If you’re not familiar with the legend of ‘Ken’ by now, you’re about to be. The album cover widely considered to be the ‘Worst Of All-Time’ has been an endless source of humor to hipsters like myself, cementing its place in Internet Infamy by being featured in every ‘Wost Album Cover’ list and book on the planet.
When the CDP compiled our own list of the Worst Album Covers Of All-Time, By Request Only came in at #2. It was one of our most popular posts ever, and did nothing but spread the Internet Phenomenon that was Ken.
Who was this guy? What was on the record? Was it even a real record? These were the questions that filled message board threads for years, as outsider music collectors and Internet historians debated the merits of this one and only photograph. Mere sleeves of this record were said to be going for big money on eBay. Surely, it was too good to be true. Just a little too nostalgic, just a little too funny, perhaps. People wanted their hands on this album, but nobody even knew if it actually existed.
Snopes, the Internet’s premiere Urban Legend website, has finally cracked the mystery of By Request Only, actually tracking down Ken himself for the straight dope. Besides Snopes, I’m confident that the CDP is currently the only place on the Internet where you can see the entire story of Ken from beginning to end.
First off, this album is real. The first big clue came when the album, vinyl and all, went up on eBay and sold for $150. This gave the world their first look at the back cover of the album, along with the actual record itself.
Finally being able to see the back cover of By Request Only opened the floodgates of information. We got a track listing, an idea of the musical genre it entailed (Christian), a personal message from Ken himself, a last name (Snyder) and full contact information! Things were going well for us Internet investigators.
The next step, of course, was to break the fourth wall and actually track this guy down. Did Ken know that he was an Internet Celebrity? Was he aware that By Request Only was making big bucks on eBay and considered the worst album cover of all-time?
After some more digging, a Ken Snyder who matched the description and location of the album recording was linked to a church in Sheldon, Iowa, along with an updated photograph and contact information!
Surely, this was the same man. Now, not only did we know that the album was real, we also knew that Ken was still alive and well, spreading his message of faith throughout the Bible Belt. This was a very good thing.
Eventually, someone had the balls to make the phone call, and contact was made. Here’s the Snopes entry on said conversation:
“Talked with Ken, he said he was somewhat aware of the notoriety, but was surprised to hear about the eBay auction and wanted a link. He hadn’t received any calls about it, hopefully I didn’t start anything, he’s a really nice guy.”
Contact with Ken! The Internet truly is an amazing thing.
After this conversation with Ken, he was happy to know that people were still interested in his music, and actually put up the LAST 4 COPIES OF BY REQUEST ONLY THAT HE HAD. In the eBay auctions, he actually put ‘Worst Album Cover’ in the title, so it’s clear that the man has a very good sense of humor about this. In fact, shortly after finding out this news, Ken’s daughter posted on the Snopes board and offered this information:
“Hey, I’m Ken’s daughter. Just thought you would like to know my dad has loved reading these sites about him. That record is from 1976. He used to travel and sing all over the U.S., and that was one of his records he sold. He only has about 4 left now, decided ‘why not try selling them if people are actually interested in buying them?’ He called me up immediately after he got a call saying that one of you had told him his record sold on eBay. He knew the album cover was under “Worst Album Cover” but didn’t realize he was the talk of people online. Crazyness!”
So, that pretty much brings everyone up to speed. The album is real, Ken is real (with a great sense of humor), and he’s selling off the last 4 copies of By Request Only known to exist. He’s even going to sign them! I love it when mysteries like this end with happy endings, although I am a bit sad that the Internet has halted yet another great Urban Legend.
Ken – By Request Only. Solved.
You should also know that I’m getting myself a copy, and I don’t care the price. I’m currently the highest bidder on one of the auctions that ends tomorrow. I’ll tell you how I did when it’s over.