Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Oldies - If You Fall For Me by Frank (Farmer Boy) Townsend

Most of the records I've posted so far are available somewhere. If you can't actually buy the original vinyl (which is true of most of them), you can at least get the songs on compilation CDs, or find the music on YouTube or Rhapsody. But not this one!

There's nothing particularly special about this record as far as the collectors are concerned. But, it does have a special meaning for me. When I was trying to collect every single record that ever hit the 1050 CHUM Top 50 charts between 1955 and 1971, this was the very LAST one I was able to find -- and that was no simple task! CHUM-AM was the top hit music station in Toronto, Ontario, Canada back in the 50's and 60's. Their music chart was thought to reflect the music sales all across Canada. If I could get a copy of this record, I'd own every single one that ever made it onto that chart. I finally found the original 45 offered for sale on eBay.

Back when I was snapping up bargains on eBay (when you still could), I was a very early expert "Sniper." For those of you who don't know, this means putting in a bid at the very last second before the auction closes, which doesn't give others enough time to bid against you. I was a sneaky sucker, too. First, I would never bid at all until the last second. Nobody knew that I was interested in a particular record until I'd already won it. Second, my last second bid was usually very VERY high. The way eBay works, you can bid a million dollars, but you win the item for some small increment over the previous bid. If a record (like this one) was posted with a starting bid of $5.00, and you bid $20.00, and nobody else bids on that record, you'd win it for $5.50. The overbid just allowed you to automatically beat someone who tried to out-bid you. For example, if I'd made that $20.00 bid, then someone else bid $10.00, I'd still be the winner of the auction. But that other bid would have driven my cost up from $5.50 to $10.50. See how it works? I'm sure a LOT of people know this trick now, so I wouldn't count on it working as well as it did for me.

Since I really wanted this particular record, I put my "standard high" bid of $1777.00 on it! I won it for about ten bucks. I think only one other person put in a bid. That just goes to show you how LITTLE demand there is for this record.

Now that seems strange to me, really. This isn't a terrible record, and it has a lot of historical value, especially to wrestling fans. This was somewhat of a novelty item. It was the only "hit" record ever made by "The Singing Wrestler" known by Canadian wrestling fans simply as "Farmer Boy" who appeared many times at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens. He was also pretty well known in Minnesota where he was considered the top "babyface" wrestler behind Verne Gagne. Frank teamed up with Butch Levy to win the International tag titles from Stan Kowalski and Tiny Mills, also known as "Murder Inc." Frank was also an early masked gaijin star in Japan who called himself "Killer X." Gaigin (外人) is a Japanese term that refers to someone who isn't Japanese. Frank also teamed up with Don "Man Mountain" Campbell, who also went by the name Big Luke Brown.


But Frank Townsend was not a Canadian by birth. He was born in 1933 on an 80-acre farm in Camden, New Jersey. The family also owned a tobacco plantation in North Carolina that had belonged to the Townsend family since 1789. Frank went to school at nearby Haddenfield High. Of course he was on the wrestling team at school and won the state wrestling championship. When he was 18 he stood 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighed over 200 pounds. He'd look down at his tiny mom and ask her, "Hey mom, where'd I get all this beef?" He also liked to sing, and joined the Haddenfield Choral Society. I have to assume that nobody made fun of him for that!

His mother wanted him to pursue a singing career, but his father advised him to go to college and become a civil engineer. Instead, Frank joined the U.S. Marines when he was 19. Stationed at Paris Island, Frank won several shooting competitions. He became a huge gun fan. He also participated, reluctantly, in some wrestling exhibitions. He never really enjoyed doing those. He was torn between being a singer or a wrestler, and his friends all told him he was good at both.

After three years in the Marines, he left the service and took his shot at a singing career. He cut two records for RCA Victor, this one, and another called Baby I've Got A Crush On You that the record company believed could be a hit. The records were issued in Canada on the Regency label. But Frank's wrestling pal, Buddy "Nature Boy" Rogers, convinced him to become a professional wrestler. Buddy said, "Boy, there are a million singers out there, but not very many wrestlers who can stand up in the ring and give the customers a song!" Frank would always regret passing up a career in music. Instead, he became Farmer Boy from North Carolina. He started out wrestling in Ohio, usually wearing a torn denim jacket smeared with dirt to enhance the farm boy image.

In a radio interview during his first year on the wrestling circuit he was asked if the sport was really all about acting. He didn't appreciate the question. He agreed that the guys put on a show for the audience, but, he said, "We've got to wrestle too! That's our job, isn't it?" The interviewer asked him if wrestling matches were fixed and Frank replied, "People are entitled to think what they want about wresting. They pay their money. They can think what they want." But he went on to say, "Well, the best man always wins a wrestling bout 99 times out of 100."

Frank Tunney was the big boxing and wrestling promoter who arranged all the matches in Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens. Tunney told Farmer Boy that he'd pay between $150 and $600 for each preliminary bout, and if he could make the grade he'd get 30% of the gate, plus bonuses. He could make $50,000 a year, which was huge money in 1956!

On his way to one of his first bouts at the Gardens, a couple of pretty girls asked him for an autograph. Then they asked him if he was going to sing. He said, "I might." They requested he sing Around The World from the movie, Around The World In Eighty Days. Sonja Hrynchak was Frank's girlfriend and he'd always leave a couple of tickets for her at the box office. He thought often about getting married to her. He saved most of the money he made, opting to buy a Ford instead of the Cadillac he really wanted. Most of the other wrestlers stayed at fancy hotels when they came to Toronto. But Frank stayed with some friends who lived on Martin Grove Road. He had to have his clothes tailor made, but he never paid a lot of money for them. His only real extravagance was a $50 pair of alligator shoes! Frank would only have a bit of soup before each bout, but he'd take Sonja out afterward for a big steak dinner.

Frank Townsend died too young. He was killed in a boating accident on 15 May 1965 at the age of 32.

To make a long story short (too late), here's Frank "Farmer Boy" Townsend singing If You Fall For Me from Regency 663 in 1957, a song that barely made it on the CHUM charts, peaking at #47 (it never made the charts anywhere else). This song was incorrectly listed on the CHUM Top 50 as "If I Fall For You" but this was the actual title:



And here's the flip side, Find A Love For Me:



I really didn't have time to write all this today, but I did it anyway. I'll try to keep these posts brief from now on! Hope you're enjoying all the music on MusicMaster Oldies!

3 comments:

  1. He and Sonja, (my wife's uncle and aunt) were married June 14, 1958. I have a signed Thank You card from them dated as such.

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  2. That's great! Thank you for the additional information. I'm really glad they had several happy years together.

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  3. My wife went to an auction and got some old magazines. Inside one of them were two autographed pictures of Frank Townsend. He was in a suit and looked like a movie star.Glad to know some of the history of this wrestler from my childhood.

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