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Anyone wishing to contact Gene may email him at: ebbergmann@aol.com
The only book on Shep

The only book written 100% about Jean Shepherd

Published March 28, 2005
Applause Books

Now into its 3rd printing!

About Excelsior You Fathead
This book is not a biography. It is an in depth study of the many faces of Jean Shepherd. A storyteller in the first person, it was often thought by his fans that he was telling us stories of his real childhood experiences. Shep claimed none of it was true, but we've learned that Shep was a master of disguise in this respect, cleverly weaving fact and fiction in a way so that the audience was drawn unknowingly into that same fictional world as if we were a part of it.
Gene Bergmann presents us with a perspective of Shepherd that only a true fan could. Having listened to Shepherd during his 'feckless youth' Gene has now gone back to re-listen to hundreds of the surviving recordings of Jean Shepherd's WOR radio shows, and interviewed dozens of people who were in some way associated with Shep over the years.
From his years of research he has compiled a book which begins with the "Formative Years" when Shep was just getting into the business and takes us through Shepherd's career stopping along the way to look behind the scenes at the Shepherd we never saw or heard. Gene clarifies some of the mysteries that surrounded Shep, things that many of his fans had often wondered about, and he brings to light many new things we didn't know.
Using excerpts of Shep's own words, and the interviews he did with others, Gene weaves these together with his own thoughts to present the Shep fan with a deeper understanding of the man we all listened to in our beds at night telling tales of childhood, the Army, or travels around the world.

Jean Shepherd was notorious for always talking, not just on the radio, but also away from the mike whether it was by the water cooler, a restaurant, or a party. Yet with all the talking he did there was much we never knew about him. Gene uncovers some of the enigmas that kept us shrouded in mystery over the years.
If you are a Shep fan this is a must read. If you're not, you missed a lot and need to catch up.

Watch for the follow-up book!
Not satisfied with writing the only book about Jean Shepherd, Gene picks up with all new materials as his quest for 'all things Shep' has produced a trove of previously unknown or vaguely explained materials which have come to light partly as a result of his first book and even more diligent research by not so much a dedicated author but as a real fan.

The writing has been completed and now the search begins to find a publisher.

Live Appearances
Shep Talk and Book Signing
August 16, 2005
West Hartford Public Library

Friends of Old Time Radio Convention
Thursday - October 20, 2005
Holiday Inn - North, Newark NJ
3:30 - 4:15 pm

Jean Shepherd Panel with WBAI's Max Schmid and Gene Bergmann
On the Web

California Herald

Gene discusses his book
and Shepherd in issue #62

Jewish World Review


by Paul Greenberg

More about Gene's book can be found in
the contributor's section of Artzar
Radio Interviews
Lakeshore Radio 89.1FM
December 24, 2010
Sunday June 12
Jordan Rich Show
New York - 99.5 FM
Monday July 18, 2005 11:00PM
Interview with Max Schmid during pledge drive marathon
21st Century Radio
with Dr. Bob Hieronimus
WCBM 680 AM Baltimore
Sunday May 15 at 8:00pm

A two hour special on "Excelsior You Fathead"
Tuesday May 17
 Milt Rosenberg's "Extension 720" show
9-11 PM (right after the Cubs game)

WGBB Tonight
1240AM Long Island
with Pat Fenton

May 10, 2005
6:00 PM
Leonard Lopate
WNYC AM 820 and WNYC FM 93.9
Friday, May 13 - 12:00 Noon
Leonard Lopate live interview in the studio
WBAI New York 99.5FM
April 12, 2005
Mike Sargent is joined by Max Schmid to talk to Gene on the "Nightshift" program.
Ron Della Chiesa
WGBH Boston
May 4, 2005

Red Eye Radio with Doug McIntyre
KABC 790AM Los Angeles
Saturday March 19, 2005
3:00 am to 5am (Pacific) 6am to 8am (EST)

Joey Reynolds Show
WOR 710 New York
March 14, 2005
Tuesday morning 1am
Mark Laiosa

Gene was interviewed on WBAI New York by Mark Laiosa on November 23, 2001during the 9:00 hour regarding his book.

Joe Franklin
"On Thursday, November 22, 2001, Bloomberg Radio (WBBR located at 1130 AM) did a few minutes on Jean Shepherd.  Joe Franklin talks with a colleague, Ed Gullo, they play a short Shep broadcast segment, and do a telephone interview with Gene who talks about his book. 

A Sneak Peek
Gene was kind enough to let me post the Preface to his book here on the website for all to enjoy.

Jean Shepherd told his stories and riffed his themes in a vast, forty-year, many-media, coherent artifact of sound and image. He spoke to each listener individually, on the radio, between 1956 and 1977. No one else in the media ever spoke to me or you or anyone else as a single, separate, sentient being. (Radio had some music, a few interesting dramas, a few well-done comedy shows, and some little kid adventures back then. But everybody else merely performs—for a mass, undifferentiated audience, and we don't believe a word of it.) For Jean Shepherd listeners, each of us out there in the dark is that one and only intimate one engaged with him in the illusion of a dialogue. Jean Shepherd is a real, reliable, giving-it-to-us-from-the-depths voice in the night, who enters one's consciousness—one's own inner world, by exploring a fully exposed realization of a life and a sensibility in the process of living—and by entertaining the finer parts of minds and emotions. This is not a biography of Jean Shepherd (1921-1999). Such an ideal book might have much interest and use for Shepherd fans, those interested in the art of radio, and for all those who care about the lives of creative individuals. But a biography of anyone, ever, is probably only a grasping at an entertaining and probable hunch. There is a bit of voyeurism in all of us, seeking revelations regarding the lives of others, and biography might illuminate some relevant information about an artist's life—especially when trying to understand the slippery relationship between "truth" and "fiction," as they interweave in what Shepherd gives us as his life story. A biography might reveal many things about Jean Parker Shepherd, who frequently uses Parker as his last name to hide himself in public—his short story persona is Ralph Wesley Parker.  To many of his radio listeners most of the time, he is simply referred to as Shep. Shep is at least three people. First there is a real Jean Shepherd that objective biography might depict—a biographically accurate, ideally historical Jean Shepherd, not found in this book or, possibly, anywhere, in part because throughout his professional life he has hidden and confounded attempts to discover, this first Shepherd. But the art of the artist is the more interesting, important, and lasting. The second person is the storyteller who artfully conflates bits of the true Shep into the concocted biography of his life ("I was this kid, see..."). Third is the Shep who speaks on the radio, the perceived here-and-now Shep, whom his listeners know and love, giving us real ideas and perceptions through his on-air persona. These second and third Sheps, crafted by Jean Shepherd, artist and fabulist, you will find and know in Excelsior You Fathead.

Shep's earliest New York programs range deep into the early hours in extemporaneous, and thus unpredictable, vast and entertaining forays into streams of consciousness. People describe Shep as a storyteller - he gives us hundreds of finely nuanced, strikingly detailed stories that we have no doubt are true—and he devotes even more of his on-air time elaborating with insight and metaphor, the range of his perceptions.
Entertainer, observer of quirky humanity, commentator on the world around us, extremely funny guy, humorist who understands what foible-filled mortals we are, Shep's turn of mind encompasses many themes, and his talks can be categorized in a variety of ways—he segues from one to the other, blending ideas to such an extent that many times one can't easily pin down a particular riff. He has endless variations on his themes, repeating himself less than one might expect in such a long career. There is a continual elaboration and enrichment with new detail. There is a continuing, entertaining funniness as well as wit, and the deeper, intellectual pleasures of apprehending his mind at work.
Later he broadcasts Saturday mornings, Saturday night live at the Limelight Café, and for over sixteen years, in forty-five minute week-nightly soundings of his inexhaustible creative fund of stories, anecdotes, and commentary. Each of his broadcasts, with one theme or many interwoven themes, is part of a complex collage, that when placed within a gigantic frame, acts as a self-contained fragment participating in the overall picture of what Jean Shepherd is. Because we have only a small portion of his broadcast work, and only a portion could be contained in a book, the picture has some white spaces. If the pieces have been well chosen and placed to greatest advantage, within the limited reality and the limitless possibilities, the overall collage represents the totality.
Using transcriptions of Jean Shepherd radio broadcasts and material from other media, I describe his artistic career as a whole, attempting to grasp the unique artifice of Shepherd's constructed persona in a biographical framework, using the range of his stories, ideas, observations, and themes in chapters arranged within that chronology.
PART 1 in three chapters, illustrates Shep's formative years (as he chooses to present them to us, through what he has us believing is his mere remembering of them).   He tells of his childhood in the Midwest—the world of childhood he remembers and invents so richly in such detail—wonderful, and yet overlaid with the struggles, crises, and disillusionment he goads us into recognizing.  His army life is full of humorous adult situations, sometimes with threatening consequences.  His early radio days are fraught with the tribulations of apprenticeship.  Always he speaks with humor, and with deeper, often simultaneously funny and discordant effect.
PART 2 in two chapters, describes Shepherd's continuing interest in the nature of humor and the history of radio—his roots—and the intensity of observation which he brings to his art. Observation that can reveal the significance of what we might otherwise dismiss as unimportant minutia—like looking at a drop of pond water in a microscope and finding it to be teeming with life—fascinating to observe because of the shape and movement revealed, some specks of which might keep you well or make you awfully sick.  Here is the foundation—the heritage and endowment—he uses to such forceful and entertaining effect throughout his career.
PART 3 illustrates the first great burgeoning of this power as he begins his New York radio broadcasts—the free-form improvisational compositions of jazz in words. The creative force of jazz dominates his early style as he explores for himself and us, the wide world open to him.  The power and effectiveness of his personal, intimate style and commentary, lead some to refer to his early listeners as an underground cult of Night People—with whom Shepherd concocts one of the great literary hoaxes of our time.
PART 4. How does Jean Shepherd create this entrancing concoction that keeps generations of listeners awake way past their bedtime with radios to their ears? On the radio he has only sounds and words—the tools he revels in—he is the supreme master of the medium, intriguing and entertaining the more sophisticated parts of our minds.
PART 5. Beyond the stories, to what purpose does he use radio? Chapters delve into his view of his world (cynical/joyous, pessimistic/ life affirming), his wide-ranging observations, his critique of America, his often confrontational attitude toward others, and his encounters with the money changers in the temple of his art.
PART 6. The pursuit of greater respect, renown, dough, and other outlets for his art, produces a broadening of his professional endeavors (an effort begun even in the earlier parts of his career), including a wide range of writing, such as the astonishing I, Libertine literary hoax, and his "novel," In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. He writes articles and stories for many diverse publications, extensively for Car and Driver, and Playboy, which several years honors him with its best humor award. Most prominently for many of his fans, Shep continues talking on the radio, giving us throughout the 1960s, and up to 1977, mostly 45 minute nightly excursions into his world, the form becoming tighter, the level of artistry and enjoyment remaining exceedingly high. Gems from this period include a Shep "lesson" regarding human limits illustrated with forays into Mark Twain and Morse code, and, in a radio essay demonstrating his concerns for American society and his powers of observation, his eulogy occasioned by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In other media, Shepherd makes recordings, creates several television dramas and series (Including what may be the Great American TV Documentary, "Jean Shepherd's America", and makes movies based on his published fiction (The best known of which is the popular film of the kid who nearly shoots his eye out with his BB gun present, "A Christmas Story.")
PART 7. The final chapter of a unique career is a festive wake—a celebration, told to a funky jug band tune.  By the time of his death in 1999, Jean Shepherd has created a wide-ranging world, still visited by thousands through re-broadcasts, recorded broadcasts on cassettes and CDs, radio and written tributes, an email group, and on web sites.
Toward what great unachievable goal does Jean Shepherd's creative life point? Understanding Shep's art unfolds the all-too-common American tragedy of the innovative artist not sufficiently appreciated in his time. Of a creator who knows how good he is, and who, it is reported, toward the end repudiates his most glorious creations. As the title of one of his records puts it, "Will Failure Spoil Jean Shepherd?"
Shep's fictional life consists of story parts collaged whenever—and with everything—that crosses his mind—put together with exuberance and joy. Lawrence Durrell, author of The Alexandria Quartet, wrote that he wished he could do a plot description in the first chapter of a story, and then be free of narrative obligations for the rest of the book. I have tried to understand the fabricated autobiography of the art, mind, and life of Jean Shepherd, as an organized arrangement by subject matter, pegged to a rough narrative of his life, providing a form that locates his stories in a logical manner.

copyright 2001 Eugene B. Bergmann - All rights Reserved