Sunday, September 16, 2018

Have Gun-Will Travel by Kaye Spencer #classictelevision #Sweetheartsofthewest #westerns

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 celebrates its premiere date this month.

 Have Gun-Will Travel
The adventures of a gentlemanly gunfighter for hire.
 IMDb website:
Sixty-one years ago (September 14, 1957), 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.
Richard Boone as Paladin
Link to source: HERE
  • 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.”
CBS Publicity image
Link to source HERE

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.

The show ran from September 14, 1957 to April 20, 1963 with 225 episodes.

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

A radio version began on November 23, 1958 and ended November 22, 1960 with actor John Dehner portraying Paladin. John Dehner is one of those Hollywood character actors whose name rings a bell, but you can't put a face to the name until you see him.

John Dehner
image credit below**

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 (Lassie)
  • Ken Curtis 
  • Lee Van Cleef
  • Lon Chaney, Jr.
  • Pernell Roberts 
  • Robert Blake
  • Suzanne Pleshette
  • Vincent Price
  • Werner Klemperer
Who was Paladin?

Paladin was a West Point graduate, a Civil War cavalry officer, and his base of operations was the Hotel Carlton in San Francisco, California. While it's been too many years since I've watched these episodes, I've read that in the episode entitled "Fandango", Paladin encounters a sheriff who knew him from their Civil War days. The sheriff calls Paladin 'Bobby' and goes on to say, "It's been a long time since Bull Run." Maybe Paladin's real first name was Robert.

Generally, though, the consensus is his real name is never revealed. However, Paladin’s backstory is shown in flashback sequence in the first episode of the last (6th) season, “Genesis”, which aired September 15, 1962. This episode explains how Paladin came by his pseudonym and his subsequent mission to champion the causes of the less fortunate. It isn't his shining moment. Through his actions, another man dies, and Paladin takes on the dead man's identity and mission as a type of penitence to atone for his own actions.

Read the episode details at the HGWT Website.

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

Other Sources:
  • HWWT (Have Gun, Will Travel) website:
  • Have Gun-Will Travel. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.–_Will_Travel. Creative Commons Share-Alike Attribution License.
  • Image: Paladin - By Source, Fair use,
  • Radio Show episodes:
  • **Image: John Dehner -


  1. I also loved that show. He is a prime example of a hero if not a romantic one. These guys always rode off after the mission was complete lol

    1. Rain,

      I suspect for many of us who write western romances, shows like Have Gun-Will Travel are strong influences in our stories. I know they are for me.

  2. Paladin's stories were a family favorite back in the day...

    1. Arletta,

      The same in my family. I had such a crush on Richard Boone.

  3. A former roommate couldn't understand why Richard Boone was promoted as a good looking, sexy man. I didn't try to explain if she didn't get it. I don't have the whole series, but I do have a number of seasons on DVD. Working on completing the collection. And of course, I loved the show and this post. Doris

    1. Doris,

      Oh my gosh. Richard Boone NOT good looking and sexy???? You're absolutely right. There was no reason to explain what your roommate didn't understand. Poor girl. lolol

  4. Replies
    1. Sarah,

      It was a show that my dad didn't miss. I was too little to appreciate the show when it ran its original seasons. I caught on to it years later in syndication.

  5. I used to watch that show. I've seen it in reruns since it was on originally.

  6. Kaye, thanks for quite an extensive post on a show I remember and liked as well.

    1. Cheri,

      I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Every so often, I 'dial in' to YouTube and watch a few episodes. lol

  7. Loved this post, Kaye. Westerns on tv were very popular back in the 60's and Have Gun Will Travel was no exception. I watched every episode. I didn't know (or don't remember) the history of Paladin, so it was really interesting reading the backstory via your research. Thanks for your research and posting this, Kaye. I love the video and now I'd like to watch some episodes.

    1. Elizabeth,
      Paladin's history is that he killed a man who did benevolent work. Paladin's guilt was so great for killing this man that he took up the dead man's cause as a sort of 'doing penitence".


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