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Meet Clayton
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Clayton Moore interview

An Interview
with Clayton Moore

February 21, 1979 was a special day for me. That was the day that I would have the opportunity to interview Clayton Moore live on-the-air. That week was "National Nostalgia Week." So I thought about having something to do with The Lone Ranger on the air, since it certainly fit in with the theme. A few weeks prior to that, I somehow got Clayton's address and sent him a letter asking if he would be interested in doing an interview. I got a letter back from him, along with his home phone number, to make the arrangements. A few days later, I called him at home and we discussed what we would, and would not, talk about. He asked that we not bring up religion, politics or his personal life. "Just stick to my career and my role as The Lone Ranger" he requested. When I called him at home, his wife actually answered the phone and I told her who I was and asked to speak to him. I could hear her calling him. Turns out he had been in the garage working on his car! The big night came, I called him and here's how the interview went:

[R] stands for Rick (me)

and [C] stands for Clayton

Look for the sound icons Sound icon to hear the voice of Clayton Moore answering the questions.

R: Clayton, you have an interesting background. I understand you used to be in the circus.

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton answer this question)

C: I did a flying trapeze act for a number of years, in the early days of the western frontier.

R: What year was that?

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton answer this question)

C: My circus career finished in 1934, due to a fall. I was at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1934. In '35 I went to New York to get on Broadway as an actor. However, I never did make Broadway. I stayed there until 1938 and then came to California.

R: You were in a lot of serials weren't you?

C: Well, yes, I was King of the Serials at Republic studios starting in 1939. In '43 I went into the Army Air Force. Got out in 1945, in June, and then went back to the serials at Republic studios. Stayed there until 1949 and then I started The Lone Ranger series.

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton talk about his dream)

I had two dreams when I was a young fella. I wanted to be a policeman and a cowboy.

R: And you portrayed both didn't you?

C: Yes, I did.

R: What were some of the serials you were in?

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton answer this question)

C: Well, I wore the black hat in quite a few serials. The black hat is the insignia for the bad guy. In some of the Gene Autry's and Roy Roger's I played the bad guy. And then I wore the white hat, which is the symbol of the good guy. Some of the serials I made, I think my very first one Rick was a picture called The Perils of Nyoka with Katherine Aldrich. Then there was G-Men Never Forget, The Adventures of Frank and Jesse James, Jesse James Rides Again, The Crimson Ghost, Radar Men From The Moon, Son of Geronimo, Royal Mounted Police, oh it goes on and on and on. I loved the serials. They were a lot of fun, a lot of hard work though.

R: I understand they were completed in a relatively short period of time weren't they?

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton answer this question)

C: Well, a 15 episode serial we'd do in about six weeks. And the scripts were quite thick. All we did all day long was to ride and fight and a tremendous amount of dialog, which all had to be done by memory. We worked hard and, of course, we played hard too.

R: I remember going to see the following weeks episode where it seemed you met death by some dastardly deed only to have rolled out of the way. It seems like rolling out of the way was one of the more popular ways of getting out of something.

C: (Laughs) Yeah, they used to call me old roll-y.

R: Let's talk about the role you're most famous for, and that is The Lone Ranger. Can you tell us how it came about that you were picked to star as The Lone Ranger.

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton answer this question)

C: Well, it involves quite a long story. I'm in the process of writing a book called "I Was That Masked Man." However, at the present time I'm in a lawsuit with The Wrather Corporation and I had to hold back on the book, until the litigation or lawsuit is over with. So, I'm hoping that in about a year the book will be out. Of course it explains in the book how I got the part of The Lone Ranger, but I was chosen for the part out of some 200 men who were up for the role.

R: Of those men, are there any whose names we would recognize?

C: Oh, well, people that we used in The Lone Ranger, let's see we had Jim Arness. He was in The Lone Ranger. Is that what you're referring to?

R: I meant the guys who were up for the lead.

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton answer this question)

C: Up for the part? I don't remember, there was a good many of them and of course we were all starving actors at the time and when I was chosen for the part by the producers, it was one of my dreams coming true.

R: That was in 1949?

C: That was 1949.

R: And it premiered with a special three part episode in which it explained the origin of The Lone Ranger.

C: That's right, very much like the radio show.

R: Was that a serialized three part episode, like the old time serials?

C: Yes it was, except that we didn't have the dramatic life or death ending in that. It was just done in continuity.

R: By the way, are you wearing your mask now?

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton answer this question)

C: (Laughs) You'll never know!

R: All right, I'd like to invite our listeners to call-in now if they have any questions for Clayton Moore, the actor who portrayed The Lone Ranger. I imagine one of the most popular questions you have to answer is, what does "kemo sabe" really mean?

C: Shall we see if we get one?

R: Sure, here's our first caller. Good evening, do you have a question for Clayton Moore?

Caller #1: Yeah, what was his horse's name?

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton answer this question)

C: My horse's name was Silver.

Caller #1: Where did you buy that horse?

C: He was bought back east.

Caller #1: Did he die?

C: Silver died in 1977. He was 29 years old. A beautiful animal.

Caller #1: How old are you?

C: How old am I?

Caller #1: Yeah.

C: (Laughs) You could have asked anything but that. I'll tell you how old I am. I was born in 1914. I'll let you figure that out.

R: OK Clayton, we have another caller right now. Good evening.

Caller #2: Yeah, did you ever play the Rialto Theatre in Peoria?

C: Yes I did.

Caller #2: About 1938 or '40?

C: Well, it was ah, let's see I'm trying to remember this...

Caller #2: I can't be sure but I shook hands with The Lone Ranger and won a pair of cowboy chaps, using the serial cards.

C: If it was back in the early '40's it could have been Brace Beemer the radio man, because I didn't start The Lone Ranger until 1949.

R: He was making a lot of appearances as The Lone Ranger.

Caller #2: I do remember shaking hands with The Lone Ranger and winning a pair of cowboy chaps. Just by being there and having my card punched.

C: Maybe I'll be there on a personal appearance because I do them all the time.

Caller #2: It was really nice talking with you.

R: Thank you. We're talking with Clayton Moore, the actor who portrayed The Lone Ranger on TV and in the movies. The Lone Ranger ended in 1956 didn't it Clayton?

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton answer this question)

C: We stopped shooting the TV pictures in 1956, and in 1956 and '57 we made two feature length motion pictures for the theatre.

R: The last movie was The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold...

C: ...we made that in 1956 and it was released in 1957.

R: And that was the last time you portrayed The Lone Ranger in a movie?

C: That was the last time.

R: Did you know it would be at that time?

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton answer this question)

C: Well, yes we knew that the series was going to be stopped. However, The Wrather Corporation is going to make another Lone Ranger picture, a feature picture for the theatre, but they won't be using Jay Silverheels, Tonto, or myself. They're going to use somebody else. I'm not too happy about that, but nothing I can do about it. I keep myself in real good shape, I ride all the time and I'd love to do one more show, but their opinion is they want two other men. I wish them luck. I wasn't too happy with when they stopped making them to tell you the truth. The Lone Ranger has meant a great deal to me in my life.

R: Let's continue along with some more phone call here. We have some people patiently waiting to talk to you. Good evening, you're talking to Clayton Moore.

Caller #3: Yes, first off I'd like to say that I'm a real big fan of Mr. Moore's and The Lone Ranger. I enjoyed it immensely and I still watch all the re-runs. I have a two part question I'd like to ask you. First off, there's been just a tremendous decline in westerns and I'd like to know what Mr. Moore feels are some of the reasons and, if he would, would he compare the westerns of The Lone Ranger perhaps to some that were popular during this decade.

C: Well, first of all, there's too much violence today. We didn't have a tremendous amount of violence on our shows. Sure we did have the law of the gun and we did have physical combat, fights, but there wasn't the blood and guts as they call it today. I don't like violence, I don't think we have to have it. This is one of the reasons why I believe the western has sort of taken a back seat. However, it runs in cycles and I think you're going to find out that westerns will be coming back. It's Americana, it's part of our history, the cowboy, the cattle drive, the sheriff, the fight for law, order and justice. Justice will always prevail as far as I'm concerned. What was the other part of your question?

Caller #3: Do you feel that the works of authors such as Louis L'Amour could be made into a series?

C: Yes, definitely.

R: Thanks for calling. We have another caller. Good evening and thank you for waiting.

Caller #4: Yeah, what does "kemo sabe" mean?

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton answer this question)

C: "Kemo sabe" is Potawotamie Indian. It means faithful friend or trusty scout.

Caller #4: Oh and what do you do now?

C: I'm kind of retired, although I do go out on personal appearances all the time. What's your name dear?

Caller #4: Sheryl.

C: How old are you Sheryl?

Caller #4: 16.

C: 16? A beautiful age. Are you going to go to college?

Caller #4: Oh, I don't think so (giggles).

R: Sheryl, have you seen The Lone Ranger TV programs?

Caller #4: Yes I have.

R: Do you realize that you're talking to the fellow who's on your TV set?

Caller #4: Yep.

R: How do you feel about that?

Caller #4: (giggles) It's pretty weird.

R: Well, thanks for calling and have a nice evening. Let's take another call. Good evening...

Caller #5: Hello I'm Tony and I would like to know if he really has silver bullets.

C: Yes I do Tony. However, the bullets that I used to give away years ago were aluminum. And on the back of the aluminum bullets was "Lone Ranger 45." So if you ever run across one of those, be sure you hold on to it, because they're quite a collectors piece today. Do you know what the silver bullet stood for?

Caller #5: No I don't.

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton talk about the silver bullets)

C: The silver bullet was my symbol of justice. It stood for law and order. Fair play and honesty.

Caller #5: Thanks.

R: A lot of good questions tonight Clayton. Let's see if you remember this. Several years ago when I was going to grade school, there was something called savings stamps.

C: 1958.

R: You remember that?

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton answer this question)

C: Yeah, it was a saving stamp program that was promoted by the Treasury Department. I believe that I was out on tour for the program. I think the month that I was out I raised better than $22 million. These were stamps that were purchased by the school children.

R: Do you remember the time you went over to England as The Lone Ranger?

C: Yes I do.

R: What was the occasion?

C: I went over there on a personal appearance with the feature picture The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold. I spent six weeks over in England. Two weeks in London at the theatre there and then play.

R: I'm seeing you in your blue ranger outfit. But the Texas Rangers in the very first program didn't wear that particular outfit did they?

C: No, no. The Texas Rangers wore anything that they could get a hold of in the early days.

R: How did it happen that that costume was picked? Is it something that you wanted, or the producers wanted?

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton answer this question)

C: Well, number one, I liked the costume. I designed it. I chose the colors. However in black and white, it was a real light gray. But in color it was a powder blue with a red neckerchef, the white hat, pair of black boots, black double holstered gun belt. That went with the powder blue costume.

R: I don't know that it's ever been published or mentioned anywhere, what The Lone Ranger's first name was. The last name was Reid. But some people have said that his first name was John.

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton answer this question and ask one of his own)
Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton ask another trivia question)

C: That's right. John Reid. And my nephews name was Dan. And my brother in the Texas Rangers was Captain Dan Reid. Now here's a trivia question for you. Do you happen to know what Dan Reid's mothers name was?

R: That is a good one.

C: Let's let that hang for awhile and maybe one of your listeners will come up with the name. How about, there were three people who saw The Lone Ranger without his mask after he decided to be The Lone Ranger. Do you know who they were?

R: Tonto, of course.

C: That's one.

R: Dan?

C: That's two.

R: How about the fellow who mined the silver mine for you?

C: Jim?

R: Yeah.

C: No, Jim never saw me without the mask.

R. How about the padre?

C: The padre never saw me without the mask.

R: You've got me stumped!

C: Oh yeah. Let's let that sit there for a while.

R: OK, we have another caller waiting. Good evening.

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton answer these questions)

Caller #6: Yeah, I'd like to hear him say "hi-yo Silver!"

C: You would huh?

Caller #6: Yeah.

C: Well it won't sound over the telephone like it would when you see it on the television...

Caller #6: That's all right...

C: You ready for it?

Caller #6: Uh huh!

C: (shouts) Hi-yooo Sillllver!

Caller #6: And what size boots do you wear?

C: I wear a nine and a half.

Caller #6: I was just wondering.

C: What size do you wear?

Caller #6: A six, but I don't wear boots.

C: What are you about 12 or 13 years old?

Caller #6: Yeah.

C: What's your name?

Caller #6: Cindy.

C: Well, how are you Cindy?

Caller #6: Fine.

C: How's school?

Caller #6: Oh pretty good.

C: I bet you get good grades.

Caller #6: Oh, I try.

C: That a girl. Say hello to your parents for me.

Caller #6: OK.

R: We have someone else waiting to talk to you. Let's go to that.

Caller #7: Yes, Mr. Moore I'd like to ask you, after everyone was shot, wasn't Silver suppposed to be a wild horse?

C: That's right.

Caller #7: And then you caught him and trained him when you recuperated?

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton answer this question)

C: He was in a death defying fight with a buffalo. My horse, when Tonto nursed me back to health, was shot out from underneath me by Butch Cavendish. And then I mentioned to Tonto that I had heard stories about a wild stallion, a leader of a herd of horses. Tonto told me where it was and we headed for that valley. The horse was in a fight with the buffalo. The buffalo had Silver down. He was making his last charge and in the story I pulled my six shooter and shot the buffalo. I nursed Silver back to health and we've been riding together ever since.

Caller #7: And can you also tell me what tribe Tonto was with?

C: Tonto was a Potawotamie Indian in the television series. In real life he is a full blooded Mohawk Indian. And he was born on the Six Nations Reservation in Brantford, Canada. When he was a young fellow, he came to the United States of America.

Caller #7: Well, thank you very much.

C: My pleasure.

R: We just have a few minutes remaining for our program. Clayton, I don't know if this is a sore point with you or not, but I think some people might remember that there was another fellow who portrayed The Lone Ranger for a short time. His name was John Hart.

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton answer this question)

C: Yes. It was for one year and it's not a sore subject. I know John very well. He's a very fine gentleman. He replaced me for 52 pictures. We had a contractural problem, or I did with the Lone Ranger company. I demanded more money. I would have wanted better treatment. And so I had to ask them to get somebody else which they did. But thanks to the public, your listeners, they demanded me back. I made 78 pictures first and then they replaced me for a year and I came back on public demand and made another 150 or more pictures.

R: Well as far as I'm concerned you're the true representative of The Lone Ranger.

C: Thanks Rick. John is a very nice fellow and he tried his best.

R: OK, let's take another phone call and then before I let you go, you've got to tell me who that third person was who saw you without the mask after you became The Lone Ranger. And Dan Reid's mothers name. Good evening, thank you for waiting.

Caller #8: I just wanted to express my gratitude for The Lone Ranger and his image throughout my years. I'm a little over 30 years old and he was my idol. It brings back a lot of memories for me.

C: I'm very pleased that you've been a follower of mine for years. It's nice to hear your voice and I hope you continue to watch the re-runs. Thank you.

R: Well, I hate to say it, but that's all the time we have. I wish we could do this for another hour or so.

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton give the answer to his trivia questions)

C: OK Rick. There's probably some younger children listening. So before we hang up, I'd like to leave them with a message if I may. But first of all, Dan Reid's mothers name was Linda. And the third person who saw me without the mask, outside of Dan Reid and Tonto, was Grandma Frisby.

R: Grandma Frisby??? Who was she?

C: It was probably the fourth or fifth radio show.

R: Well Butch Cavendish also saw you without the mask.

C: Not on the TV show.

R: No, on the radio show, The Lone Ranger caught up with Butch Cavendish. He wanted Butch Cavendish to know who it was that had caught up with him, so he took his mask off.

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton give a special message for children)

C: OK. And now I'd like to give out a message if I may to all the youngsters that may be listening. Boys and girls, this is Clayton Moore, The Lone Ranger, asking a favor of you please. Be careful crossing the streets. Look both ways and make sure there isn't a car coming. And then proceed across the street very carefully. Study real hard in school and learn all about our country. The United States of America. Mind Mom and Dad and the police officers of your city. Don't forget kids, they love you just as much as you love them.

Sound icon(Click here to hear Clayton say "Adios")

C: Adios!

Note: The preceding was an edited version of the original interview. The only things omitted were a couple of the questions and answers, due to poor audio quality, and the telephone numbers given for listeners to call-in.