Jean Shepherd’s over two hundred audios in broadcast form done in 1964-5 and almost never broadcast, began to appear through RadioSpirits.com several years ago. (The story is that the stash of them was lost or forgotten somewhere in storage.) I was asked to write program notes for each set of four or eight discs (one program’s audio per disc) with full payment to me consisting of notice of my first book on the outside cover of the box, and, within the notes, a photo of the book cover and a note along with the program notes regarding the book. The last couple of the nine sets, I was also given a small honorarium ($). I much enjoyed doing this—especially as I got to hear the audios before almost anybody else.
that of “Kicks” w/bongos.
The “Ticket to Ride” box with red London
double-decker bus features
Shepherd discussing his trip traveling with The Beatles touring the UK, 1964.
The company now continuing this project of releasing audios of these Shep recordings is found at http://www.filmsaroundtheworld.com/Jean_Shepherd_Radio.html. They distribute a great variety of material—the Shep stuff is found by clicking on “Jean Shepherd Radio” in the left column of their home page. Note that their current format for the discs is different from those earlier ones–the CDs are made and sold individually by www.amazon.com and include no program notes. I think this is a shame, whether I would have done the program notes or not–a lack of much context for the individual shows for sale beyond a title would seem to limit one’s ability to decide which shows to purchase. You’ll just have to buy them all!
I was asked to write something for their website’s Shepherd page and they posted the following:
SHEPHERD BIOGRAPHER EUGENE BERGMANN
Radio Spirits hired noted Shepherd biographer Eugene Bergmann to write the liner notes for its releases. We are grateful for his past expertise, and asked him to contribute information about himself to this web page. His response:
“I listened to those 56 shows for pleasure and to be able to comment on them for the program notes, so I was not only highly entertained, but I focused on what ways they might have been the same and might have been different from the many show with which I was already familiar. They are virtually identical in style and in their reflections of Shepherd’s unique sensibility. To my ear, the only differences are that, noting the smoothness of the delivery, he may have given a bit more planning to his trademark improvisational style, and he seemed to have included more of the short musical clips with which he sometimes adorned his monologs. Questing after more and more of Shepherd’s art, only in one’s dreams could one hope to encounter so many newly discovered, fine works by the master. Those 56 shows presage scores more wonderful Shepherd-experiences as enthusiasts and newcomers alike are presented with the equivalent of newly risen galleons full of previously unknown sunken treasures.”
Eugene B. Bergmann is the author of the only book dedicated to Jean Shepherd’s work, “EXCELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD! THE ART AND ENIGMA OF JEAN SHEPHERD. His second Shepherd book, “SHEP’S ARMY — BUMMERS, BLISTERS, AND BOONDOGGLES,” contains nearly three dozen of Shepherd’s army tales from his WOR broadcasts, which were transcribed, edited and introduced by Bergmann. Both books are available from Amazon.com; the links are below.
NEW MR. FAT-W AUDIO JEAN SHEPHERD RADIO SHOW RELEASES
Initially, it should be noted that part of Shepherd’s genius was that he was unscripted — he took his starting point from something that interested him currently, and then meandered off from there. We have to create names for his oral wanderings, so that you can get at least some idea of what they are about, but we’re not going to go into much detail; for true Shepherd fans, each of his broadcasts was an original journey, unlike any other that came before or after. The joy is in having him guide you on that journey, not in having specific signposts to along the way…. These are what we choose to tell you about them:
JEAN SHEPHERD RADIO SHOW Volume 1 The American Way of Life
JEAN SHEPHERD RADIO SHOW Volume 2 At the Sound of the Bell — how we react to certain sounds and words, and the vast differences between generations (and between grandparents and grandchildren in particular)
JEAN SHEPHERD RADIO SHOW Volume 3 The Tuba
JEAN SHEPHERD RADIO SHOW Volume 4 How to cook on the cheap.
JEAN SHEPHERD RADIO SHOW Volume 5 The Motherland (Great Britain, in case you forgot)
JEAN SHEPHERD RADIO SHOW Volume 6 Mankind, Part 1
JEAN SHEPHERD RADIO SHOW Volume 7 Mankind, Part 2
JEAN SHEPHERD RADIO SHOW Volume 8 The Singing Shepherd
JEAN SHEPHERD RADIO SHOW Volume 9 Impulses and Pie — the rarely-considered human impulses which make throwing a pie
in somebody’s face such a staple of movie and other comedy
JEAN SHEPHERD RADIO SHOW Volume 10 Prison Life
JEAN SHEPHERD RADIO SHOW Volume 11 Getting Away
JEAN SHEPHERD RADIO SHOW Volume 12 The Dictionary
…….. [The above are one CD per volume]……..
At the bottom of the Shepherd page one finds the pictorial link to buy each of the original nine sets from amazon.com as published by RadioSpirits. Difficult to avoid noting is that the eight-CD set titled “The Fatal Flaw” is offered for $3,698.01. (Of course prices change based on current sellers. Prices offered on http://www.amazon.com on 1/29/14 are, FATAL FLAW for $2,500; KICKS for $951.70; POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE for $247.95, and other sets for lesser amounts). I can think of several possible reasons for this: 1. Scarcity; 2. Extraordinary quality of Shep’s delivery of these audios; 3. Extraordinary quality of my program notes; 4. Typos.
Also of interest is that the 4-CD set titled “Kicks,” with a two-piece bongo set on the cover is not listed for sale at all! Out of stock? Out of print? I sit here looking at my extra set of each of these and wonder why they have attained such special status. Oh me, oh my! What I can do is reproduce the centerfold of the “Kicks” program notes. The centerfold does not contain an airbrushed color photo of a naked young woman*; as one can see, it contains a lovely black and white shot of the cover of my first book surrounded by about half of my written comments:
liner notes of “Kicks.”
Liner notes of the 8-CD sets contain
8 pages, including illustrations.
Although I have no financial stake in the sales of the old or these new CDs of Shep syndicated material, of course I hope they sell well–enough for all of them (over 200 shows!) to be continued to be produced and distributed, and thus be part of the ongoing historical record of Jean Shepherd’s radio work.
*In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that the area of Shep’s shirt under his upraised hand was indeed airbrushed–to eliminate what had seemed to be one of the headphone wires, but which was a scratch mark that was obviously on the negative.