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Jean Shepherd Is Social Issue
Airdate: Friday - August 31, 1956

Last Update: 06-28-2017

Show Description
Jean Shepherd, one-man talkathon, who has entranced and drawn his fanatical Followers into a night-people listeners' loyal bund over his WOR-Mutual Network, five-hour nightly radio program, has become a social issue and a cause celebre in New York and the surrounding half-dozen states where the program is heard. Within the past 10 day Shepherd has been in every New York newspaper and many national magazines, while he was whisked in and out of jobs, fired, re-hired: then cut off the air unceremoniously for mentioning an unadvertised product, a minor misdemeanor, which happen every day of the week. Now he has been offered a five-hour talking stint Sunday night, again by the same network which is oddly loathe to lose him in view of its explanation handed down to the dailies. "We admit Shepherd has a great following, but he doesn't sell products to the 'blue-suede shoe' crowd." The "blue-suede shoe" crowd are presumably the sharp-dressers among the rock 'n' roll teenagers. Perhaps they do not follow Shepherd. But a group greatly outnumbering them are besieging Mutual radio stations with letters telegrams, phone calls and personal delegations, demanding to have their beloved night-time pal back over the air-waves again. "We'll buy whatever he advertises. If necessary we'll buy him air-time. We love him. He communicates with us. Isn't that why radio networks are licensed and receive FCC franchises to operate over the air, which is public property. He communicates. He talks to us, gives us facts and ideas, stimulates our imagination, He makes us laugh, leads us into whimsical fancies, shapes our philosophy, informs us about art, music, painting, literature and love. And above all, he has a wonderful sense of humor." Such is the texture of the arguments the network has had to listen to this past week since Shepherd has been off the air. Moreover some of the sharpies who know the rules ask bothersome questions. "You admit," they say to the network boss, "that he has a big personal following plus huge mail response which convinces you that he reaches people. Let's admit he doesn't reach every level of customer. Do radio rules permit dumping thousands of avowed persons who listen, in favor of others whose tastes are more easily manipulated toward buying advertised products?" The directors of WOR are puzzled. Such impassioned demands have never before reached them quite so vehemently. Meantime a book Shepherd and his night-time followers "created" as a hoax on the public, has actually been written, titled "I, Libertine" and, though hoaxily authored under the fictitious name of Frederick R. Ewing, it was factually done in six weeks by Jean Shepherd in collaboration with Ted Sturgeon, a science fiction scrivener. It Is being published today by Ballantine Books. Jean Shepherd has no job, but he has a book, thousands of night-people friends, packing cases full of mail and requests from half a dozen leading national magazines to write articles on the subject of whether a grant from the Federal Communications Commission should cater to communication or to give way to whatever the station chooses to broadcast in its desire to make more profits than the next station. Gilbert Seldes in his recent book (published by Simon and Schuster) "The Public Arts" says that inasmuch as radio and television are public arts, entrusted to the public and monitored by the FCC, they are obligated to h serve the public in a way that the press, which is privately owned, has never been. These, two public arts, Mr. Settles avers. Are very big business indeed, and should therefore be subject to the greatest amount of cultural, moral and ethical pressure, because they "communicate" with the greatest number of people. It is on this basis that Jean Shepherd, five-hour-a-night communicator, has become a national social issue.
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