Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hi-Yo Silver! Away!

Recently, there has been lots of buzz about the new Lone Ranger movie starring Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp.  Most of us boomers will remember the old black and white television show with Clayton Moore in the title role and Jay Silverheels as Tonto.  The series ran from 1949-1957, but even before that, The Lone Ranger was a wildly popular radio show that originated in Detroit at WXYZ radio.

The Lone Ranger was the brainchild of ex-lawyer George W. Trendle (the ‘W’ stood for Washington) and writer Fran Striker (a man).  Trendle envisioned a western show with a wholesome masked hero that childen could look up to.  Stryker ran with the idea developing the characters and scripts.  The first installment aired on January 30, 1933 and was carried by several Michigan radio stations.  While Tonto was portrayed by senior actor John Todd for the duration of the series, the Texas ranger’s voice was originally provided by actor John L. Barrett and then another actor, George Stenius who briefly took over.  By May of that year, Trendle and Striker knew they had a bona fide hit on their hands and they brought in little-known actor Earle Graser in the title role. 
Graser, a graduate of Detroit’s Wayne State University, was born in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada in 1909.  A slight man, he did not fit the image of a western hero (see photo below) so he was told to keep a low profile in public.  Beginning on May 16, 1933 until his untimely death eight years later, Graser never missed a performance—all of which were broadcast live three days a week.  Graser lived in Farmington, Michigan (just up the street from me—honest) with his wife and daughter.  In the early hours of April 8, 1941, he was driving home from the radio station when he fell asleep at the wheel.  He struck a parked truck on Grand River Avenue in downtown Farmington and was killed just a few days shy of his 38th birthday. 

For the next several episodes, a critically wounded Lone Ranger could not speak above a whisper and Tonto took charge until Brace Beemer filled the void.  Beemer stayed with the role for 13 years until the radio series finally ended on September 3, 1954. 
And just in case, you didn’t know, Trendle and Striker were also the men behind another masked hero, Britt Reid aka The Green Hornet and a descendent of The Lone Ranger whose real name was John Reid. 

6 comments:

  1. The pioneer radio actors were remarkable, weren't they? To do live shows every week regardless of health or life's circumstances is commendable.

    Thanks for providing info on the early Lone Ranger programs.

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    1. They were dedicated and professional. In the days of live radio (before programs were recorded), they often had to perform several times a day to accommodate the various time zones. I don't think Graser had any time off for the first several years. Thanks for stopping by. It's always nice to hear from you!

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  2. Really enjoyed this, Debra. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Glad you liked it! Thanks for stopping by!

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