Vaughn Meader often referred to November 22, 1963 as "the day I died."
REMEMBERING VAUGHN MEADER AS JFK
One twist to the single-bullet theory that didn't make it into the Warren Report:
the same bullet that killed JFK
also murdered Vaughn Meader's career.
watch Vaughn Meader JFK Impersonation, YouTube
To Orwell Today,
It so happens that I am the writer and producer of THE FIRST FAMILY, the album we hired Vaughn to be in.
The album was produced by THE BOOKER-DOUD ORGANIZATION, and I am the copyright holder.
I just happened to read your review -- I must tell you it is probably the most accurate description of the story of the making of it I have ever read.
Thank you, whoever you are.
Congratulations on being the writer and producer of THE FIRST FAMILY -- it's a fantastic album -- I still love it.
I'm the creator of the ORWELL TODAY website and have a huge section about the life and death of JFK.
The review you refer to was written by Nicholas Cull and posted on my website in 2006 -- ten years ago now: JFK LIKED HIS IMPERSONATOR
Excerpts from that review, mentioning you are:
...In August 1962 two experienced television writers, Bob Booker and Earle Doud, decided to record an affectionate comedy album based on the Kennedy family. The basic concept was to take the 'rather remote movie star' figure of the president and humanize him to comic effect by placing him in ordinary situations such as a family dinner or buying gas. Any one of the several Kennedy impersonators on the comedy circuit could have breathed life into the project, but after seeing Meader's stage act in New York, Booker and Doud decided that they had found their man. They signed him for the project, auditioned for a suitable Jackie Kennedy and, on 22 October, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, they recorded the disk.
As a former disk jockey, Booker was careful to structure the record so as to maximize air play. The script was assembled mostly from short segments, each brief enough to fit between commercial breaks. Some segments ran but ten seconds; others for thirty or sixty seconds. Booker also included a couple of five-minute pieces, as he later recalled: 'for the late night disk jockeys who needed to put something longer on to let them run out to the bathroom.' The format soon paid real dividends....
Bob Booker heard about the assassination over lunch with Alan Ginsberg in New York. As a devoted admirer of the President he was shocked, but the shock was compounded by the spectacle of the immediate and frenzied scramble for Kennedy memorabilia. Booker was determined not to profit from the President's death. The day after the assassination he called Archie Bleyer at Cadence Records, requesting he recall the entire pressing of The First Family--Volume Two. The record was recalled and broken up at a depot in New Jersey.... Booker and Doud went on to other things, but not Meader....
Other articles about THE FIRST FAMILY on my website are: VAUGHAN MEADER MADE JFK LAUGH and JFK'S BEDTIME STORY
I notice, reading the back of the album, that you are not only the writer and producer of THE FIRST FAMILY, you were also one of the voices. And I think that is you on the far right on the cover holding Caroline's pony Macaroni.
Bob Booker and Earle Doud are making their co-production debut. In addition to having conceived and created this album, they also lent their talents to the writing and performing. EARLE DOUD has written for Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, the late Ernie Kovacs, Steve Allen, Jackie Gleason and Father Knows Best. BOB BOOKER'S many-faceted talents have led him through radio and television as writer, director, disc jockey, performer and manager.
Your voice is heard in these two clips: Act I, Scene 1: The Experiment (first skit) and Act II, Scene 1: But Vote!! (starts at 7-minute/30-second mark)
Since receiving your email I've re-listened to the album and it's just as funny now as it was fifty-four years ago. It's stood the test of time, and ranks up there as a classic.
I've also googled Vaughn Meader for news, and found a few new articles I hadn't seen before, which I've excerpted and linked to below.
If there is any new insight you can contribute -- being as you are the creator/writer/producer -- or some anecdotes about the making of the album, or about Vaughn Meader -- no doubt my readers, who follow all things JFK, would love to hear them. It helps keep the memory of JFK -- and Vaughn Meader -- alive.
All the best,
watch Vaughn Meader (as JFK) - 1962, "The First Family" Press Conference, YouTube
watch Vaughn Meader on "What's My Line?", Dec 30, 1962 (Meader segment begins at 15-minute mark), YouTube
watch "First Family" actress Naomi Brossart with Vaughn Meader on "To Tell the Truth", Jan 7, 1963, YouTube
Actress Naomi Brossart, who played Jackie Kennedy on Vaughn Meader's wildly successful 1962 album "The First Family", appears as a contestant on a 1963 episode of "To Tell the Truth" hosted by Bud Collyer with panelists Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Theo Bikel, and Kitty Carlisle. Vaughn Meader introduces the segment and identifies the real Naomi Brossart at the end. Vaughn Meader's humor album poking good-natured fun at the Kennedy clan was a huge hit at the time, but (of course) abruptly fell out of favor later in 1963.
watch Vaughn Meader as JFK at Boston University, YouTube
listen Vaughn Meader: The First Family, Volume 1: Part 1/5 and Part 2/5 and Part 3/5 and Part 4/5 and Part 5/5
The surprising story of famed JFK impersonator Vaughn Meader (and why you've never heard of him), Mental Floss, Jul 10, 2015
In 1963, the Grammy Award for Album of the Year didn't go to Elvis, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, John Coltrane, Johnny Cash, or even The Beach Boys, though they all released albums during the qualifying year. Instead, it went to a comedy album called THE FIRST FAMILY by a man you've probably never heard of: Vaughn Meader. It wasn't just critical acclaim: The album reportedly sold 6.5 million copies in its first six weeks of release, the fastest-selling record of its time. Meader was wildly popular. He appeared on late night shows, made nightclub and radio appearances, gave interviews, performed at Carnegie Hall, rebuffed an invitation from Frank Sinatra to join the Rat Pack, and generally basked in the spotlight all while donning the persona of another man. But within a few years, Meader all but disappeared -- because the man he was embodying was President John F Kennedy....
Watching him now (like on this appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show), the voice and gestures seem broad and obvious, but that's because Meader set the standard by which all other JFK impersonations since have been based. He recorded THE FIRST FAMILY the very same night as Kennedy's Cuban Missile crisis speech (which the studio audience was blissfully unaware of), and he became a household name until November 1963, when Kennedy was assassinated and the country changed forever....
Vaughn Meader, star as Kennedy mimicker, dies at 68, by Margalit Fox, NewYorkTimes, Oct 30, 2004
Vaughn Meader, a stand-up comic who attained instant celebrity in 1962 with his record "The First Family", a flawless spoof of President John F Kennedy and his entourage, but who became, as he ruefully called himself, "a living reminder of tragedy" one year later, died yesterday at his home in Auburn, Maine. He was 68. The cause was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, his wife, Sheila, said.
"The First Family," which grew out of Mr Meader's nightclub act, was released in November 1962, when Mr. Meader was 26. Comprising 17 skits, it starred Mr Meader, a New England native, as the uncannily realistic voices of John and Robert F Kennedy. Naomi Brossart portrayed Jacqueline Kennedy. The album became the fastest-selling pre-Beatles record in history, selling 1.2 million copies in its first two weeks and 7.5 million in all, The Associated Press reported. It won the Grammy award for Album of the Year in 1963.
But by the end of 1963, Mr. Meader's career was effectively over. After Kennedy's assassination, clubs and television shows canceled his appearances. A follow-up album, released a few months earlier, was withdrawn from stores. Mr Meader often referred to November 22, 1963, as "the day I died." He drifted into alcohol and drugs before experiencing what he described as a religious awakening in the late 1960's. In recent years, he worked as the manager of a pub restaurant in Hallowell, Maine, and performed in small clubs as pianist and singer, specializing in gospel and bluegrass...
Vaughn Meader: Career as JFK mimic died with the president, by Mitch Stacyz, WashingtonPost, May 19, 2003
Like most Americans who were alive at the time, Vaughn Meader remembers the exact moment when he heard that President John F Kennedy had been killed. Meader, who got rich quick impersonating the president on a wildly successful comedy album, was climbing into a cab in Milwaukee to go do his Kennedy spoof at a Democratic Party event on November 22, 1963. "Did you hear what happened to Kennedy in Dallas?" Meader recalls the cab driver asked. Meader, figuring he was about to hear yet another Kennedy joke, replied, "No, how does it go?" An instant later, he heard on the radio the president was dead. Inextricably linked to Kennedy, Meader would never be the same....
Gifted at improvisation, Meader started doing mock news conferences as Kennedy, taking questions from the audience. He had to tweak his own New England accent only slightly to sound just like the Massachusetts-bred president. After appearing on the "Celebrity Talent Scouts" TV show, Meader was recruited to play the president on a comedy album called "The First Family," poking gentle fun at JFK's wealth, large family and "vigah". Compared with today's bare-knuckled political humor, the satire was downright tame. "The First Family" sold 1.2 million copies in two weeks in late 1962, on its way to selling 7.5 million. Radio stations across the land played the segments constantly. The fastest-selling record of its time, it won a Grammy for album of the year. "I couldn't believe what it meant to people", Meader said. "I was just doing my act. I'm a singer and piano player. I just stumbled onto a voice". He became rich and famous so fast it boggled his mind. Time and Life magazines profiled him, and he was a guest on every TV variety program that could get him on. He packed rooms in Las Vegas. Frank Sinatra tried to recruit him for the Rat Pack.
"The First Family" got so popular that Kennedy's inner circle advised the president to try to limit its radio airplay, fearing listeners would mistake Meader's almost indistinguishable impression for the real thing. Jacqueline Kennedy hated it because it made fun of her children. The president, though, was said to be amused, even picking up 100 copies of the album to give as Christmas gifts. He once opened a Democratic National Committee dinner by telling delegates: "Vaughn Meader was busy tonight, so I came myself"....
When Kennedy was killed, Meader was already trying to diversify his material. Afterward, he dropped all references to JFK from the standup act, but his new stuff never caught on. Entertainment journalist Gerald Nachman chronicled Meader's meteoric rise and fall in his book, "Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s". "One twist to the single-bullet theory that didn't make it into the Warren Report: the same bullet that killed JFK also murdered Vaughn Meader's career," Nachman wrote. The money was soon all gone. Meader got heavily into alcohol and drugs, faded away and drifted from place to place. He lived in Louisville and then back in Maine before his poor health brought him to Florida five years ago. Various comeback attempts over the years went mostly unnoticed. He made some comedy recordings that were critically acclaimed but didn't sell. He even popped up in a couple of B movies in the '70s. The rights to Meader's life story have been optioned by Tom Hanks's production company, Playtone, but there's no word yet on when - or if - the movie will be made. He has steadfastly declined periodic offers to do JFK again onstage, saying that he's closed that chapter for good. He refuses to do the voice though plenty of people still ask. "People would say, 'Do some of that Kennedy stuff', and he would get angry", said longtime friend Billy Blinkhorn. "Vaughn Meader was dead, he would say. He's Abbott. Abbott is a singer and songwriter. Those are the laurels he wants to rest on". Vaughn Meader won a Grammy for his "First Family" comedy album. Forty years later, the ailing Meader lives quietly in Florida.
To Orwell Today,
Jackie, by the end of the week I will send you a lengthy piece on how precisely the album got made -- if you are interested.
Yes, I am very interested and look forward to receiving it to share with readers.
JFK FIRST FAMILY COMEDY STORY
(50th anniversary edition & photo album)
Nov 5, 2016
JFK TRUTHS & UNTRUTHS and JFK ASSASSINATION PUZZLE PIECES
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