The Lone Ranger’s History Comes From Detroit But Ties To Grand Rapids
Detroit needs a better press agent. As we dig into some daily historic features, fascinating facts come to light both about the city on the east side of the state, but also about the west side and about pop culture.
The most recent example of this is doing a deep-dive into the history of the Lone Ranger. Many kids from the early part of the last century through essentially today grew up with the Lone Ranger. The heroic character debuted on this day in 1933 on Detroit radio station WXYZ, before moving into national syndication and then to television syndication in the 1950's. In fact, those episodes still run on FETV on satellite. Numerous books and movies have been made, with the latest being in 2013 with Armie Hammer as John Reid, the Lone Ranger, and Johnny Depp as his faithful friend, Tonto.
The creators of the Lone Ranger were Fran Striker and George Trendle. Trendle wanted a show with a cowboy character, and hired Striker, who prolifically wrote the series. Striker also created the Green Hornet and Sgt. Preston of the Yukon. By the end of the 1930's, the Lone Ranger had 20 million listeners nationwide. But there's a West Michigan connection to the Lone Ranger.
Trendle was the business person. He was a lawyer who went into business with John Kunsky (changed later to King). Kunski built the first movie theater in Detroit. They became partners, and in 1929 bought a Detroit radio station that became WXYZ, where the Lone Ranger officially debuted on January 31st, 1933. Prior, they also bought WOOD Radio in Grand Rapids in 1931. That station is still on the air, and expanded into television twenty year later and is still on the air as WOOD-TV 8.
Back in the early days of radio, many station produced their own dramas and comedy, but in the midst of the Depression, keeping costs down was first and foremost. With the Lone Ranger, Trendle had a massive hit on his hands.