He was a respectable man. He never brandished a gun with the intention to kill, never spoke profane language, and never used incorrect grammar or slang. He was always mysteriously masked and made a vow to fight injustice. He is famously known as "The Lone Ranger.”
Today on Stateside, we talked to Rachel Clark, of the Michigan History Center, and Lu Smela, child actor on the iconic radio show. They joined Stateside to discuss the show's Detroit roots, and its rapid rise to national popularity.
The fictional character the Lone Ranger was conceived by George Trundle, owner of radio station WXYZ, and writer Fran Striker. Eighty-six years ago today, in January 1933, the iconic radio Western was broadcast for the first time from the Detroit studios of radio station WXYZ.
The show was contracted until the mid 1940s, and agreed to remain based in Detroit and hire most of its actors locally. The three main actors who played the role of the Lone Ranger were George Seaton (in 1933), Earle Graser (1933-1941), and Brace Beemer (1941-1954).
Smela says that without television, radio was the medium where people got their entertainment. For actors, shows like "The Lone Ranger" provided steady job opportunities. Smela auditioned for the show with her brother at 10 years old. She says it was amazing to see the actors who brought the radio show to life in action.
“They were people just dressed in regular clothes, who took on the persona of whatever cowboy or sheriff character they were to be that day,” Smela said. “Their inside body movement became external, through their voices, and it was just wonderful.”
As a very audio-rich program, Smela fondly recalls her fascination with the sound effects that accompanied the show. The show used coconuts, a squeaky door, a floor wood panel, sand, and more to portray varying movements in each scene.
Listen above to learn more about the Lone Ranger's connection to Michigan, and how the show evolved over the years.
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Katie Raymond.
This segment is produced in partnership with the Michigan History Center.