June 25th, 2005

shep

and now a little obsessive radio geeking

Everybody collects something.

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In compiling this list outta several file directories and whatnot, I noticed I've accumulated some duplicates. Not so bad. This collection exists due to the Mass Backwards show on WBAI. Max Schmid, the host of Mass Backwards, is a Shepherd nut, and he spends the last 45 minutes of his weekly show rebroadcasting a Shepherd episode. Then he puts the episode up on a rolling selection for download every week. It's great for people like me who just don't have the time, money or energy to track down reel-to-reel recordings and transfer 'em digitally or what have you. This also means my episodes aren't clean by any means -- I'm using 'clean' here in the audio sense, meaning my shows have extraneous chatter before and after.

Schmid sometimes also pops in during the episodes themselves, correcting Shep's station IDs ("Speaking of soreheads, this is WOR, AM and FM, New York..." "Actually, this is WBAI-FM, New York") to keep things legal. You can't misrepresent your station identification, so Max has to correct each WOR ID just in case some lunkhead tunes in just as Shep says "This is WOR" and now thinks "Oh hey, I'm listening to an FM radio station in New York that doesn't exist anymore!" (WOR-FM is now WRKS-FM, aka 98.7 KISS-FM. Which I am sure would be thrilled to play 45 minutes of Shepherd every night, uh huh.)

Max also one time had to make a disclaimer after a cigarette ad, mentioning that these shows are historical entertainment and that no commercial endorsement from WBAI should be inferred or implied. I think that's only happened on one or two of the shows I have. Most of the time, however, the "Light up a Kent, you've got a good thing going" jingle is left unfettered. Again, since I wouldn't have access to these wonderful recordings otherwise, I can put up with the chatter.

Most of these shows were during Shep's days at WOR, New York, though he went syndicated at some point in the 1970s and in some of those shows you get, before his rollicking Bahn Frei theme, a stenatorian announcer intoning "And now, Jean Shepherd, humorist..." or somesuch. Hmm. I thought I had his first syndicated show. I'll have to check the show database to see when that was. "Limelight" in the listings denotes a live show Jean recorded at the Limelight club in Greenwich Village. He used to do them nearly every Saturday. On many regular WOR shows he'll pitch his next Limelight show, urging everyone to "come on down and make the scene." And an "xx" means the day or month (or both!) of the recording is unknown.

Audio quality ranges from spectacular to horrible; the only reason these recordings exist today is because of fans taping the nightly show right off the radio. Most of the recordings came from people in New York listening to WOR, so the reception is clear and everything's good. Some syndicated shows came from a fan in Florida, and there's AM echoes and bleeding and garbling and what have you. Sometimes it's fun to turn off the lights and pretend you're listening in on the AM ether, but most of the time I'd like to hear a, you know, clear copy. You can also hear the cassette squeaking in at least one show.

You can see here that Shep liked telling stories. He liked repeating some of his more famous stories, and the Ludlow Kissel story (feeble-minded neighbor meets gigantic firecracker) came back almost every Fourth of July. I can't fault him for recycling any topics, really, as the stuff I have spans 17 years of his radio career. Naturally you're going to come back to some old chestnuts every now and then. What is interesting is to see what changes with each retelling.

And, of course, every collector has one strange or curious wish, and mine is to listen to the Jean Shepherd show that he did the day I was born. According to the show database at Flick Lives, it's got something to do with Andy Capp.