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JEAN SHEPHERD–Degrees of Separation


Thinking about Shep, Lois Nettleton, Sinatra, and The Beatles.

Ringo, it’s reported, asked Frank Sinatra, through an intermediary, if he would record a song in honor of his wife for her 22nd birthday, Aug. 4, 1968. Sinatra recorded and sent to her (Maureen Starky) his reworded rendition of “That’s Why the Lady [Maureen] is a Champ.” It’s said the original disk is rare, but the audio is on YouTube: & maureen

Degrees of separation?

Shepherd∋The Beatles because he traveled to the British Isles and traveled with them/wrote the Playboy interview appearing Feb, 1965, despite having disparaged them numerous times.


Shepherd∋Sinatra because Shep was zero degrees from The Beatles, and Ringo got Sinatra to write “That’s Why the Lady is a Champ,” which makes Shep and Sinatra one degree.


Shepherd∋Sinatra because Shep and Lois Nettleton were romantically linked, and in part married, from 1956 to about 1967–and Sinatra was romantically linked to Lois Nettleton in 1971-2.


Shepherd∋Sinatra∋eb because I once met Shep, and spoke and corresponded with Lois, I’m some mixed-up combo of degrees of separation to Shep and ‘Ol Blue Eyes, too.


Nick Mantis∋Barack Obama∋eb because I know Nick, and Nick suggested to Obama in 2006 that he run for the Presidency [].

nick and obama




This is all quite amusing to the main person involved (me, sorta). But, though there are some legitimate connections in “degrees of separation,” a lot of it is happenstance. What seem to me of somewhat more significance are the circumstances in which people diverge in ways unexpected. Shepherd and myself, for instance– for all my enthusiasm and obsession with Shep and his work and way of thinking. For example, Shepherd was a great enthusiast of classical music, opera, and modernist jazz–and he intensely disliked rock and roll.* I, on the other hand, like (but only rarely listen to) classical music and opera. Modernist music (Gillespie, Parker, Coltrane, etc.), although I recognize it must be extraordinary, find it totally incomprehensible–in ten seconds its apparently (to me) insistent meandering drives me nuts. Jean did turn me on to the sweet, elegant jazz of Django Reinhardt:


Jean [Django’s non-Romany first name] Reinhardt

Among other musical enthusiasms, I’m attuned (pun) to The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, Dylan, Springsteen, a handful of the more popular pieces by Eminem, as well as late Sinatra.

eminem cleanin out


Where have I gone wrong–or at least missed out?

I would love to understand/appreciate Parker/Gillespie/Coltrane, but I never will–just listening carefully doesn’t cut it.

Shepherd should have been able to understand/appreciate some of the finer rock and roll–and even Eminem,–but as far as we know he never could. He never, to my knowledge, played rock on his broadcasts.


[More ironic in the caption than “Tambourine Man”

would have been “Like a Rolling Stone”

or “Positively 4th Street.”]

Shepherd, why didn’t you like what I like

and why don’t I like what you did?

As some inexplicably say, “That’s what makes horse racing!

* Shep’s good friend during his last years says that he and Jean talked extensively about rock and roll. Did Shep actually listen to it and think about it–maybe even positively? Strange!



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