Jean Shepherd Web Site
15th Anniversary!
Celebrating 15 years on the Web

by Jim Sadur
Updated 12/13/2010


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Who was Jean Shepherd?

Shep in his early career.
Courtesy of Bruce Clark

     Jean Shepherd was a writer, humorist, satirist, actor, radio raconteur, TV & film personality and an American original. He was a master story teller in the league of Mark Twain, S.J. Perlman and P.G. Wodehouse. Taking bits and pieces from his own life, he weaved tales of the joys, humor, intrigue and angst of growing up. His youth in Hammond, Indiana, his adventures in the Army Signal Corps and stories of the obscure and infamous were all fertile sources for his tales. For almost three decades, he told these stories to eager radio audiences. In Cincinnati between   1950 and 1954 Shep did a DJ show from Shuller's Wigwam on WSAI and a nightly comedy show on  WLW called "Rear Bumpers".  This led to a television version at KYW in Philadelphia.  In 1956 Shep moved to the Big Apple on WOR New York where for 21 years listeners all over the Northeast were treated  to a nightly dose of genius.  His shows were a menagerie of comments, silly songs, jokes and other digressions all orbiting around a central tale. For 45 minutes you laughed and wondered if he would remember to conclude the story at hand. He always made it! His other great radio enterprise was live broadcasts on Saturday night from The Limelight, a nightclub in Greenwich Village. Marshall McLuan once called Shep "the first radio novelist."

     Shep always loved the stage. He began his entertainment career in Chicago as a performer at the Goodman Theatre . He did night club acts on Rush Street. Shep appeared on Broadway in Leonard Sillman's revue "New Faces" in 1962 and "Voice of the Turtle". Shep played a dance instructor in the film "The Light Fantastic" (1963). Jean was also a sportscaster doing baseball broadcasts for the Toledo Mudhens and Armed Forces Radio.

     In the Seventies, he took his talents to television in a series of humorous narratives for PBS call "Jean Shepherd's America" later continued on the PBS New Jersey Network as "Shepherd's Pie". Here he was able to show us the more off-beat aspects of America and particularly the state he loved to ridicule. Shep actually  lived in Washington Township, New Jersey during this time, and his commute up and down Route 22 yielded a unique perspective on modern American culture.

     This lead to a series of teleplays for PBS/WGBH's American Playhouse including:

"The Phantom of the Open Hearth"
"The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters"
"Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss"
"The Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski"

     His most popular and well known work is the film "A Christmas Story" (1983) which he co-wrote and narrated. Here Shep gives us a compendium of his youth (as "Ralphie") including the infamous "Double Dog Dare", his sidekicks Flick and Schwartz, the bullies Farkus and Grover Dill, and the saga of the Lady's Leg Lamp. Ralphie's ultimate quest is to get a "Genuine Red Ryder Carbine Action Two Hundred Shot Lightning Loader Range Model Air Rifle" for Christmas despite all the grownup warnings that "you'll shoot your eye out". More recently he did a sequel, "My Summer Story" (AKA "It Runs in the Family ")(1994).

     Shep is also a long time amateur radio operator (his mother always told him: "Watch out for the live wires!"). His callsign was K2ORS.   Many hams had the pleasure of talking to Shep on the bands.  He often used his middle name "Parker" as a handle to avoid attracting too much attention.

His books include:

Full Bibliography of Shep's Work

     Shep was an early contributor to the Village Voice most notebly in his "Night People" column. In 1957 he narrated "The Clown" by Charles Mingus. He also wrote articles for several magazines including Playboy, Car & Driver & Omni. He even wrote for Mad Magazine (The Night People vs. "Creeping Meatballism", April 1957). He recently contributed comments in the documentary "Norman Rockwell: An American Portrait" (1994). You can also hear him in the video "Chicago White Sox A Visual History".

     He made countless personal appearances over the years including Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, the Dayton Hamvention and many schools and colleges. He often visited Hammond Indiana were he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Purdue in 1995! For 31 years he appeared at Princeton University. Even with his extensive repertoire, he always brought original and fresh stories to his old and new fans.

     Did Shepherd have other talents? How about "Kopfspeilen", that obscure musical art form played on one's head!

     Shep passed away on October 16, 1999 at a hospital near his home in Sanibel Island, Florida.  He was 78 years old.  He was mourned by friends and fans everywhere. He may have died but will never be silenced.  His genius will live forever in his radio shows, writings, television shows and films.   Hopefully more of his work will be re-published so a new generation will all shout "FLICK LIVES!". 

News about Shep

Jean Parker Shepherd

Jean Shepherd passed away on October 16th, 1999. He was 78.

Shep at Princeton '96 - Review
Shep and Thanksgiving on the History Channel

Tales of the Shep
Comments, stories, anecdotes etc. from Shep fans
Memorial Tributes Page
Tribute Message Boards - Volumes  1  2  3  4  5  6

Tales  Volume 12
Vol 1 Vol 2 Vol 3 Vol 4 Vol 5 Vol 6 Vol 7 Vol 8 Vol 9 Vol 10 Vol 11

Shep Articles

Jean Shepherd: Radio's Noble Savage
a 1966 article by Edward Grossman

Long John Nebel, Radio Talk King...
a 1974 LJN bio excerpt about Shep losing his all night show on WOR

Jean Shepherd's Rally: The Art Of Milling, or Go Fly A Kite
by Alan Bodian, The Village Voice

The Night People vs Creeping Meatballism
by Jean Shepherd, Mad Magazine, March-April 1957
Grapical Version | Text Version

When Schwartz Wiggled His Ears, That Was History
by Jean Shepherd, TV Guide, December 12-18, 1981

Season's Greetings From Ted, Drew, and That Kid With His Tongue Stuck to the Pole
by Tom Carson, The Village Voice, December 23-29, 1998

Village Voice Articles- by Jean Shepherd

Other cool Shep stuff

Shep's Attic 

Bibliography of Shep's Work
Jean Shepherd Tapes from Schmidco!
Contributors Hall of Fame
Frequently Asked Questions

"Village Sunday", a 1960 documentary narrated by Jean Shepherd.  Info and Download links


Max Schmid produces and presents:

Mass Backwards

Monday night / Tuesday mornings, 4:00 - 6:00 am
WBAI 99.5 FM, New York

WBAI Internet Webcast

Featuring modern Radio Drama from the English-speaking world, usually in stereo, as well as a weekly Jean Shepherd rebroadcast in the final hour. And God-Awful music, too!

OR get the tapes! Schmidco Catalog

Want to be immortalized on the Contributors Hall of Fame page?
Send your Shep stories and trivia to:
jsadur@keyflux.com Thanks, Jim

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