produced by Frank Gruber
    Executive Producer: Nat Holt
    A Shotgun/Revue Production for MCA
    “Shotgun Slade” theme by Irvin Graham (words) & Gerald Fried (music)
    Performed by Monica Lewis
    Starring Scott Brady as SHOTGUN SLADE
    Guest stars: Ernie Kovacs, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, Pappy Boyington, Johnny Cash, Tex Ritter, Marie Windsor, Monica Lewis, Francis X. Bushman, Lee Van Cleef, Alan Hale, Stacy Keach

    • Season One
    • “The Salted Mine” (November 24, 1959)
    • “Mesa of the Missing Men”
    • “Too Smart to Live”
    • “Barbed Wire, Keep out”
    • “Marked Money”
    • “Freight Line”
    • “Gunnar Yensen”
    • “The Stalkers”
    • “Major Trouble”
    • “Bob Ford”
    • “Treasure Trap”
    • “The Missing Train”
    • “Omar the Sign Maker”
    • “The Safe Crackers”
    • “The Blue Dogs”
    • “The Deadfall”
    • “Lady and the Piano”
    • “A Plate of Death”
    • “Street of Terror”
    • “The PoolShark”
    • “The Marriage Circle”
    • “The Swindle”
    • “Shotgun Trail”
    • “Woman from Wyoming”
    • “The Spanish Box”
    • “The Deadly Key””Donna Juanita”
    • “The Fabulous Fiddle”
    • “The Golden Tunnel”
    • “Ring of Death”
    • “The Smell of Money”
    • “A Flower for Jenny” (June 14, 1960)
    • “Sudden Death” (July 5, 1960)
    • “Backtrack” (July 26, 1960)
    • “Killer’s Brand” (August 2, 1960)
    • “A Flower on Boot Hill” (August 9, 1960)
    • “The Charcoal Bullet” (August 16, 1960)
    • “Crossed Guns” (September 19, 1960)
    • “Lost Gold” (August 30, 1960)
    • “Gold” (October 3, 1960)
    • Season Two
    • “Skyfire”
    • “Ghosts of Yucca Flats”
    • “Secret Gold”
    • “Missing Dog”
    • “Mountain Murderess”
    • “Dead Man’s Tale”
    • “Vengeance”
    • “Rail Head at Rampart”
    • “Woman from Wyoming”
    • “Laughing Widow”
    • “Turkey Shoot”
    • “Hang Him Twice”
    • “Traveling Trunk”
    • “Silver Queen”
    • “Little Sister”
    • “Copper Cylinder”
    • “Misplaced Genius”
    • “Mother Six-Gun”
    • “Impatient Bullet”
    • “The Silent Man”
    • “School Ma’am”
    • “Legend of a Hero”
    • “Mystery of Black River”
    • “Widow of El Dorado”
    • “Valley of the Shadow”
    • “Noose for Hurley”
    • “A Grave at San Gallo”
    • “Friends No More”
    • “Yankee Spy”
    • “Skinner’s Rainbow”
    • “The Lost Herds”
    • “Search for Susan”
    • “The Phantom Horse”
    • Madame Vengeance”
    • “Five Graves”
    • “The Payrollers”
    • “A Gun and a Prayer”
    • “The Ranch Ghost”
    • “Something to Die For”

COMICS

  • FOUR COLOR COMICS
    (1942-62, Dell Comics),

    • SHOTGUN SLADE
      (July 1, 1960, #1111)

TIE-INS

  • THE ORIGINAL JAZZ SCORE FROM SHOTGUN SLADE
    (1959, Mercury Records)Buy this album
    Composer: Gerald Fried
  • SHOTGUN SLADE SHOTGUN SET
    (1960, Actoy/Esquire)
    Hey, kids! be the first on your block to get this “authentic” Shotgun Slade set that includes the special two-in-one rifle/shotgun that Shotgun himself carries, complete with plastic shotgun shells and a special “shotgun” holster. Hey, it even comes with a badge! But don’t laugh! Recently a set in great condition sold at auction for over 2000 grand.
  • THE SHOTGUN SLADE BOARDGAME
    (1960, Milton Bradley)
    2-4 players
    Ages seven and up
    The idea of this game was that the players were members of Slade’s posse, charged with rounding up four outlaws hiding out in a frontier town and bring them in, presumably for the bounty (there was play money involved). The first player to get all four of his outlaws (marbles) around the board and into his four jail holes by exact count (the board came with built in spinners) would win.

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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