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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Have Gun – Will Travel – September 14, 1957 by Kaye Spencer

During my growing-up years, I watched reruns or as-they-aired episodes of what are now classic television westerns: Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Lone Ranger, The Big Valley, High Chaparral, Rawhide, Laredo, The Virginian, Sugarfoot, Cheyenne, Maverick, Wagon Trail, Tales of Wells Fargo, Branded, Wyatt Earp, Johnny Yuma, Laramie, Broken Arrow, Guns of Will Sonnet, Zorro, Lancer, Cimarron Strip,Yancy Derringer... The list goes on and, no doubt, you each have your favorites.

It just so happens that one of my favorite classic western television shows is celebrating its premiere date today.

*The adventures of a gentlemanly gunfighter for hire.*

Fifty nine years ago today the television-watching population enjoyed the premiere of the thirty-minute, Saturday night western show, Have Gun - Will Travel, starring Richard Boone as the somewhat mysterious soldier of fortune, but always a gentleman, Paladin. The premise of the show was Paladin worked as a gunfighter-for-hire who traveled the west c. 1875 offering his special kind of problem-solving skills. He was a high-dollar gunman—$1000 per job wasn’t unusual—but he also provided his services for free to those with a worthy cause who couldn’t afford him otherwise. However, violence by gunplay wasn’t his only weapon. He was a pugilist and dueling champion of some renown in his former life.

General Trivia
  • The word ‘paladin’ derives from the knights in Charlemagne’s Court, who were champions of worthy causes.
  • Paladin was a Union cavalry officer and graduate of West Point.
  • His residence is the luxury Carlton Hotel in San Francisco.
  • When not riding about the countryside doing good deeds—dressed as the original “Man in Black”—he lives the life of a cultured businessman who wears custom-made suits, consumes fine wine, plays the piano, and attends the opera. He also has a weakness for women.
  • With just a sip, he can determine a particular bourbon’s distillery.
  • Paladin is an expert chess and poker player, an accomplished swordsman, and possesses skill in Chinese martial arts having studied under a Kung Fu master.
  • His level of education is such that he quotes classical literature, philosophy, case law, and he speaks several languages. 
  • Paladin’s weapons: 1) custom-made, single action .45 Colt (Army cavalry model) that he carries in a black leather holster adorned with a platinum chess knight symbol, 2) lever action Marlin rifle, and 3) concealed derringer.
  • He has a signature calling card/business card. In Paladin’s words:  “It's a chess piece, the most versatile on the board. It can move in eight different directions, over obstacles, and it's always unexpected.”
  • The show’s four note opening motif was done purposely to create a musical memory akin to other popular television shows at the time: Highway Patrol, Dragnet, Twilight Zone, and Perry Mason.

  • The show closes with the song, “The Ballad of Paladin”, which was written by Johnny Western, Richard Boone, and Sam Rolfe. Johnny Western sings the ballad.

Of General Interest
  • The show ran from 9/14/1957 to 4/20/1963 with 225 episodes.
  • A radio version began in 1958 with actor John Dehner portraying Paladin.
  • From 1974 to 1991, a trademark lawsuit against the concept of the show moved in and out of court culminating with a substantial settlement. You can read the details here: HGWT Website
Hollywood Trivia

Notable Episode Writers:
  • Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)
  • Bruce Geller (Mission Impossible)
  • Harry Julian Fink (Dirty Harry)
  • Sam Peckinpah (directed a plethora of western movies)
  • Unusual for the era, many episodes were filmed outdoors and not on the Old West film lots – Bishop and Lone Pine, California – Paladin Estates between Bend and Sisters, Oregon – the Abbott Ranch near Prineville, Oregon
Notable Guest Stars:
  • Angie Dickinson
  • Ben Johnson
  • Buddy Ebsen
  • Charles Bronson
  • Dan Blocker
  • DeForest Kelley
  • Denver Pyle
  • Dyan Cannon
  • George Kennedy
  • Jack Elam
  • Jack Lord
  • James Coburn
  • Johnny Crawford
  • June Lockhart
  • Ken Curtis
  • Lee Van Cleef
  • Lon Chaney, Jr.
  • Pernell Roberts
  • Robert Blake
  • Suzanne Pleshette
  • Vincent Price
  • Werner Klemperer
Who was Paladin?

Although his real name is never revealed, Paladin’s backstory is shown in flashback sequence in the first episode of the last (6th) season, “Genesis”, which aired 9/16/1962. We do learn Paladin came by his moniker, and his subsequent mission to champion the causes of the less fortunate, via less than praiseworthy actions. Read the episode details at the HGWT Website

Until next time,



*Tagline - IMDb website:

Have Gun, Will Travel website:

Have Gun, Will Travel Wikipedia:

Image: Richard Boone - By CBS Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image: Paladin - By Source, Fair use,

Image: Calling Card - By CBS Publicity;,

Image: John Dehner -


  1. Ah Kaye, a favorite as a child, and still on the top of my list. There were even what we would call YA books written with the character. I used to have one, but think it was lost in the fire at my parents home. A well written show. How many today call tell a complete story well written dramatic story in less than 30 minutes of TV?

    Loved the trip down mememory lane. Doris

  2. Doris,

    I *think* I had a couple of HG-WT fan fiction books once upon a time, too. It is amazing to me that so many of the classic westerns had decent stories unfold in 30 minutes (less because of commercials). Ah, the good old television-watching days. *wiping a little tear of nostalgia* :-)

  3. OMG, Kaye. Loved this show so much. It was so different--a very different kind of hero, for sure. I always remember in the movie STAND BY ME where the boys are walking along singing this song. And of course, every time I hear it, I MUST SING WITH IT. I wonder who "Johnny Western" really was? Excellent post. I really enjoyed this!

    1. The Paladin theme song is as iconic as the Rawhide theme song. Gosh but I miss those old shows.

      On Johnny Western...

      Johnny Western's real name was Johnny Westerland. He was born in 1934 and his early musical career included playing guitar with the Sons of the Pioneers. According to the not-to-be-taken-as-gospel Wikipedia, "After having played a supporting role in an episode of "Have Gun, Will Travel," Western wrote "The Ballad of Paladin" as a musical "Thank-you-card" to Richard Boone. This landed him a deal with Columbia records." Later, after his career waned, Johnny Cash invited him to record at his studio. And "In collaboration with Johnny Cash, he re-wrote the lyrics of NBC's Bonanza and the theme song, "The Rebel - Johnny Yuma", from the ABC series The Rebel, starring Nick Adams."

      He wrote and sang "The Gunfighter" with Marty Robbins in mind.

  4. Kaye, I watched every one of the shows you mentioned, too. Ah, those were the days. I miss those old western shoot-em-ups.

    Thanks for all the Paladin trivia! Was there anything the man couldn't do? :-D

    1. Paladin was a sort of James West/James Bond with all the gadgets removed. :-)

  5. I watched all the old westerns - and still do. Hadn't seen Paladin in years until I was looking after my brother during his illness. He had a channel that showed all the old westerns. Still enjoy them. Note: I picked up an autographed book written by Richard Boone in a used bookstore some years ago. Still have it in my signed books collection.

    1. Oh, wow. To have a signed book by Richard Boone. *swooning* What a treasure.

  6. Thanks for all the fun facts on this series!

    1. *grin* I am a wealth of useless information and senseless trivia. lol

  7. Done several charity/celebrity shows with Johnny Western and his wife Jo. Super people.

    1. Ken, thanks for commenting. I've learned about as much about Johnny Western from answering Cheryl's question as I learned about Paladin in my research for the article. I always enjoy where the comments take us.

  8. Kaye, what a wonderful blog. Paladin, HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL always fascinated me, and I loved the show and the dashing, daring character... but I don't think I was old enough to fully appreciate this particular Western show when it began running... I should watch those episodes.

    1. I'm with you on needing to re-watch the show as an adult. I remember them as a child and then as a young adult, but that was... um...ahem...a good many years ago. :-)

  9. I love Paladin. Watched every episode I could as a child, and now we have the complete set of DVD's. HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL was my favorite show and I've been surprised how many of the episodes I remembered after all these years. Fun times.

    1. Livia,

      I haven't seen an episode in years. I've contemplated buying the DVD series, and maybe I will treat myself and do just that. While I loved Richard Boone as Paladin, his villain role as John Fain in the movie Big Jake was fabulous. " fault, my fault, nobody's fault..."

  10. Thanks for such an informative and interesting post. It was one of my favorite series. Haven't seen any of the episodes in years. This was a nice trip back in time.

  11. librarypat,

    Yes, it has been a fun jaunt down memory lane. Thanks for stopping to comment. :-)