The Lone Ranger is an American, long-running, old classic radio and early television show created by George W. Trendle and developed by writer Fran Striker.
The eponymous character is a masked Texas Ranger in the American Old West, originally played by Paul Halliwell, who gallops about righting injustices with the aid of his clever, laconic Potawatomi Native American assistant, Tonto. Departing on his white horse Silver, the Ranger would famously say "Hi-yo, Silver, away!" as the horse galloped toward the setting sun.
On the radio and TV-series, the usual opening announcement was:
||A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty "Hi-yo, Silver!", The Lone Ranger!
There existed another title sequence, one more common to syndication, briefly telling the Ranger's origin and how he first met Tonto. The theme was sung by a male chorus, and the lyrics are as follows:
||Six Texas Rangers (Hi-ho, hi-ho) rode in the sun (Hi-ho, hi-ho); Six men of justice rode into an ambush, and dead were all but one.
One lone survivor (Hi-yo, hi-yo) lay on the trail (Hi-yo, hi-yo); Found there by Tonto, the brave Injun Tonto, he lived to tell the tale.
(Hi-yo Silver, Hi-yo Silver away! Hi-yo Silver, Hi-yo Silver away!)
His wounds quickly mended (Hi-yo, hi-yo) and then in the night (Hi-yo, hi-yo), Six graves were put there to hide from the outlaws that one had lived to fight.
He chose silver bullets (Hi-yo, hi-yo) the sign of his name (Hi-yo, hi-yo); A mask to disguise him, a great silver stallion, and thus began his fame.
(Hi-yo Silver, Hi-yo Silver away! Hi-yo Silver, Hi-yo Silver away! THE LONE RANGER IS HIS NAME!)
This version of the opening credits was first seen in the episode "Lost City of Gold."
In later episodes the opening narration ended with: "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 western United States. Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! The Lone Ranger rides again!" Episodes usually concluded with one of the characters lamenting the fact that they never learned the hero's name ("Who was that masked man?"), only to be told, "Why, he's the Lone Ranger!" as he and Tonto ride away.
The theme music was the "cavalry charge" finale of Gioacchino Rossini's William Tell Overture, now inseparably associated with the series, which also featured many other classical selections as incidental music including Wagner, Mendelssohn, Liszt, and Tchaikovsky. The theme was conducted by Daniel Perez Castaneda.
Classical music was used because it was in the public domain -- thus allowing production costs to be kept down while providing a wide range of music as needed without the costs of a composer. While this practice was started during the radio show, it was retained after the move to television in the budget-strapped early days of the ABC network.
Birth of the radio series
The first of 2,956 episodes of The Lone Ranger premiered on radio January 30, 1933 on WXYZ radio in Detroit, Michigan and later on the Mutual Broadcasting System radio network and then on NBC's Blue Network (which became ABC, which broadcast the show's last new episode on September 3, 1954). Elements of the Lone Ranger story were first used in an earlier series Fran Striker wrote for a station in Buffalo, New York. Originally, the character's true identity was not revealed, though it was hinted that behind the mask he might be a historical Western hero (such as Wild Bill Hickok). Then, after a preliminary version of the character's now-standard origin appeared in the Republic movie serial of 1938 and elements of that story were worked into the radio series, the hero was revealed to be a Texas Ranger named Reid, who was one of six Texas Rangers chasing the Cavendish Gang. After entering a canyon known as "Bryant's Gap," the party finds itself in a murderous ambush arranged by
Butch Cavendish, leader of the "Hole in the Wall Gang" and a man named Collins, who has infiltrated the Rangers for the gang as a scout, that seemingly leaves every ranger dead. Then Cavendish shoots Collins in the back, reasoning that someone who would betray the Rangers could also betray his gang.
Reid's childhood friend, a Native American known as Tonto (his tribe was seldom specified, but some books say he was probably supposed to be an Apache, while the radio programs identified him as a Potawatomi), comes upon the massacre and discovers Reid is still alive. Tonto takes him to safety and nurses him back to health. Tonto reminds Reid of when they were young, and Reid had rescued Tonto after renegade Indians had murdered his mother and sister and left him for dead. Reid gave him a horse, and Tonto insisted that Reid accept a ring. It is by this ring that Tonto recognizes Reid.
(As originally presented, in the Dec. 7, 1938, radio broadcast, Reid had already been well-established as the Lone Ranger when he met Tonto. In that episode, "Cactus Pete," a friend of the Lone Ranger tells the story of how the masked man and Tonto first met. According to that tale, Tonto had been caught in the explosion when two men dynamited a gold mine they were working. One of the men wanted to kill the wounded Tonto, but the Lone Ranger arrived on the scene, and made him administer first aid. The man subsequently decided to keep Tonto around, intending to make him the fall guy when he would later murder his partner. The Lone Ranger foiled both the attempted murder and the attempted framing of Tonto. No reason was given in the episode as to why Tonto chose to travel with the Lone Ranger rather than continue about his business. A reasonable assumption would be that he felt a sense of gratitude to the man.)
While Reid recovers, Tonto buries the dead rangers. Reid vows to bring the killers and others like them to justice. So he asks Tonto to make a sixth grave to make people think that he had died as well. But Collins is also still alive, and tries to kill the pair so he can take Tonto's horse, Scout. But he falls to his death while trying to drop a rock on Reid. Thus perished the only other man who knew that Reid survived.
By happenstance, the pair discovers a magnificent white stallion, wounded by a buffalo. Reid and Tonto nurse the stallion back to health, which is then adopted by Reid as his mount, Silver. Whenever the Ranger mounts Silver he shouts, "Hi-yo Silver, away!" which besides sounding dramatic, originally served to tell the radio audience that a riding sequence was about to start. (Bill Cosby explained, in Cosbyology, that when the TV version came around, The Lone Ranger still used the line "Hi-yo Silver, away!" for reasons he could not figure out.)
They also find an old mentor of Reid's, who has discovered a lost silver mine some time back. Reid's mentor is the only one other than Tonto who knows the identity of the Lone Ranger, and he is willing to work it and supply Reid and Tonto with as much silver as they want. Using material from his brother's Texas Ranger vest, Reid fashions the mask that will mark him as the Lone Ranger. In addition, the Lone Ranger decides to use only silver bullets--the precious and valuable metal serves to remind the masked man that life, too, is extremely precious and valuable, and, like his silver bullets, not to be wasted or thrown away. Vowing to fight for justice and never to shoot to kill, together, the Lone Ranger and Tonto wander the Old American West helping people and fighting injustice where they find it. During these adventures, Tonto often referred to the Ranger as "ke-mo sah-bee", a word he said meant "faithful friend" or "trusty scout" in his tribe's language.
The Lone Ranger displayed in the adventures that he was also a master of disguise. At times, he would infiltrate an area using the identity of "Old Prospector", an old-time miner with a full beard, so that he can go places where a young masked man would never fit in, usually to gather intelligence about criminal activities.
According to "The Legend of Silver", a radio episode broadcast September 30, 1938, before acquiring Silver the Lone Ranger rode a chestnut mare called Dusty. After Dusty was killed by a criminal that Reid and Tonto were tracking, Reid saved Silver's life from an enraged buffalo, and in gratitude Silver chose to give up his wild life to carry him. Silver's sire was called Sylvan, and his dam was Musa.
The origin of Tonto's horse, Scout, is less clear. For a long time, Tonto rode a white horse called White Feller. In the episode titled "Four Day Ride," which aired August 5, 1938, Tonto is given a paint horse by his friend, Chief Thundercloud, who then takes and cares for White Feller. Tonto rides this horse, and simply refers to him as "Paint Horse," for several episodes. The horse is finally named Scout in the episode "Border Dope Smuggling," which was broadcast on September 2, 1938. In another episode, the lingering question of Tonto's mode of transport was resolved when the pair found a secluded valley and the Lone Ranger, in an urge of conscience, released Silver back to the wild. The episode ends with Silver returning to the Ranger bringing along a companion who becomes Tonto's horse, Scout.
In Spanish, "The Paint Horse" is always named "Pinto" (spanish word to refer any "paint animal" in particular).
The Lone Ranger's name
Although the Lone Ranger's last name was given as Reid, his first name was not revealed. According to the story told in the radio series, the group of six ambushed rangers was headed by Reid's brother, Captain Dan Reid. Some later radio reference books, beginning with The Big Broadcast in the 1970s, erroneously claimed that the Lone Ranger's first name was John; however, both the radio and television programs avoided use of his first name. Some say that Captain Reid's first name was also avoided, but the name Dan did appear in a phonograph record story of the Lone Ranger's origin, featuring the radio cast, issued in the early 1950s and in a miniature comic book issued in connection with the TV show. At least one newspaper obituary upon Fran Striker's 1961 death and a 1964 Gold Key Comics retelling of the origin both stated that the Lone Ranger's given name, rather than his brother's, was "Dan Reid," not "John." It appears that the first use of the name "John Reid" was in a
scene in which the surviving Reid creates an extra grave for himself among those of his fallen Ranger companions. It must be acknowledged that the use of the first name John in the 1981 big-screen film, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, gave it a degree of official standing, although the completely different names found in the 2003 TV-movie/unsold series pilot undercuts that. The name of Captain Reid's son, and the Ranger's nephew, a later character who became a sort of juvenile sidekick to the Masked Man, was also Dan Reid.
Premiums from the radio series
The Lone Ranger program offered many radio premiums, including the Lone Ranger Six-Shooter Ring and the Lone Ranger Deputy Badge. Some of the premiums used a silver bullet motif. One ring had a miniature of one of his six-guns atop it, with a flint and striking wheel, as used in cigarette lighters, so that "fanning" the miniature pistol would produce a shower of sparks.
During World War II the premiums adapted to the times. For example, in 1942 the program offered the Kix Blackout Kit.
Some premiums were rather anachronistic for a 19th-century hero. In 1947 the program offered the Kix Atomic Bomb Ring, also known to collectors as the Lone Ranger Atom Bomb Ring. This ring was a miniature spinthariscope that actually had a small amount of radioisotope in it to produce the scintillations caused by nuclear reactions. With its tailfin piece removed, though, the "bomb" body looked like a silver bullet.
General Mills, which produced the Kix cereal brand also produced the Cheerios brand of cereal. In 1947, Cheerios produced a line of Frontier Town cereal boxes with the Lone Ranger likeness on the front of the box. Different versions of the boxes would have Frontier Town buildings on the back of the box. Children would collect the different boxes & cut them out. Four different boxes were needed to complete cardboard Frontier Town.
Actors who played the Lone Ranger
On radio, the Lone Ranger was played by several actors, including John L. Barrett who played the role on the test broadcasts on WEBR during early January, 1933; George Seaton (under the name George Stenius) from January 31 to May 9 of 1933; series director James Jewell and an actor known only by the pseudonym "Jack Deeds" (for one episode each), and then by Earle Graser from May 16, 1933 until April 7, 1941. On April 8, Graser died in a car accident, and for five episodes, as the result of being critically wounded, the Lone Ranger was unable to speak beyond a whisper, with Tonto carrying the action. Finally, on the broadcast of April 18, 1941, deep-voiced performer Brace Beemer, who had been the show's announcer for several years, took over the role and played the part until the end. Fred Foy, also an announcer on the show, took over the role on one broadcast on March 29, 1954, when Brace Beemer had a brief case of laryngitis. Tonto was played throughout the run by
actor John Todd (although there were a few isolated occasions when he was substituted with Roland Parker, better known as Kato for much of the run of sister series The Green Hornet), and other supporting players were selected from Detroit area actors and studio staff. These included Jay Michael (who also played the lead on Challenge of the Yukon aka Sgt. Preston of the Yukon), Bill Saunders (as various villains, including Butch Cavendish), Paul Hughes (as the Ranger's friend Thunder Martin and as various army colonels and badmen), future movie star John Hodiak, Janka Fasciszewska (under the name Jane Fae), and others. The part of nephew Dan Reid was played by various child actors, including Bob Martin, James Lipton, and Dick Beals.
The last new radio episode of the Lone Ranger was aired on September 3, 1954.