Home » General subjects. Excelsior, you Fathead! » JEAN SHEPHERD–Syndicated Shep #2 of 3

JEAN SHEPHERD–Syndicated Shep #2 of 3


The nine previously released sets of Shepherd syndicated shows lost, then found, with 56 released, have short titles. After the first couple, in which I used the space to introduce and give a bit of background, I began describing the individual programs with a bit of commentary. I think some of the  descriptions/comments might be useful to give a sense of the kinds of shows Shep recorded, for the historical record, and thus also to help Shepherd enthusiasts determine what syndicated material, older and newer, they would most enjoy.

dont be a leaf image 2DON’T BE A LEAF
This set of four programs provides the opportunity to describe Shepherd with a short excerpt from my Excelsior, You Fathead! As an introduction to Shep, I quote him:

And ultimately you find it difficult to explain what I do.  I think that anyone who talks about life is not easily tagged. A man who tells one-line jokes–he;s a comic. A man who sings songs–he’s a singer.

 But a person who deals with life may do all of those….You’ve got to do it with silence, you have to do it with beat and tempo, and rhythm. And it’s tremendously exciting.

CD 1 “Hero of the Great Drama of Life.”     CD 2 “Southside Chicago Baseball.”

CD 3 “The Master Plan Illusion.    CD 4 “Don’t be  Leaf.”

x random factor imageTHE X-RANDOM FACTOR This set of eight programs begins with another excerpt from Excelsior, You Fathead!  The program notes comment that when Shepherd recorded a WOR show for later broadcast, he “insisted that he worked exactly the same as in his live broadcasts, so that his extemporaneous style was no different.” Thus, the syndicated programs can be seen as virtually the same also. I note that “You’ll hear that his ‘Bahn Frei’ theme music on these Hartwest programs does not have the mysterious Shepherd ‘Ahhhh’ at the very end that was a fixture of his shows for over a dozen years….” [Readers of this blog may remember that in an early post I described what seems to be the definitive answer as to what the “Ahhhh” was.]

CD 1 “Yanked into the World.”     CD 2 “Receptacles of Uncharted Passions.”

CD 3 “Commitment to Adulthood.”    CD 4 “The Grandstand syndrome.”

CD 5 “What Man Is.”    CD 6 “Living in Circleville.”

CD 7 “”Gradually Being Phased Out.”    CD 8 “The X Random Factor.”

security blankets imageSECURITY BLANKETS  After the quote from EYF! I comment a bit about each of these programs:

CD 1 “The Best Job in the World”  It is gratifying to hear Shepherd tell how much fun he has sitting happily at his microphone in the program ‘The Best Job in the World.’ A few minutes later he burst into a joyous little riff on his kazoo. He may complain from time to time over the years, but these syndicated shows are additional evidence of the great enjoyment Shepherd had in his work….

CD 2  “Scut” “…he takes pleasure in remembering his quick-change artistry in a theatrical ‘review’ years before. He amusingly describes himself shedding costumes, going from ‘Adam,’ to a four-star general, to George Washington as a boy. Shepherd was an expert quick-change artist in all parts of his life–humorous, serious, witty, clever, silly. In many programs, from moment to moment, he could be all of these and more.”

CD 3 “Foretelling the Future”  Shepherd philosophically–and oh so humorously–refutes the widely held beliefs that life and commercial products are always improving and predictable. He has fun denying the idea of progress.

CD 4 “Security Blankets” …Shepherd commenting on some people who just can’t throw anything out, and he has his own little stash of old ballpoint pens that don’t work. He expands the idea further by commenting that, of course, these blankets can take many form and can inhibit our lives in significant ways….”Can you imagine–can you imagine all the things you’ve missed in your life, friend?”….That is serious stuff, friend, and it has just been served to you as a humorous Shepherd chefs-d’oeuvre.

life is imageLIFE IS From EYF!: I knew Jean Parker Shepherd. I like to think I still do. We had these deep conversations throughout the entire time I festered as a youth on the east side of New York City. Actually I didn’t fester, but only sometimes thought I did because ‘ol Shep used to claim that he festered as a kid….Jean Shepherd is a gadfly and humorist for all ages. To quote a listener, “He makes us think about stuff.”

CD 1 “Captain Billy’s Whiz-Bang” …he comments that official ideas about an era are not as true as are some popular thoughts and trivia.

CD 2 “Fate” Those familiar with his published short story, ‘Return of the Smiling Wimpy Doll,’ probably written a bit after he recorded this syndicated show, will recognize his comments about his mother sending him (when he is grown and living in Manhattan), a box of his childhood toys… .

CD 3 “Public Relations” …he decries the phoniness of PR activities, he takes the quite jovial, yet seriously ironic opportunity to precede a commercial break with, ‘Let’s let our own little men there, this little PR crowd, put you straight on just how you can straighten up your miserable rotten, lousy, adlib life.’

CD 4 “Defeated Ex-Kids” Shepherd discusses the 1960s fashion in which chic clothes seem to reverse conventional gender styles. Role reversal, indeed, is a favorite theme of Shepherd’s [during a particular period in the 1960s.]

CD 5 “Playing the Tuba.” He tells how in eighth grade he began practicing the tuba for his high school orchestra and that from the beginning he was obsessed: “I was a dedicated tuba man.”

CD 6 “Automotive Age”  …a good example of Shepherd reveling in another of his enthusiasm, this time, cars, from his sighting of a chauffer-driven Ferrari to his “old man’s” love of Oldsmobiles….

CD 7 “Home” Shepherd loves to observe the distinct particularity of even the simplest everyday things. One’s current environment becomes home for all its aspects, good and not-so-good.

CD 8 “Life is” 

kicks imageKICKS 

CD 1 “Thirst for Holiness” …he quotes a professor as saying that people drink out of a hunger for holiness. Naturally Shepherd, who thinks more about words and their meanings than most of us, changes that more appropriately to a thirst for holiness.

CD 2 “Scientific Plots” He declares that we, and even he, are all victims of ‘myths.’ He’d like some big scientific lab to develop a ‘myth detector.’ And one of Shepherd’s favorite myths to detect and destroy is the one most of us believe–that humanity is forever on an upward road of ‘progress.’

CD 3 “Og and Charlie” He wants us to recognize our kinship with Og and other savages: ‘We’re all in it together, there’s no question about it, the same primal urge exists.’ [And here, he’s connecting primitive music with our own “civilized” types.]

CD 4 “Kicks” “…a salute to man’s eternal search for kicks,” which Shepherd defines as superficial enthusiasms and pursuits. Often over the years he has made a point of complaining about our material world, and here he launches his diatribe against twentieth century kicks with a suggestion that man’s special mania, consumerism, is a prime cause of far more disturbing aberrations.


Other half of the first nine sets described anon




1 Comment

  1. I notice on these discs, Shep dismisses the opening these very quickly “(“That’s enough of that.”) I guess there are so many commercial breaks on the syndicated discs that he wanted the time for his program, so the theme is stopped after about a minute or less.

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