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JEAN SHEPHERD–Projects Galore!

Will my obsession never end?

As the (slight) possibility looms that I may get a contract to publish another Shep project, my egocentric mind goes back to all the various Shep projects I’ve produced, both published and unpublished. However, I see that I’ve already blogged my list of all that stuff–by searching the date in the right-hand column of this site, see my February 2, 2014 blog titled:

“ebb’s Jean Shepherd Bibliography.”

The categories, (with a few representative samples here) are: BOOKS (EYF!, Shep’s Army); THEATER Excelsior play about Shep); ARTICLES AND A FOREWORD (Foreword to A Christmas Story: Background...); PROGRAM NOTES (Syndicated audio program notes); UNDISTRIBUTED STUFF (Graphic novel); SPECIAL APPEARANCES Old Time Radio Convention); INTERNET (

Oh, dear, what is an obsession?


Shakespeare.Shep cartoon0002

Oh. Wow. Another Jean Shepherd Project.

(Apologies to:


Shakespeare’s Dark Lady of the Sonnets,

Trevor Spaulding,

The New Yorker 10/5/2015 issue,

and to my wife, Allison Morgan Bergmann.*)

*For Allison, I apologize for putting her in my little joke, and for my big obsession.

For anyone not aware of it, the process of creating, searching for an outlet for, getting a publishing contract for, struggling through the slings and arrows until publication day for–is stressful, to put it lightly. Decades ago I struggled through the search with several unpublished novels. On the verge of giving up, I was brazen enough to send material to Norman Mailer, at the time, my favorite living novelist (He’s no longer living, but still a favorite). Eventually I received his response, which I still possess, framed in my study/Shep Shrine. I’m grateful that he took the time and creative effort to respond. Here’s what he wrote:

Mailer to eb 1988

As I type this with fingers, toes, and mental wiring crossed,

I think back on those days and on Mailer.

Shep, are you with me on this one? I believe you’d be happy with the subject of my new project possibilities.

I will keep everyone informed.

Meanwhile, write if you get work.

(I’m hanging by my thumbs.)



JEAN SHEPHERD–Obdurate Acts, Extenuating Circumstances (4)


A Tragedy in Obdurate Acts

and Extenuating Circumstances


classic shep image

Why and how he was switched from the more innovative overnights (at the NJ transmitter) to the in-studio, earlier-in-the-evening slot, is unknown. That he seemed to have retained the impetus of the overnights into Sunday evening, is a major victory. He seemed to have retained the slow and easy-going style of the overnights (I’m assuming this, as the following, much shorter broadcasts are of a different kind–still seemingly loose, and definitely improvised, but a bit less free-flowing.) That this schedule gave way to those earlier, 45-minute weekday segments, also represents a change that resulted in a different kind of show with its own very high-quality use of the radio medium.

My chart, shown in the previous post on the subject–as well as in a much earlier post–shows the difference in his career trajectory. Most noticeable in the programs themselves would seem to be the much larger percentage of school-age listeners and what I observe is the absence of contemporary jazz.

Many prefer his more refined and organized, 45-minute improvised radio to his long, Sunday evening, looser style. There is something easier to take, more conventional, more traditional as art and organization in his 45-minute style. He recreated himself, and that is a great accomplishment. The variety from night to night over about seventeen years is a marvel to behold. His commentaries, wit, philosophical bits and pieces, his cuckoo musical interludes with jews harp, nose flute, kazoo, and head-knocking, his stories that seem both improvised and sometimes, somehow well-formed, coming out just right at the end of the show. We revel in the variety, the unexpectedness, the mastery.


Zippy detail 20005

The large influx of high school and college listeners was a good thing as far as sponsorship was concerned, and Shepherd also enjoyed the adulation. But he did not so much like the intense crowding of his personhood that such cult-like celebrity brought.

As I’ve suggested before, I believe that, despite such masterpieces of his post-1960 WOR days as: Eulogy of JFK; Morse Code and Mark Twain; March on Washington, etc., Jean Shepherd’s creative heights leveled off at the very high standard he maintained for another decade-and-a-half.

 shep portrait

Stay tuned for Part 5 of


JEAN SHEPHERD–Obdurate Acts, Extenuating Circumstances (3)


A Tragedy in Obdurate Acts

and Extenuating Circumstances


“It was unique and it was profound and it was real genius!”

young shep


The chart below should be seriously contemplated for comparison with Shepherd’s fine,

but less far-flung creative work, from 1960 onward.

                  great burgeoning 2great burgeoning 1

One might title this period

High On a Mountaintop.

Jean Shepherd’s first years in New York, starting with the beginning of

his “overnight” broadcasting,

were an assorted fervor of glorious activities.

Below are some major examples.

Far-flung extemporaneous monologs, “invectives”

Within New York City’s highest levels of artistic activity connected with The Voice, Greenwich Village, the avant garde, etc. Shepherd associated with such as: Amram, Silverstein, Feiffer, Antheil, Gardner, Mingus.

Look, Charlie theater piece 

Cassavetes and the promotion of Shadows

Village Voice and The Realist

I, Libertine and The America of George Ade

Promoter and participant in the forefront of modernist jazz

As Lois Nettleton put it, “He had headlines!”

Jean Shepherd must have felt himself to be an

innovative master of the highest

modern urban/urbane arts

–and rightly so.

The above list is extraordinary and unprecedented. A major problem is that we have as yet no available examples of his early 1956, overnight, four-and-a-half-hour shows to give us a reasonable idea of what they were like–we can only assume, for now, that they were probably similar to and even more loose than his subsequent four-hour Sunday night broadcasts. My impression is that he played some extended–if not complete–cuts of the major jazz masters of this period. (Talking from 1 AM to 5:30 five or six nights a week most probably was a bit different from Sundays only, 9 PM to 1 AM.)

I repeat here, from an earlier post: In an interview with Doug McIntyre, January 2000, (Just a few months after Shep’s death) Lois Nettleton commented that Jean’s improvisation on radio was a higher art than acting:

“…acting is not shallow, it is an art with depth and all of that,

but it seems almost–almost, less profound,

less important than what he was doing.

I mean I think what he was doing was so

it was unique and it was profound and it was real genius!”

Stay tuned for Part 4 of



JEAN SHEPHERD–Chart–Shep and 4 Women

Jean Shepherd’s personal life is not of prime interest to me. Yet his relationships with four women in his early days in New York City have some connection to the nature of his work, and much of this has been unknown to the vast majority of Shep enthusiasts. Some unexpected and interesting facts have come my way in my quest to learn as much as I can about his creative life.

As I began to seek new information about the important early years in the New York area, I began to realize that the interconnections in Shep’s life, regarding some important women, were becoming too involved for me to keep clear in my mind without a chart.



Many are aware of Joan Warner, to whom Shepherd was married before they came to the New York metropolitan area in 1955. According to those who knew Jean and Joan before they came to New York, they had a son, Randall.  At about the time they separated, their daughter Adrian was born. Although the Cincinnati newspaper clipping below has been circulating for some time now, many may not be aware of it. Note how Shep’s radio persona was being described in the paper even before his New York days. Joan refuses to be interviewed about Jean.


(Cincinnati, 1953-1954)



Soon after my Excelsior, You Fathead! was published in March of 2005, I received an email from Jeanne Keyes Youngson (of whom I was not aware), saying she had encountered my book and that she had been a “romantic interest” of Jean’s before he began dating Lois Nettleton. Jeanne told me she had participated in the I, Libertine hoax and the Wannamaker protest in 1956. At some time I will describe my meeting with her. I refer to her (not in any negative sense of the term) as “The Vampire Lady.”  The recent photo of her below is from her website.




Young actress Lois had listened to Shepherd during his overnight phase in 1956. I made contact with her after my Excelsior, You Fathead! was published. I’ve had much to tell about her and her relationship with Jean. She was a very important part of his early creative life in New York. See some of my previous posts.

miss chicago 1Lois Nettleton

Lois as Miss Chicago of 1948, and another early photo of her.

As attractive as she appears in these images, after she began work in Hollywood, she transformed into a strikingly attractive woman.

13.lois blue ...



Leigh Brown, it’s said, was introduced to Jean by their mutual friend, Shel Silverstein. Eventually she began working at WOR, became an important part of Jean’s career, and became his fourth wife. There is much more that I’ve had to say about Leigh–see some of my previous posts.


Leigh Brown (Nancy Prescott) in high school


There is more information to come about Jeanne, Lois, and Leigh regarding Jean’s creative life. Stay tuned for more posts down the road. Meanwhile here is my two-part chart (click to enlarge the parts):

                                 l.JS personal chart 1955 on 1

m.JS personal chart 1955 on 2


JEAN SHEPHERD–Chart– and all that jazz


My Excelsior, You Fathead! book part titled  “The Great Burgeoning” begins with the chapter titled Night People and All That Jazz. “All that jazz” is an expression meaning, in a sense, all similar kinds of stuff. But it also refers, in the chapter, to the many relationships Jean Shepherd had to jazz in those days. Besides the probable influence of jazz on Shepherd’s improvisatory monologs, I discuss the connections Shep had to the jazz world as far as I knew about them while writing the book.

As I noted, jazz was an especially important part of life in New York City when Shepherd arrived in 1955. He had played jazz records on his previous programs and would play more in his early New York radio days. His 1956 full-length record Jean Shepherd Into the Unknown with Jazz Music consists of Jazz pieces and his improvised short bits of monolog. [images from]




In 1957 he recorded his improvisation of “The Clown” with the Charles Mingus group and he was emcee for several important jazz concerts including the late-night one at Loew’s Sheridan staring Billie Holiday on June 15.


More connections to the jazz world continue to emerge.  Program notes and ads in the New York Times showed “Jazz Under the Stars” at the Wollman Memorial Theatre in Central Park for fifteen consecutive days, from July 28 through August 11, 1957, with such stars as Billie Holiday, Chris Connor, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, Buddy Rich, Dinah Washington, Lionel Hampton, Dave Brubeck, and Maynard Ferguson, with commentary by Jean Shepherd and Al “Jazzbo” Collins.  A Times article on September 27, 1958 described the midnight premier at Loew’s Sheridan of Alonzo Levister’s jazz opera, Blues in the Subway, and other jazz performances, with Shepherd as master of ceremonies.

Two short sets of articles by Shepherd have been discovered from this period, reconfirming the strong jazz connection Shepherd had in the 1950s.  Audio magazine was mainly devoted to electronics and wiring diagrams, but Shepherd wrote four jazz articles for them in 1956.  In the jazz magazine, Metronome, five previously unknown humor pieces by Shepherd from 1960 and two comments about him appeared.  Shepherd was described as the magazine’s “humor editor,” and for their 1959 yearbook issue, they described him as a “philosopher, a gifted impromptu monologist, a social satirist, an iconoclast, a comic, a jazz soloist whose words were his instruments,” and named him “Jazz Personality of the Year.” And the first issue of the magazine Jazz Today, October 1956, commented that “In essence Jean is a jazzman in his own right, the only difference being that he improvises not on a musical instrument, but verbally; not on chords and melodic lines, but on thoughts, ideas, patterns of social behavior as they have affected his personal experience….” Wow, in those days the guy was ubiquitous and on top of the jazz world!

I’ve suggested that we youngsters didn’t have the sophisticated taste to appreciate the more complex jazz of Parker, Miles Davis, and their peers, and that the shorter, forty-five-minute broadcasts did not comfortably accommodate a more laid-back style and jazzier jazz.  While Shepherd was gathering to himself that younger, less hip audience, before completely switching to the shorter shows, he did a few extended fictional riffs referred to as “Listen Baby” routines, in which we hear his voice as he talks to his wife or, more probably, his significant other.  Although he would no longer be playing the hipper jazz, the unannounced background music to these “Listen Baby” segments and to some other of his riffs during this period were, indeed, of that hip jazz.  I suggest that he chose for these particular riffs, that form of jazz—such an important part of himself—in order to sneak it in for maybe the last times before focusing almost exclusively on Dixie and other more easily understood styles. I include myself among those who did not and do not understand the Parker/Davis/Hawkins/Gillespie forms of jazz. I’ve tried listening and I’ve read books about it, but I still don’t get it. I consider my inherent limitations to blame.

JS jazz chart 1JS jazz chart 2made this chart a few years ago to visualize for myself–and then for all other interested parties–just how Shepherd’s broadcasts over time, changed from a modern jazz presentation, to a more easily appreciated kind of music to accommodate a less sophisticated sensibility.


With all that, a recently rebroadcast tape adds more enigma to the subject of why Shepherd abandoned this strong involvement in the jazz world after he gained so many more young listeners earlier in the evenings.  In this program, inspired by a “Harlem Day” tribute on WOR, Shepherd speaks about how important jazz is to Harlem and reminisces about his professional involvement in the jazz world of the late 1950s:

A few years ago I was deeply involved in jazz—and in fact in my private life I still am.  You never get rid of it.  I mean, once you’ve been bitten, man, it’s just—no way!  And I used to work in jazz a great deal.  As some of you may remember, I did a lot of concerts in Central Park.  [Underline emphasis by me. He names many major performers he worked with and mentions the Loew’s Theater late-night concert featuring Billie Holiday.] (November 23, 1971)

This program is an incomplete revelation to Sherlock Gene for several reasons.  More than a decade after Shepherd’s intense public involvement in jazz, he takes the opportunity of “Harlem Day” to seriously break his standard broadcast format in order to express this.  He admits that he retains his strong interest in jazz; he does not explain why his interest has diminished to just private but not public manifestations; he plays not just snippets but complete jazz recordings, naming the performers and commenting on the pieces, just like a knowledgeable disc jockey: Duke Ellington’s “Rainy Nights;” Fats Waller; Duke Ellington doing “Take the ’A’ Train;” Billie Holiday singing “Easy Living.”  Upon ending, he substitutes a recording of Fletcher Henderson jazz for his “Bahn Frei” theme music—a breach of implied contract with his listeners which until now he rarely transgressed in twenty-one years of programs.  Seldom have I been aware of his most private concerns so obviously intruding upon his public persona.  All unexplained but very serious business in the world of Jean Shepherd.


JEAN SHEPHERD–Chart–the Great Burgeoning

As an enthusiast for almost all of Shepherd’s creative works, I nevertheless believe that his first years in New York City were the great expansion/blossoming of his artistic life. He seems to have been waiting for the moment when he could arrive in the city, which was famed for being the center of the country’s–and the world’s–creative life at that time. Describing its importance to him in two of his broadcasts, he said:

Three of them looked at me with one eye, and all three of them said, “If you go anywhere, man, the only one place to go–New York! I mean the Big Apple–that’s the big time!…I looked at the three guys and I said, “You’re right!” Ohhh.


I was in the East. The effete East. The East of golden promise. what was it that Thomas Wolfe used to call Manhattan? “The Enfabled Rock.” And I was here. I mean we’re all here. Do you realize how–how fortunate we are?….You have no idea what a terrible lure this place is to people who live outside of this place.

This is not to necessarily say that this was the height of his artistic achievement, but it certainly was a great time for him. A few years ago I made a chart noting what he had done in those first years. Think about it!:

great burgeoning 2

great burgeoning 1

(Click on images to enlarge)


JEAN SHEPHERD Chart career revise part 4

I’ve encountered that the 4th of the 5 parts of the NYC career chart does not enlarge when clicked on and is not sharp (at least on  my computer), so it cannot be read. I’d done it exactly the same as the other parts! Here I re-do the whole operation–scan, import to blog media, and input it into this post. I trust it works now for those who want to read and maybe copy it:

career part 4 redo

Part 4 revise


And why not add the details of where the story parts of A CHRISTMAS STORY and Shepherd’s three long-form TV dramas originated (Most of the following info is derived from Jim Clavin’s —



Story Lines:

The Red Ryder BB Gun–  “Red Ryder Nails the Hammond Kid,” Playboy, 12/1965, then in IN GOD WE TRUST 1966 titled “Duel in the Snow or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid.”

Wax Teeth, Flick’s Tongue, Writing A Theme

The Leg Lamp– “My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award that Heralded the Birth of Pop Art,” in IN GOD WE TRUST 1966. (See PHANTOM OF THE OPEN HEARTH below.)

“How Does the Little Piggy Eat?” —   in “Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss” Playboy July 1968.

Little Orphan Annie Secret Circle Decoder–“The Counterfeit Secret Circle Member Gets the Message, or The Asp Strikes Again,” in IN GOD WE TRUST 1966.

Changing the Flat Tire – “Oh Fuuudddggge”

Blinded by Soap–“Lost at ‘C’ ” Playboy May 1973

Visiting Santa, The Bunny Pajamas,

The Bumpus Hounds–“The Grand Stand Passion Play of Delbert and the Bumpus Hounds,” Playboy 4/69, then in WANDA HICKEY’S NIGHT OF GOLDEN MEMORIES–AND OTHER DISASTERS 1971.

Christmas Dinner Chinese Style



(1976 television long-form drama)

Story Lines:

Gravy Boat Riot–“Leopold Doppler and the Orpheum Gravy Boat Riot,” Playboy  10/65 then in IN GOD WE TRUST 1966.

Sears Pre-fab House

The Leg Lamp– “My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award that Heralded the Birth of Pop Art,” in IN GOD WE TRUST 1966. (Major component of A CHRISTMAS STORY)

Going to the Prom With Wanda Hickey–“Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories”  Playboy 6/69 then in WANDA HICKEY’S NIGHT OF GOLDEN MEMORIES–AND OTHER DISASTERS 1971.

Baseball for the United Brethern



(1982 television long-form drama)

Story lines:

Sears Radio

Wilbur Duckworth and His Magic Baton–Playboy 12/64“Waldo Grebb and His Electric Baton”  and as “Wilber Duckworth and His Magic Baton” in IN GOD WE TRUST 1966.

The Blind Date–“The Endless Streetcar Ride into the Night, and the Tinfoil Noose” IN GOD WE TRUST 1966.


The Wash Rag Pyramid Scheme

Uncle Carl’s Fireworks Stand

The Old Man’s Fireworks Display

Ludlow Kissel and the Dago Bomb IN GOD WE TRUST 1966.

Fireworks on the roof of Roosevelt High

Sack races at the picnic




Story lines:

Going to a Polish Wedding–“The Star-crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski and Her Friendly Neighborhood Sex Maniac” Playboy 1970 and titled “The Star-crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski” in WANDA HICKEY’S NIGHT OF GOLDEN MEMORIES 1971.

Friendly Fred’s used car lot

Randy plays a turkey in the school Thanksgiving Day play

The boys eat at John’s hamburger joint

Scragging for Polish girls*

[*At least one story that never made it into  a published Shepherd story he told on the air: On March 23, 1968 he told a tale of Scragging and Bolus’ wedding.]  Scragging is what some male teenagers do in a car in summer–they drive by one or more attractive young girls and make adolescent remarks such as “Hey baby! Oh Wow! Holy Smokes!”]


Please report errors and omissions, including exact references if known. –eb

JEAN SHEPHERD–Chart–his career beginning in NYC

Jean Shepherd’s artistic career is far more elaborate and varied than most of us ever imagined. When I began working on my Excelsior, You Fathead! The Art and Enigma of Jean Shepherd in early 2000, I felt that, in order to comprehend the complexities, I had to visualize it all chronologically. This way I could more easily see how parts related to the whole.  The long, horizontal chart I produced and printed out on several 11″ X 17″ paper sheets, was done in 2002, and served to assist me in “seeing” his career more clearly. In my personal reference copy of the published book, I have a small, taped-together, folded version glued to the inside back cover.

I had wanted this, plus a CD–a representative sampling of Shep’s radio bits–to be included in the book, but I was informed by the publisher that the cover price would have been raised too high.

CHART–Here it is in 5 parts to be visualized as a continuity.

JS career chart 1JS career chart 2

JS career chart 3career part 4 redo

JS career chart 5These five images need to be visualized one after the other and butted against each other. The above is what I could do in the post. Remember that each can be enlarged by clicking on it one or even more than one time. In preview form, before being posted, they enlarged sufficiently for me to be able to read them.

Despite this having been designed and printed over a decade ago, nothing major, and only some minor additions would have been required to update it. (Some additional work in jazz is now known, and other information and material continue to appear.)

One of the aspects of Shepherd’s career that the chart confirmed

for me is that much of his original creative work

occurred in the earlier NYC years,

and that much of his later work

on television and in film consisted of

his re-working and re-creating his earlier material.

The major exceptions to this are his WOR radio broadcasting,

that continued until April, 1977, and the

two-part television series of


(made in 1971 and 1985)

which I consider to be

a major, incomplete,

Great American 




JEAN SHEPHERD–Charts–my first book about him

Here’s what I’m going to do intermittently for some opening

posts of the new year.

It’s a series charts I created a number of years ago

and also my thoughts about Shep’s work in 

refutation of a couple of essays by others.

It’s sort of an interrelated gallimaufry. 

Starting now:

Regarding my EXCELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD! THE ART AND ENIGMA OF JEAN SHEPHERD,  on occasion I encounter a comment that indicates that the person is not sure how I organized it. Some might think it’s disorganized.

Others find the methods and organization I used in the book to be appropriate to the subject–I’d like to think they’re right, especially the reviewer who commented that the book seems inspired by Shepherd’s style itself (it was not consciously). The book does have a specific organization from beginning to end, and to clue the reader in, the last paragraph of each chapter indicates how the next chapter is a logical continuation of the theme. I also explain in the book that there is a very loose chronology of the PARTS (The formative years from childhood through early radio years; followed by what I call “The Great Burgeoning” in New York; followed at the end by the finale–a back-and-forth summing up of life and art). Interspersed between some of the chronology are THEMATIC CHAPTERS that describe and reflect on Shep’s various creative endeavors as these seem to emerge from the rough chronology.

While working this out, I made a chart to help show myself (and then interested others) how all this goes together.  The chart was done in a rather large format for ease of viewing–one that could not be scanned or imported into this blog in one piece, so here it is in two pieces. The originals of all my charts were only meant to be printed out on paper–not miniaturized into a blog and viewed on a screen. Remember that one can click on images in the post to significantly enlarge them for ease of reading (I hope!).

I’ve put together a number of charts over the years to help me get a better sense of Shepherd’s life and work. I’ll be posting them one at a time over the next month or so.

                 EYF chart of chapters 1

 chart EYF! redo rt half

Either through my ignorance or the inbuilt limitations of this blog program, I can’t control some visual aspects. So one has to see in one’s mind, the single, continuous artwork broken here into the two-part chart above. Obviously the relative scale of the two is slightly different as it was imported here, and can’t be reconciled. It’s impossible for me to position images just where I want them–the program just resists my attempts at subtle adjustments. In fact, as I draft the post, the two halves show side by side, not one over the other. The title with Shep’s name, obviously should continue on the same level.

The various charts I’ve made, first for my eyes alone and my pleasure, then available to help explain some material to others, were all done about a decade ago in the Adobe Illustrator program and printed out on a large-format Epson 11″ x 17″ -capable-printer. As I no longer have the printer, I rely on old print-outs to scan and awkwardly import them here.

Creating the charts and somehow managing to post them–

all other parts of my enjoyment of working on Shep projects.



I just opened this post as though I were an average viewer and found that although the first half of the chart, when clicked opens larger (It has a blue outline when cursor is over it), the second part does not–I don’t know why this might be–damn computers!  To enlarge, copy this part and paste into a word processing document–one can then enlarge that. Very annoying having to attempt to outwit an electronic servant!  –eb