31 January: Trendle’s double gamble

Earle Graser, in his years playing the Lone Ranger. (Photo: Mutual Broadcasting System.)

Earle Graser, in his years playing the Lone Ranger. (Photo: Mutual Broadcasting System.)

George W. Trendle in 1932 was a daring fellow in his way, daring enough to decide against continuing his Detroit station WXYZ’s CBS affiliation and try it as an independent operation in 1932. Just about everyone in the know thought Trendle was half out of his mind. Then, come January 1933, Trendle premiered a horse opera that nobody, including perhaps Trendle himself, could have predicted would become a radio and national institution.

The Lone Ranger premiered in January 1933, with George Stenius in the title role at first, and adopted a three-a-week air achedule Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and there it would stay for twenty of its coming 21 year radio life. Almost right out of the chute it would prove a regional hit, enough so that sponsor Silvercup Bread set its eyes on 50,000-watt powerhouses WGN (Chicago) and WOR (New York).

Which was manna to the Detroit station, as Jim Ramsburg would recap in Network Radio Ratings 1932-1953: “WXYZ operated with a modest 5,000 watts but originated the program that the others wanted.”

It isn’t every Western hero who can instigate the eventual founding of a major radio network. Which is pretty good for a show that might seem a few cuts above Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry for sagebrush cliché but still has a cut entirely its own. Even if he’ll fall away from radio almost half a century before the arrival of a new millenium, during which people barely alive during the height of his rides across those thrilling days of yesteryear (to borrow from the show’s famous introduction) will still try to figure out exactly what made the man tick in the first place.


The Lone Ranger: The Protege (Mutual, 1941)

Young Jim Hawkins despairs of escaping the shadow of his father, who was hanged for his role in drug smuggling, until the Ranger (Earle Graser)—who knows of his battle—convinces the younger Hawkins to help him try to clean up the drug activity as a bid to restore his name, while his father’s former accomplices hunt a cache of cash to which they think the younger man can lead them.
This is one of the best-written, most understatedly-acted entries in the long, legendary series.

Tonto: John Todd. Additional cast: Unidentified. Announcer: Bruce Beemer. Director: Charles D. Livingstone. Writers: Fran Striker, unidentified others.


Further Channel Surfing . . .

The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny: Nightmares of Fred Allen—Jack to Play “The Bee” (comedy; NBC, 1937)
Texaco Town: Eddie’s Birthday (comedy; CBS, 1937)
Fibber McGee & Company: Military Advisor for Army Maneuvers (comedy; NBC, 1939)
The Fred Allen Show: Mountain Justice (comedy; NBC, 1940)
Gene Krupa and His Orchestra Live at the Meadowbrook (music; NBC, 1940)
The Whistler: The Confession (crime drama; CBS, 1943)
Rogue’s Gallery: Special Added Attraction (crime drama; Mutual, 1946)
Escape: Present Tense (adventure; CBS, 1950)
Fibber McGee & Molly: The Gang Goes for a Sleigh Ride (comedy; NBC, 1950)
The Halls of Ivy: Professor Warren’s Retirement (comedy; NBC, 1951)
Broadway is My Beat: The Roberto Segura Murder Case (crime drama; CBS, 1950)
Gunsmoke: Cavalcade (Western; CBS, 1953)

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