Flick Lives

I’ll be flying to California at the crack of dawn tomorrow — I’m going off to San Marcos to visit my father. I was dithering over what books, music, etc. I might take for the ride, when suddenly I remembered that I had, a couple of years ago, got my hands on a collection of hundreds of hours of recordings of the old Jean Shepherd radio show.

Many of you might be too young to remember Jean Shepherd, but I’m sure all of you — well, at least those of you who live in the States — are familiar with at least one enduring part of his legacy: he was the writer and narrator of that perennial Yuletide staple, the movie A Christmas Story.

But that picture, as enjoyable as it is, is just the tip of the Shepherd iceberg; an afterthought, really. I became a fan back in the Sixties, when he ruled the airwaves every evening with his own show on the New York radio station WOR. Shep was a raconteur par excellence and every night, as the uplifting strains of his theme song (the Bahn Frei Polka, by Johann Strauss) died away, he would begin some rambling tale. The stories were usually more digression than plot, aided by cheesy musical cues and sound effects, and the loose ends would pile up in great drifts, only to be tied up, quite miraculously, as the forty-five minutes drew to a close and the music faded up. The man was a bloody genius: humorist, author, philosopher, scholar of human types, kazoo virtuoso, and jovial bon vivant, and I rarely missed a show.

My old friend (and waka waka waka commenter) Peter Kranzler was a big Shep fan as well, and I well remember an occasion when Peter used his connections at the Princeton radio station WPRB to get us into the tiny studio to hang out with The Man Himself after one of his annual on-campus performances. To sit there in that little room, drinking Buds and eating pizza, with Shep! What a moment. If it wasn’t the acme of my young life, it was a peak whose altitude was rivaled only by a few other high points of a rather more obvious nature.

Anyway, as it turns out, the are Shep fans out there in oceanic numbers, and one of them has put together a website where you can acquire CDs of recordings, completely free of charge. They send you the discs, you copy them and send them back.

Here’s the link. What a wonderful world.

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3 Comments

  1. David Pauley says

    Another good source of Shep stuff is “The Brass Figlagee” here –> http://shepcast.blogspot.com/
    – –
    Free podcasts through iTunes. Over 100 shows available.
    – –
    I got a Radio Shack crystal tuner kit on my 11th birthday. The speaker was a single earpiece.
    It was an appropriate way to listen to Shep and I listened that way for years.

    Posted January 26, 2007 at 1:13 pm | Permalink
  2. the one eyed man says

    Happy to report that Flick lives out here in the Bay Area — the following was in last week’s San Francisco Chronicle website:

    Jean Shepherd

    “The day will come when the language and the attitudes will be so turned, will be so converted, that when one says democracy what he really means is totalitarianism, when one says love what he really means is kill everybody. And it is rapidly coming about. It really is.” (Jean Shepherd, March 5, 1963
    Yesterday, I went out for a run listening to a Jean Shepherd show from March, 1963 — it’s on a package of about 700 Shepherd shows I got on ebay for $20. The above remark leaped out at me. He said the day will come. I think it came in either 2003 or 2004, when the president of the United States actually said this: “I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we’re really talking about peace.”

    I almost fell out of my chair, but the media didn’t seem to notice. Or catch the reference. Looks like Orwell was off by about 20 years.

    Posted January 26, 2007 at 6:33 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Let’s not forget that Orwell also said:

    “Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

    Posted January 27, 2007 at 3:09 am | Permalink