Howard McNear reflects on his time as Doc in radio's ''Gunsmoke''

McNear defended radio even when it wasn't fashionable!

CBS Television Distribution

Actors are lucky if they get one great role in their careers. That's a rare enough occurrence; plenty of actors never even get that. For every great role, twenty incredible actors with great training will continue to toil in obscurity forever. It's a business in which there are no guarantees. Some of the most deserving performers will go a lifetime without that one character that brings them acclaim.

Howard McNear, best known for his portrayal of Floyd the Barber on The Andy Griffith Show, actually had two great roles in his career. That's because, in addition to Mayberry, McNear was also a resident of Dodge City on Gunsmoke. If you can't picture it, that's because he was only on the radio program.

In a 1960 interview with The Bangor Daily News, Howard McNear spoke extensively about his love for radio, for the show, and for the love it brought into his life.  Gunsmoke was being broadcast through the radio waves for eight years before The Andy Griffith Show helped audiences put a face to McNear's voice. Crucially, he was able to take on acting roles while he was under the radio contract. He was in good company, as his coworkers also accepted jobs outside of Gunsmoke

"Bill Conrad plays the Matt Dillon role that Jim Arness does on TV, and is also a director for ZIV—we all lead the double life."

In the later years of the radio program, the show overlapped with its TV counterpart. McNear revealed that there was a reason some episodes felt similar across the two mediums.

"They use the radio scripts as a tryout thing for the TV," he said.

But while the audio-only program served as a proving ground for later televised episodes, McNear was steadfast in his belief that the radio show could stand on its own. Sure, the live-action version was great as well, but the radio program was somehow more intimate, and may have connected with audiences even better than the show did.

"I think radio has great emotional impact and that it was sold out too fast. Recently, I got a letter from a Coast Guard family who are stationed where there is no TV. They wanted a picture of our cast and when they came to San Diego for Christmas, phoned to tell me how much it meant to them. "


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10 Comments

Grygrhm64 29 days ago
McNear was on the television show. He appeared several times as a shop keeper.
Scott76112 29 days ago
McNear also appeared in Elvis movies, notably "Blue Hawaii" and "Follow that Dream" (two of my personal favorites).
Avie 29 days ago
"Bill Conrad plays the Matt Dillon role that Jim Arness does on TV, and is also a director for ZIV—we all lead the double life."

Lest anyione wonder, Ziv was a production company, formed by Frederick Ziv inn the 1950s, that produced modestly-budgeted TV programs such as "Sea Hunt" and Highway Patrol," and that later was absorbed by United Artists Television.
JoeGuenther 30 days ago
Howard McNear was on LOTS of radio shows. Also,keep your eyes open for the Peter Gunn episode that has Howard playing someone who goes around town blowing up the towns most notorious criminals in town. The ENTIRE Gunsmoke radio cast was excellent. William Conrad worked under a non de plume because CBS radio wouldn't allow him to other networks. Conrad was the narrator of the Bullwinkle Show. He also narrated a Lone Ranger cartoon for Filmation. One last thing. The early first season Gunsmoke tv show episodes were adaptations of the radio scripts. On radio the sound effects man was THE person who kept your imagination going to where you believed what story was being told. In fact Jack Benny's excellent radio parodied that exact concept and the Fibber McGee and Molly Show had a song sung about the sound effects man and Fibbers hall closet Trust me Look it up.
Lantern 1 month ago
Greg Bell, host of Radio Classics on Sirius XM, says that the radio Gunsmoke is one of the top three most popular shows on that channel, and by far the most popular Western.
JoeGuenther Lantern 30 days ago
Look cds of any number of radio shows inexpensively on ebay.
Runeshaper 1 month ago
I never knew that McNear played Doc on Gunsmoke's radio program! Thanks for sharing, MeTV! Also, the Coast Guard family story was very touching (-:
justjeff Runeshaper 1 month ago
If memory serves me roight, McNear regulalry appeared on "Suspense" as various characters.
MrsPhilHarris justjeff 1 month ago
He was on many shows such as Yours Truly Johnny Dollar, Richard Diamond, and others.
justjeff justjeff 1 month ago
I've been studying typing at the MeTV Secretarial School... 'right' and 'regularly' in real English, 'roight' and 'regulalry' according to the MeTV "Add-Junk-ed" Professors!🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
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