Who Was That Masked Man?

Cowboy listening to the radio
Hi-yo, Silver. Away!
When I was a kid, I loved to listen to the radio.  I listened to whatever was on: the soap operas, the crime shows, the comedies, the variety series, and the westerns.  Of them all, The Lone Ranger was my favorite.

Maybe it was the theme music.  As far as I’m concerned, there’s never been a better use of theme music than in that radio show.  I suspect that anybody who listened to it as a kid would agree with me.  It was tremendously exciting, and it was worked into the program expertly as each episode played out.

Or maybe it was the voices.  When I was listening to radio, the Ranger was played by deep-voiced Brace Beemer (great name!), and while I’m very fond of Clayton Moore, who took over for the TV version, Beemer will always be the Lone Ranger to me.  The announcer was Fred Foy (another great name, another great voice), and he was perfect at filling in the little gaps between the scenes.  John Todd might not have been the PC choice for Tonto, but for me he filled the role wonderfully.

The thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver were heard often, and the cries of “Hi-Yo, Silver, away!” and “Get ‘em up, Scout!” were enough to get a kid’s blood pumping.

On the other hand, maybe it was the premiums.  You could get some wonderful stuff for a few boxtops and a dime or a quarter.  Sadly, my order for the Atom Bomb Ring was lost in the mail, returned to me months or years later from the Dead Letter Office, which was the first I’d ever heard of that place.  However, I did get a Silver Saddle Ring, and I’m happy to say that I still have it.  You can see one here.

The Lone Ranger vintage comics
The illustrated Ranger
You might say that my love of the show couldn’t have been because of the masked hero because, after all, I couldn’t see the mask.  That didn’t matter, because I could easily imagine it.  Even if I couldn’t have, I had the comic books, which were a fine supplement to the radio show.  I have no idea who the artist was, but even after all these years, I can still remember some of the drawings with astounding clarity.

And we haven’t even talked about the Lone Ranger’s character.  What a sterling representative of the Old West he was.  He could be tough or tender, and even when he was seeking revenge on those who’d killed his family and friends, he was above all an honorable man.  He used good English, too.

It was, of course, a combination of all those things that made the show so great for me, and many more besides.  Certainly one of them was the mask.  There’s just something about a masked hero that kids love, and the Lone Ranger’s mask was simple but effective.  You can have your gorilla masks or your Richard Nixon masks or your Angry Birds masks, but give me the Lone Ranger style anytime.  I wore one at Halloween every year when I was a kid.  It wasn’t hot, I could breathe easily, and so what if people thought they knew who I was?  The William Tell Overture was playing in my head, and I was really the Lone Ranger, no matter what they thought.  If they’d asked, I’d probably have handed them a silver bullet.

Kids dressed in costume as the masked Lone Ranger
The kid on the left missed the memo…

There have been rumors for a while now of a proposed Lone Ranger movie, with Johnny Depp as Tonto.  I’m not fond of the idea.  No movie could never live up to what I imagined and played out with my friends so many years ago.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go slip on my Silver Saddle Ring and see if I can find some Lone Ranger comic books on eBay.

Image courtesy of Last Chance Public Radio and Western Clippings


Bill Crider is a Texas writer, author of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series, fan of the Kingston Trio, and a collector of baseball cards.

Comments

  1. Randy Johnson

    I just missed the radio version. Clayton Moore is my Lone Ranger. Heck, I never knew of such things as the radio show, the novels, none of that stuf f until many years later.

    The first movie I ever saw in a theater was THE LONE RANGER AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD. It was past those days of Saturday morning serials also.

  2. Kathy Fannon

    I am the TV generation of the Lone Ranger and loved watching the show-even if it meant fighting my siblings for the choice. I like the whole mask concept- maybe that’s why it was so attractive-even for an 8 year old girl.

  3. Robin Bradford

    Old radio shows are some of the most popular things we offer in our library. I, too, grew up on the tv show (okay, re-runs of the tv show!) so Clayton Moore will always be The Lone Ranger to me.

  4. James Reasoner

    Clayton Moore will always be the Lone Ranger for me, too, but when the radio show was syndicated in the early Sixties I listened to it faithfully and always enjoyed it. For a kid, both versions were simply wonderful stuff. And I can still watch an episode of the TV series and thoroughly enjoy it.

  5. Mark Ellis

    Great piece, Bill. The Lone Ranger is truly iconic…and it’s odd since he was created by grafting together bits and pieces of earlier radio show heroes.

    I love the character…and come to think of it, when NPR’s All Things Considered did a show devoted to the Ranger a few years back, I was interviewed to add my insights. I believe Fred Foy was interviewed as well.

  6. Jake Hinkson

    Great post, Bill. I grew up on the Clayton Moore/Jay Silverheels show on television. Your post maybe about radio, but I had much the same experience with the tv program.

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