From the Thrilling Detective Web Site:
Created by Sam Rolfe and Herb Meadow
-from the theme song
Perhaps the only genre more popular than private eyes in television's early years was the Western, so it's probably not all that surprising that someone soon came up with the idea of combining the two. In 1957, Have Gun-Will Travel made its debut on CBS, and soon became one of the most popular programs of the fifties. It ranked in the top five almost immediately and after that trailed only Gunsmoke and Wagon Train for the rest of its run. The theme song, co-written by star Richard Boone, even became a hit single.
On the surface, dapper, black-clad Paladin was just a high-priced gun-for-hire, but in reality he was actually a sort of troubleshooter and private lawman-for-hire (a private eye, if you will), often sent out into the wilds to places where there was little, if any, law.
But his strong sense of ethics soon established for viewers that he was no mere assassin. A man of morals and conscience, he would at least try to settle a dispute without violence whenever possible. He occasionally would even turn on his clients, if he felt they were in the wrong.
Paladin was also a man of culture, West Point-educated (he served as an Union officer in the Civil War), literate, with a taste for fine food and clothing and the theatre. He dressed like a dandy and made his headquarters in the ritzy Hotel Carlton in San Francisco. His calling card featured a picture of the white knight in chess (a paladin is a knight renowned for his heroism and chivalry) and the inscription from which the show drew its title: "Have Gun, Will Travel...Wire San Francisco."
It was only when he was at work that he ditched the fancy duds, and clad completely in black, with his six-gun stapped low on his thigh, he rode off in search of justice, or something like it, a "knight without armour in a savage land."
Boone, as Paladin, brought a sense of dignity and weight to the role. Despite the Western trappings, one of the more watchable of the early P.I. shows.