In January of 1938 NBC re-launched a weekday afternoon Dick Tracy Radio show sponsored by Quaker Oats. Ned Wever provided the voice of these fifteen minute broadcasts every weekday afternoon and was assisted by Walter Kinsella as Pat Patton and Andy Donnelly as Junior. The radio version of Dick Tracy was similar to the well-known comic hero, except the Tracy of the electronic medium was a world traveller, battling villains across the globe. In April of 1938 Dick, Patton and Junior found themselves in the great northwest, that is, Yukon, Canada. There in the snowy mining town of Pitchblende they faced the villainous Vernon Kyle and the mysterious Purple Rider.
In Pitchblende Dick and his team found a town dominated by an outlaw named Vernon Kyle who forced the inhabitants to give up a large percentage of their mined goods in exchange for his transport. The valuable mineral Radium, only found in Pitchblende was the catalyst for the plot. While still eight years before the first atomic bomb, writers must have been aware that Pitchblende was another name for mined Uraninite and was indeed mined from northern Canada. With Canada outside the jurisdiction of the United States, Tracy convinces the townsfolk to stand up to Kyle and transport their goods the old-fashioned way, by bobsled. Pat Patton and a group of Mounties guide and protect the sled caravan, but Kyle uses dynamite to catch the group in an avalanche. Tracy races to the scene and digs Patton out.
Gathering back in Pitchbend, the detectives and Junior are surprised by a purple masked rider in the night, who leaves a note offering to help bring Vernon Kyle to justice. This Purple Rider (whose odd voice should give him away but doesn’t) begins to pick off members of Kyle’s gang and Tracy is unable to catch this vigilante or bring Kyle to justice.
Like all guest stars in the radio series, the Purple Rider has never appeared in any story created by Chester Gould. The Purple Rider did appear in Grand Slam Three Aces Comics #44-46 in the summer of 1943. A cowboy who wore a purple scarf, this comic creation bore little resemblance to the radio Rider, but we wonder if the name wasn’t an homage to the radio show.
Soon Junior is captured by Kyle’s men, with Kyle believing Tracy is the Purple Rider. The clever boy uses a mirror to send a flash a coded message to Dick at night, which can be deciphered by listening Dick Tracy patrol members using their secret codebooks.
The Purple Rider rescues Junior before Dick and Patton can find him in the mountains and takes him to his hideout. There Junior turns the tables on the Rider and takes him captive with a pistol he steals. Junior descends the mountain and is reunited with Tracy coming up. During the re-union the Purple Rider attempts to escape but Tracy lassoes him during a daring escape, finally reveals him to be Old Man Weir from the town and we suddenly feel like we’ve gone forward several decades for an episode of Scooby Doo.
With the town becoming to hot, Vernon Kyle plans to pull up stakes and leave, but first he robs the Pitchbend Bank and captures Dick Tracy and Patton, planning to hang them for their trouble. Dick, however, has used a Secret Ring given to him in the Black Pearl of Osiris story in February to leave a message for Junior, who leads a group of Mounties to rescue the pair and capture Vernon Kyle once and for all. This ring was a Radio Premium earned with Quaker box tops and was an easy way to keep the Dick Tracy patrol members excited about their paraphilia.
The final chapters of the series tease the next, with Tess Trueheart writing a letter to Dick, asking he come home to help a man of great importance who needs his help. On their return trip they are re-routed to Washington D.C. in what sounds like a battle against foreign spies. Sadly, only this opening broadcast exists, so we may never know how the story unfolded.
You can listen to every Purple Rider broadcast here. Also available below is a combined one hour, 18 minute broadcast seamlessly put together to eliminate recaps and commercials. These broadcasts are also available on our Youtube channel.
|Chapter Title||Listen to Broadcast|
|Mounties at Pitchblende|
|Who is the Purple Rider|
|Junior is Kidnapped|
|Junior’s Mirror Message|
|Purple Rider Captured|
|Purple Rider Lassoed|
|Purple Rider Exposed|
|Dick Tracy Rescued|
Listen to all 9 chapters broadcast without interruption here!