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Radio days revisited

Brace Beemer 'had it all,' says legendary disc jockey

Many, many moons before Armie Hammer donned the mask, Oxford's own Brace Beemer was the Lone Ranger. To those who can recall the Golden Age of Radio, he will forever be the masked hero. Photo courtesy of the Northeast Oakland Historical Museum. (click for larger version)
July 10, 2013 - A gentleman and a very funny guy."

That's how radio veteran and legendary disc jockey Chuck Daugherty described Brace Beemer, who voiced the Lone Ranger from 1941-54 on WXYZ radio in Detroit.

"Everybody respected Brace very much," said the 83-year-old Shelby Township resident. "He was a tall, good-looking guy with a great voice. He had it all."

Beemer lent his booming, manly voice to the masked man in more than 2,000 radio episodes. He wasn't the character's first voice, but he was certainly the most famous voice in the show's 21-year run on radio.

Despite the widespread fame of his character, Beemer never "pulled the 'star' crap," according to Daugherty. "He was just a buddy to everybody."

Daugherty worked with Beemer, who lived in Oxford Township from 1942-65, on "The Lone Ranger" radio show from 1953 through its end in September 1954.

His main role was that of second announcer, which he described as "the guy who did the commercials."

But Daugherty, who was in his early 20s at the time, also did some acting, playing the part of an old prospector and serving as the main announcer/narrator whenever the show's famous Fred Foy was unavailable.

He also worked on another WXYZ radio show, "Sergeant Preston of the Yukon," which ran from 1938-55 and featured the adventures of a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman and his faithful canine companion, Yukon King. Beemer briefly played Sergeant Preston after the Lone Ranger ended.

Putting on a radio show like "The Lone Ranger" wasn't glamorous like the movies or television. It was actually a lot of hard work, according to Daugherty.

For each episode, he said the cast did three rehearsals, then performed a half-hour version that was recorded for stations outside the network and a 25-minute version that was aired live on network stations at 7:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

"That's why it was so good," he said. "We had a lot of practice."

Daugherty believes the reason that the Lone Ranger "lives on" 80 years after the character was first introduced on the airwaves in 1933 is because the show was "done so well" and was "so real."

He said the people who acted in these "so-called kids' dramas" were "artists" and that's why "these shows were classics."

"These guys could do things with their voices that very few people could," Daugherty said.

"The Lone Ranger" reached more than 80 million listeners across 129 radio stations from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Approximately 80 percent of those listeners were adults.

"Radio was big," Daugherty said. "It was the thing back in the 1930s and 1940s. Radio was it."

Most of the show's action took place in a single room shared by all the actors.

"The acting studio only had one microphone in it and it hung down in the center," Daugherty said. "Everybody had to play around that one microphone."

Beemer and his co-star, John Todd, who voiced Tonto, had their own chairs. Everyone else sat on two long benches.

Daugherty recalled how Todd, who was in his mid-70s at that point in the show, "tended to fall asleep from time to time" during the broadcasts.

When it was Todd's turn to speak, his fellow cast members would wake him and help him over to the microphone.

As he searched for his place in the script, Todd would say things like "ugh" and "kemosabe" a lot in order to avoid having dead air. "Dead air on radio is a real no-no," Daugherty said.

Kemosabe (or ke-mo sah-bee) is an American Indian word that means "trusty scout" or "faithful friend." Tonto often referred to the Lone Ranger using this well-known term of endearment.

Daugherty is glad to see Oxford honoring Beemer and the masked hero he "personified" so well.

"It's about time," he said. "(The Lone Ranger) was one of the top stars in the country. He was bigger than a movie star."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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