The Hip Priest

We here at The Little Black Egg know that no small amount of time has elapsed since our last transmission, and shrug our shoulders regretfully. It isn't always possible for us to provide you with the sort of content that you've come to expect and appreciate from The Little Black Egg. Especially when we're pushing red pencils over manuscripts various and sundry, earning coin in the capacity of "tireless word janitor."

But as promised, we're turning our eye away from musics psychedelic and otherwise, and casting our gaze upon non-musical audio. We here at the Little Black Egg are fans of audio first and foremost (well, behind print, obviously), we've decided to turn our rabid fandom into an instrument of enlightenment and guidance.

Introducing, His Lordship, the One and Only Lord Buckley

Lord Buckley! Born in 1906 and eventually finding his way into showbiz and vaudeville, Lord Buckley made his way to Chicago where he worked in jazz clubs. Later, he moved to New York.

Lord Buckley's schtick was the following—he grew a handlebar moustache and spoke in a British-accented hipster argot. He was sort of a stand up comedian, sort of a spoken word performance artist, but actually neither. Standing in front of a mic, Buckly delievered rapid fire monologues in heightened hipster speak that were, well, hilarious and just sort of unbelieveable. A bit unreal.

Buckley didn’t only grant himself a noble title, he granted it to just about anyone he talked to. He referred to people as lords and ladies, or sometimes “your majesty,” and his patter was exaggeratedly formal. I suppose it’s hard for the squarest of TV hosts to be speak sarcastically to looming, moustachioed fella with the mannered speech of a Victorian butler, even if he did repeatedly break into monologues more befitting a coffeehouse full of Maynard G. Krebs look-alikes than Ed “Hunchyshoulders” Sullivan’s TV show. His monologues are astonishing even today—sure, sometimes they come off corny, but you hafta be impressed by the avalanche of words he lets loose.

Supposedly he was friends with Charlie Parker, although I don't know if that's ever been confirmed. Seems to good to be true, but he doubtless saw Bird play, which still blows my mind. Sarah has a bunch of Charlie Parker live CDs, one of which is like from a rent party or something, and let me tell you, they far exceed the studio stuff as far as I’m concerned. Because if you found yourself onstage with Charlie Parker, and you’re an ambitious young musician, what are you gonna do? You’re going to try and show him up, right? Which was impossible, but if you listen to his playing on some of these records—good lord. It is not of our world. You know, it’s kind of like how Olympic records are often broken when two people are locked close competition, or how the fastest gun in the West has to endlessly defend his title against every brash young gunslinger who rolls into town. Anyway, regardless of the Charlie Parker connection, Buckley was a popular guy even if he never really became a household name.

It's weird watching and listening to his material. His monologues and impressions were devoid of any real threat to the status quo, but weren't "be bop lite" or anything like that. He didn’t condescend or patronize the culture he drew his inspiration from; his goal was not to poke fun of anyone besides himself. Buckley pulled the age-old trick of making his act and message palatable by making himself an object of ridicule. Clever. And of course, there wasn’t much for anyone to make fun of, since Buckley had already done it.

Offstage, Buckley persisted in addressing everyone by their royal titles, and he and his partner “Peaches” walked around their apartment naked, all the time. They received guests naked, and encouraged their guests to strip down as well. Wild parties ensued. Needless to say, Buckley liked to get high, and dabbling with LSD near the end of his life (Groucho did too, but that’s another story for another time).

Although it seems that he was a frequently inebriated womanizer (and massively in debt to his friends), Buckley appears to be remembered fondly by one and all. And while his overwrought persona could obscure his message, for those who listened it was generally one of “We’re all OK, let’s respect each other and be generally groovy” or whatever. He was ahead of his time, as they say.

Hey, Let’s Watch Some TV!

It’s amazing what you can find on youtube, isn’t it? Actually, all I know about Lord Buckley comes from the internet. There’s a biography of him out there, but I think it’s out of print. I think Rhino might have reissued his album, which means it’s probably available for stealing over the internet.

1949: Buckley on TV variety show "Club 7." You get the Louis Armstrong impression he would do at the end of his bit "the Nazz," as well as a brief monologue.

1956: His Lordship with Groucho on You Bet Your Life. It's sort of hard to imagine these two guys in the room together. If you've ever seen any episodes of You Bet Your Life, you know that it isn't a game show so much as an excuse for Groucho to gently insult people on air. It's pretty obvious that Groucho is usually given the lowdown on who the people are in order to work out gags ahead of time. Still, Buckley manages to make Groucho break face, and vice versa.

1959: Lord Buckley on the Ed Sullivan Show, acting as a ventriloquist for four human actors. He leads them through a very weird Amos and Andy sort of thing. I honestly have no idea what the hell to make of this. Maybe he wasn’t so far ahead of the times as all that (or maybe even a little behind them). Draw your own conclusions, and one you do let me know what they are.

1960: Buckley doing "The Nazz" the same year he died. The Nazz stands for the Nazarene, or Jesus. He also had bits on Ghandi, Einstein, and De Sade. You know, the movers and shakers.

Here's an interview with a guy about Buckley. If you’d like to read transcriptions of any of Lord Buckley’s routines, go right ahead. But it’s not really as good as hearing the man himself do them, you know, because Dear Reader, I’m sorry to report that you don’t have his sense of timing. It’s all right, neither do we. I'd imagine recordings of him are out there, somewhere . . .

1 comment:

.///_-| said...

Excellent article, I'm glad I read it.

It's also nice to see how everyone was bigoted back then. Sort of refreshing. Refreshing to be around now that it's antiquated, and refreshing to watch unbridled bigotry just for the shock value.

Not that the videobytes you showed us are particularly good examples of the bigoted Marks bros, etc. but it came to mind, it did, because many of my coworkers enjoy making bigoted jokes.

I was brought up with the understanding that talking like a retarded person was a hurtful and unfair and not funny thing to do, but apparently it's widely accepted and often draws a laugh, as do anti gay jokes and jokes at the expense of transexuals etc.

Does anyone else object to this stuff or is it prudish and snooty not to just join in the fun, and consider it not hurtful when it's meant to draw a laugh in certain circles where the butts of the jokes are not present....?

Also at issue would be jokes at the expense of women/women's societal gender role assumptions. These jokes are often made in the presence of women who laugh and think it's funny. What is this, crazyland?