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Original Luke Slaughter of Tombstone header art

The Luke Slaughter of Tombstone Radio Program

Dee-Scription: Home >> D D Too Home >> Radio Logs >> Luke Slaughter of Tombstone

Original Luke Slaughter of Tombstone cover art
Luke Slaughter of Tombstone was more a vehicle for William N. Robson than for either its star, Sam Buffington--or CBS. He'd already written for CBS Radio's production of Fort Laramie in 1956. Robson welcomed the chance to produce and direct a Western of the quality of competing contemporary adult westerns such as Gunsmoke and Have Gun, Will Travel. He also had his own career to defend in the process. But that wasn't the only controversy surrounding this short-lived, but excellent adult Western drama.

Its star, Sam Buffington, only 27 at the time that Luke Slaughter of Tombstone aired, would be dead by his own hand, only two years later, at the age of 29. But neither of these controversies affected either the quality or timelessness of this truly excellent Western Adventure anthology. Buffington's voice and presence, both very reminiscent of William Conrad, lent the perfect weight to Buffington's characterization of Luke Slaughter. Slaughter was a tough man, in a tough part of the rapidly expanding American Southwest, working in the equally tough Cattle business.

The scripts were what one might expect from a William Robson project. The adult dilemmas posed in every episode were both thought provoking and brilliantly evolved. The sound shaping was excellent throughout. The surviving recordings are wonderfully engineered. And the supporting cast represented the finest Radio voice talent of the 1950s.

During the opening of each episode, Luke Slaughter [Sam Buffington] sizes up his situation:

"Slaughter's my name, Luke Slaughter. Cattle's my business. It's a tough business, it's a big business. I got a big stake in it. And there's no man west of the Rio Grande big enough to take it away from me."

And indeed, no man ever managed to take it away from him for 16 fascinating episodes.

One can only conjecture why this series never evolved past 16 scripts. Perhaps there were even more in the works, which seems likely, given William Robson's work ethic. Sam Buffington's Television career, tragically short-lived as it was, was incredibly prolific--he appeared in over 50 television productions between 1957 and 1959. Radio's Gunsmoke (1952-1960) and Have Gun, Will Travel (1958-1960) were already becoming eclipsed by their Television incarnations. The American appetite for intelligent, thought-provoking Westerns was arcing, and such was that taste, that it appeared that only Television, and its endless flood of competing genre productions, could satisfy that demand.

For whatever reason, this excellent Western Drama stands frozen in time at only 16 wonderful productions. But to their credit they're still just as compelling as they were when they were recorded. A bittersweet testimony to the abruptly abbreviated talent of it's young star, and the short-lived, but effective triumph of it's producer and director.

Series Derivatives:

Genre: Anthology of Golden Age Radio Adult Western Dramas
Network(s): CBS
Audition Date(s) and Title(s): None
Premiere Date(s) and Title(s): 58-02-23 01 Duel On the Trail -- AFRTS Only
Run Dates(s)/ Time(s): 58-02-23 through 58-06-15; Sixeteen, 25-minute episodes broadcast weekly, Sundays at 12:05 p.m. or 1:05 p.m.
Syndication: AFRTS Syndication as END-617, Luke Slaughter of Tombstone
Sponsors: Sustaining
Director(s): William N. Robson
Principal Actors: Sam Buffington, Junius Matthews, Lillian Buyeff, Eddie Marr, Herb Vigran, Sam Edwards, Vic Perrin, Lawrence Dobkin, Jack Moyles, Frank Gerstle, Lou Merrill, Howard McNear, Barney Phillips, Norm Alden, Sidra Scott, Chester Stratton, Joe Kearns, John McIntire, Jim McCallion, Bill Quinn, Ed Jerome, Jean Carson, Karl Swenson, Ben Wright, Don Diamond, Jack Kruschen, Luis Van Rooten, Joe DeSantis, Norma Jean Nilsson, Charles Seel, Jack Edwards, Norm Alden, Peter Leeds, and Ralph Moody
Recurring Character(s): Luke Slaughter (Sam Buffington), Wichita (Junius Matthews)
Protagonist(s): Luke Slaughter: A Civil War cavalry officer, turned cattle rancher, in post-Civil War Arizona Territory near Fort Huachuca and the town of Tombstone, not far from the border with Mexico.
Author(s): Unknown
Writer(s) Fran Van Hartesveldt, Robert Stanley, Alan Botzer, Don Clark, Thomas Houghton, Paul Pierce, Tom Hanley, and William N. Robson with editorial supervision and sound patterns by Tom Hanley
Music Direction: Wilbur Hatch and Amerigo Moreno
Musical Theme(s): Unknown
Announcer(s): Unknown
Estimated Scripts or
Episodes in Circulation: 16
Total Episodes in Collection: 16
RadioGOLDINdex, Hickerson Guide 'The Directory of The Armed Forces Radio Service Series'.

Notes on Provenances:

All above cited provenances agree for the most part. The most helpful provenance was the log of the radioGOLDINdex.

We invite you to compare our fully provenanced research with the '1,500 expert researchers' at the OTRR and their Luke Slaughter of Tombstone log. We've provided a screen shot of their current log for comparison, HERE to protect our own further due diligence, content and intellectual property.

Note the spelling of Episode No. 15, Big Bisiness in both the OTRR official certifed accurate log and that of The Vintage Radio Place. Simply copying the logs of others' unquestionably helps the OTRR throw up a lot of their 'most accurate otr database in the world' logs, but it certainly doesn't help anyone using them as an accurate source.

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Luke Slaughter of Tombstone Series Log

Date Episode Title Avail. Notes
Duel on the Trail
[ Premiere Episode -- AFRTS only]

58-02-22 Bridgeport Telegram
"Luke Slaughter of Tombstone."
western series to be
broadcast over CBS radio, will
make its debut tomorrow afternoon
from 2:05 to 2:30 o'clock,
with Sam Buffington, the veteran
actor, playing the leading role.
The new entry brings the CBS
radio's number ol Sunday westerns
to three and reveals the exploits
of Luke Slaughter, former
Civil War cavalryman turned
Arizona cattleman, who commanded
either respect or fear depending
on which side of the law one
resided, from Yuma to Gallup
from Flagstaff to the Huachucas
and below the border to Chihuahua
and Sonora.

58-02-23 Independent-Press-Telegram
12:05 -- KNX -- Luke Slaughter of Tombstone
Tracks Out of Tombstone
58-03-02 Independent-Press-Telegram
"Luke Slaughter" has some trouble with a sheriff on KNX at 12:05 p.m. and when the gunplay ends he comes out on top.

58-03-02 Independent Star-News
A new Western series slipped in on us last week before sounding its six-shooters. It's the KNX-CBS series entitled "
Luke Slaughter...of Tombstone," with veteran actor Sam Buffington in the leading role. The new entry, heard at 12:05 p.m. reveals the exploits of Luke Slaughter, a former Civil War cavalryman-turned-cattleman, who commands either respect or fear from Yuma to Gallup, from Flagstaff to the Huachacas, and below the border to Sonora. As today's episode opens, Luke, who has already had a trouble-filled journey from Texas to Tombstone with a herd of cattle, meets more trouble when a sheriff and his deputy decide that Luke's payoff for his cattle drive is much more attractive than lawmen's salaries.
Yancey's Pride
53-03-09 Salt Lake City Tribune
12:05 Luke Slaughter of Tombstone
Page's Progress
53-03-16 Salt Lake City Tribune
12:05 Luke Slaughter of Tombstone
The Homesteaders
53-03-23 Salt Lake City Tribune
12:055 Luke Slaughter of Tombstone
The Aaron Holcomb Story
53-03-30 Salt Lake City Tribune
12:05 Luke Slaughter of Tombstone
[Preempted for Network wide Easter special, Hadyn's The Creation, from the New York Philharmonic]
Wagon Train
53-04-13 Anderson Herald
1:05 Luke Slaughter

The Henry Fell Story

53-04-20 Anderson Herald
1:05 Luke Slaughter
Death Watch
53-04-27 Anderson Herald
1:05 Luke Slaughter
Worth Its Salt
53-05-04 Anderson Herald
1:05 Luke Slaughter
53-05-11 Anderson Herald
1:05 Luke Slaughter
Drive to Fort Huachuca
53-05-18 Anderson Herald
1:05 Luke Slaughter
Outlaw Kid
53-05-25 Anderson Herald
1:05 Luke Slaughter
Cattle Drive
53-06-01 Anderson Herald
1:05 Luke Slaughter
Big Business
53-06-08 Anderson Herald
1:05 Luke Slaughter
June Bride
[ Last Episode ]
58-06-15 Anderson Herald
1:05 Luke Slaughter

AFRTS END-617 'Luke Slaughter of Tombstone' Log

Date AFRTS # Title Avail. Notes
Duel on the Trail
[ Premiere Episode -- AFRTS only]
Title Unknown
Luke Rents Land To the Indians
Title Unknown
Breeding Stock is Stolen
Tracks Out of Tombstone
Death Watch
Worth Its Salt
58-06-01 Cattle Drive
58-11-09 June Bride
[ Last Episode ]

Luke Slaughter of Tombstone Biographies

Sam Buffington
(Luke Slaughter)


Birthplace: Massachusetts


Luke Slaughter of Tombstone

Sam Buffington, ca. 1959
Sam Buffington, ca. 1959

Sam Buffington as Fred Ernshaw in The Foot-loose Doll on Perry Mason
Sam Buffington as Fred Ernshaw in The Foot-loose Doll on Perry Mason
Sam Buffington presented a powerful image. He was a large man, with a deep, powerful voice, very reminiscent of William Conrad or Jose Ferrer. Cast more as a character actor than a lead, Radio's Luke Slaughter of Tombstone was an opportunity for Buffington to take a lead role in a mainstream Media production, and perhaps hope to influence the roles he might then pursue in Television.

The comparisons between Buffington's work as Luke Slaughter to William Conrad's role as Matt Dillon in Radio's Gunsmoke are inescapable. They do sound very similar. They both project the appropriate authority in their delivery. And of course they were both very physically imposing young actors in their own right.

Those who've seen much of Sam Buffington's work in Television can attest to the effectiveness of his character work. Ranging from ethnic toughs, to garrulous rogues, Buffington's characterizations were suprisingly appropriate, given his relatively limited experience in either Radio or Television.

And in that respect he seems to have been a natural character actor. His facial expressions had a very elastic quality to them, and I can remember wondering both where this young actor came from, and why I hadn't seen him in movies already. But alas, just as his early career was arcing, with what promised to be an excellent role in Television's Whispering Smith with Audie Murphy and Guy Mitchell, he was gone.

It's the enduring magic of the recordings from The Golden Age of Radio that permits us to both remember and enjoy anew, the wonderful voice talents of those Golden Years. Had Buffington entered Radio earlier, I have no doubt we'd have heard much more of him.

As it is, we have only these 16 excellent exemplars of his Radio talent. But what there is, is both wonderfully preserved and an immortal testament to this young actor's obvious potential.

William N. Robson

Writer, Producer, Director of Radio and Television, College Lecturer

Birthplace: Pittsburgh, PA

B.A., Philosphy, Yale University

Curriculum Vitae:
Lecturer, New York University
Lecturer, UCLA
Consultant, U.S. Information Agency
Director, The Voice of America


1934 Calling All Cars
1936 Columbia Workshop
1936 Then and Now
1938 American School Of the Air
1939 Americans All-Immigrants
1939 What Price America
1940 Big Town
1942 The Twenty Second Letter
1943 The Man Behind the Gun
1943 One World
1944 Four For the Fifth
1945 Request Perforance
1946 Stars In the Afternoon
1946 Hawk Larabee
1947 Escape
1947 Doorway To Life
1947 Hollywood Fights Back
1947 Shorty Bell, Cub Reporter
1948 Suspense
1948 The Whistler
1950 T-Man
1950 The Adventures Of Christopher London
1950 Beyond Tomorrow
1955 Girl From Paradise
1955 Romance
1956 Fort Laramie
1956 CBS Radio Workshop
1958 Luke Slaughter Of Tombstone
1959 The Heart Of America
1960 Have Gun, Will Travel
1964 Theatre Five
William N. Robson, with sons, ca. 1959
William N. Robson, with sons, ca. 1959

William Robson, Director, ca. 1954
William Robson, Director, ca. 1954

Robson, seen here behind Frank Lovejoy, directing the Peabody Award winning series, Man Behind The Gun, for CBS, ca 1943
William N. Robson was yet another of the hundreds of prominent victims of the infamous "Red Channels" promoted blacklisting of professionals in the Performing Arts. His 'sins' in the cowardly, notorious and despicable "Red Channels" pamphlet that named him?:
  • Acting as one of the Sponsors of an Artists Front to Win the War meeting he helped organize at Carnegie Hall in 1942.
  • A December 1946 speech he gave on the encroachments being made against free speech.
  • Being a signator to a 1948 full page 'We Are for Wallace' ad in the New York Times.
  • A masthead listing him as an Associate for the Hollywood Quarterly, a scholarly journal of Film, Radio and Television history.

That's apparently all the extreme Right Wing needed during those shameful post-War years to destroy any great professional's career--through whispers and innuendo. Robson had been one of CBS's premiere Radio and Television talents, but their withering support of Robson, fueled by the spurious comments in Red Channels eventually pressured CBS into discharging Robson. The long-festering Right Wing backlash from F.D.R.'s famous Four Freedoms Speech had traversed full-circle. And so it evolved that anyone speaking out for the protection of those very freedoms was targeted for ostracization.

But despite the attempts to destroy his reputation, Robson's career in Radio and Television and in service to his country still stand as one of the finest records of acheivement of the Golden Age of Radio. Indeed, it was Edward R. Murrow himself, under the administration of John F. Kennedy that gained an appointment for Robson as a Director for The Voice of America. His security clearance for that highly sensitive position was expedited without a hitch.

William Robson had every expectation of having a storied career. He showed early promise at Yale, began his writing career with Paramount Pictures, then in 1936, entered Radio while still in his twenties. He was a staff writer and director for CBS for almost 20 years. So instrumental was his role in early CBS Radio dramas that his name was rountinely attached to the promotional efforts for the programs he wrote, directed or produced for CBS--and rightly so. By the mid-1940s Robson had already received two prestigious George Foster Peabody awards for CBS--for 1943's Man Behind the Gun and the documentary, Open Letter on Race Hatred.

Robson's Philosophy degree served him well throughout his career, and its influence on his Radio and Television productions is readily apparent throughout his body of work. Always sensitive to the eternal conflicts between morality and amorality, many of Robson's pet projects strove to shine a light onto the murkier aspects of American society. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons that the first half of his career attracted the prurient interests of the extreme Right Wing during the infamous HUAC era.

And indeed, despite all extreme Conservative attempts to squelch his 'voice' in the Media, he could not be restrained for long. Robson may well have argued himself, that the second half of his career was even more productive and influential on the World Stage than his years in American Radio and Television.

William N. Robson capped an outstanding career in Communications with a highly influential position producing Pro-Democracy documentaries as Chief Documentary Writer, Producer and Director for the Voice of America. Indeed, he won four more Peabody Awards for his work at The Voice of America. How fittingly ironic.

And though his work with The Voice of America may well have eclipsed his work during The Golden Age of Radio, his personal influence in shaping and giving a conscience to those Golden Years stands head and shoulders above his peers.

William Robson died of Alzheimer's disease at his home in Alexandria, Va in April of 1995, survived by his wife, Shirley, and three sons, Christopher, Anthony and Michael.

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