Tales of the Shep

Contributor's Stories and Comments about Jean Shepherd & These Pages

Volume 1

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Date: Fri, 03 May 1996 23:54:45 -0700
From: Al Christians <achrist@easystreet.com>

I just spent a night at Little America Wyoming, scene of one of Shepherd's America episodes. He was one of my heroes when I was a kid, and for no particular reason. Radio was sure something back then -- you must remember the other shows they had on WOR -- Ed and Pegine, Martha Dean (not a real person), Barry Farber (the guy with the thick NC accent who ran for Congress in NYC), John A and John B Gambling, Long John Nebel (circus pithcman turned into 47 hrs/week of radio talk show host with a TV show on the side!), who did I forget? Yes, the "My True Story" radio dramas at about 7 pm. The year that John Nebel and Amazing Randi were on opposite each other from midnight to 6, I don't think I slept at all. Shepherd's show was the reason I was up so late though. I have one question: What was the name and composer of his opening theme? Can you give any advice on locating a recording of it?

Al, N5FQ

Date: Sat, 27 Apr 1996 12:11:09 -0700
From: Paul White <whitepr@AXP.CALUMET.PURDUE.EDU>
Subject: Shepherd at Purdue University


Just to let you know your Shepherd page is linked to our AXP Student AlphaServer page. Check under Hammond celebrities.


Shep visited us at the Purdue Calumet campus in Hammond just a week or so ago. paul white
purdue university calumet
hammond, in

; Tue, 30 Apr 1996 11:18:21 -0400 (EDT)
From: KENPILETIC@aol.com
To: jsadur@keyflux.com
Subject: Re: I, Libertine

Hi Jim - April 30, 1996 -- Tuesday - 8:30 AM cdt

You're right. I did have your Shepherd page confused with Bob Kaye's. Thanks for straightening me out.

Here's the story about "I, Libertine":

I first heard a rumor about "I, Libertine" in the late 1960's. The rumor was vague and had something to do with Jean Shepherd. Nobody in 9-land seemed to know anything about it. I asked Shepherd about it when I saw him at the Dayton Hamvention a few years later. He denied it existed and changed the subject. Several years after that I learned from KX8X that such a book does exist and he let me borrow a copy, which I photocopied.

Yesterday when I read Bob Kaye's reference to it in his home page, I thought the "hoax" was the fact that the book was not real. Bob straightened me out. The following is a message I received from Bob this morning:

> Subj: Re: Jean Shepherd
> Date: 96-04-29 20:48:58 EDT
> From: bkaye@spacelab.net (Robert Kaye)
> To: kenpiletic@aol.com (Ken Piletic)
> >> Nice to know there are other people who are interested in Jean
>> Shepherd and his work. I have all his books (autographed) and
>> photocopies of all his stories in "Playboy". Nothing from "Car and
>> Driver" (as yet). I also have a rather large collection of his
>> material from WOR.
>> The thing I wanted to point out is that "I, Libertine" does exist.
>> I have a photocopy around here someplace. I had to return the actual
>> book. If my memory is correct, there is another name in addition to
>> Shepherds on it. I don't remember the other name. It's not a very
>> good book, maybe that's why Jean doesn't admit to having had anything
>> to do with it. Since he obviously doesn't want to talk about it, I
>> won't either - but I assure it, it's no hoax. It does exist.
>> Ken
> > Hi Ken. I know I Libertine exists. I have it. Autographed. The
> hoax was that the book was written about, reviewed, and even made
> the best seller list before it was ever written! Shep, who created
> the term "Night People", was trying to make a point. The 9-5 crowd,
> believed in lists. Best sellers, best shows, best songs, etc. The
> people who feel most alive at 3 AM, tend not to, and the two worlds
> seldom meet. So, Shep told all his late night listeners to by this
> book, by Frederick Ewing (formerly of the RAF) and to see what
> developed. Some day I'll include all the facts on my page. I have
> a tape of Shep telling the story on the Long John Nebel show.
> If you have pre-1970 shows I'd love to trade. Let me know.
> Bob Kaye
> "Keep your knees loose."
> (Jean Shepherd)

So after 30-plus years, I learned still more about "I, Libertine". I guess I'll have to try to locate my photocopy of the book and get some information as to dates and other things so I'll have my facts correct before I say any more about it (hi).

- 73 - de W9ZMR, Ken

; Tue, 30 Apr 1996 23:51:30 -0400 (EDT)
From: SBarton1@aol.com
To: jsadur@keyflux.com
Subject: Re: Jean Shepherd Page

Hi Jim,

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 Walking.")

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 <mschmid@escape.com>
To: jsadur@keyflux.com
Subject: Shep

Hello Jim,

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
Mass Backwards

Date: Sat, 04 May 1996 22:39:11 -0400
From: George Fiala <gbrook@pipeline.com>
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.

George Fiala

Date: Tue, 07 May 1996 12:01:19 +0000
From: epic <epic@gramercy.ios.com>
To: jsadur@keyflux.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.

Dan Recchia

Date: Tue, 07 May 1996 20:01:19
From: Jim Sadur <jsadur@keyflux.com>
To: epic <epic@gramercy.ios.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.


From: Schroeg@aol.com
Date: Thu, 16 May 1996 00:41:52 -0400
To: jsadur@keyflux.com
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.

Warren Schroeger

Date: Sun, 19 May 1996 21:35:28 -0400
To: jsadur@keyflux.com
From: sixofone@newtech.net (Bruce Clark)
Subject: Excelsior!

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...

-Bruce Clark
Date: Mon, 20 May 96 13:43:00 PDT
From: Mike Keith <Mike_Keith@ccm.jf.intel.com>
To: jsadur@keyflux.com
Subject: Shep!

Jim -

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.

Mike K.
Date: Tue, 21 May 1996 15:45:51 -0400
From: Dan Beach <danbeach@studio8h.com>
To: jsadur@keyflux.com
Subject: Shepherd

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.

Dan Beach


May 22,1996
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.

-Dan Recchia
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Do you have stories, anecdotes or trivia for this page?

Send them to: jsadur@keyflux.com
Thanks, Jim

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Copyright © 1996 James E. Sadur.