Home » Comments about Shep » JEAN SHEPHERD—TRAVEL BOOK (Part 5 of many) more intro

JEAN SHEPHERD—TRAVEL BOOK (Part 5 of many) more intro


[introduction continued]

He recognizes that too many of his fellow-countrymen fear the unknown and that keeps them from traveling or, when travelling, keeps them on familiar paths rather than reaching out to really comprehend the places they are visiting.  The pure joy he expresses in describing his travels must surely influence some people to venture out a bit more into the unfamiliar.

Yet, some fear for Jean Shepherd’s safety in travel, including Leigh Brown, then his young producer who loves him with all her heart, who fears that, in some far-off disaster, she will lose him forever.:


Among those who might very well also love him dearly and fear for his safety, is his wife, actress Lois Nettleton, whom he married in late 1960, and who, through her varied and busy professional schedule, is frequently away from home.  But they write loving letters and postcards to each other.  Jean to Lois: “Hi, Babe!  Just got back from the bush in Eastern Nigeria and it is something not to be believed!…Am taking a run to Ghana and Cameroon this week….Love Love J.”:

postcard nigeria front

postcard nigeria

Leigh expresses her fears, even in the very beginning of their emotional association in the early 1960s.  When he is taking off for another trip, the African one noted above, she writes to her closest friend: “Of course telling him to be careful is about as constructive as pissing up a rope or shoveling you-know-what in the teeth of a high wind.  The crazy sonofabitch DIGS insane danger!  Why not!  I’M the one who has to do the worrying!”  Over the years, before his trips, she frequently pleads with him not to leave.  As he discusses on the air his forthcoming travels to headhunter-country in the Peruvian Amazon, one can hear her voice from the control room tearfully beseeching him not to go.  On the air he even seems to tease her a bit about the dangers. And, of course, he goes, and, of course, he returns—with marvelous tales to tell.

Although he is acclaimed for his extensive memory, in order to capture his travel experiences even better for himself and his listeners, Shepherd uses several recording methods.  He does some pen and ink drawings of sites and says he keeps written travel journals of all of his trips.  In addition to the pure pleasure of holding his first impressions in those books, they assist him in remembering his experiences in order to transmit them on the radio upon his return.  The journals themselves may not yet have been found, but we have Shepherd’s many broadcasts devoted to describing the events.  In addition, he often makes tapes of sounds he hears on location as well as his at-the-moment commentary regarding his adventures.  Returning from trips, he gives his observations on the air and sometimes plays parts of the tapes he’d made on-site—a few words, snatches of music, local sounds, the rush of the sea against the hull of a sailing vessel.  All evoking some special sense of where he’s been.   Dominant among those sounds, of course, is that of the timeless human voice.



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