A TRIBUTE TO FRED FOY
(March 27, 1921 - December 22, 2010)
by Mark Bush © 2011
(From Radio Recall, February 2011)
My wife, Marsha,and I were driving home a couple of days before Christmas. We had turned on the CBS hourly news and we heard the signature opening to The Lone Ranger. I was surprised, then dismayed. It almost certainly meant somebody connected with the show had passed on. This time it was Fred Foy, the announcer who started doing that famous recitation in the late 1940s, just about the time I began listening to it. Fred had one of the most recognized and recognizable voices in all of show business. I felt I had lost a childhood friend.
Oddly, I did not really meet my childhood friend until June of 1993 when Marsha and I attended the 60th anniversary celebration of The Lone Ranger out in Lone Pine, California. Fred was mobbed just like Clayton Moore and John Hart but, like the others, did not seem to feel it was his due. He was approachable and friendly and introduced us to his lovely and pleasant wife Fran.
Like so many from the time when radio was the main in-home source of entertainment, Fred labored in relative anonymity because he was a faceless voice. But what a voice! You knew who belonged to that voice the instant you heard it. He was the voice-over for a semi-documentary about the making of The Dirty Dozen that TCM played a few years ago. There was no need to ask if the narrator was Fred Foy. It had to be!
Curiously, Fred did not do the introduction for the first 15 episodes of the television version of The Lone Ranger. That honor went to Gerald Mohr, who played in many movies and radio-television episodes. It was a fine voice but it was not “the” voice and Fred came in to do the rest of the series.
Fred told a story of a time on Challenge Of The Yukon when the plot concerned a young man who had taken in a wolf cub that was nearly dead. He nursed the cub back to health and eventually returned the grown wolf to the wild. Years later, the young man was set upon by evildoers who left him to die of the cold. Things got exponentially worse when he noticed a pack of wolves gathering around him, most likely intending to do him harm. But the leader of the pack stepped into the clearing and set himself between the wounded man and the rest of the pack.
Fred stood at the same microphone as the actor playing the injured young man. The line was supposed to be something like “…those eyes; that fur; those fangs; that’s my wolf.” Unfortunately, the actor finished by saying “That’s my wife.” The actor never realized his error and stood unconcerned while Fred choked and chortled his way through more than a page of expository material. Fred looked for help from the surrounding cast, but got none. They were turned away snorting and trying to stifle their own hilarity.
When Fred looked to the control booth for respite, all he saw was a hand trying to pull a body back into the chair from which the person had fallen in his own reaction to the gaffe. I heard Fred tell that story several times and it never failed to bring forth howls of laughter from the audience. And it did not matter a whit if they were hearing it for the first or the tenth time.
Fred played the mayor of Del Rio, Texas in The Legend Of The Lone Ranger (1981). His scenes did not make the final cut. He jokingly contended years later that he thought the movie would have been much more popular had his scenes been left in place. But he was in the movie because he voiced-over a modified version of the famous radio/TV introduction for the closing credits.
Marsha reminded me of a peculiar mannerism of Fred’s. We saw him do the introduction many times over the years. It was his signature too. Fred never needed the script, but often had one clasped in his hand. As he began “A fiery horse,” he folded his other hand into a fist and was “in the moment” until he reached the end of the signature. He did not vary from this formula once in all the years we watched him.
In 2002, I was hospitalized for a heart problem. When he learned that a fan was down, Fred sent me a copy of his monograph Fred Foy from XYZ to ABC. He autographed it “To Mark Bush---Have a speedy recovery---My best always---Hi Yo Silver---Fred Foy.” That perked up my spirit for months and I would show it to anybody who came near me.
That wonderful voice is now silent and I will miss my childhood friend. Fred was an integral part of “those thrilling days.” How fortunate we are to have so many examples of Fred’s efforts on our behalf, preserved and available. We can still hear the Lone Ranger, and Fred, ride “again.”