Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, “the transcribed adventures of the man with the action-packed expense account — America’s fabulous freelance insurance investigator” aired on CBS Radio from January 1949 to September 1962. There were 811 episodes in the 12-year run, and more than 720 still exist today. I think I have all of them.
As originally conceived, Johnny Dollar was a smart, tough, wisecracking detective who tossed silver-dollars as tips to waiters and bellhops. Dick Powell (who we heard recently as Richard Diamond), starred in the first audition show, recorded in 1948 but he withdrew before the show started production. The show, for which Powell auditioned, was originally titled “Yours Truly, Lloyd London,” although the name of the show and its lead character were apparently changed before first episode recording in December of 1948.
At first, there was little to distinguish Johnny Dollar from other detective series at the time (Richard Diamond, Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade). While always a friend of the police, Johnny wasn’t necessarily a stickler for the strictest interpretation of the law. He was willing to let some things slide to satisfy his own sense of justice, as long as the interests of his employer were also protected. The first run ended in 1954. CBS Radio revived Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar in October 1955 with a new leading man, a new director, and a new format. The program changed from a 30-minute, one-episode-per-week affair to a 15-minute, five-nights-a-week serial (Monday through Friday, 8-8:15pm EST) produced and directed by radio veteran Jack Johnstone. The new Johnny Dollar was Bob Bailey (Our Johnny Dollar on this particular show), who had just come off another network detective series, Let George Do It. With a new lead and 75 minutes of air time each week, it became possible to develop each storyline with more detail and with more characters. The serial scripts were usually written by Jack Johnstone, “John Dawson” (a pseudonym for E. Jack Neuman), Les Crutchfield, or Robert Ryf. Blake Edwards also contributed several scripts and the show was always produced and directed by Johnstone. The show featured an excellent stock company of supporting actors, including Virginia Gregg, Harry Bartell, Vic Perrin, Lawrence Dobkin, Parley Baer, Howard McNear, John Dehner, Alan Reed, and Forrest Lewis. Movie character actors appeared occasionally.
In late 1956 CBS Radio retooled the show, which reverted to a weekly half-hour drama, airing on late Sunday afternoons. Bob Bailey continued in the leading role until 1960 (and wrote one episode, “The Carmen Kringle Matter”).
Tonight’s show, The Shepherd Matter, was originally one of the five-night serials but has been edited to fit into the time allowed. I must stress that nothing has been removed except the show introductions and the preview of the next day’s show from each of the daily programs. The show itself is basically intact. It was originally broadcast from the 16th through the 20th of April, 1956.