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25Nov/131

EP1113: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Shady Lane Matter, Parts One and Two

Bob Bailey
Johnny investigates the death of a woman in a small Vermont town.

Original Air Dates: July 9 and 10, 1956

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  1. Another story set in New England: the sheriff’s accent is a modified Parker Fennelly, “Ay-yup”, like Barry Craig’s elevator operator. These California radio actors all sounded the same when playing a “Southerner”, a “Yankee”, a “Texan” or a “Brooklynite”. There was no subtle shading between Charlottesville, Va, Charleston, SC or Montgomery Alabama. They played stock characters and used standardized voices, for the most part. Radio was a mass-medium going out to the whole country. Distinctive regional accents would be confusing.

    Then Johnny meets Martin Peeny, the neighbor mending his wall. I recognized that voice immediately: Robert Frost, the poet (or a damn good imitation). His opening speech was a paraphrase of Frost’s “Mending Wall”, the “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” poem. That resonant baritone followed the pitch, the cadence and the pacing Frost used when reciting.

    You can hear snippets of Frost’s voice at http://www.soundboard.com/sb/Robert_Frost_audio_poem
    It is not just my imagination. So, I assume Les Crutchfield wrote a pastiche (“pass-teach”) of Frost and Johnstone tells the actor to imitate Frost’s voice.

    Was Frost’s voice generally known? Hmmm…. not as common as Carl Sandburg’s, who did a lot of radio work. I suppose I could do some internet research and find out for sure, but I’d rather spin out my whimsical suppositions than do the hard work of verifying my notions.

    OK, I googled the dates.
    Frost made his phonograph recording for Caedmon in 1956! This episode is from July 1956, it would have been just out, fresh in the mind of YTJD’s writers and producers. I can see Johnstone playing his brand-new Frost LP over and over for the actor until he got the accent down perfectly.


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