Lone Ranger Radio
Radio's Lone Ranger, Brace Beemer, cuts a cake with the cast and crew of The Lone Ranger
The Lone Ranger takes to the air
Though the exact date of the first Lone Ranger broadcast is often debated, it has been widely accepted that Jan. 30, 1933, marked the first time the masked man sprang into action. We acknowledge Feb. 2, 1933, as the date of the first official broadcast
George Stenius (George Seaton) played the Ranger for the first three months. When Stenius quit, Brace Beemer was selected to play the lead, but Beemer quit after a few months to open his own advertising agency. Earle W. Graser took the part until his death in an automobile accident in April of 1941.Beemer was the brought back to play the part. Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a more popular voice on the radio as the Lone Ranger than Brace Beemer.
Brace Beemer was that masked man
by Lee J. Felbinger, Silver Bullet Subscriber
Franklin Delano Roosevelt had just been inaugurated as the 32nd President on a popular mandate to pluck the nation from the relentless grip of the Depression. In Detroit, a radio pioneer by the name of George W. Trendle had been looking for a program that would enable his three stations in the Michigan Radio Network to meet the heavy competition from well-known radio stars and popular big bands.
On Jan. 30, 1933, Trendle played his trump card — his program about a lone operator who rode on the side of right and justice debuted. It opened with the theme from the William Tell Overture, which was in the public domain and therefore was free from royalty charges. The introduction, still known by heart by any buckaroo over 50, began …
“When the West was young and danger lay at the end of every trail, the Lone Ranger and his faithful Indian companion, Tonto, brought law and order to the length and breadth of the early Western states.”
Over the years it was polished and perfected until it became a classic opening by Fred Foy, the most remembered announcer for the program.
Hi-Yo Silver — 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 West. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger rides again!
The Lone Ranger galloped through performance after performance of radio heroism on Detroit’s WXYZ: His dramatic “Hi-Yo Silver” echoed through living rooms across the nation and fans young and old thrilled with excitement when “the thundering hooves of the great horse Silver” were heard via the airwaves, bearing the masked rider, with Tonto at his side, to his mission of rescue.
Back in 1933, when the Lone Ranger was first broadcast, the identity of the sonorous-voiced hero was a closely-guarded secret. Actually, an actor named Jack Deeds played the title role for the first six broadcasts. He was replaced by a young actor, George Stenius (later famous as George Seaton, movie producer) who continued in the role for three months. When Stenius quit, then-station manager Brace Beemer was selected to play the lead, but Beemer quit after a few months to open his own advertising agency.
Earl W. Graser, another actor, played the masked hero with an easygoing naturalness that had a strong identification for listeners until his untimely death in an automobile accident in April of 1941. Baffled on Graser’s replacement, the producers decided to buy some time by having the Lone Ranger critically wounded and unconscious, unable to speak except for some heavy breathing to show he was still alive.
Finally, the hero grew stronger and was able to speak a few words. The new voice was similar to one heard previously, but deeper, richer and sterner. Brace Beemer had returned to the role to which he was destined to become so closely attached. He played the Lone Ranger until the last live broadcast, which aired on Sept. 3, 1954.
As for radio’s Tonto, the same actor was always heard in the part. He was former Shakespearian actor John Todd, who was over 50 years old when he took the part. While youngsters may have listened to one actor as the Lone Ranger on their Philco radios, they saw another one at the personal appearances that became increasingly popular as the series continued.
Despite the fact that Graser played the lead on the series, Brace Beemer was tapped to make the promotional rounds because of his physical appearance. Beemer was a strapping 6 feet, three inches tall — an outdoorsman who was both an expert rider and a crack shot, a combination that gave him a rugged and virile charm.
In July of that same year, the Detroit Department of Recreation innocently announced the Lone Ranger would make a personal appearance at the annual school field day in Belle Isle. At that time, Trendle thought that he would also have several photos taken of his radio hero. Brace Beemer made his first appearance, dressed in an outfit patterned after the Lone Ranger painting that was first used for advertising and publicity.
Since Trendle did not own a snow-white stallion (mainly because they were not sure the program would be a success), a decision was made to rent a horse that, hopefully would be a suitable mount for their hero. The tired, gray, rather than snow-white plug that was used was fitted with a drab saddle and an English bridle, rather than the silver- studded saddle and Western Bridle. Any sharp-eyed horse aficionado could tell immediately that this Lone Ranger was a city dude, not a true Western hero.
To portray Tonto, John Todd wore a long, ill-fitting black wig and a baggy buckskin outfit. One of the photos from that first picture-taking session of 1933 was used as one of the earliest radio premiums, offered by the producers and sponsors as an indication of the program’s ratings.
During his early years in the role, Beemer wore black regalia for his personal appearances. As the months passed and the character’s popularity increased, Beemer allowed the Lone Ranger to don a series of elaborate pastels, such as blue and gray. Beemer’s personal favorite was a light gray hue.
Soon, he discovered that the Lone Ranger was in demand continually. He appeared at rodeos, circuses and benefits. He posed for countless photographic sessions for newspapers and magazine layouts, traveling extensively for promotional purposes. He even became an honorary “blood brother” in several Indian tribes. He was made an honorary member of the Legion of Frontiersmen of Canada and was deputized in Texas.
Although George W. Trendle is given the bulk of the credit for both creating and enhancing the Lone Ranger idea, it was the voice of Brace Beemer that carried the successful radio program for more than 21 years on the radio.
In honor of the Lone Ranger’s 72 years of righting wrongs, it is seemly somehow to harken back to Beemer, who portrayed the Lone Ranger as a legend of our times, a legend that will live on in the memories of all who remember radio’s golden years — when a masked man and his Indian companion swept out fo the West, from the airwaves of a small studio at WXYZ to capture a nation’s heart.
And when that awed bystander inevitably asks, “Say, who was that masked man?” For generations of fans, it was Brace Beemer.
Note: Thanks to Lee Felbinger for writing the story above. There were 3,336 original broadcasts of "The Lone Ranger." The most authoritative documentation of the program can be found in The Lone Ranger Log by Terry Salomonson. He can be reached at P.O. Box 347, Howell, MI 48844-0347.