1 9 5 9 – 1 9 6 0 (USA)
38 x 30 minute episodes
Velardi, Arizona, was a growing town in the 1870s. The railroad had started laying track heading east and there was also a lot of trouble from outlaws who found the town an easy mark. To halt the growing crime rate, Mayor Hartford (Willis Bouchey) hired ex-gunfighter Johnny Ringo (Don Durant) as the town’s sheriff for $200 a month.
The fast-drawing gunfighter-turned-lawman wielded a variation on the French LeMat handgun that had an additional barrel that fired a shotgun round.
It was designed by Johnny’s original deputy, Cason ‘Case’ Thomas (Terence de Marney), who created it “to even up the odds” and called it “a seven shooter.”
When Case decided he was getting too old to be a deputy he bought the general store to run with his daughter, Laura (Karen Sharpe) – who became Johnny’s love interest – and handed over the law-keeping reins to William Charles Jr, better known as Cully (Mark Goddard).
Cully’s father had been a trick shot and taught his son how to use a gun when he was five years old. When his father was killed, Cully went to work as a roustabout in a carnival. He practised shooting every day and eventually became a travelling show attraction called “Kid Adonis, the Fastest Gun in the World.”
When the show came to Velardi and the Kid found Johnny Ringo was a split second faster than he was, he decided to settle down and became Johnny’s new deputy.
Johnny didn’t know much about the law and people said he sounded more like a preacher than a gunfighter. He sometimes posed as a wanted man and called on his reputation as a gunfighter to apprehend criminals. He was proud of the fact that he had never killed a man for money.
He also had the distinction of being the only primetime TV cowboy to not only sing but compose – both lyrics and music – the theme for his own show.
Don Durant played Johnny Ringo for just one fleeting season until CBS cancelled the show in 1960.
After the series ended, Durant turned his bad luck into a gold mine of personal appearances, playing rodeos, horse shows, state fairs and even shopping centre openings.
He made guest appearances on shows such as The Twilight Zone, The Virginian, and Wagon Train before leaving the acting profession in 1964 and beginning a second career in real estate and financial management.
Despite its brief one-season run, the Aaron Spelling-produced Johnny Ringo generated about 100 toys and other items of merchandise including board games, character puppets, gun sets and toy canteens.
The show also spawned what is considered to be the single most valuable TV Western toy collectable ever – the Johnny Ringo Western Frontier Playset, featuring miniature figures, horses and wagons.
In 2001, a playset sold on eBay for $8,998. In close bidding against five others at the end, Don Durant himself had the winning bid. It was placed through his friend, Jacquelyn Patterson, a childhood fan from Knoxville, Tennessee, who owned a website devoted to Johnny Ringo.
Durant passed away aged 72 in March 2005 at his home in Monarch Beach, California. He had been battling chronic lymphocytic leukaemia since 1992.
Sheriff Johnny Ringo
Deputy Sheriff Cully (William Charles Jr)
Cason ‘Case’ Thomas
Terence de Marney