Monday, January 16, 2017

History of The Lone Ranger--The Radio Years (1/3)

The Lone Ranger! "Hi Yo Silver!"

"A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty 'Hi Yo Silver!' The Lone Ranger--with his faithful Indian companion Tonto--the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early west. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger rides again!"


Baby Boomers everywhere will remember those rousing words recited over Rossini's classical music The William Tell Overture. The television version of the masked man hit the small screen in a big way, but the character was already well-established on a radio show first broadcast from Detroit three times a week on WXYZ radio in 1933.


Fran Striker was the creator of the character; George W. Trendle was the producer of the show; and Earl Graser was the first Lone Ranger on the radio.


Earle Graser

Graser had a deep, authoritive, vibrant voice that sounded much older than his thirty-two years. On his way home from rehearsals at the station on April 8, 1941, he fell asleep at the wheel and veered into a parked trailer silencing one of America's most popular radio voices. He had been on the air as the Lone Ranger for eight years. The show was scheduled to air the next night, but who would take over the role?


Trendle had to find someone fast. Mike Wallace might work. He would become a journalist on Sixty Minutes decades later, but he was presently the narrator on the popular The Green Hornet program at WXYZ. Mike Wallace was available, but he had questionable dramatic voice acting ability. 


Brace Beemer

It was decided that Brace Beemer, who narrated The Lone Ranger, was their best choice on short notice. He had already been doing publicity photos for The Lone Ranger, and now he could make public appearances around the Detroit area as well. Best of all, Beemer's voice was similar to Graser's with a slight headcold. Good enough! To ease the transition for listeners, the masked man would be wounded for the next few episodes and speak with a weak, raspy voice.


Brace Beemer was an excellent front man for the program. He was six feet tall, handsome, and an excellent horseman.  He had no problem booming out "Hi-Yo, Silver"during the program, but he couldn't handle the ending when he had to say "Hi-Yo, Silver, away." It didn't sound right to Trendle or the sound engineers, so they inserted a recording of Graser saying the line at the end of the program. In a 1944 radio poll, The Lone Ranger placed number one in popularity. In all, there were 2,956 radio episodes made.


The Lone Ranger television show opening with theme song "The William Tell Overture."