Best Cowboy TV Shows

Tuesday, July 26 by Jackie Barlow

The best cowboy TV shows bring back so many memories. When television became popular over sixty years ago, the westerns quickly gained the status of stars of the small screen. The year 1959 was the top year for cowboy TV shows with prime time including 26 of them. It is sad that traditional westerns began disappearing from television in the 1960s and 1970s, but they are still available on DVDs for our viewing pleasure.

  1. "Hopalong Cassidy" was the first TV western, premiering in June of 1949. It was easy to put on this show because, at first, the episodes were just taken from the 66 movies that were previously made starring William Boyd.
  2. "The Gene Autry Show" This debuted in July, 1950. Gene Autry was the first major star of movies who not only starred in but also produced a weekly TV series. He is also the only one to have five Hollywood Walk of Fame stars because of his work in front of and also behind the camera. 
  3. "The Roy Rogers Show" There were 100 episodes of this black and white series that ran from December, 1951 to June, 1957. The King of the Cowboys, his wife Dale Evans, and Pat Brady were the stars.
  4. "The Lone Ranger" This was  the highest-rated TV program on ABC in the early 1950s. Clayton Moore was the masked Texas Range fighting injustice in the American Old West. He was aided by his American Indian sidekick Tonto (Jay Silverheels) and his horse Silver.
  5. "Gunsmoke" This ran with 635 episodes from 1955 to 1975 and featured stories about the settling of the American West. "Gunsmoke" was the longest-running live-action prime time drama in the United States and was not surpassed until "Law & Order" in 2010. 
  6. "Maverick" Running from September of 1957 until July of 1962, this comedic western featured alternating tales of four poker-playing Mavericks. James Garner was the most popular, and also included were Roger Moore, Robert Colbert, and Jack Kelly.
  7. "Wagon Train" This series ran on NBC from 1957 to 1962 and on ABC from 1962 to 1965. It stayed high in the Nielsen ratings when it was on NBC and was #1 from 1961 to 1962. Ward Bond was the wagon master until being replaced by John McIntire when Bond died. Robert Horton was the scout until being replaced by Robert Fuller (who looked like Horton) after Horton left. 
  8. "Bonanza" was on from 1959 to 1973, ranked second in longest running only behind "Gunsmoke," and is still in syndication. The beloved Cartwrights included the patriarch Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) with his three sons, Adam (Pernell Roberts), Hoss (Dan Blocker) and Little Joe (Michael Landon).
  9. "Rawhide" started the career of Clint Eastwood. Airing from 1959 to 1966,  "Rawhide" starred Eric Fleming in stories involving drovers who would solve problems of people they met along the trail. 
  10. "The Big Valley" ran from 1965 to 1969 and starred Barbara Stanwyck as Victoria Barkley, a spunky widowed mother who appeared in 103 of the 112 episodes. Jarrod Thomas Barkley (Richard Long) was a usually calm attorney. Nick Barkley (Peter Breck) was the brawling younger son with a hot temper. Daughter Audra (Linda Evans) performed daring riding stunts and wanted to be like he brothers. Heath Barkley (Lee Majors) was Victoria's late husband's illegitimate son whose father never knew that he existed.

– Jacklyn Barlow


  1. July 26, 2011 1:55 am


    I loved your article and want to know more for next book. Please contact me.
    William A. Cummins, Award-Winning Author

  2. July 26, 2011 1:55 am

    William A. Cummins


    William A.
    Cummins Cowboy


    Uncensored and unedited reflections from a self-made
    cowboy – engineer – author – speaker.

    Issue No. 110
    – $2.98                                              Saturday, July 23, 2011


    “William Cummins’ account of life as a
    cowboy, cook, housekeeper, horse trainer,

    entertainer, singer-song writer, engineer,
    public speaker, office manager, and

    just plain nice person made me
    laugh, ponder my life, and even weep.”

    Kirby Rogers,
    Ph.D., Award-Winning Author



    What Made Gene Autry,
    Smilin’ Bill, and Roy Rogers Heroes?

    By William A. (Smilin’ Bill) Cummins, Award-Winning

    You can sum it up into three words. Horses! Women! Friends! They loved
    their horses; they loved their women; and they loved their friends! These three
    corners of their lives received a very special kind of behavior from each of
    these men. It is called “Gentleness.”  

    In a recent article posted 07/20/2011 in the LA Daily News entitled,
    “Entertainment legend is back in the saddle again,” staff writer, Bob Strauss,
    noted that a special quality of Gene Autry was his “gentleness.”

    According to the article Gene’s wife, Jackie, summed Gene up this way, “I think that he taught me to be more
    introspective,” she said. “I had a great deal of energy; I still do,
    but there’s a style in which he operated that made me feel very good. I don’t
    know how to explain it to you, except he was just so gentle, and he made me
    become gentle.”

    You feel the same way when you think about Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
    In fact, all the cowboy heroes of bygone years observed the quality of
    “gentleness.” That’s the way I felt last week when Dr. Kirby Rogers posted his
    thoughts about “KING and the COWBOY” on
     calling me a “just plain nice person.”

    I felt a little awed while on book tour last year, when The Kenton
    Times newspaper posted an article about me that included references to Gene
    Autry. He has always been my cowboy hero, so it was a dream-come-true to be
    associated with Gene in the same article.

    Perhaps it is our first love of horses that drove us to the “gentle”
    side of life. Every horse lover learns early-on that the key to gaining their
    trust is “gentleness.” It is a very simple and logical step to transfer that behavior
    to our wives, family, and friends. 

    Gene loved his horse
    Champion, Roy loved Trigger, and I loved King. Each of us headlined as a team
    during our time in “showbiz.” Our horses taught us, and never let us forget
    that our relationships were built solely on Trust, Respect, and
    Gentleness.  Learning those traits early
    in life enabled us to lead wonderful, exciting, and fulfilling lives.

    Order autographed copies of “KING and the COWBOY” from me or:

    “Don’t forget to send your immediate
    thoughts to me after reading the book.”

    [Smilin’ Bill Cummins welcomes your
    questions and comments. You can
    send a comment or cancel his messages at:]

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