Long before it became a blockbuster Disney movie with Johnny Depp and even before it was a hit TV series in the ’50s, “The Lone Ranger” was already a long-running western drama from the Golden Age of radio.
That’s why it’s particularly an appropriate choice for episode number 1,000 of “Old Radio Theater,” a biweekly vintage drama and comedy series airing at 8 p.m. Sunday on Nevada City’s KVMR 89.5 FM (kvmr.org streaming).
As pop culture gets inundated with the cinematic Lone Ranger and Tonto, KVMR listeners will experience it the way it was originally intended — as radio art.
“One of the episodes is the origin of The Lone Ranger and his mask and how he’s befriended by Tonto,” said series co-producer David Breninger. “And the other is how they save the great white horse Silver and catch outlaw Butch Cassidy.”
Brace Beemer is heard as the Masked Man in this broadcast from around 1950, while his faithful Indian companion Tonto’s voice is John Todd, who was heard as Tonto throughout the show’s entire 23-year radio run: 1933 to 1956.
Breninger and his wife, Linda, have been producing and hosting “Old Radio Theater” since they started the salute to radio’s Golden Age back in 1985. They’ve amassed hundreds of hours of episodes from comedy, variety, drama, suspense, soap opera and documentary shows of radio from the early 1930s to the late 1950s at their studio and archive in Roseville.
“The program may be the only one of its kind in the Sacramento region and maybe even the San Francisco Bay Area,” notes KVMR Program Director Steve Baker. “We’re one of the only stations around that still celebrates the medium’s creative and cultural history. That’s what you get on ‘Old Radio Theater.’”
Also on the millennial show this Sunday night at 8 is a “Superman” episode in which Breninger says “the man of steel confronts his arch enemy — kryptonnite.” And it’s rounded out by a sports newsreel featuring commentator Bill Stern and special guest Frank Sinatra.
“We even find a few minutes to reminisce about the series and its longevity,” quips Breninger with his usual broad, contagious smile.
Breninger was Grass Valley’s city administrator from 1984 to 1992 when he left to become general manager of the Placer County Water Agency. Linda was principal of Lyman Gilmore Middle School before retiring in 1994. They volunteer their services to KVMR and its eclectic, free-form style of music and variety programming.
What makes them so fond of shows going back as many as, gulp, 80 years?
“You hear the voices,” David Breninger said. “You’re then coming up with your own theater, your own characters and your own setting using your imagination.
I treasure the intimacy of radio, sharing voices of the past with people who appreciate hearing them.”
Given that, the next 1,000 shows should be doozies as well.
The Breningers can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It was a blast
KVMR’s 35th Birthday Party was a real blast — both of heat and fun.
A couple hundred listeners, supporters and volunteers turned out at the Pioneer Park Band Shell Saturday as the station kicked off a month-long celebration of its 35 years on air. The exact birth date is July 14, 1978. Softball, live music, a festive cake-cutting and a 3,000-photo gallery of station history were among the hot afternoon highlights.
General Manager David Levin and KVMR Board of Directors President Michael Young were among those unceremoniously — or was it ceremoniously? — victimized in a dunk tank by both small and large children. They both acknowledged they were “all wet,” at least Saturday afternoon.
Contributing musicians included Peter Wilson, Bodie Busick, the Earls of Newtown and Grease, Grit and Grime, among others.
The way we were …
As part of the station’s 35th birthday celebration, listeners and friends are invited to call and leave a “happy birthday” greeting, a favorite KVMR story or memory … or simply a message of what they like about KVMR and why. Some of the messages will be replayed on the air during July.
The special voicemail birthday line operates 24 hours a day through KVMR’s office telephone 530-265-9073, ext. 218.
A weekly wrap-up of news and oddities about community radio station KVMR (89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming), a noncommercial station offering diverse musical programming, independent news and provocative public affairs from about 150 volunteer “citizen-broadcasters.” Complete program listings are available at kvmr.org.