If a single year in the life of Gunsmoke could be responsible for winning the show its place as the “Greatest TV Western Series of All Time” by Western Writers of America, I might argue for 1958. This three-disc set concludes the third season of Gunsmoke with the final 20 episodes that ran through June 1958.

This volume features touches of Bernard Herrmann’s music, fine subtle underplaying by the cast and the guest stars, and writing that didn’t ever forget the darker radio show that preceded it.

Amazingly, WAMU radio, 88.5 FM, has been running the original Gunsmoke radio series every Sunday evening, 52 weeks a year, since 1978. Program manager Lettie Holman tells us that, “Gunsmoke has been the single most popular segment of The Big Broadcast since it became a Sunday night fixture in 1978.” She adds, “No matter that the same shows have been heard time and again, people never tire of Gunsmoke.”

Of course, keep in mind that the radio show racked up 480 episodes over nine years, so hearing the same one twice would require some effort. Gunsmoke, the radio series, by the way, was outdone by Gunsmoke the TV series, which lasted 20 years and broadcast 633 episodes.

Visit wamu.org/programs/bb to tune into The Big Broadcast on WAMU, or to listen to an archived episode.

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