Lord Buckley

Lord Buckley (b. Richard Myrle Buckley, April 5, 1906 Tuolumne, California; d. November 12, 1960 New York City) was an American monologist.

The Tales of Lord Buckley

Buckley, an accomplished cultural assimilator, adopted for his "hipsemantic", jazzy beatniks, and British aristocracy (His father William had emigrated from England to California, but was not a peer of the realm. His mother Annie Laurie Bone was the daughter of Cornwall immigrants and a born storyteller(e.g. his most famous piece "The Nazz", the story of Jesus of Nazareth in his own hyper-hip lingo) and his usual form of address to his audience as "all you cats and kitties," and "my lords and my ladies, beloveds." He exuded a gentleness and warmth, and his adoption of an aristocratic title, which might have seemed bizarrely arrogant, in fact curiously elevated his listeners as his attitude was always one of deference and humility before them, urging "their majesties" to appreciate their own nobility as human beings.

Buckley worked as a lumberjack as a youth, then as an entertainer in medicine shows, tent shows, and finally speakeasies in Chicago in the 1920s. He ran dance marathons in the 1930s and vaudeville shows in the 1940s, worked jazz clubs and nightclubs and became friends with jazz greats like Gene Krupa. During World War II he toured with the USO and became very close friends with Ed Sullivan, who often helped Buckley with legal trouble (he was arrested on more than one occasion for drunkenness and marijuana possession). Finally during the 1950s Buckley was cast as a comedian, one of America's top hipsters, a "way-out" "swinger" enjoying cult status and respect from those who were exposed to his work.

Occasionally performing to music and singing, he frequently punctuated his monologues with non-linguistic vocal sounds. Most Buckley recordings are solo tours de force on themes of real gravity. His most enduring tracks are his retelling of historical or legendary events, most fictionalized to a certain degree, imbued with his scandalous and high-brow humor. Notable among these are the stories of Jesus ("The Nazz", first recorded in 1952, which describes Jesus' working profession as that of a "carpenter kitty"), Gandhi ("The Hip Gan"), the Marquis de Sade ("The Bad-Rapping of the Marquis de Sade, the King of Bad Cats"), among others. He also retold several classic documents such as a (relatively sober) Gettysburg Address and an (appropriately psychedelic) version of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven." In "Mark Antony's Funeral Oration", he recast Shakespeare's "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears" as "Hipsters, flipsters and finger-poppin' daddies: knock me your lobes."

As a bon vivant of the jazz subculture, Buckley very much enjoyed smoking marijuana. He was a prodigious drinker, then would subsequently repent and abstain for a time. He wrote reports of his first experiences with LSD, under the supervision of Dr. Oscar Janiger, and of his trip in a United States Air Force jet. Ed Sullivan (who reflected "…he was impractical as many of his profession are, but the vivid Buckley will long be remembered by all of us.").

In October of 1960 he was scheduled to play club dates in New York, but his New York City Cabaret Card was seized, purportedly because of a 1941 arrest for marijuana possession but probably because of a failure to pay an expected bribe to police officers. Such cards were necessary to appear in nightclubs and were often withheld for political reasons, for incidents of past drug use or as a way to solicit payoffs. Without the card he was unable to perform, and quickly fell into poor health. He attempted to get the card reinstated and more than three dozen major figures in the entertainment and arts world showed up for a hearing on the matter. Buckley died at Columbus Hospital, probably from a stroke aggravated by malnutrition and a kidney ailment before the case could be resolved. There is great controversy over his death though, , beaten to death by police or, alternately, by Greenwich Village engravers over a jewerly heist gone wrong, or lastly from exhaustion from making love to an underage mulatto girl and drinking mescaline spiked vodka (supplied by the Black Militants mentioned earlier)all of which are referenced in the book 400+ page 'Dig Infinity, The Life and Art of Lord Buckley', by Oliver Trager. At any rate, second hearing held two days after his death turned into a raucous confrontation between Police Commissioner Stephen Kennedy and Buckley's friends and supporters, including Quincy Jones, George Plimpton, Norman Mailer and Norman Podhoretz. The scandal of Buckley's death, attributed at least in part to his loss of the card, led to the removal of Kennedy and the abolition of the cabaret card system.


* "The Train" and "The Nazz" by Lord Buckley appear on NME's The Supermassive Selection CD, the tracklist is a collection of favourite songs of the English band Muse.
* "The Nazz" inspired the name of the group "Nazz", formed by Todd Rundgren in 1967.
* David Bowie references "The Nazz" in the lyrics to his song "Ziggy Stardust".
* Lord Buckley's "God's Own Drunk" was recorded on "Living and Dying in 3/4 Time" by Jimmy Buffett in 1974.
* The "Tales of Lord Buckley" are available on itunes Crown Prince Richard's Collection

External links

* [http://www.lordbuckley.com/ LordBuckley.com] includes biographical material, discography and an extensive archive of writings by and about Buckley.
* [http://www.columbia.edu/~tdk3/buckley.html Transcriptions of monlogues] by Lord Buckley
* [http://www.ruminator.com/?p=134 Harvey Pekar Reflects] on Lord Buckley and the roots of modern comedy


Trager, Oliver. "Dig Infinity: The Life and Art of Lord Buckley", Welcome Rain Publishers LLC, New York City, 2001.

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