; Tue, 30 Apr 1996 23:51:30 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Jean Shepherd Page
There was quite a bit of discussion of Jean Shepherd on the Vin digest in
its earlier days, with Vin participating. (Shep is one of Vin's radio
heros.) Anyway, there was an argument about the theme music to the radio
show. Many people falsely remembered it as being the "William Tell
Overture". Vin actually admitted to having been given Jean's home phone
number, but being too intimidated to call him and ask the question. Instead,
he actually took a field trip to the Museum of TV & Radio to verify that it
wasn't "William Tell". Finally someone identified it correctly as the "Bahn
Frei Overture" by Edouard Strauss. We never found out who recorded the
version that Shep used. (It was a raucous Spike-Jones kind of recording.)
(Also, someone else on the digest (maybe George Fiala) remembered a record
Shep used to play a lot called "The Bear Missed The Train And Now He's
I copied down another URL for Shep that someone posted in an earlier digest
(http://www.spacelab.net/~bkaye/Shep.html). I noticed that your site and
this one have links to each other. I'm glad your e-mail prompted me to look
because it had info on how to order tickets by mail, which I think I will do.
As to memories or trivia, I don't know that I'm a very reliable source of
either. I have all the books (I think). I remember plot lines of a lot of
stories that never made it into books. Schwartz & Shep taking their dates to
Coney Island, over eating and over drinking and then getting on the ferris
wheel with predictable results - Schwartz, Flick & Shep exploring a "haunted"
house, eventually discovering a medicine cabinet filled with old pills of
every description, which they all started sampling with predictable results -
a wartime story about drinking his first cup of coffee and the dire
circumstances that made that first sip the best thing he'd ever tasted in his
life - one about sampling moonshine in Tennessee for the first time,
including a whole cloak & dagger description of how one went about purchasing
it. The stories were funny, but it was the details that made them. I still
remember the loving description of the first bite of Nesselrode pie in the
Coney Island story. And the complimentary Big Boy cocktails that the waiter
kept bringing them. I wish I had some tapes of the radio shows. I have some
cassettes of Shep reading stories from his books, but the stories were always
better told by the storyteller than written and rewritten by the author.
Date: Wed, 1 May 1996 00:01:43 -0400 (EDT)
From: MAX SCHMID <email@example.com>
I saw your post to the OTR Digest. Unfortunately some boob
deleted the netscape.exe from our Arts Department computer here at WBAI,
so I haven't been able to check out your web page yet. I'm wondering if
you might have any Shepherd airchecks of any vintage for trading.
Especially looking for Limelight shows, which I've been unable to turn up.
I've got about 50 of the 1976 syndication shows, and a growing
number of WOR airchecks.
FYI, I have been rebroadcasting the shows over WBAI for about 6
months as part of my program "Mass Backwards", which airs between 3:30 -
6:00 am on Tuesday mornings. I save the Shepherd shows for the last 45"
or so to get the largest part of the wake-up crowd. They have proved to
be quite popular, and seem to draw new listeners every week.
Hope to hear from you. Flick Lives!
Max Schmid Producer - Golden Age of Radio
WBAI-FM NYC 99.5 FM
Date: Sat, 04 May 1996 22:39:11 -0400
From: George Fiala <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Shepherd at St. Ann's in Brooklyn
About five or six years ago I took my young daughter with me to a
concert at the St. Anns Church in Brooklyn Heights, NY. To this day,
they have a music series of eclectic and high quality music to raise
funds to restore the stained glass windows of this old church. The bill
that night was Garth Hudson and Friends.
Garth Hudson is the bearded organ player of The Band. The night was
divided into two performances, the first kind of a string quartet of
weird modern classical music, the second part a more Bandsy type group
with horns and Garth climbing upstairs to the pipe organ and playing it.
However, it was in between the shows that stands out. I was sitting
quite close, and all of a sudden, a microphone was set up in the aisle,
as my memory goes, right near me - and a medium sized man in a blue
flowered shirt, suspenders and hat gets up to it. As soon as he started
talking - a dream come true! Jean Shepherd himself, telling the story
of the Little Orphan Annie secret decoder ring.
Like many of you, I had grown up listening to Shep under the covers on
the transister, faithfully, every night from fifth grade through
twelfth. Then I went off to college, and out of listening range, and my
life changed so that I was doing other things between 10:15 and 11,
including being on the radio myself. I did see some of the PBS shows,
especially remembering the one where he sits in the bleachers of
Comiskey Park, telling about the time that his father caused Joe
Dimaggio to beat the Sox by taunting him, with the resulting home run
hit into his section the winning blow. I did see the Christmas Story
movie - but by then none of my friends or family at the time had any
idea of the significance of who Jean Shepherd was.
But all of a sudden - back in my life - and into my daughter's!
And it took another few years until I found out about the Princeton
concerts - my first was last year - and I am eagerly awaiting May 31st.
Date: Tue, 07 May 1996 12:01:19 +0000
From: epic <email@example.com>
Subject: Shepherd tapes available
Anyone interested in copies of whatever Shepherd material I have on
tape (bits & pieces of shows from around 1969-1970, including a little
tiny bit of old Limelight material) is invited to write me at 169
Waverly Avenue, Mamaroneck, N.Y. 10543 or call me at 212-727-2655
(days) or 914-421-1962, and even better if you can copy material of
your own to trade with. Does anybody besides myself remember the Jean
Shepherd Press Conference in 1969 held at the Overseas Press Club in
N.Y.C.? When I hear ravings about what great storytellers Garrison
Keillor or Spalding Gray are, I can only feel badly that Jean Shepherd
seems to have faded into obscurity simply because of the lack of
availability of all that great WOR material.
Date: Tue, 07 May 1996 20:01:19
From: Jim Sadur <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: epic <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Shepherd tapes available
>Does anybody besides myself remember the Jean
>Shepherd Press Conference in 1969 held at the Overseas Press Club in
Thanks for the info about Shep tapes. As for the press conference,
I was there! I represented the George Washington J.H.S. (Wayne, NJ) student newspaper. At 13, I think I was the youngest reporter present.
When Shep made his entrance from the back of the hall to the front podium, I never saw him looking more proud and smug. The photo flashes popping away
as he walked up made it all quite presidential.
Date: Thu, 16 May 1996 00:41:52 -0400
Subject: Excelsior, you fat heads!
I Listened to Shep (against my mother's wishes) late 50s onward. He once
read a letter from "a little old lady..." One time it was my mother's
letter. She was angry at him for recommending some book or some such thing
that was inappropriate.
Saw him at the Limelight (ah, the memories), Clinton, NJ, Symphony Hall,
Boston. G. Keilor isn't even in the same league as Shep. I miss him a lot.
By the way, Shep's theme, Bahn Frei (Open or Free Track) Polka by Eduard
Strauss was played by the Boston Pops Orchestra, Arthur Fiedler conductor.
It appeared on an RCA album that has not been released as a CD. Other
versions of this piece are quite different.
Date: Sun, 19 May 1996 21:35:28 -0400
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Bruce Clark)
Been a long-time fan. Recorded WOR every night for months as a kid in the 60's.
Have all of his vinyl comedy records (first was in 1959!)
Attended one of his "Presidential-Style" Press Conferences in New York when I was
in high school. Have most if not all of his TV programs including a concert aired on the
New Jersey Network. Also have all of his Playboy pieces, not all of which made
it into books.
Great job on your page! I'm new to the net so forgive any mistakes...
Date: Mon, 20 May 96 13:43:00 PDT
From: Mike Keith <Mike_Keith@ccm.jf.intel.com>
I just happened upon your wonderful Jean Shepherd page. Great! Or,
rather, I should say: "Excelsior, you fathead!"
I don't have a lot to show for it in tangible artifacts, but I am
surely one of Shep's biggest fans. Like everyone else, I grew up
listening to Shep on the transistor radio under my pillow. The
amount of stuff I learned from him is astounding.
Without realizing it at the time, he introduced me to real literature -
George Ade, Don Marquis, and Robert E. Service to name a few. Many
years later I've paid him homage by, as part of my interest in rare
books, amassing a world-class collection of George Ade first
editions. I still remember him reading Ade's fable about the golf
caddy, as well as others. Besides his book in tribute to George Ade,
did you know that Shep made a recording for Folkways Records of
himself reading poems by Robert E. Service? I have a copy; don't
know if it's still in print. It's quite good - Shep gives a little
introduction to each piece in addition to reading it.
I had one friend who was also into Shep back in the late 60's, and
one night we finally fulfilled our dream by going to see him perform
live in Eatontown, New Jersey. This was a very big deal in more ways
than one - it was the first time our parents had let us do something
that "adult" (we were maybe 15) on our own. (They didn't really know
just how adult it was, though!) I remember that we were reasonably
tight-lipped in reporting on what happened, not wanting to admit that
the show wasn't exactly rated G. For some goofy reason, the thing
that sticks most in my mind was that on the radio for weeks
beforehand he would talk about the upcoming show and tell listeners
that it was going to be something special because there was going to
be an "underwater ballet". He went on about the underwater ballet
incessantly. Of course there was no such thing!
Shep was into the New York jazz scene, too. One surviving artifact of
this is a most excellent track on an album by Charles Mingus called
(the track and the album) "The Clown". I'll bet this is still in
print. It's very cool - Shep tells a story with Mingus and his band
providing suitable accompaniment.
Here's a final piece of trivia I didn't see mentioned on your page.
During some of Shep's surrealistic or bizarre or scary stories, he
would often play a really weird piece of background "music". It consisted
of weird electronic sounds interspersed with disembodied voices singing
notes or saying weird syllables (I remember "parrr", with a rolled 'r',
especially). Twenty years later, I finally found out what this piece
of music was that had haunted me all those years - It's Gesang Der
Junglingen (possibly wrong spelling there...) by Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Stockhausen, no less! Only twenty years later did I appreciate how
cool that was.
Date: Tue, 21 May 1996 15:45:51 -0400
From: Dan Beach <email@example.com>
Thanks for your Jean Shepherd site. I have linked to you, as I quote
Jean on my site: "Little did he know it at the time, but this was to be
the high point of his life." (http://studio8h.com)
I, too, was a listener on WOR in the late 50s. In about 1962, we brought
Jean to WGBH-TV in Boston to do what I believe was his first TV show,
shot at dusk, out on a dock on the Charles River, telling stories to a
camera - no visuals, nothing but Jean. TV was - shall we say - simpler
in those days. Natch, about the time the tape was rolling (and in those
days it was 2" videotape, a pain to edit, and stops and starts were
discouraged lest some surly engineer have to make splices), seeing all
the lights, a Boston Police boat came to see what was going on. Shep
kept right on, in the creeping darkness, on the dock, and the entire
conversation with the cops was woven right into his story.
I was on the production team for his PBS specials in the background for
his more recent "Jean Shepherd's America" series; I spent a lot of time
with Jean and Leigh. In about 1984 Jean shot some fillers for PBS, short
film-oriented stories which were used after, I believe, Masterpiece
Theatre shows; these were shot in my house in Concord, MA.
Working with Jean was - as was said about Randy - one of the "highpoints
of my life". When we were getting props for various shows, Jean would
always say that we weren't "doing a nostaligia piece here", so absolute
historical accuracy in sets and props was not the rule. But what Jean
captures with his stories is a gentler and more human part of America
than, I fear, my children - and their children - will ever see.
What I regard as an outrage - and this is my personal opinion - is that
a successful television series was blatantly created out of Jean's style
and wit - some would say 'stolen': The Wonder Years. And in true
Hollywood style and ethic, no credit was ever given the Master himself.
Thanks for your site. I have a lot of personal pix of Jean and will try
to find something to add. Jean Shepherd is one of the great American
Masterpieces of my lifetime.
I want to add my agreement to the above statement (more than a
personal opinion) that THE WONDER YEARS, which got all sorts of
critical acclaim when it was on, was an out and out unacknowledged
Shepherd rip-off that should never have happened.
Do you have stories, anecdotes or trivia for this page?
Send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Return to the Jean Shepherd Page
Copyright © 1996 James E. Sadur.