The Singing Psychic

Born on March 2 1944, the daughter of Frances and William C. Swift, Frances Swift, a.k.a. Frances Tanner (otherwise known as Frances Baskerville or Frances Cannon) is notorious among bad music aficionados as The Singing Psychic. The licensed private detective, who claimed to have found 5,000 missing children (more about that later), released at least three albums over her career, all of them worth checking out for their utter oddness.

Her debut, the 1985 collection Music from Cannonville: A Brand New Sound, featured Frances singing along to an acoustic guitar. A couple of the tracks that appear on Music from Cannonville would later turn up, in radically different form, on The Singing Psychic: Miracles and Come Step Thru Space With Me.

Released in 1987, the sleeve notes to The Singing Psychic inform us that ‘Frances becomes psychic after a lumber truck hits her in 1979. She soon began to levitate objects spontaneously over hundreds of miles. Psychic healing has occured from her God-given talents. She had been studied by nine different scientists. She had been proven 85 percent accurate. She has found over 200 missing children. Some of the songs on Side Two will be in the musical “Psychic Fantasmagororia”, in which she will star. All lyrics and music written by Frances Cannon. She guides “The ET’s” with ESP. Frances hopes to win World Cup Six in International Chess with ESP communication with Bobby Fisher.’ Guides the ET’s? ‘All lyrics and music written by Frances Cannon’? Seriously, have a listen to Star’s Ghostand tell me that our Frances isn’t simply singing her own words over a karaoke version of the Bobby Darin hit Splish Splash. Seriously rare, copies of this album are nigh-on impossible to find these days and regularly fetch in excess of $100 when copies do turn up for sale.

As Frances Baskerville she released a third album, Songs From Beyond. The collection features the song Grassy Knoll, her take on the Kennedy assassination, which again employs a stolen backing track for her ‘original’ composition – this time the tune for Ode to Billie Joe. Another track, A Whale of a Tale (not to be confused with the Kirk Douglas song) features the same backing track as Star’s Ghost. You would have thought her psychic powers would have alerted her to potential claims of plagiarism. Side two of the album features the song Heaven’s Highway – which is Star’s Ghost retitled. Not re-recorded, you understand: it’s exactly the same take! So purchasers of Songs From Beyond would have been confounded to find not one but two songs ripping off Splish Splash… one of which they may have already owned under another title! She should have called herself the Shameless Psychic.

According to her own biography, Frances Baskerville, Singing Psychic opened a detective agency and became the ‘Psychic to the Stars’ including Michael Jackson who offered to send his private jet for her to read for him. Frances claimed to have been involved in an accident in which an 18-wheel lumber truck backed into her car, while she was waiting outside a beauty parlour. The lumber crashed through the roof of the car, almost killing her, and causing her to have an out-of-body experience. It was after that experience, she said, that she discovered that possessed psychic abilities.

Being a country music fan Fran thought it would be a neat idea to ‘sing’ her predictions. She made regular appearances on the Howard Stern show where she once sang her premonition that Patrick McNeill, who had disappeared outside a Manhattan bar, would be found 100 yards from his home in Port Chester, NY. His body was eventually found floating near in pier in Brooklyn.

Arthur Lyons and Marcello Truzzi wrote about her in their book The Blue Sense: Psychic Detectives and Crime in 1991. ‘Frances Baskerville, the “World’s Only Singing Psychic”, who heads the Baskerville Foundation for Psychical Research [also referred to as the Baskerville Sherlock Holmes Detective Investigation Co.] in Dallas, Texas, claims to be a licensed private detective specializing in finding lost children. In a recent letter to the authors, she credits herself with having found over “five hundred persons,” [that number, as you’ll discover, fluctuated somewhat] although she regretfully states that she “only has the right” to name three, due to the fact that she neglected to get “release forms’ from the other four hundred and ninety-seven. She also claims to work with attorneys in several states helping to select juries’. By the time she appeared on the Judy Joy Jones radio show, that number had increased to 5,000.

You can listen to the whole of Songs From the Beyond at the WFMU blog, and elsewhere on the web you can listen to an interview with Baskerville from when she appeared on the Judy Joy Jones Show. Fran Baskerville passed away on August 16th 2009 at her home in Dallas, Texas.

Frances Cannon/Baskerville was certainly unusual. Here’s a flavour of her material, Dangerous Tools and Grassy Knoll from Songs From Beyond and Star’s Ghost from The Singing Psychic. There’s more out there if you need it.


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