In a previous post, I described my brush with radio drama. I had an earlier encounter as a teenager, through my good friend and fellow brass player Jock Ellis.
Jock was the only child of Georgia Ellis (Miss Kitty on the radio version of Gunsmoke) and Antony Ellis (Gunsmoke writer and a brilliant producer in radio and TV). As a result, Jock spent his childhood hanging out with the Gunsmoke cast. Here he is, shown with his mom and dad.
Jock went on to become a fine trombone player, landing gigs with Don Ellis and Frank Zappa, among others, and is a hilarious fellow with a radio announcer’s voice. Here are some of his memories of that time.
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I used to go to Gunsmoke rehearsals and tapings almost every Saturday morning with Mom. I would bug the wonderful sound engineers to let me play with the coconut horse hoofs, and they sometimes would let me use them in between rehearsals. During rehearsals of bar scenes, sometimes I got to help with background ad libs. I had to of course follow scripts. It was a blast.
Speaking of blast, they would never let me fire the blank gun into the oil barrel full of sand. I so wanted to do that.
Those were some funny great people to have as role models. Bill Conrad (Marshall Dillon) was my Uncle Bill forever. Parley Baer was my Uncle Parley. I spoke to them both up until they died.
Howard McNear was a character and could make my mom cry with tears of laughter. John Dehner was one of my all-time favorites. Called me Pumpkin. Was a great friend of the family. Norman McDonald was a good cat, and damn if my dad didn't write a lot of the scripts.
My main impression was of very funny, talented warm people who loved what they were doing, and I just happened to be the only kid around.