Q & A: Cannonball

I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me about television shows, made-for-TV movies or miniseries they remember from years or decades past. I try to answer each question as best I can. Every now and then I like to dig through my inbox and pull out a few choice e-mails to answer here at Television Obscurities for everyone to read. Keep reading for today’s questions and answers.

Am I the only one who remembers an old show called Cannonball? It was in the late 50’s, about two truckers that traveled the country in their semi.
Mary

Cannonball was created by Robert Maxwell, one of the producers of The Adventures of Superman and the man responsible for Lassie. The New York Times reported on July 8th, 1958 that the series would be produced by Normandie Productions, Ltd. (the Canadian arm of Television Programs of America) with production set to begin in Toronto on July 14th [1]. Television Programs of America was responsible for filmed programs like Private Secretary, Fury, Halls of Ivy and Last of the Mohicans, among others.

In September 1958, Television Programs of America and Normandie Productions were sold to the Independent Television Corporation [2].

On December 3rd, a full-page advertisement in The New York Times for Independent Television Corporation called Cannonball a “stirring human-interest series about truckers on the highway to high adventure” [3]. It was one of four shows the company had in production for “national sale” (the others were The Four Just Men, The Adventures of Tom Swift and Interpol Calling).

Paul Birch and William Campbell starred in Cannonball as Mike Malone, nicknamed Cannonball, and Jerry Austin, truckers working for C & A Transport who spent their days driving a big rig across Canada and the United States. Howard Milsom played Harry Butler, their dispatcher.Rounding out the cast were Beth Lockerbie, Beth Morris and Steve Barringer as Mike’s wife Mary and his children Ginny and Butch.

The series premiered in Canada on Monday, October 6th, 1958, broadcast by CBC. Because it was syndicated locally in the United States there was no nation-wide premiere date. But it appears the show wasn’t seen until 1959. Cannonball premiered in Los Angeles, for example, on Monday, May 18th, 1959 airing on KHJ from 8:30-9PM. In New York City, the series was seen on Fridays from 7:30-8PM beginning October 16th, 1959. And it aired on WGN-TV in Chicago from 8:30-9PM (7:30-8PM local time) starting on October 30th, 1959.

A total of 39 episodes of Cannonball were produced. In addition to Canada and the United States, the series was also seen in the United Kingdom. I’m afraid I don’t know who sang the theme song.

Works Cited:

1 Shepard, Richard F. “Networks Widen Recording Use.” New York Times. 8 Jul. 1958: 55.
2 “12 TV Shows Sold in $13,500,000 Deal.” New York Times. 16 Sep. 1958: 55.
3 [Advertisement]. New York Times. 3 Dec. 1958: 74.


12 Comments

  • Cee Jay says:

    This show reminds me of a show from the 70’s I think it was called ‘Movin On’ and had Frank Converse and Claude Akins as truckers that was on NBC…please let me know if I’m right or not

  • Chuck Collins says:

    “Movin’ On” was a semi-popular NBC show that only lasted a couple of seasons. Whoever the programmer was at NBC at the time was an idiot because the CB craze exploded the very next year after it was cancelled.

    A longer-lasting trucker show is the German programme “Auf Achse”. While it has never been seen in the US, it ran for 86 episodes over 19 years.

  • Cee Jay says:

    Chuck that only proves one point; These people that claim they know what the public wants to watch really don’t diddly about the american public

  • Mike Blake says:

    By the way, though there are a number of different videos on YouTube of the theme to this show — here’s one:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSjWIDkdTQs

    –none of them said who sang it. I must say I’ve been finding themes for many of the old lost shows of my youth on YouTube; ones like this and RIPCORD, WHIRLYBIRDS, SEA HUNT, etc.

  • Judy Patterson says:

    Can i purchase The Cannonball Series of the 50s any where need it as a gift as soon as pssible. Thanks

  • RICH A FITZGERALD says:

    I REALLY LIKED THE SHOW AND HAVE BEEN TRYING TO TRACK IT DOWN THOUGH I WAS LOOKING FOR CANNONBALL 8. THAT’S HOW I REMEMBERED THE SHOW’S TITLE. I WAS BORN AND RAISED IN THE SAN FERNANDO VALLEY AND THE SHOW HAS SOME GREAT BACKGROUND SHOTS OF THE VALLEY. SHOWS SUCH AS ADAM 12 AND CANNONBALL ARE FUN TO WATCH IF YOU LIVED IN THE LA AREA THEN AS IT IS LIKE GOING BACK IN TIME SEEING HOW THE AREA LOOKED BACK IN THE LATE 50’S-70’S.

    • Sorry, but none of this series was filmed in San Fernando. As mentioned, this series was a Canadian production and filmed for the most part in Canada. I do believe that there were some scenes filmed around or near Buffalo. What I would like to know, in all my searches I have only found 4 episodes leaving 35 unaccounted for — WHERE ARE THEY??????

  • ceci says:

    I remember the program from the late 50’s. My father was a trucker based in upstate New York. He watched this program every week when he was home. I was too young to remember much about the different episodes but I remember my dad and I watching it together on the sofa on a miniscule (by today’s standards) black and white television set. It may have broadcast from Ontario Canada as we watched shows from there quite often (they were just across the lake). My dad really like the show.

  • The following is from the Canadian Society of Cinematographers —

    http://www.csc.ca/news/default.asp?aID=811

    February / 2000

    LOOKING BACK: 1959
    Cannonballing Down the TV Highway
    “We had the roads to ourselves when we wanted it”

    by Don Angus

  • Harry Willcox says:

    Sorry, Merle Haggard did not sing the theme song to “Cannonball”, but he did write and sing the theme song to the later “Movin’ On” which is were the mix-up occurs. I have been trying to find out the name of the singer for umpteen years but no success.

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