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WXYZ Archives



GEORGE TRENDLE AND THE LONE RANGER, GREEN HORNET, AND CHALLENGE OF THE YUKON 

George Trendle (1884-1972) was a Detroit lawyer in the 1920s specializing in movie contracts and leases. In 1928 he became a 25% partner in a movie theater chain owned by John Kunsky, who had built the first movie theater in Detroit in 1911. The pair were bought out by Paramount movies head Adolph Zukor and used the money to form the Kunsky-Trendle Broadcasting Company in 1929 after they bought Detroit radio station WGHP. The radio station's call letters were later changed to WXYZ. Trendle became President and station manager and Kunsky was VP. In June 1932, Trendle dropped their network affiliation and began operating WXYZ as an independent station so they wouldn’t have to pay for syndicated programs. Jim Jewell became the station's dramatic director and supplied actors from his own repertory company, the "Jewell Players." Freelance radio writer Fran Striker was hired to write many of the early dramatic programs including Dr. Fang and Warner Lester, Manhunter. Striker would become head of the WXYZ script department.

The Lone Ranger, conceived by Trendle and written by Striker, first aired Jan. 30, 1933 on WXYZ and seven affiliates of the Michigan Radio Network. Striker is credited with the idea for an Indian companion and silver bullets. Sponsored by Silvercup Bread, the show became an instant hit and merchandising and promotion began almost immediately.

 In early 1934, the show was syndicated to Chicago’s WGN and Newark’s WOR. Other stations soon followed. The live broadcasts were transmitted over telephone lines to the other stations. The Mutual Broadcasting System was created in 1934, and WXYZ became a charter member. The Lone Ranger program was featured on the Mutual Network until 1942, then switched to the NBC Blue Network, which became ABC in 1943. The show would eventually be heard on some 240 stations. Voice actors playing the Lone Ranger included Jack Deeds, George Stenius, and Earl Graser, though Brace Beemer was the one most closely associated with the character on radio from 1941 to 1955.

Republic introduced a movie serial starring Lee Powell and Chief Thundercloud Feb. 12, 1938 and a feature film April 10, 1940.

The ABC-TV show ran from Sept. 15, 1949 until June 6, 1957. Clayton Moore played the Lone Ranger in 169 episodes, from 1949 to 1951 and 1954 to 1957. John Hart played the lead in 52 episodes in 1952 and 1953. Jay Silverheels played Tonto in 217 episodes between 1949 and 1957.  Trendle sold the rights to the Lone Ranger to the Wrather Corporation in 1954.  

Created by Trendle, Striker, and director James Jewell, The Green Hornet first aired on January 31, 1936 and ran on the radio until Dec. 5, 1952. The plot line had Britt Reid, great-nephew of the Lone Ranger as a newspaper publisher and his valet Kato fighting crime. Universal released a movie serial Jan. 8, 1940 starring Gordon Jones as Britt Reid and Keye Luke as Kato. The ABC-TV series starring Van Williams and Bruce Lee aired from Sept. 9, 1966 until March 17, 1967.  

As an interesting cost cutting measure, Trendle used the William Tell Overture as the music theme for The Lone Ranger and Flight of the Bumblebee as the theme for The Green Hornet so he wouldn’t have to pay royalties.

Created by Trendle and Striker after the success of Lone Ranger and Green Hornet, Challenge of the Yukon, set in the great Northwest Gold Rush of the 1890s , first aired Feb. 3, 1938. Jay Michael, who had previously played outlaw Butch Cavendish on The Lone Ranger, played Sgt. Preston of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from 1938 into the mid-1940s. Paul Sutton took over the role, followed by Brace Beemer who had been The Lone Ranger’s voice. Sound effects men Dewey Cole and Ted Johnstone supplied the barks and howls of Preston’s lead sled dog Yukon King. Challenge of the Yukon began as a 15-minute serialized show airing locally from 1938 until May 28, 1947 when Quaker Oats became a sponsor. The show changed to a half hour format and ran on ABC from June 12, 1947, to December 30, 1949. It then moved to the Mutual Broadcasting System from January 2, 1950, through the final broadcast on June 9, 1955. The title was changed to Sergeant Preston of the Yukon in Nov. 1951. Several episodes were directed by Charles Livingston, who had also directed several Lone Ranger and Green Hornet radio episodes. The CBS-TV show starring Richard Simmons ran from Sept.29, 1955 until Sept. 25, 1958. A Malamute played Yukon King. One of the most popular premiums ever issued was the Klondike Big Inch Land Promotion in 1955, giving away actual deeds to one square inch of a lot in Yukon Territory, issued by Klondike Big Inch Land Co. Inc. Deeds were inserted into boxes of Quaker's Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice. The TV series ended when it was sold to the Jack Wrather Corporation.

In some ways, George Trendle can be compared to Walt Disney as a smart businessman who gave the public just what it wanted at the right time; in Trendle’s case three of the most popular fictional characters in the history of 20th century as they transcended all media- radio, television, film and print.

All of the following items are from the archives of WXYZ and obtained by former long-time station employee Jiam DesJardin.

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