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Fred Foy dies at 89; announcer for 'The Lone Ranger'

Fred Foy had a long voice-over career in radio and television, but he is best remembered as the voice behind the introduction to 'The Lone Ranger.'

December 23, 2010|By Dennis McLellan, Los Angeles Times
  • Fred Foy shows off his Golden Voice of Radio award, presented at the 2004 Golden Boot Awards in Los Angeles.
Fred Foy shows off his Golden Voice of Radio award, presented at the 2004…

Fred Foy, a radio and television announcer best known for conjuring up "those thrilling days of yesteryear" in the late 1940s and '50s as the announcer-narrator of "The Lone Ranger" on radio and television, has died. He was 89.

Foy died Wednesday morning of age-related causes at his home in Woburn, Mass., said his daughter, Nancy Foy.

During a broadcasting career that began in Detroit in 1940, Foy spent more than 20 years as a staff announcer for ABC television and radio before retiring in the mid-1980s.

His early career included stints announcing radio's "The Green Hornet" and "The Challenge of the Yukon," and he later was the announcer on "The Dick Cavett Show" on ABC in the late '60s and early '70s.

But for many, Foy remains best remembered for his stentorian delivery of what many consider the most famous opening in broadcast history, accompanied by the stirring strains of Rossini's "William Tell Overture":

"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 hoof-beats of the great horse Silver. The Lone Ranger rides again!"

Foy was a staff announcer at Detroit radio station WXYZ in 1948 when he was asked to take over as the announcer for "The Lone Ranger," which had been launched at the station in 1933.

He remained with "The Lone Ranger" until its final live broadcast in 1954. He also was the understudy for Brace Beemer, who played the title character, and was pressed into service for one broadcast in the '50s when Beemer had laryngitis.

"He was a dear man," actor-announcer Gary Owens told The Times Wednesday. "He was one of my early heroes in broadcasting because he did such a good job. He had a great dramatic baritone."

Cavett was another longtime fan of Foy's.

"Fred was one of the handful of great radio announcers—there were plenty of good ones—but he was one of the giants, one with a perfectly wonderful unique voice, a highly intelligent delivery and a great gift for comedy," he said in an interview Wednesday. "The comic bits he would do for me on the show were faultlessly played.

"Every night when I was in my dressing room getting ready to go on, I'd hear the 'William Tell Overture' and Fred's voice," Cavett said, reciting the familiar introduction that Foy would perform while warming up the studio audience. "Even doing it right now I get goose pimples. Fred did that and thrilled the audience— and me."

In a 2008 interview with National Public Radio, Foy said: "We never dreamed that this would become a legend when we were doing the show.

"And it's so beautiful to know that you had so many people who sat back and enjoyed your work."

He was born Frederick William Foy on March 27, 1921, in Detroit. In 1940, he landed a part-time job at WMBC, a small independent radio station in Detroit.

He moved to WXYZ in 1942 but was drafted into the Army later that year. Foy returned to the station after serving in the Special Services United/Armed Forces Radio in Cairo.

His career included narrating network documentaries, announcing "The Generation Gap" and other quiz shows, doing voice-overs for movie trailers and serving as a spokesman for General Motors, Colgate and other national advertisers.

Foy was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2000 and received a Golden Boot Award from the Motion Picture & Television Fund in 2004.

In addition to his daughter Nancy, he is survived by his wife of 63 years, Frances; two other children, Wendy Foy Griffis and Fritz Foy; and three grandchildren.

dennis.mclellan@latimes.com

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