In April, 1941, The Lone Ranger radio show was reaching new heights of popularity with kids and adults alike tuning into their local Mutual station to hear the latest episode in the adventures of the masked man. But tragedy struck early in the morning of the 8th as Earle Graser, who played the hero was killed in an auto accident. Back at WXYZ in Detroit, where the broadcast took place, there was scrambling as George W. Trendle, Jim Jewell and Fran Striker struggled to prepare for the next broadcast on the 9th.

This page offers an example of radio in transition as we hear the final broadcast of the Lone Ranger featuring Graser, then the next broadcast without him, of course. And finally, the first broadcast with Brace Beemer as the replacement. An article is included that appeared in the New York Times on the 9th of April reporting the death of Graser.

Broadcast of April 7th, 1941

Broadcast of April 9th, 1941

Broadcast of April 18, 1941

Earle Graser

Earle Graser


Hero of Western Adventures, 15,000,000 Radio
Listeners Heard His "Hi-Yo-Silver"


Idol of Youngsters Was a Lawyer--
Meets Death in Michigan Home Town

FARMINGTON, Mich, April 8--Death lifted the Lone Ranger's mask at daybreak today. He died at five o'clock when his car zig-zagged into a parked trailer in front of the Methodist Church.

None of his estimated fifteen million devoted radio listerners would have recognized their stern-voiced, hard-riding hero in the figure that lay in the wreck. He was a mild-eyed, chubby man of thirty-two, an inch or so short of six-feet.

Away from the microphone and remote from Silver, his snow-white horse, he was Earle W. Graser. In the eight years that breathless children have thrilled to his "Hi-Yo-Silver-Awa-ay-ay!" he lived in a white Colonial house here with his wife Jeanne. His daughter, Gabrielle, is fifteen months old.

Millions of youngsters will never believe it, but their Lone Ranger was a lawyer. It may deepen their pain to know that he held three college degrees--A.B., M.A., LL.B.--break their hearts to know he was never west of Michigan, and crush them to learn he could not ride a horse.

But perhaps they will refuse to believe the facts and remember only the voice they heard.

Popular in Foreign Lands

For Lone Ranger was a voice, a deep, rich voice. He sang bass in his church choir. He studied elocution; dreamed of teaching it, some day, in an Eastern college. He liked swimming and played a middling hard game of badminton.

Three times a night, three times a week, he was heard on 150 stations of the Mutual network and on scores of independent radio stations. A single announcement that he would distribute Lone Ranger badges brought in 1,397,000 requests for the tin.

He was every kid's symbol of hard-riding justice; foe of the road agent, strong arm of the weak, the deliverer of the oppressed--a deathless godlike being who had survived from Coronodo's time down to our own as each glib script would have it.

The Lone Ranger was as popular in New Zealand and in Yugoslavia as he was in the United States. His fan mail came from Mexico and from South America. One time, when the villains of the script were Mexican bandits, the Mexican consul at Detroit was distraught and wrote him about it.

The serial first went on the air on Jan. 30, 1932. The home station was--still is--WXYZ in Detroit. There were other Lone Rangers at first--a man named Deeds, who lasted only a few weeks; a George Stenius and then Brace Beemer.

Beemer was promoted to studio manager. When Earle Graser became Lone Ranger on April 16, 1933, Beemer took over as narrator. His voice is remarkably like Graser's, so much so that he used an artificial pitch to avoid confusion on the program.

Once a Soda Jerker

Earle Graser was born in Kitchener, Ont. He was a child when his parents moved to Detroit. He went to Detroit schools and was graduated from a Detroit high school. He won his degrees at Wayne University in Michigan.

In between he worked at odd jobs. He was a soda jerker for a time. The only horse he ever handled was a grocer's cart horse when he delivered orders. He had one other affiliation with horses--he got his nickname, Barney, from a milk wagon horse on the family route.

He sang in pit orchestras. He was an usher in the Michigan Theatre in Detroit. His only stage appearance was as an Alpine shepherd when he drove six updipped sheep.

Eventually he drifted into the WXYZ studio and did character bits. When Beemer was promoted he was chosen from among five men who tried for the Lone Ranger part. His lush, vibrant timbre made this easy. It was a voice to make outlaws quake.

The owners of the Lone Ranger program and Fran Striker, the script writer, decided at the outset that the Lone Ranger must ever remain a mystery. They forbade personal appearances. Except within a narrow social circle in Farmington, the Ranger's identity was secret.

The youngsters who worshiped him will probably refuse to believe that the Lone Ranger's pistol shots were just so many raps with a can against a hard leather cushion; that Silver's gallop was merely a sound effect produced by patting bathroom plungers into a box of gravel.

In the next two Lone Ranger programs there will be no Ranger. The script will be changed so that there will be only Silver and the loyal Indian, Tonto. (Tonto is John Todd, a veteran character actor.) After these programs Beemer will take over again.

Earle Graser appeared before the microphone as Lone Ranger, his associates estimate, about 1,300 times. Last year and the year before he got two-week vacations. Through those fortnights the scripts built up to the climax of his return. He just vanished and came back at the right minute, not one second too late, not one breath too soon.

The body is to lie in state in a funeral parlor here until rites on Thursday. The broadcasters think mostly adults will come to see it. They think and hope, that few youngsters will hear of the wreck outside Farmington Church.

A station official said: "We have to do it that way. The Lone Ranger could never die. Every kid knows that in his heart."

New York Times, Wednesday, April 9, 1941


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Created: Saturday, January 22, 2000
Original Material in this web page, copyright © 2000 James F. Widner.