Home » Brown, Leigh » JEAN SHEPHERD–Indeed, he had 4 wives!

JEAN SHEPHERD–Indeed, he had 4 wives!


wedding cake top

The happy couple(s)

As with virtually everything else about the life of Jean Shepherd, even the number and the details about his marriages are confused. Until now! Of course we know that Shep himself was mostly guilty of hiding and confusing the facts of his life.

The most mysterious and unknown aspect was about his first marriage–did it really exist–before he married Joan Warner, mother of his two children, Randall and Adrian? That mystery has been solved by Shep fan Steve Glazer, who recently emailed me and Jim Clavin with what seems to be definitive evidence. Shep’s first wife was Barbara Mattoon. of Hammond, IN.

Puzzle and enigma.

Let’s do the accounting backwards.

[From most recent and familiar to earliest and most mysterious.]

Fourth wife

Leigh Brown (Nancy Prescott), married March 2, 1977 until her death July 16, 1998, she was his constant companion, his assistant, editor, producer, co-creator, steadfast support for some years before and then after their wedding in March, 1977 (just as he was about to end his WOR Radio career).

[The person charged with clearing out their Sanibel home

claimed he had the marriage license for Jean and Leigh.

He has disappeared with various important items

in the life and art of Shep.]


Third wife

Lois Nettleton, married December 3, 1960 until the divorce papers sometime in 1967, “The Listener” to his “overnight” broadcasts in early 1956. She was an actress, most famous for her staring role in The Twilight Zone episode about the sun nearing the earth. She recorded many of Shep’s programs and they would discuss them when he returned after work.

Marriage_License JS,LN

[The New York Times, in its obit (by stating as fact what was obviously a

misunderstanding by whoever gave them the info),

erroneously states that Randall Shepherd “…was not aware of his father’s

second marriage to the actress Lois Nettleton….”

Randall was not aware of Lois having married Jean twice, because it is not true.]

Regarding more details about Leigh and Lois,

see my previous posts. (see my blog’s left column

and click on their names.)


Second wife

Joan Warner, married September 9, 1950-1957. Shep, Joan, and son Randall moved to New Jersey when he began radio broadcasting for WOR in 1955. Without telling Lois Nettleton about his married state, Shep began seeing her, until Lois said she found out and stopped the relationship–until he produced his divorce papers.



First wife

Barbara Mattoon, married 29 March, 1947. When Shep got out of the army in late 1944,  according to Steve Glazer, “Shep’s first professional broadcasting job as an adult was apparently also at WJOB, shortly after his discharge from the Army. Working at WJOB at the same time as Shep was a young and pretty Hammond resident named Barbara Mattoon, who helped maintain the radio station’s library.” During the war she had reportedly written to dozens of military personnel, in a way that could be described as “flirting.” At some point Shep moved to Cincinnati. (Jean and Barbara were married for about three years or less–until about 1950.)  Then Jean married Joan Warner, who had graduated from the U. of Cincinnati in 1950.


Regarding Barbara, for many years, only Lois Nettleton and Randall Shepherd

seemed aware of this early marriage. Steve Glazer,

whom we thank for this information about Barbara and Jean,

believes that after their divorce, for whatever reason,

they both did what they could to make their marriage disappear.

wed cake blank

They almost totally succeeded.




  1. mygingerpig says:

    Gene, I am of two minds about this kind of information. I understand your quest to know as much as possible about our hero, perhaps to better understand the enigma, as you call him. On the other hand, other than the enlightening stuff about Leigh Brown and her role with Shep and Lois’ insights into the man, I feel it is sordid to dig into his marital history. I know when I met Joan Warner, she made it clear she had no interest in talking about Jean. He was in the dead letter file. By contrast, I find the posts you made about Shel and his contemporaries fascinating, especially since I was following Shep in the late 50s/early 60s. And I would love to know more about what Nick is unearthing about his early radio days. Of course, though it is not my intention to inhibit any avenue of investigation you choose to follow, I wanted to give you my reaction to the marital follies.


    • ebbergmann says:

      Joel, I appreciate your concern regarding personal info about Shep. As I’m sure most people who’ve heard/read my comments over the years are aware, I’m not much interested in his personal life except as it relates to his art. What’s of some interest about this “fourth wife info” is that there has been, over the years, such mis-information regarding his wives–spoken and written comments regarding his wives differ in describing them as to the proper number (“wife number two” or “wife number three”).it seems all of a piece with his strong and mostly successful attempts to keep his personal truths secret–yet he seems to go to some lengths to stick little bits of “truth” into the fiction–his strange and enigmatic conflating of truth with fiction in his artistic work. One little example being his insistence in IGWT that the people/stories are fiction, while giving us, in the BB gun story, his real street name–“…the Cleveland Street Kid.” One might accuse Shep of bringing all this confusion and the resultant questioning upon himself. I hope that this little bit of “true” info about this part of his personal life/marriages can now be put to rest. To my mind, this info has no negativity in it at all–it’s just a plain, objective “fact.” Certainly I have no interest in seeking out any of the good or bad or indifferent details about it.

  2. mygingerpig says:

    Yes, it is a ball of contradictions, in that he used real and fictional names as it suited him. His friends names were real, the girls were real, the stores in the neighborhood were real, teachers were real, the school was real, yet the town was not called Hammond. It is clear he did not want the facts of his life to get in the way of his art. Wasn’t his explanation for not wanting people to know he was married that his persona would change and impact how people reacted to his stories?


    • ebbergmann says:

      Rather than: “…not wanting people to know he was married that his persona would change and impact how people reacted to his stories?” Lois Nettleton commented (and I tend to think she was right-on) is that he wanted to appear as a free spirit, not some conventional guy with a wife/family.

  3. mygingerpig says:

    Well, a more precise way of saying what I wrote.

  4. Susan says:

    He lived in Princeton New Jersey at the head of Princeton Ave and Nassau St. In the mid 1960’s His daughter, Adrian and I played at the Harrison St Park a block away. In those days Princeton a small town and people knew each other.

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