Hipster Saint Lord Buckley
by Gene Sculatti
copyright 1982 Gene Sculatti - used with permission
Maybe we shouldn't be talking about Lord Buckley at all.
It's just that, having been a secret so long, could he stand the public acclaim? Besides, words were his axe, and when it comes to that instrument, nobody blew it better.
Richard "Lord" Buckley (1906-60) is in this Catalog because he was the embodiment of life lived coolly. If the coolest one can be is fashioning an accurate expression of what's inside, then Buckley was easily, to borrow a phrase from him, one of "the wildest, grooviest, hippest, swingin'-est, double-frantic, maddest, most exquisite" cats that ever breathed.
It also helps if what's inside is good to start with. Like maybe a huge heart. Tons of compassion. A mind that spontaneously generates material to entertain itself even when there are no audiences around. Or a conviction that language itself is the headiest brew and that staying drunk is divine.
Lord Buckley had all this inside. You'll know that when you hear his records. They're all that survive a life and a "career" that was by all accounts unpredictable and gloriously insane.
Much of the material on albums like Way Out Humor and A Most Immaculately Hip Aristocrat takes the form of parables. The best known may be his life of Christ "The Nazz" ("the sweetest far-out cat that ever stomped on this Sweet Green Sphere!"). There are also routines on Gandhi ("The Hip Gahn"), Jonah and the whale, Poe's "Raven," and Marc Antony's oration at Caesar's funeral.
The two that made a believer of me are Buckley's profile of the Spanish explorer Alvar Nunez de Vaca and-best of all-his interpretation of the life of Einstein called "The Hip Einie."
On the multicandle brainpower of this most eminent ":sphere-gasser" and his continual job-loot predicaments: "Now here was a cat who carried so much wiggage-he was gig-less! He could not find a wheel to turn! He sounded all the hubcaps within' reach but nathan shakin''. He could not connect." Buckley rolls on, in an extrapolation of black jazz-rap, to clue us in on Einstein's subsequent relocation to Switzerland: "Now, not digging the lick, you see, of these double-square kicks the cats were puttin' down, he saved his beans and finally he swung with a Swiss passport, swooped the scene and lit in the land of the Coool, to prove and groove with the Alpine-heads!"
Ultimately, the Hip Einie connects with a gig, a pad, a wife and kids. Writing down his scientific theories, he soon becomes "the king of all Spaceheads," flips the physics-chemistry community on its ear, ascends to top dog status at the U of Zurich, and wows the world. Buckley shouts, whispers, wails like an evangelist wired to a generator, stomps through the tale (there is no way to repeat or paraphrase his explication of Einstein's theory-you have to be there) and finally winds down.
Buckley's personal (and sometimes highly public) life was a true trip itself. Born of Indian extraction in California's Mother Lode gold country in '06, he gravitated to Frisco, then to the Texas oil fields. He spent the Thirties doing standup in Capone-style Chicago speakeasies, made it to New York and married "Lady Buckley". By the mid-Fifties he was reigning hepcat to a circle of admirers that included Sinatra, Robert Mitchum and Stuart Whitman. Ed Sullivan put him on TV; Jonathan Winters, Red Foxx, and every other comedian dug him. Ultimately, he suffered the Bruce-type fuzz busts-in New York City in '60, where he died in November.
Which is great and dramatic and somebody should (and somebody else will) make a movie of it someday. But what really counts is first-person Buckley, his work. It goes like this . . .
[what follows the article is a transcription of Hipsters, Flipsters and Finger-Poppin' Daddies]