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High and Lowbrows Form Part of Shepherd's Flock
Airdate: Friday - May 25, 1956

Last Update: 08-03-2020

Show Description
Listening to Jean Shepherd, WOR's deadpan all-night "disk jockey," you're soon convinced he is merely posing as a disk jockey for access to a few million listeners he can inveigle into joining some sinister plot. Shepherd, of course, would be the first to admit that he (and his intrepid dialers) are doing all in their power to undermine the backbone of Western civilization - the early-rising, well-organized, white-collar go-getters who run this world of ours. Shepherd has been accused of adlibbing a Proustian type of novel every night for five hours at a stretch (12:30 to 5:30 A.M.) interspersed by infrequent recordings. His talk has been compared by an important scholarly magazine with James Joyces stream of consciousness." And a critic writing in the New Republic found Shepherd to be "one of the greatest manipulators of the genre of da-da art on radio" (an honor Shepherd intends to acknowledge as soon as he figures out whether it's good or bad). Departure Front-Paged Shepherd, a former pro baseball player, for many years was a solidly entrenched institution. When he left Cincinnati's WLW to come east, his departure was reported on the front page of the Cincinnati Enquirer. He has parlayed a unique talent for articulate, literate, humorous and provocative talk into a apostleship of the "disorganized" people of America - those who are up in the dark watches of the night listening to shows like his. Shepherds "irregulars" spring from the earth. Alice Hughes, the syndicate writer, whom he has never met, suddenly began raving I about Shepherd, and wrote letters to network executives of her acquaintance demanding to know why they allowed Jean to languish on Midwest radio. A noted cartoonist shook his readers when his comic strip suddenly popped with a reference - completely out I of context with the strips continuity - to one of Shepherds pet spoofs. And Bob Osborne, the Life magazine cartoon-essayist, wrote, to Shepherds station bosses, "Gentlemen: Jean Shepherd, who comes on at midnight, is the only man I bother to listen to in radio." Wide Appeal What is Shepherd's hold on this type of listener? The type who has never written a fan letter. In our opinion he has succeeded better than any predecessor in broadcasting to communicate on a basic level with his listeners - whether highbrows, middlebrows or lowbrows - by being almost completely personal. He dwells on incidents and customs from his childhood, frankly reflects on his own weaknesses, wild hopes, unattainable aspirations, flaw-riddled theories and ridiculousnesses. Like the great story-writing novelists, Shepherd develops a character that is recognizable and human. Disunites Disorganized Despite outward manifestations of sophistication, Shepherd has the common touch. When he asks listeners, for example, if they remember collecting those baseball picture cards that came in chewing gum packages, Shepherd is deluged letters from viewers who have been reminded of their own boyhood. Oddly enough, before Shepherd arrived on the scene, radio, which has talked itself nearly to death, never managed to present what the literary old-timers called "good talk." The kind of thing Woollcott, Benchley, et al., knew in the cafes of their era. Maybe it's time somebody opened a cafe featuring Shepherd at the mike, so that, as Shepherd might put , "the disorganized talkers of the world could disunite."
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May 25,1956
New York Daily News

Airdate History ' - Original' date is earliest known broadcast)
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