Bonanza was NBC’s longest-running Western series for a reason.

The beloved show mixed familiar Western tropes with refreshing storylines and loveable characters. The family focus of the show made for a talented cast whose charm extended far beyond Ponderosa.

If you’re a fan of the Cartwrights, read on for some surprising fun facts about the Bonanza cast members.

Michael Landon Worked at a Gas Station

Known for his role as Little Joe, the youngest Cartwright, Michael Landon had an interesting past. 

After moving out of his birthplace in Queens, New York, Landon started studying at the University of Southern California on an athletic scholarship.

Shortly after dropping out due to injury, he started working at a gas station across from Warner Brothers Studios. After being discovered by an agent while pumping gas, he changed his birth name from Eugene Maurice Orowitz to Michael Landon. 

 He found his new permanent stage name by looking through a phone book, and the rest is history!

Pernell Roberts Didn’t Leave On Good Terms

After 6 seasons portraying the mature eldest son Adam Cartwright, Pernell Roberts was eager to move on.

Among many issues with the show, Roberts was notably upset with the immaturity of the Cartwright sons. Even as adults, they were constantly relying on their father. Roberts thought that the boys needed to be more independent.

He was also more interested in theater performances and never felt that series television was where he belonged. 

Despite his uneasy departure, the show maintained its popularity. 

Victor Sen Yung Was a Real Chef

The actor played the famous Cartwright family chef Hop Sing, but he also had offscreen cooking talents! Sen Yung was a talented Cantonese-style chef who frequented multiple cooking programs.

He even wrote and published his own cookbook in 1974. 

Dan Blocker Broke a Record

Dan Blocker portrayed the middle child Hoss Cartwright. The gentle giant of Ponderosa had an interesting weight record broken before he could say his first words.

Lorne Greene Could Hold a Tune

Lorne Greene is known for playing the formidable father figure of Ben Cartwright. He worked hard on the show, appearing in the most episodes out of everyone in the Bonanza cast.

This work ethic continued outside of the show, where he recorded multiple songs throughout the 1960s. 

The popularity of his character inspired him to dive into the country/folk music genre. His most popular single was “Ringo”, a spoken word ballad about the gunfighter Johnny Ringo.

Greene was no stranger to the recording booth even outside of music. Before Bonanza, he was also a newsperson and documentary narrator for CBC radio.

Fun Facts About the Bonanza Cast Members

Bonanza is a treasured American Western series.

Its talented cast helped bring the iconic characters of Ponderosa to life while treating viewers to important lessons about community and family. 

Did you learn something new about your favorite Bonanza cast members? Check out the entertainment section of our website for more about your favorite movies, shows, and celebrities.