Who Was That Masked Man? The Lone Ranger is one of the iconic characters in American folklore, and he got his start on Mutual, airing from 1933 through 1954.
When you can hear these shows on our live radio station.
The history of the Old West is littered with larger-than-life characters who actually lived but whose exploits are the stuff of myth and legend: Daniel Boone, Jim Bridger, Davy Crockett, Wild Bill Hickok, Crazy Horse, Buffalo Bill, Sitting Bull, Calamity Jane, Wyatt Earp, Annie Oakley, Chief Joseph, Doc Holliday, The Lone Ranger, Tonto. Wait a minute, those last two were not real people, were they?
The Lone Ranger has become such an indelible part of our popular image of the American Frontier that some people forget that he was a fictional character, although, as we will discuss later the Lone Ranger may have been inspired by a real-life lawman. In reality, the Lone Ranger was created and developed as a character in a kiddie radio program on Station WXYZ Detroit by Station owner George Treadle and his chief writer, Fran Striker in 1933.
According to the legend created by Treadle and Striker, Capt. Dan Reid led a posse of six Texas Rangers who were pursuing an outlaw gang led by Butch Cavendish. The Cavendish Gang turns the tables by setting up an ambush in Bryant's Gap canyon and leaving the slaughtered Rangers for dead. When the honorable wandering Indian, Tonto comes upon the grisly scene, he discovers that one of the Rangers, Capt. Reid's brother is hanging on to life by a thread. After burying the dead and nursing the survivor back to health, the surviving lawman fashions a mask from his dead brother's vest and becomes the Lone Ranger.
The first of nearly 3,000 episodes broadcast from WXYZ at the end of January 1933. Several actors would play the Lone Ranger over the years, including George Seaton, Earle Graser, and Brace Beemer. Soon after the debut, the series went nation-wide on the Mutual Broadcasting System, and it moved to the Blue Network (which would become ABC) on May 2, 1942. The program became ABC TV's first big hit when it launched on the small screen starring Clayton Moore in 1949.
Although he was a fictional character, the Lone Ranger met several historical figures during his career, including Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickok, Teddy Roosevelt, William Bonney ("Billy the Kid"), Abraham Lincoln, Chief Sitting Bull, General Custer, and several others. In 2006, historian Art T. Burton began to spread his theory that the character of the Lone Ranger was inspired by an escaped African American slave turned US Deputy Marshal, Bass Reeves.
Reeves' exploits certainly read like a Lone Ranger fantasy. He escaped into the Indian Territory of Oklahoma during the Civil War. He was fearless and a master of disguise, outsmarting the outlaws he brought to justice more often than he outfought them, although he was known as a fearsome gunman. Many of the outlaws Bass arrested were housed at Michigan's Detroit House of Corrections, first built in 1861 in the same city where The Lone Ranger was broadcast over WXYZ.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto are two of America's favorite western characters, and the theme and bridge music caused many thousands of kids to grow up to liking classical music, too.
The following is a listing of the shows that will be played on WELF-NPC Radio. Each week we will feature a new show from the list under the heading of show listed above. We will continue to rotate through this list until we remove the show from the radio station.