Date: Fri, 22 Jan 1999
Excelsior indeed! How many thousands (millions) of us are there? Plenty I
betcha. I too, listened to Shepherd for untold hours when he was on the
overnight slot on WOR. Indeed I recall the Sweetheart Soap incident. The
way I remember it is that he lamented not having a sponsor, so he "created"
one. I also recall that his comeback was due to the Sweetheart Soap
company actually sponsoring his (new) show. Take that management!
After my group, The Smith Street Society Jazz Band, recorded an album that
included "The Bear Missed the Train", I sent copies to everyone and anyone
who seemed to me as if they might like it. I found out years later that Al
Jazzbeaux Collins had adopted it as a theme song for his TV program, and
played it nightly on his radio show (both in San Francisco). Years after
that, Al came back East and we developed a close friendship. The band was
on WNEW radio (with Jazzbeaux and with others) about 50 or 60 times.
Back to Shep: to my delight, he took a shine to "The Bear" and played it
once or twice a night (at that time he was on for an hour or two each
evening on WOR.) From what he told me, his leaving WOR was because they
would not allow him to do taped shows, and his other pursuits were
"calling". As with you, I believe that, wonderful as he is in TV, movies
and of course, writing, radio was clearly the medium where he excelled
beyond all others.
I fondly remember him not only singing along with "The Bear", but also
playing kazoo, nose whistle and (I'm sure you remember this) thumping his
head. Now that's a talent!
We played concerts with him and appeared on his PBS Television program
("Shepherd's Pie"). Although I got to spend some time with the great man,
I never got close to him. Not because he wasn't "approachable" or anything
like that, but simply because my contact with him was always under "working
I too, was surprised to find that much of his story telling was based not
on actual experience, but rather on his creative mind. I guess that makes
him even more talented. I truly believed that he worked in the steel mills
and that he had actually lived all those other stories. To think that his
mother didn't gaze out the kitchen window in her rump-sprung robe, is hard
Back in the "old days" I came upon a 16" transcription that includes "The
Clear Track Polka", Shepherd's longtime theme song. I also have some press
photos of him and copies of our appearance on his TV show. That, and a few
reel to reel tapes from his Saturday morning WOR shows (remember them?) are
the only mememtos I have of Mr. Shepherd. Better than all that, I have the
experience of soaking up all that good stuff he dispensed for so many hours
a week. You probably recall that he also had a Sunday evening slot for a
while. That was in the late 1950's.
I know he's from the Midwest and he's been based in Maine, Boston and
Florida in these "later" years, but nonetheless, he will always be a guy
from the Village as far as I'm concerned. I'll bet that he thinks of
himself that way too. How 'bout you?
Love your Shep page. Hope I get to hear you play one of these days.
I am 33 and I too
recall sitting in bed at night around 9:15 with my small clock radio
under my pillow, listening to this wonderful madman weave an image of
his 'old man's' basement in my mind, or Scut busting 'his' glasses. I
dreaded the moment when that trumpet began to sound in the background,
and yet another 45 minutes of pure pleasure was about to end...and then
Shep himself would keep coming back with a wisecrack.
The first commercial I ever paid attention to was for General
Tires. Buh-Boom--Boom! Ah yes, the memories.
I was first intoduced to Jean Shepherd by my brothers who owned a
copy of his album "The De-classified Jean Shepherd". I spend hours
listening to that album, even the lousy music, until it was memorized
word for word. The album is long lost but the words remain. The first
time I saw him in person was 1969, in a mall in Woodbridge, NJ. He was
on a book signing tour for "In God We Trust..." when I stepped up, aged
three, and asked him to sign 'my book'. He laughed and smiled at my
parents, and signed it, "To that rat-fink son-of-a bitch runt Eric!
You'll never get away with this! Jean Shepherd. I displayed it proudly
in my room for years afterward, until my grandmother saw it and almost
had a heart attack one Thanksgiving.
In 1971, following one of his early shows at Alexander Hall in
Princeton, my brother Bill and I stepped outside and found him standing
by his new car, an orange Datsun 240Z, with the hatch open. We
introduced ourselves and thanked him for the great show, told him how we
listened regularly to his radio show on 'OR, about the autograph the
year before. He said he remembered me, adding, "I don't get too many
three year old fans asking for autographs."
Suddenly, he pulled out a bucket and a black pipe and asked us if
we wanted to help him wash his car! It was eleven o'clock at night and
the only light was a street lamp over the parking lot. Who the hell
washes his car at night? Later I was to learn that Shepherd was known
around town as a, well...sort of...wild guy. He would drive his
motorcycle up and down the sidewalks of Nassau St. waving a can of
Carling Black Label, scaring the bejesus out of the local pinstripe
My brother Bill has the photos of this late night encounter in his
possession. It is the only thing I could offer in trade for said radio
show recordings. I saw him many more times through the years ,until I
moved to Florida in 1988. I worked in a restaurant near Palmer Square
in Princeton, and he would come in there before and after the shows.
Only the beer was no longer on the menu, and he would reply to my
inquiries about his earlier antics with phrases like, "That was my past
It amazes me how a man with such talent in print and on radio,
television and in motion picture has not been properly recognized. I do
my best, introducing friends and co-workers, so I am happy to see this
page and others.
Good work. Carry on, Mens!!
Best Regards, Eric Nabstedt
Date: Sat, 13 Sep 1997 From: Stanley Weinstein
I'm the agent that you met at the Emelyn Theater with Marilyn Michaels. I've checked out your page a couple of times and it is terrific. I was amazed to see your interest in Jean Shepherd. I've got a little story to share. It's not great shakes but, something you might like to hear about. I found him to be extremely interesting and very, very bright.
I was in charge of a theater in West Orange new Jersey where I presented about 60 events each season, stuff including jazz, chamber music, modern dance, variety, etc. One night we presented Jean Shepherd. He was an amazing guy to talk to and being one of his fans, really a fanatic listener to his program, It was a great pleasure to meet him and I had many questions about how he worked, etc. So, I picked him up at the airport and drove him to the gig. The conversation was interesting, not too serious and I don't remember much about what we talked about on that drive. I was just getting to know him a bit. It turned out that I had to introduce him and I was wondering how to do it when he said, "Why don't you say that Jean Shepherd can't appear tonight and John Gambling is here to replace him."
So that's how I introduced him. I thought that was really funny especially after all the moans and groans from the audience and then he walked out. Before he went on he asked me backstage what happened to North Orange? (There is East Orange, andWest Orange and South Orange. So, what happened to North Orange?)
After the show I had to take him back to the airport and he invited me to stop with him for a hamburger. I asked him questions like is the show off the top of his head or is it prepared. He told me how much he works at it to get it just right. He a lso spoke about a lot of things in his life. One of the most impressive was the fact that when he wasin the army he was sent to the language school the army had in Monterey,California where he learned Japanese or Russian, I can't remember now which it was, in some amazingly short period of time. I was very, very impressed with him.
All best wishes,
last time i saw shep was at the loew's sheridan theatre in greenwich village (1959?)
he had arranged a private screening of a movie not yet released, it was ""edge of the city" we met the dir. martin ritt, and 3 new actors: john cassavetes, sydney poitier and jack warden= after the movie shep conducted an analytical meeting with us,night people. of course it started at midnight and ended ?. i had come directly from evening college at ccny.
another meet was a ''milling'' we had at the site of the burned out wanamakers dept. store. we milled around quietly in the early morning hours.
Subject: Shep lives!
Sent: 10/9/96 11:09 AM
Like many others, I recently stumbled across your page and was delighted
to do so. I was a major Shep fan in the early-mid '60s, when he was on
at 10:15 on weeknights and did the Limelight show on Satruday nights on
WOR ("they forgot the 'h'"). I even got my parents to take me and a few
friends to see him at the Limelight for my birthday. "In God We Trust,
All Others Pay Cash" had just come out, so I got Shep to autograph it
and even sign it "Happy Birthday". My parents didn't quite see what the
fuss was about, but had no objections to me listening to the old boy --
their biggest issue was how much dinner and a show for four kids and two
adults at the Limelight cost!
I could write for weeks about how much I loved Shepherd, and what an
influence he had on my life, but I'll try to keep it brief...I was
already a ham radio operator (at the age of 9), and when I found out
that Shep was too, it just made me love him more (good thing the same
didn't happen with Barry Goldwater). We actually had a fan club (we
called it a "contingent", not a chapter -- don't ask me why) at Roslyn
Junior High School, for which I was corresponding secretary, which means
I got to write to him, which I did once or twice. There was an
advertising campaign on his show at the time for Cinzano vermouth, and
if you wrote in asking for it, he (or someone) would send you a Cinzano
ashtray, and a letter. Our "membership card" was a piece of the letter
that had a picture of the ash tray and Shep's signature. I think I still
have the ash tray somewhere.
He gave me a tremendous love of storytelling, and using words to create
images in the listener's own mind, and it remains one of my favorite art
forms. In fact, I'm married to a professional storyteller. He also gave
me a great love of radio, and after college I worked in radio for
several years, but by then things had changed, and there was very little
room for his kind of art. Today I am a musician and a writer -- I write
a column for an audio magazine called Mix, among other things -- and I
try to include some kind of story in just about everything I write, as
an example of how the stuff I write about (usually technology) affects
real people (i.e., me). It's a technique that I owe in large measure to
Shepherd. I also have appropriated his technique of using numbers of old
radio tubes as secret code words and serial numbers, and in general to
When he did the PBS movie, The Great American Fourth of July, which was
shot near where I live in Boston, a friend of mine, Harriet Wilson,
played Mrs. Kissel, and had to be blown up (by the dago bomb, you
recall) four times while sitting on the porch swing (they needed several
takes). I was spellbound as she related the story of the shooting, which
Shep attended, and was thrilled to be so close to greatness.... And it
was a very funny movie. Does anybody know if it is available on video?
I look forward to seeing this page grow, and more reactions and more
reports from more folks.
Program in Sound Recording Technology
College of Fine Arts
University of Massachusetts Lowell
From: Andy Goldberg <email@example.com>
Fantastic page! It is a fitting tribute to one of the greatest raconteurs in American radio history. I grew up in New Jersey and enjoyed Shep every night, especially his Saturday night broadcasts from the Limelight. His stories would hold me spellbound, and I loved his pranks. I remember when he asked everyone listening to put their radios by the window and "turn the gain up". I did so and his voice echoed through the quiet suburban neighborhood--"OOOOOH, Baby!" Or the time he dared listeners to go through the Hudson River tunnels without paying the tolls and got a call from someone with a phone in their car saying "Shep, I'm gonna do it!" He was at the Holland Tunnel toll booth and Shep egged him on. There was a "pregnant pause" while Shep played some wacky tune and the guy's phone blacked out in the tunnel. Then he emerged on the NY side and shouted triumphantly, "I made it!". Shep cheered and went on...
I got to meet him a few times. The most memorable was when we brought him to our high school to speak. As one of the organizers of the event, I got to hang out backstage before he went on. In the presence of greatness, I shook his hand and stammered out a question. I asked, "Shep, if you could do anything that you wanted to do, what would it be?" He smiled and replied that he wanted to gather all of his listeners in Central Park and on his cue everyone would lean to their right and then to their left over and over until they had the whole island rocking!
Radio hasn't been the same since he left the air.
Date@11 Aug 1996 00:42:23, -0500
Dear Mr. Kaye:
Though I've had Web access for about a year and a half now, it only
occurred to me yesterday to try searching for the name of the man who I
ocne followed with steadfast fanaticism. Your site was the first item on
the list returned by AltaVista, and so far is the only one I've looked at.
I thought I'd write with my own recollections of my time as Shepherd fan,
for your own interest or, if you wish, use on your home page.
Like those people whose notes you reproduce, I was the adolescent kid
alone every night in my bedroom listening intently to WOR's often-elusive
signal. My family viewed this unswerving dedication with bemusement
rather than disapproval, as I would stay home from the movies or miss all
manner of shows on TV rather than fail to catch a single one of Shepherd's
nightly broadcasts. I recall one of my brothers once remarking on how
much I missed by thus closeting myself. Heh! I can see all the classic
movies by just making a quick stop at the video store or library, but
with those Shepherd shows it was a matter of hear 'em then or they're
gone. Looking back I feel sure I made the right choice.
I found Shepherd quite by accident in the summer of 1968, when it
was my habit as a baseball fan to tune down the AM radio dial at night
in search of broadcasts from far-off (from Cape Cod) cities. (I'd listen
for crowd noises, and pause to see if anything interesting was doing.)
One night I came across this guy telling what turned out to be a story
about buying a used car that turned out to have a "balsa wood
transmission." I don't recall how many more shows I listened to that
summer, but it seems to me that I only became truly hooked the next
summer (the Cape was a vacation home -- I was from a small town to the
north of Boston). From that point on, I listened whenever it was
at all possible, sometimes straining to hear that distinctive voice
through some of the most horrendous static imaginable. This only ended
in early September of 1974, when I went off to college; upon returning
home in June of '75 I found Shepherd gone from WOR. So my time as a
loyal listener was relatively brief, but certainly intense.
Late in 1970, much to my delight, Shepherd's show was picked up by
WGBH, the local public radio station, via a taped delay of a week or so.
Thereafter, of course, I listened to all the shows twice, with the
second time being in blissfully clear FM. (I have a precious handful of
tapes of some of these, about which more later.) Even then, I listened
to the sometimes barely-audible WOR broadcasts unless the interference
completely wiped out the signal -- I was nothing if not dedicated!
There's one point that your previous correspondents made which I
must second, and reaffirm again and again, is that for all his far
from negligible accomplishments in other media, Shepherd was at his
glorious best on the radio. I still can only marvel at his unparalleled
mastery of his choses medium -- his perfect timing, ability to build
suspense while telling a story, use of music and sound effects...a
true original, much deserving of the overused accolade "inimitable."
And given the amazing range of subjects that he talked about, steady
listening provided a considerable education by itself. One of the many
things I owe to old Shep is that he introduced me to P.G. Wodehouse, my
favorite humor writer, and a man who Shepherd himself admired and was
likely influenced by.
I was privileged to see Shepherd in person on three separate occasions.
The first was a signing of WANDA HICKEY, on the tour he made when it was
first published, at the Old Corner Bookstore in Boston. There was just a
small crowd, perhaps twenty people, but Shepherd was as entertaining as
he would have been before a sold-out house. I recall that I told him that
I was thoroughly addicted to his show, and he replied with something to
the effect that he "recognized the shifty eye of the true addict...like
someone who's been mainlining Fig Newtons." The second occasion *was*
before a sold-out house, at major appearance at Northeastern University
perhaps a year later. All I can clearly recall is that he told the story
that later became "Lost at C". The third appearance, however, represented
some sort of a pinnacle for a Shepherd fan. There was some sort of major
charity event sponsored by a Boston radio station, and as part of the
festivities Shepherd did an *all-night* show -- midnight to dawn as I
recall -- before an audience in a small function room at the resort/
convention hotel right here on the Cape where the event was based.
I had long thought that the absolute ultimate would be to see Shepherd
do a radio show, but this was more than I could have hoped for. My dad
and I were among the no more than ten or so who stuck it out all the way.
He told a number of his classic stories, including the one he later
wrote as "A Fistful Of Fig Newtons", and while off the air during a
commercial break he made a rare revelation about the fictionalizing he
did -- that story was based on a real event, but it took place while he
was in the Army rather than college. On this occasion I was too awe-
struck to say much more at the end that "It was great."
One thing that strikes me looking back at Shepherd's career was how
small his output -- just four books (not counting his editing of THE
AMERICA OF GEORGE ADE). Alas, he put his best efforts into the
ephemeral medium of radio, where his words went out over the air and
were gone, except in the memories of his listeners.
I've gone on about long enough for now, I guess, though as you can
guess I've barely gotten started. I'm pleased to no end to find this
nascent network of Shepherd fans, and hope this is only the start of
something that will continue to grow.
From: Nick Ruhs
jean shepherd's hessville
Date: Wed, 3 Jul 1996 23:11:54 -0600
i'm a seventh-grade, 26-year english teacher, and i've always fascinated my classes with shepherd's tales. i've lived them myself. i'm from hessville, indiana. i know where the bluebird tavern was. i know where shepherd lived and where the original warren g harding school was (approximately). i went to school in the 1960's with flick's daughter (real name flickinger). i know where flick's tap still is (and where it used to be, right across from "friendly fred's used car lot".) i've fished in the famous cedar lake and know where the evening in paris ballroom was. i know where john's hamburger diner was (really called the red rooster). we've all lived the same lives in the region, in the shadow of the steel mills. none of us trust air we can't see. we all know that northwest indiana is the "broad rear end" of carl sandburg's "city of the broad shoulders". i love reading, telling, showing shepherd's stories to young students. he's the mark twain of our region. over the years i've discovered what i like most about his stories, however. what do you think it is?
Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996
Here's a Shep 'encounter' ... well sort of that I wanted to contribute:
Back in 1976 I was first licensed in Amateur Radio (WB2EFQ). At that time I was living up in north western New Jersey in Sussex County. Just "up the road a piece" was the Great Gorge Ski Resort & Convention Center. That particular year (I think...) the ARRL Hudson Division held their regional Amateur Radio convention at this resort. On the Saturday night of the convention they held the 'official' dinner with all hams invited. (Unfortunately I was unable to attend.) The guest speaker was K2ORS, Shep, himself. A friend of mine, Al Davenport, WA2GZN???, attended and tape recorded Shep's keynote address on his pocket recorder. The next day my friend Al stopped by and said, "Hey Ed, you HAVE to listen to this!"
Well, I sat absolutely glued to my lounge chair listening to Shep talk for a good solid 90(???) minutes about amateur radio back in the old days. Because his captive audience was entirely hams, he used a tremendous amount of "amateur radio color" in his address and spoke about things that only hams would understand or know about and appreciate. It was absolutely hilarious! The funniest thing I've ever heard! A classic performance. I never heard Shep speak elsewhere about amateur radio in such depth. The audience was just rolling with laughter. An absolute gem.
If anyone can help me locate my old friend Al Davenport, WA2GZN I MUST ask him if he still has this tape of Shep speaking at that ARRL convention. I did use the Amateur Radio QRZ callsign lookup database but that callsign seems to have expired. Local telephone directory assistance DOES list an "Al Davenport" in Ogdensburg, NJ (where he lived in 1976) but unfortunately it's an unlisted number.
Any info would be much appreciated. Keep up the great work with the home page for Shep. (Has he ever seen it or commented on it?)
Date: Fri, 5 Jul 1996 16:44:00 -0500
From: John Stewart
What a wonderful thing to find ole' Shep on the net!
Here's a bit of info you may certainly use with my name!
I was one of those high school kids that listened to him in 1965 and 1966 until graduation, and then the Army had different plans for me. I sometimes wonder what effect Jean had on my young brain as I lay there on my bed, semi-conscious, with a six transistor radio earphone plugged into my ear night after night.
The odd thing was that Jean used some of my material (mailed to him) on several shows! If you ever find a show, circa 1965 where he goes on and on about the fact that the souvenir Iwo Jima memorial statues sold in Washington, DC are made in Japan, it came from me. I understand later that this very topic was picked up by Congress.
Could some politician visiting New York have heard old Shep, who was commenting on an item send by some pimply high school Junior? The mind boggles.
I also send him a clipping from a magazine ad that read:
"A Fortune In Frogs! Frogs Lay 10,000 Eggs Per Year, sell for .....etc."
You can imaging my joy to hear MY HERO using stuff I sent him! I'm sure there are others who supplied him with zany bits, just as Jay Leno gets his headlines.
But Shep gave more to me that I ever gave him!
The radio bug finally hit me in 1980, after the Army, college and a few bad starts in the business world. Although I was NO JEAN, I did find a bit of his smart talk filtering in to my on air bits. That didn't hurt because I soon found myself working for some of the larger and better stations in the midwest and Texas.
Now we are all on computers and I find myself doing consumer computer radio reports here and in Australia. If you had pulled that earphone out of that kid's ear back in /65, who knows what might have never happened.
Audio Computer Information, Inc.
Sun, 7 Jul 1996
What a great page you've put together on Jean Shepherd!
Like many of your respondents, I grew up in New Jersey listening to him on his 10:15 PM slot on WOR in New York. I met Shep a couple times at book signings - my first edition copies of "Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories"
and "The Ferrari in the Bedroom" are both personally autographed by him. But my fondest memory is actually booking him to do a performance in 1974.
I was a junior at New Providence (NJ) high school and, like all high school classes, we were looking to raise money for class trips, projects, and the like. Instead of the usual car washes and bake sales, a friend and proposed we try to book Shepherd to do a gig for us. With the skeptical blessing of our class advisor, we called up WOR in New York, asked to be put through to Shepherd's offices, and ended getting connected with Leigh Brown. By this time Shep was at the height of his popularity, and was in good demand for shows at college campuses.
To my knowledge, Shep hadn't done a smaller show like ours in a couple years, but for whatever reason, Leigh Brown took a liking to us, worked with us to find an available Saturday night, and we put the show together.
With the help of a couple mentions on his show, we sold 1,000 tickets and made a couple grand for the class fund. It was one hell of a rush to meet him backstage and get a front row seat to see a show that we organized!
Feel free to use this (and my name) on your site if you wish.
Date: Mon, 08 Jul 96 19:29:16 -400
Like many respondents to your web page's request for personal encounters, I too was a kid in the 1950's living on Long Island. I use to clandestinely listen to Shep on my crystal set with cats-whisker as my parents assumed I was asleep. I too, wonder how my brain was warped by images of concrete Madison Avenue executives in three piece suits carrying briefcases, all proudly displayed on lawns all over Mexico.
After moving to Indiana to attend Purdue, I had to make do with the Playboy articles and an occasional good night when WOR's signal could be heard in Indiana squeezed between WGN and WLW. It wasn't until the late 1970's that I ran into Shep on the radio again. I was now a ham and electrical engineer working at a NASA facility in New Mexico. Shep was gone from WOR by this time and living in Florida. I recognized his K2ORS ham radio call sign and gave him a holler. We chatted about the old days on WOR and how I remembered seeing him in person during a concert series he emceed in Central Park called Jazz Under The Stars. I also mentioned that living in New Mexico I was experimenting with solar power and was powering my radio transmitter with solar energy. Showing that his sense of humor had not been dulled by the WOR experience, he quickly responded, "What do you do at night, collect stamps?"
You may post this response to your web page if you want to.
Joe Buch (N2JB)
Sat, 06 Jul 1996
Thank you for bringing back memories of almost forty years ago. I also remember the various radio incarnations of Jean Shepherd's radio show from the all-nighter to the 9 to midnight and even afternoon slots. One that comes to mind was when Babe Ruth's home record was broken and Shep did what was not considered the usual- he actually sounded serious througout his monologue.
Another aspect was his skill as an electronic experimenter and ham radio operator. A fond memory was actually "working" him on the ham bands. He was so well known just by voice that ARRL was lucky enough to get him to make a tape on Morse code instruction. I still have that tape. Regretably, his TV show did not go over. Like the Ernie Kovacs show, it was ahead of its time in format.
Sadly, I guess that the Shepherd phenomenon will die out with the pre and early baby boomers who enjoyed life more during the fifties and sixties because of him.
R.A. Comunale, MD firstname.lastname@example.org
(Comment from BK--Not if I can help it!)
Hey gang. Bob here. I guess I ought to relate some of my own personal encounters.
Sometime around l963, I heard a commercial on WQXR, (very serious, high-minded-type classical music station in NY). The gist of it involved how important, in today's perilous times it is to keep your valuable files and records safe. The Lincoln vaults, imbedded deep inside a mountain, would be the perfect place to store these valuable items, (Like what Bullard thought about Charlie Wattanabe's inflated expense account), in case of a nuclear disaster.
Well, I figured Shep had to know about this. I wrote him, asking him if this was the end product of the industrial revolution.
To my surprise, a week later I received a handwritten letter from Shep! (Which, of course got lost over the years.)
"Yes Bob, along with Kleenex, man's maniacal desire to preserve his files and records is a true product of the industrial revolution!"
I did get to meet him briefly, a few years ago when he did a reading at Queens College, in NY.
Anyway, keep 'em coming and I'll keep puttin' 'em up!