“A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver! The Lone Ranger! … 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!
“Come on, Silver! Let’s go, big fellow! Hi-yo Silver! Away!”
So just how were those “thundering hoofbeats” created for an audience which numbered in the millions, sitting at home in front of their radios?
Local radio pioneer Dave Downing will not only answer that question, he will demonstrate how it was done during his Sounds of Old Time Radio program presented by the Historical Society of Greater Lansing, 7 p.m., Wednesday November 14 at the downtown branch of the Capital Area District Library, 401 South Capitol Lansing Michigan.
Downing has nearly a half century experience in the radio industry starting his first radio job with WILS Radio when he was 14. He also worked for WJIM AM/FM/TV and also at WFMK. He was responsible for putting Lansing Community College’s 89.7 WLNZ FM station on the air and recently retired from LCC.
During his radio career he became involved in the National Audio Theatre Festivals which promotes live audio theatre and stages a major production each summer. He has been the executive producer of the Festival’s live audio theatre for several years and recently produced a live program featuring Phil Proctor and David Ossman of the “Firesign Theatre” fame.
Downing said Michigan has a rich history in early radio or what is commonly called the “golden age of radio” which lasted from the 1920s through the 1950s.
“WXYZ in Detroit, for example, originated and was home to “The Lone Ranger” and “The Green Hornet”, both classic “golden days” radio shows.”
Premiering in 1933, nearly 3,000 episodes of “The Lone Ranger” were aired and next year a major motion picture starring Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp will reprise the roles of the Lone Ranger and Tonto.
“Probably the best known old-time radio show was Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” which when it first aired on October 30, 1938 created near hysteria with its depiction of an alien invasion of earth,” Downing said.
He said other shows that people might remember are “Fibber McGee and Molly”, “Superman”, Jack Benny Program” “The FBI in Peace and War” and “Dick Tracy”.
“It was a glorious time for radio when parents and children alike gathered in front of those upright tombstone and cathedral-style Crosley, Philco, Zenith and RCA radios all across America to listen to classic drama and comedy.”
Downing said the program will explore the early roots of radio and how many of the concepts which originated with the early days of radio are alive and well in modern radio, TV, audio books and video games.
He also will demonstrate some of the principles of “theatre of the mind” with sound effects and will ask the audience to participate in creating some of their own sound effects.
The program is free and open to the public. Parents are encouraged to bring their children.
Hy yo Silver! Away.
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