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"There is a show I watched as a kid that I would like to read about: Sky King.
"He was kind of a cowboy type that would fly around in a twin engine plane. I watched that show religiously. Every time the opening sequence was shown I had to be sitting directly in front of the TV set. The final shot while the opening credits were rolling was of the plane coming straight at you, very low to the ground, and zooming right over your head. I would always time it so that I rolled onto my back, as though the plane had come out of the set and just barely missed the top of my head."
What kid growing up in the early Sixties didn't look up at a passing small plane and wonder if it was The Songbird piloted by Sky King and his faithful assistant Penny?
Kirby Grant starred as Sky King, owner of the Flying Crown Ranch and his own aircraft to patrol the grounds. Occasionally, a manhunt for an escaped convict or a trapped hiker would cause Sky King to take to the skies and save the day. Like 'Captain Midnite,' 'Sky King' was based on a popular radio series that ran from 1946 - 1954.
Gloria Winters appeared as Sky's niece Penny - also seen were Ron Hagerthy as 'Clipper' (Penny's brother), Gary Hunley as Mickey, and Norman Ollstead as Bob Carey. The show ran originally for only one season, Sunday afternoons on NBC (1951-52), then re-run Saturday afternoons on ABC from 1952 - 1953.
In 1953 the show was re-run again for one year on ABC on Monday nights and a season's worth of new episodes were filmed in 1955. 'Sky King' then made the Saturday afternoon re-run rounds on CBS from 1959-1966.
'Sky King' made use of all kinds of nifty gadgets like Geiger counters, metal detectors and tape recorders in the plots of the stories, items that were on the cutting edge of Fifties' technology. The budget on the show was a mere $9,000 an episode, so there were lots of shots of a small plane flying in circles in the Arizona sky. To kids growing up in the grim, cold-war half of the sixties, that was entertainment enough.
- Norm Faith Jr. writes:
"May I clarify the type aircraft Kirby Grant flew for the series as being two types. The first plane he flew was a Cessna T50 Bobcat, originally destined to serve with the civilian population, however it became a military trainer and was mass produced during World War Two. Other than the tubular sub frame, the entire aircraft was made of spruce wood, thus gaining its nickname, "Bamboo Bomber", however no bamboo was used in its construction. You could buy these planes for around $900.00 after the war. I'm sure that is how Kirby came by his. It was said that rotting wood grounded the first, "Song Bird," and he turned to the Cessna 310B powered by two 265hp naturally aspirated Continentals, which he finished the series with.
"I was fascinated with both the planes, but loved the Bamboo Bomber the best. In 1988, I took a fully restored Bamboo Bomber to the most famous air show in the world, Oshkosh, WI. I was the head technician on the two year project, we won grand champion, customized antique.
"Kirby Grant was killed in a car accident on October 30, 1985; he was going home after witnessing the Space Shuttle Challenger launch. 'Sky King' was a wonderful clean show that only in re-runs still lives."
- Norm Faith Jr.
Based on a popular radio series, Sky King remains one of the most watchable of the 1950's kid shows with relatively realistic dramatic storylines that work thanks in large part to stoic star Kirby Grant who really gives it his all. Sadly, the show's rarely been seen since the 1960s.
Here's what Wiki says: The television show began airing on Sunday afternoons on NBC between September 16, 1951, and October 26, 1952. These episodes were rebroadcast on ABC's Saturday morning lineup the following year November 8, 1952, until September 21, 1953, when it made its prime-time debut on ABC's Monday night lineup. It then aired twice-a-week in August and September 1954, before ABC canceled it. New episodes were produced when the show went into syndication in 1955. The last new episode, "Mickey's Birthday", aired March 8, 1959. After that, the show turned up on the Saturday schedule, in reruns that played for several years.
Here's an entire episode of Sky King:
ABOVE: Sky King's ranch in 1955.
Is this Sky King's house today?
"Being the curious sort, and living in Apple Valley, I thought I'd try and find the Sky King 'ranch house'. I did! I've attached a pic of the now modernized hacienda. It's about 1/2 mile south of Hwy 18 on Rancherias Rd in Apple Valley. Strangely, it's only about a 9-iron across the 18th tee at the AV Country Club to Roy Rogers' last home.
"If you look carefully you can see the mtns and rocks behind the house match up and the old chimney is also recognizable. I'd have to have gotten into this guy's yard to make an exact photo match."
Thanks for the great web-site. I'd like to reply about the series Jet Jackson (The Flying Commando). I too had questioned my sanity concerning the existence or not of this TV show from the very early sixties.
As a child growing up in Australia, I never missed an episode of Jet Jackson and would plead with my parents to let me join his club, which entitled you to carry a small two-way radio and be in constant communication with Jet Jackson to report any cases of serious crime.
This would be the signal for the Flying Commando to leap into his jet aircraft and race off at the speed of sound from his mountain hide-out to your clubhouse where you would give him all the low-down on the gang of bad guys terrorizing your neighborhood.
Recently I was in a serious 60's TV discussion with an equally TV-addicted American friend and he had never heard of Jet Jackson, so it must have had a very short run. Also, the name of Jet Jackson's side-kick was Icabod Mudd ("with two D's"), and was as helpful to Jet Jackson as Jimmy Olsen was to Superman.
The scientist in the lab-coat who was the genius responsible for all the high-tech gadgetry involved was a B-movie regular, but I can't remember his name, probably something like Doc or Specs. It's a pity they don't make great shows like that anymore, huh?
Your friends may know Jet Jackson as Captain Midnite.
When the Captain Midnite series was filmed for broadcast on ABC (later CBS), each scene where the title character's name was spoken had a wild line recorded by the actors - to change Captain Midnite to Jet Jackson by overdubbing another version.
Jet Jackson at first was syndicated in markets that the network didn't cover, but it was the 'Jet Jackson' version that continued in syndication into the late Fifties and early Sixties. Few prints of the 'Captain Midnite' show exist anymore. The show's sponsor, Ovaltine, owned the character and that version of the show - it is believed they destroyed the originals.
Richard Webb starred as Midnite/Jackson and comic Sid Melton co-starred as his bumbling assistant Ichabod Mudd with Olan Soule as Tut (Aristotle Jones), the oddball scientist of the Secret Squadron/Flying Commandos. Odd that Ovaltine didn't require the show's supporting characters to change their names. The television series was based on a long running radio serial.
'Captain Midnite' originally ran on Saturday mornings starting in 1954, but the show proved to be popular with adults and was moved to Monday nights for a short time. The original series network run ended in May, 1956, with reruns as 'Jet Jackson' continuing until the mid-Sixties.
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after the original season of Sky King finished shooting, Kirby
Grant starred in an industrial film at Wilding Picture Productions in
Chicago. The client was a national organization of Savings & Loan Associations.
The attached photo shows me at age 5 with Kirby Grant on the S & L main
set. I never got a ride in the Songbird but did get one in the Flying
Crown Ranch station wagon."
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