I’m going to have to get this thing framed, so it’s not currently on display. But it will be soon, and I’m excited to have it. In my home office, I try to surround myself with small tributes to the things that have meant a lot to me and have long craved something from Jean Shepherd. But he’s fairly obscure (criminally), and the right piece never really came along. He’s now known, if at all, as the person behind A Christmas Story. Which annoys me somewhat… It’s like when people only know Warren Zevon as “that Werewolf of London guy.” Wow! That’s just a scratch on the surface of the tip of the iceberg.
Jean Shepherd had a radio show in New York City from the late 1950s to 1977. It was a 45-minute nightly program, usually airing from 11:15 to midnight, I believe. And he told stories from when he was a kid and from his time in the army. Or he might discuss some obscure thing he saw in a newspaper, or just play kazoo for most of the show. You never knew what you were going to get, but you knew it was going to be great. He was hip and funny and smart, and one hell of a storyteller.
Dr. Buford, a longtime Surf Reporter, hipped me to the man many years ago, and it was right in my wheelhouse. I ended up procuring mp3s of all of Shep’s shows that have survived, and it’s more than 800 episodes. I’ve listened to all of them at least once, many of them multiple times. They’re great! Especially the ones from the 1960s. That’s when he was hitting on all cylinders. All the big scenes in A Christmas Story were tales he told on the radio show and also wrote about in his books. His books are also great.
In any case, most of the Jean Shepherd stuff you see on eBay (or whatever) is Christmas Story-related or paperback copies of his books. Most photos of him are from the 1970s for some reason, when he was bearded and looked like Mr. French from Family Affair. I wanted something from the ’60s, and preferably something authentic. I’m not 100% opposed to a photo reprint but preferred something original. And I finally got it! This is a 1966 photo from the picture files of a newspaper, to coincide with the release of Shep’s first book. Here’s the back of it.
And if you want to learn more about Jean Shepherd, here’s his Wikipedia page, and this is a good article from The Atlantic about him. This is a great song by Donald Fagen (from Steely Dan) inspired by Shep and an article by Fagen about the man.
Do you do anything like this? Surround yourself with items that pay tribute to important stuff that kinda, in some small way, made you who you are? I’m not talking about family, I’m talking about writers and musicians and artists, and that sort of thing. Please tell us what ya got, or what you’d like to have in that realm.
And I’ll leave you now with my favorite photo of Jean Shepherd. Is that cool, or what? If I could find a vintage version of it or a large framed copy, I’d snap that shit up in short order. I saw a magazine article years ago that showed an NYC apartment with a huge wall-sized version of it. I experienced a pronounced case of wall-envy that day. Why can’t my walls be that cool? Hey, I’m trying!
Have a great day, my friends.