Sunday, December 29, 2013


More good news for suicidal record store owners and eBay vinyl sellers who are slowly starving! Not only did Joe E. Ross's novelty single (see above) get $111, but on that same Christmas Day, Ken Rank's dopey "Twin City Saucer" single went for $51. Yes, if you have a really obscure single, and at least two or three affluent maniacs who still collect records like they think they'll never die, you can still make money (once in a while) selling vinyl! One selling point for this indie single of local (Michigan) interest, was that it was (gasp!) actually autographed by the late Ken himself. $51 is quite a great sale for a lowly break-in single.

There are people who will break into your home for $50. For $5 even. If you're a longtime fan of the blog, you might remember a posting about Anne Pressly, an attractive blonde newscaster (KATV, Arkansas) who was the victim of a break-in. The monkey who was after a few dollars, decided to bash her face in as she lay in bed sleeping. Presley's mother could hardly identify her daughter's dead body, the pretty face smashed "beyond recognition."

Some 40 or 50 years ago, the "break-in" you were most likely to experience was yours for a dollar; a very stupid novelty single. A narrator would lob easy questions into a microphone, and the "answers" would be clips from current hit songs. Haw haw haw. Dickie Goodman was the master of such harmonic moronics, and it helped that he had a comical voice that seemed to cross Walter Winchell with Allan Sherman. His "Flying Saucer" (on his own Luniverse label) was a hit circa 1956. Here, a local disc jockey (the "Twin Cities" are not Minneapolis and St. Paul but the more obscure St. Joseph and Benton Harbor) talks about the arrival of a flying saucer (something Goodman had joked about ten years earlier):

Ken: It could be that there is more known about these objects than the public's being told. Maybe-
Herman's Hermits: "There's a kind of hush all over the world."
Ken: These things have been spotted from Benton Harbor and St. Joseph all across Michigan and even -
Tom Jones: "Detroit city…"
Ken: We talked to one Benton Harbor man, and asked him: "Sir, what effect did seeing this object have on you?"
Lee Hazlewood: "My eyes grew heavy and my lips, they could not speak…"
Ken: We asked a group of high school students: what were you doing when you saw the saucer?
Simon and Garfunkel: "Lookin' for fun and feelin' groovy."
Ken: "We understand that you students were stopped by the police just before you sighted the saucer. What did the policemen say to you?"
Simon and Garfunkel" "Slow down you move too fast."

There's supposed to be recognition humor (the stars singing) to offset the incredible clumsiness of the straight line set-ups. To quote the end of a Mort Sahl joke (about an Army officer with dozens of medals on his uniform), it's "impressive. If you're twelve." Probably it was somebody who remembered this thing when he was 12 that caused him to actually sniper this item from someone who'd bid a maximum of $50. I gotta admit that when I was 12, I thought Dickie Goodman's quick-splice antics and idiot vocals were pretty funny. The guy was still doing 'em in the 70's and 80's...although by then, I found the style more nostalgic than hilarious.

Ken Rank? The man from West Plains, Missouri was a star on local ball teams (how about them West Plains Zizzers?) but following Navy service became a disc jockey. He was heard over KTCS in Fort Smith (Arkansas), WSJM in St. Joseph-Benton Harbor (Michigan) and KRMG in Tulsa (Oklahoma). It was while at WSJM (6pm to 9pm) that he and fellow DJ Tom O'Brien (9pm to midnight) wrote "Twin City Saucer." The inspiration to resurrect Dickie Goodman's ancient "Flying Saucer" idea came from actual UFO reports at the time. A spate of sightings were reported from LaPort, Indiana to South Haven, Michigan. The duo spent 3 hours figuring out questions and musical answers…and seven hours to edit and splice the result. When they played it on the air, fans instantly asked to get copies. Rank and O'Brien managed to press up some copies.

$51 to buy it recently? O'Brien recalls: "We paid $175 for 300 45's." The single was so cheaply done, they forgot about a B-side. The record label owner gave them an instrumental from one of his other artists, The Jades, and it was re-titled "Ken's Thing." Now, how to sell this indie single?

"We spent days going around to all the record stores & asking for “space.” We even had them in a fast food joint called Roxy’s Drive Inn. We worked out a deal if you buy a burger you’d get a free copy of the 45. They were on sale in Kroger’s Food Store, Goodman & Goldbaum Men’s Store and many more places I can’t recall. All 300 records sold out in 3 weeks and we placed another order – this time for 1,000. We began sending out fliers & 45′s to radio stations in Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Alpena and Lansing – hoping for some airplay. We even got a call from WCFL in Chicago requesting a copy. CFL never played it – and by this time the UFO stories had become a distant memory. Eventually we sold almost all of the 2nd run – about 800. The rest we gave to family & friends."

Ken Rank eventually left the teen-oriented Top 40 world, which was a young man's game. He knew which way the wind was blowing, and became a weather man. He diversified by owning his own video production company, VideoBase. He had his own TV show for a while, "Ken's Window" as well. In 1996 he moved to Tulsa, producing both local TV commercials and material for the national cable Weather Channel. Health problems slowed him down in 2002. On January 9th 2004, he underwent a lung transplant, but he died of complications from the surgery on June 20th.


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