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Doubly blessed: 'Gunsmoke' actor Buck Taylor reflects on acting, painting careers

Taylor will appear at Wananmacher's Tulsa Arms Show Nov. 11-12

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Buck Taylor should wear his association with “Gunsmoke” like a badge of honor.

In the categories of longevity and sustained quality, “Gunsmoke” represents a television gold standard. The Western series, featuring the adventures of Matt Dillon and his supporting cast, aired for 20 seasons and more than 600 episodes.

Taylor, who is scheduled to be in Tulsa on Nov. 11-12 for the Wanenmacher Tulsa Arms Show, said in a phone interview that he thinks CBS was ready to cancel the show after about a dozen seasons but decided against it after network affiliates and fans of the show voiced objections. Fans went crazy, according to Taylor.

“So they said, ‘We apologize. We’re going to keep it.’ So they kept it and they said, ‘You know, we need to add a younger person in here.’ ”

Guess who provided the new blood?

Taylor won an audition for the role of Newly O’Brien, a part he played during the show’s final eight seasons. He can’t remember who else auditioned for the job, but he recalled competing with five actors for the role.

“I was the fortunate one,” he said. “We all did a scene with Miss Kitty, and she was fantastic.”

Newly was introduced to “Gunsmoke” watchers 50 years ago (Nov. 6, 1967) in an episode titled “The Pillagers.”

“Amanda (Blake, who played Miss Kitty) and I ended up in a cave, and the bad guys were after us,” Taylor said. “They thought I was a doctor. I had a doctor’s bag, but I had gunsmith tools in it. Their brother was wounded, and they wanted me to heal him, fix him.”

Newly used his skill set and available materials to patch together a gun and save the day.

“The stories were good guys win, bad guys lose,” Taylor said. “Very simple. But they were written very well. And they still (hold up) to this day for good watching.”

Taylor is reminded of this when he makes public appearances and meets people who love the show and who have passed on that love to their children and grandchildren. He knows he will field questions about the series at the gun show, and that’s great.

“I love ‘Gunsmoke’ to this day,” he said. “I wouldn’t be talking to you right now if it wasn’t for ‘Gunsmoke.’ ”

Taylor said a lot of people ask him this question: How did you get into this?

By “this,” they mean painting.

Taylor is a professional artist. He described himself as an American watercolorist who can paint just about anything.

“But my market is really toward the Western way of life, which I live,” Taylor, who lives on a ranch in Texas, said.

He’ll have Western-themed paintings, including works inspired by “Gunsmoke” and “Tombstone,” available for sale at the gun show.

So what does he tell fans when they ask how he got into painting?

“I tell them I was broke,” he said. “I needed the money. It was another way to supplement my income. I knew I had this talent, and these voices told me, ‘OK, start using it.’ ... At the time, I was kind of desperate.”

Taylor said he has been painting seriously for about 35 years, but he started painting when he was a kid. He said an aunt helped him tremendously with his artwork. The aunt was Fay Taylor, a fashion illustrator in Oklahoma City. She was the sister of Taylor’s father, Dub Taylor, and they made for quite a contrast — one a fashion illustrator and the other a “grubby looking guy” and character actor who appeared in many Westerns.

Taylor said his father attended Classen High School in Oklahoma City. “I would’ve been born in Oklahoma City if he hadn’t gone to Hollywood to get in the movies.”

Taylor is still active in the family business of show business. At the time of the phone interview, he was in Montana to film scenes for “Yellowstone,” a new Paramount Network Western series starring Kevin Costner. He feels doubly blessed.

“I thank God every day when I wake up and several times during the day,” he said. “I have this talent for painting and being able to work in movies. They are similar. They are both creative talents. I create paintings from watercolor, so it’s on paper, and I create characters on the screen, so they are very similar in a way and it’s gratifying, both of them are. But I wake up every day and thank God.”

Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389

jimmie.tramel@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @JimmieTramel

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Scene Writer

I cover pop culture and work as a feature writer at the Tulsa World. A former Oklahoma sports writer of the year, I have written books about former OU coach Barry Switzer and former OSU coach Pat Jones. Phone: 918-581-8389

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