The Lone Ranger
From a cramped Detroit radio studio, the Lone Ranger galloped into the imaginations and hearts of millions of listeners
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The final live broadcast was on Sept. 3, 1954. It ended a 21-year run that featured some 3,000 original episodes. Afterward, Todd said, “It’s just as well. We were getting into a rut.” WXYZ would continue to broadcast repeats of old shows until 1957, the year Todd died, but the era of the live radio Ranger was over.
One by one, the rest of the show’s principals joined Todd in that Great Bunkhouse in the Sky. Striker died in a car accident in upstate New York in 1962. Three years later, Beemer succumbed to a stroke while playing bridge with friends at home. Trendle died in 1972; to the very end he threatened to sue anyone who challenged his claim as the sole creator of The Lone Ranger.
Meanwhile, TV’s version of The Lone Ranger, starring Clayton Moore with Jay Silverheels as Tonto, took hold in the public consciousness. The show ran on ABC from 1949 to 1957; the same actors also appeared in a pair of Lone Ranger movies.
“You watch those shows today and they’re just terrible,” Carnegie says. “You get sick of seeing the same phony rocks and phony trees. That was the advantage of radio. You saw things in your mind, not with your eyes.” Nonetheless, thanks to seemingly endless syndicated reruns and thousands of personal appearances by Silverheels and Moore until their deaths in 1980 and 1999, respectively, the characters from the TV show are the ones best remembered by baby boomers today.
All modern remakes of the Lone Ranger story — including a recent made-for-TV movie that featured kung fu and rap sequences — have flopped. Although technology has the ability to enrich creativity in ways that would astonish the original cast, fans of old-time radio say it’s impossible to improve on a classic Western drama whose clomping hooves and signature line — “Who was that masked man?” — came out of a cramped studio in Detroit.
“The show had all the right elements,” Carnegie says. “There were great sound effects and a wide variety of voices, so you could identify characters. There was fine acting, good writing, and a little bit of mystery.
“And good triumphed over evil. Always.”