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Radio / The Lone Ranger

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The Lone Ranger is a radio series that first premiered on Detroit, Michigan’s radio station WXYZ on January 30 or 31, 1933 and ran for 2,956 episodes. The character was the brainchild of some combination of George W. Trendle and Fran Striker, and the tales of his tragic origins, partnership with Tonto, and selfless heroism to defend the innocents of the American frontier led him to become an enduring icon of American culture.


Even though the radio show was aimed at children, adults made up at least half of its audience, and it was eventually picked up by the Mutual Broadcasting System, and eventually NBC’s Blue Network, which would become ABC.

While Tonto was voiced by John Todd throughout the series (with isolated occasions when he was replaced by Roland Parker), the Lone Ranger himself was voiced by a number of voice actors:

  • John L. Barrett, on test broadcasts on WEBR in January 1933;
  • George Seaton (under the name George Stenius) (January 31 – May 9, 1933);
  • Series director James Jewell, for one episode;
  • An actor known only by the pseudonym "Jack Deeds", for one episode;
  • Earle Graser (May 16, 1933 – April 7, 1941). On April 8, Graser died in a car accident; and, for five episodes, the Lone Ranger was unable to speak beyond a whisper, with Tonto carrying the action. In addition, six episodes broadcast in August 1938 did not include the Lone Ranger's voice other than an occasional "Hi-Yo Silver!" in the background. In those episodes, Tonto carried the dialog;
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  • Brace Beemer (April 18, 1941 to the end), who had been the show's deep-voiced announcer for several years;
  • Fred Foy (March 29, 1954), also an announcer on the show, took over the role for one broadcast when Beemer had laryngitis.

Tropes found in the radio show:

  • Lost Voice Plot: Used to explain a voice actor change, Snopes has the story here.
  • "On the Next Episode of..." Catch-Phrase: "Will the Lone Ranger triumph as he fights on for justice, law and order? Tune in next week when General Mills brings you another exciting episode of The Lone Ranger!"
  • Once an Episode: The radio drama's penchant for having Tonto sent to town to get information and getting the snot beaten out of him by the bandits was famous enough to become a Bill Cosby routine.
    Bill Cosby: Now Tonto, to me, always was like — I would say to Tonto, why does he do the same thing, because the Lone Ranger would always say, "Tonto?" "Yes, Kemosabe?" "I want you to go to town." And every time he'd go to town, the bandits would beat the snot out of him! No, they'd get him! *BAM! BAM!* "Nice to have you in town, Tonto!" *BAM! BAM!* That kind of thing. And he'd go back and the Lone Ranger'd look at him, "Oh, my, goodness, Tonto. Did you get the information?" "Yes, me have information, Kemosabe..." And I'd always holler at the radio, "Tonto! Don't go to town! They're gonna beat you up again, man!"
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  • Opening Narration: "Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear..." It wasn't always the first line though. Usually, it was: "A fiery horse with a speed of light, a cloud of dust, and hearty 'Hi-o Silver!' (The Lone Ranger rides again!)".
  • Phrase Catcher: "Look! He left this Silver Bullet!" "Who was that masked man?"
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: The theme song ("William Tell Overture," second movement) was originally written in 1829 as part of Rossini's opera William Tell, but today it is inextricably linked to the show.
    • All the music on the show was classical. Kids grew up listening to Mendelssohn and Liszt thinking they were just themes for the show.
  • Proto-Superhero: A masked do-gooder with an alias, a Secret Identity, and a sidekick.
  • Silver Bullet: The Lone Ranger makes his bullets from silver as a reminder that they are to be fired only when necessary.

Alternative Title(s): The Legend Of The Lone Ranger


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