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Looking Back -- Jan. 30, 2011

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or mary.braswell@albanyherald.com.

Records are unclear as to when the first radio broadcast of "The Lone Ranger" took place. Some say it was Jan. and others adamantly declare it was Feb. 2, but all agree that it was 1933. Here is a look back at the masked man through the years.

Hi-yo, Silver!

* The (fictional) history of the Lone Ranger includes the fact that he was a member of a group of Texas Rangers ambushed by a band of outlaws. All the other Rangers, including his older brother Daniel Reid, were killed.

* This lone surviving Ranger allowed people to believe he, too, was dead. Reid made a mask from the vest of his deceased brother and set out to fight crime and injustice in the West.

* The Lone Ranger show originated from the studios of WXYZ in Detroit and ran until Aug. 31, 1955. The program was broadcast 3,268 times over the years and was carried by more than 400 radio stations across America.

* Writer Fran Striker and program manager James Jewell created the radio show. George W. Trendle has also been credited as a creator, but was actually the station owner.

* Indian companion Tonto did not join the program until the 12th episode. John Todd played that role for entire run on the airways. He was a former Shakespearean actor and already more than 50 years old when he took the role.

* In May 1933, the radio station offered a free popgun to the first 300 listeners of "The Lone Ranger" to send in a written request. The station received nearly 25,000 replies.

* The Lone Ranger had a silver mine that he and his brother, Dan, had planned on using for their retirement. A retired Texas Ranger (one of only a few people who knew the Ranger's secret) agreed to work it for him and make his silver bullets.

* Others that played the Lone Ranger on the radio included Jack Deeds, Earle Graser and Brace Beemer. Beemer took the role permanently in April 1941 after Graser was killed in an automobile accident.

* The voice that came into the home with his "Hi-Yo Silver ... A fiery horse with the speed of light ... Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear ..." was that of Fred Foy.

* The opening music was part of Gioacchino Rossini's William Tell Overture. This music was chosen, at least in part, because it was in public domain and, therefore, free from royalty charges.

* Even when Earle Graser held the leading role on the radio, it was Bruce Beemer that was tapped to handle promotional rounds.

* The first public appearance of the Lone Ranger was at a school field day in Michigan. The radio station did not actually own a horse for the role of Silver and rented one. Instead of the hoped-for snow-white mount, the rental was a tired gray horse with a drab gray saddle and fitted with an English bridle. To portray Tonto, John Todd wore a long, ill-fitting black wig and a baggy buckskin outfit. As the show's popularity increased, so did the promotional budget.

* James Lipton played the part of the nephew, Dan Reid. His horse's name was Victor.

* The first major sponsors of the radio show were General Mills and Tootsie Rolls.

* "The Lone Ranger" first aired on television on Sept. 15, 1949 on ABC-TV with Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels as Tonto.

* The first three episodes on TV told the history of the characters. Each following show was a separate story.

* The first 78 episodes were produced and broadcast for 78 consecutive weeks without any breaks or reruns. Then the entire 78 shows were shown again before any new episodes were seen.

* John Hart was hired to play the masked man for the 1952-53 season. A total of 52 episodes were shot and shown in order and then repeated. Moore returned after that and remained for the rest of the 221-episode run.

* At the end of the fifth season, the Lone Ranger rights were sold to Jack Wrather (Aug. 3, 1954) for $3 million. Clayton Moore was immediately rehired and another 52 episodes were produced. And, once again, they were rerun the following year.

* The final season saw a by-then industry standard of just 39 episodes and they were produced in color. Wrather chose not to negotiate further with television. The series ended on Sept. 12, 1957.

* There were some movies produced but there was simply nothing that could compare to the radio and television versions.

Did you know?

* Kemosabe (or any of the other various spellings) is a real word. It's from the language of the Potowatomie Indians. The Potowatomie Indians lived in and around Michigan. Kemosabe means "faithful friend" or "trusty scout."

* No first name was given to the Lone Ranger during the radio and television program. The name "John" appeared in the liner notes of a Lone Ranger record and in the book "Radio's Golden Age" by Frank Buxton and Bill Owen in 1966.

* According to Clayton Moore's autobiography, the actual masks used in the series were made from plaster with felt on the top of them. In the black and white episodes, purple felt was used. Black felt was used in the color productions.

* Originally, Tonto rode double with the Lone Ranger on Silver. After a publicity photo was taken of the Lone Ranger and Tonto this way, WXYZ wisely decided to give Tonto his own steed, Scout.

* The Lone Ranger's nephew, Dan Reid rode the son of Silver, Victor.

* On the television show, the masked man never killed anyone, kissed a girl, accepted reward money, drank, cussed or smoked.