Earle Graser (1909 - April 8, 1941) was an American radio actor at radio station WXYZ, Detroit, Michigan.
Graser was born in Kitchener, Ontario. He was a child when his family moved to Detroit, Michigan. Graser graduated from a Detroit high school and attended Wayne University (now Wayne State University) in Detroit, where he earned an A.B. in oratory, drama, and interpretive reading. He also studied law for two years, earning an LL.B. (Bachelor of Laws). While working at WXYZ, he continued taking graduate classes and earned a M.A. in speech.
During high school he worked part-time as a drugstore soda jerk and delivered groceries. Earle had always wanted a nickname, but never had one until he asked his friends to call him "Barney". He got the name from a horse that pulled the grocery wagon.
In the summer of 1928, he got a job at the Michigan Theater, part of the Kunsky Theatre chain owned by John Kunsky and George Trendle. He was an usher, doubling as the announcer for the next organ selection, and occasionally had small parts in live stage shows.
In the summer of 1931, he joined a traveling show that was performing in Michigan. The company would set up a tent for two nights, performing "The Haunted House" and "Your Uncle Dudley".
In 1932, Graser was hired as a bit player by dramatic productions director James Jewell of Detroit radio station WXYZ.
For recreation, he enjoyed swimming, badminton and gardening. He sang bass in his church choir.
He listed his ambitions: own a farm in Connecticut, play Hamlet and teach elocution and drama at a small Eastern college.
The Lone Ranger
The Lone Ranger radio series premiered on January 30, 1933. George Seaton played the Lone Ranger from January 31 to May 9 of 1933, then left the station. Graser was one of five actors who auditioned to take over the role of the Lone Ranger.
Graser was chosen to play the part of The Lone Ranger, beginning April 16, 1933. Since this was during the days of live radio broadcasts, Graser had two understudies ready to play his part, but he never missed a performance.
Three times a week, he was heard on 150 stations of the Mutual Network and on scores of independent radio stations. Each show was performed three times for live broadcasts to different time zones. Beginning in 1938, the third performance was recorded on transcription disk for stations that were not connected to the network.
Graser was allowed to take a two-week vacation during 1939 and 1940. The scripts were written so that the show could continue in his absence, with the Lone Ranger reappearing just in time to resolve the story.
The creators of the Lone Ranger program decided that the Lone Ranger must remain a mystery. Graser was required to restrict his radio acting to the role of the Lone Ranger and his identity was kept secret from the general public.
John Todd, the veteran character actor who played Tonto, was a close friend. Graser and Todd frequently drove home together and stopped for a cigar and a nip and a hand of cards.
Graser and his wife were at a night club when a prize was offered for the person who could shout "Hi-Yo, Silver!" most nearly like the Ranger. Graser entered the contest, but didn't win.
Brace Beemer appeared as the Ranger in public appearances because station owner George Trendle felt that Earl Graser did not look right for the part. Beemer was 6 foot three inches tall, had an athletic build, rode horses and was an expert shot. Graser was under six foot, slightly chubby, did not know how to ride and only shot a pistol once in his life.
On April 8, 1941, Graser was killed in Farmington, Michigan, when his car crashed into a parked truck trailer. It was surmised that he had fallen asleep at the wheel while on his way to the WXYZ studios in Detroit. He was survived by his widow, Jeanne, and a 15 month old daughter, Gabrielle.
He was buried in Detroit's Grand Lawn Cemetery.
In 2002 his home was designated as a site on the National Register of Historic Places. The marker reads --
Site on the National Register of Historic Places
May we remember him with a hearty “HI Yo Silver Away”
On the hillside north of this cemetery was the home of Earle Graser and his wife Jean.
Earle Graser (1909–1941) Radio’s Original “Lone Ranger”
Few people knew Earle by his given name. Millions knew him as the voice of radio theatres first great character – the Lone Ranger – from 1933 to 1941
Earle resided here until his death in a tragic auto accident a few blocks down Grand River.
Beemer took over as the voice of The Lone Ranger from 1941 to the end of the series in 1955.
Most of Earle Graser's performances came before the use of transcription disks and modern audiences better remember his successor's in the role of the Lone Ranger. However, his voice continued to be heard. The radio and television series continued using his recorded voice for the famous "Hi Yo, Silver" shout.
- "'Lone Ranger' of Radio Fame Killed in Auto Accident," Detroit Free Press, April 8, 1941 p1
- "HI-YO SILVER" by J Brian III - The Saturday Evening Post October 14, 1939
- "LONE RANGER DEAD, AUTO HIT TRAILER" - New York Times, Wednesday, April 9, 1941