An Adventure of the Zebra Dun – Night-Herding Song
Sheriff Bob Dixon
Total Time: 5:58
Bob Dixon, a longtime broadcast announcer who had an unlikely star turn as a Connecticut-bred television cowboy and an even less likely run as Edward R. Murrow’s best friend, died on Aug. 22 at a nursing home in Bethel, Conn. He was 87 and lived in Gaylordsville.
To the children who tuned into CBS from 1949 to 1951 to watch the shoot-’em-up movie westerns that were the late afternoon rage of the early television day, Sheriff Bob Dixon, as the show’s host styled himself, was cowboy personified: a tall, rangy man in authentic Western gear and with a resonant twang that fairly shouted Wyoming as he introduced the movies and schooled his young audiences on the nuances of saddles, bridles and shooting irons.
So what if he had been born in Stamford, Conn., grown up in New Canaan, appeared in summer stock as a teen-ager, attended the Virginia Military Institute, graduated from Springfield College and spent two decades as a radio announcer in Massachusetts and New York City?
One of his grandfathers, as Mr. Dixon liked to point out, had raised horses in Pound Ridge, N.Y., and driven a stagecoach between there and the Stamford train station.
Whatever his cowboy credentials, as the host of ”The Chuck Wagon,” on WCBS-TV in New York and later ”The Chuck Wagon Playhouse” on the CBS network, Mr. Dixon became almost as famous as Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy.
Initially hired to introduce the movies, Mr. Dixon warmed to his role and soon expanded it, introducing show-and-tell segments in which he would display and discuss saddles, harnesses and other cowboy gear.
As he later recalled, the segments, which included guest appearances by celebrities, were introduced as time-stretchers after complaints from parents’ groups concerned about the movies’ gratuitous violence led program executives to trim the films.
The educational segments, as he took pains not to call them, became so popular, Mr. Dixon later recalled, that ”the movies got shorter and shorter and I got longer and longer.”
For all the appeal of his demonstrations, it was a series showing the correct use of guns that led Mr. Dixon to earn a footnote to broadcast history by persuading a bird-hunting buddy to come on his show and discuss shotgun safety.
The buddy was Edward R. Murrow, and, as Mr. Dixon never tired of recalling, the decidedly nervous demonstration by the broadcasting giant was Mr. Murrow’s very first appearance on television.