The Lone Ranger

From a cramped Detroit radio studio, the Lone Ranger galloped into the imaginations and hearts of millions of listeners


(page 1 of 4)

On a particular Monday evening in 1964, the game-show panel on television’s I’ve Got a Secret was stumped. So was the national viewing audience. Who was this tall, heavyset man with the craggy good looks? It didn’t help matters that host Garry Moore wouldn’t let the mystery guest answer any questions himself.

Finally, Moore allowed him to utter a single word — “No” — and millions of ears around the country instantly perked up at the sound of an old friend’s voice.

“Brace Beemer!” panelists shouted. “The Lone Ranger!”

Such was the influence of radio during its golden age, and such was the remarkable staying power of the medium’s greatest fictional lawman.

“Brace Beemer had a voice that was unforgettable,” says Mert Oakes, who grew up in Iowa during the ’30s. “We had a 3-foot-high cabinet radio in the living room, and I’d sit there on the floor and listen to every episode. It wasn’t like television. You had to use your imagination as to what was going on.”

From 1933 to 1954, a period that spanned the Great Depression, World War II, and the early years of the Cold War, The Lone Ranger threw an enormous electronic lasso over a country hungry for heroes, roping in as many as 15 million listeners every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night. America’s sweetheart, child star Shirley Temple, gushed that it was her favorite program. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover loved the simple cowboy morality sandwiched between pitches for Silvercup bread, one of the show’s sponsors. Even atomic spy Julius Rosenberg was tuned to the Ranger on the evening that real-life lawmen burst through the door of his dingy flat to arrest him for selling secrets to the Russians.

Over time, The Lone Ranger franchise grew to include movies, books, comics, and the first made-for-TV Western series. A saddlebag full of merchandise found its way under American Christmas trees, including cap guns, clothing, lunch boxes, radios, watches, board games, puzzles, flashlights, and toothbrushes.

“I had to have everything — The Lone Ranger outfit, the guns, the mask, everything,” says Oakes, now 75 and living in Vancouver, Wash. “I was crazy about the show. I memorized the preamble and I never forgot it.”

That preamble remains the most famous in radio history. Each episode began with the horn blast from the rousing “cavalry charge” finale from Rossini’s William Tell Overture and continued with the announcer’s breathless introduction:

“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!”

The Lone Ranger debuted on the evening of Jan. 30, 1933, live from WXYZ studios in the Maccabees Building (now a Wayne State University office building) on Woodward and Putnam. The show’s exact origins have been the source of eternal debate. However, it’s safe enough to say that the principal creators were station owner George W. Trendle, who had made his money managing local vaudeville houses and movie theaters; Buffalo-based writer Fran Striker, who fleshed out the characters and storylines for a few dollars per script; and WXYZ’s drama director, James Jewell, who, like several others involved in the show’s beginnings, went to his grave feeling he was robbed of proper credit.

To accommodate different time zones, each half-hour Lone Ranger episode was performed live three times. Although Beemer’s voice is the one most closely associated with the show, he actually was just one of several radio Rangers. A dapper little actor named Jack Deeds played the title role in unconvincing fashion for the first six episodes. When Deeds arrived at the station drunk one evening, he was fired on the spot by Jewell, who took over for that night’s broadcast.

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

An Anatomy of Deportation: Jose Luis Sanchez-Ronquillo

How current U.S. immigration policy divided an Ann Arbor family

The Philosophy Behind Intentional, Unconventional Home Decor

Inside a former window dresser’s eclectic West Village home

What’s the Source of the Steam Pouring Out of Detroit’s Sidewalks?

Environmental groups want to clear the air about the fuel behind a little-known power system

Female Entrepreneurs Are Staking Their Claim in Detroit

These three women-owned businesses are unstacking the deck

The Era of Autonomous Vehicles May Be Here Sooner than Expected

What does that mean for Detroit's legacy automakers?
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Detroit’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade Celebrates Its 60th Anniversary
    A look back at the party's history
  2. Exploring the Art of Over-the-Top Cocktails
    We gave five of metro Detroit’s top bartenders full creative freedom to craft their most...
  3. Autorama Returns to Detroit for Its 66th Year
    The annual event will showcase 800 hot rods and custom cars at Cobo Center on March 2-4
  4. Nosh Pit Detroit Food Truck Finds a Permanent Home in Hamtramck
    The vegan and vegetarian restaurant takes the spot of the former Yemans Street pop-up
  5. Maty’s African Cuisine Brings Authentic Senegalese Food to Detroit
    The Old Redford restaurant is the first of its kind in the city
  6. Taste Test: Michigan Dill Pickles
    Hour Media evaluates five local favorites on the basis of texture, taste, and tang
  7. Detroit-based Ash & Erie Develops Clothing Line for ‘Shorter Guys’
    Former Shark Tank contestants discuss their brand and offer fashion tips
  8. An Hour With... Amy Haimerl
    Author and Founder, Shady Ladies Literary Society
  9. It’s a New Semester for Marygrove College
    After cutting undergraduate programs, a beloved liberal arts college looks to reinvent itself
  10. The Way It Was
    Detroit City Airport, 1970