I wasn’t there in Detroit on January 30, 1933 when radio station WXYZ-AM first broadcast The Lone Ranger. Nor was I around during the 21 years the series ran on radio. Instead, I knew of the masked hero through the references in comics and television including Filmation’s animated Saturday morning series. By then, I somehow associated Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” with the lawman. Then I found reruns of the 1950s TV show and thought Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels were cool.
It wasn’t until a Long Island radio station began running old time radio series each weeknight at 7 I the 1970s that I finally heard the source material. Fran Striker created a nice legend, perfect for radio with a limited recurring cast and plenty of sounds to fill the airwaves. Station owner George Trendle was among the many actors to assay the role of the Ranger although Brace Beemer’s voice was the one heard from 1941-1954 and thus the one we all know best.
Fred Foy’s voice welcomed us each night with, “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 western United States! Nowhere in the pages of History can one find a greater champion of justice! Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear! From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!”
It remains one of the greatest series intros you could imagine, up there with “Space the Final Frontier…” and “Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!”
For a few years, I came to appreciate the Lone Ranger, the Shadow, Gangbusters, X-1 and other great programs, fueling my fascination with all things pop culture. I’ll admit the Shadow remains my favorite of the bunch, but the Ranger was right behind him.
While in college, there was The Legend of the Lone Ranger going into production and they caused quite the stir when they legally sued to prevent Clayton Moore from making public appearances in the black mask, preferring people get used to the new Ranger, Klinton Spilsbury. I couldn’t let that stand and wound up interviewing Moore by phone for a piece that ran in the Binghamton Sun-Bulletin. Moore kindly sent me a membership card to the National Society to Save the Lone Ranger, which I still possess. And I was the one to write Silverheels’ obituary soon after.
There’s a simplicity and nobility to the character which I have always appreciated and I am crossing my fingers that the best of Striker’s character will be found in the forthcoming Lone Ranger movie, you know, the one with Johnny Depp as Tonto.
Here’s a tip of the cap to the great rider of the western plains.