ST - Studs Terkel
LB - Lord Buckley
Lord Buckley, he was, perhaps, known as the high priest of hipdom. Lord Buckley was gray haired, gray waxed mustache, distinguished looking. Looked like a member of the British nobility. And no one understood the language of hipsterdom as well as he. He confounded the young hipsters of the time. So, Lord Buckley while he was in town, some years ago, appearing at the long gone Gate of Horn. This conversation took place October 6th, 1958.
And all the swingers, and all the goers, and all the divinities of the high rhythm of the sweet jump of the flash of the sound of life itself into the language of the people, all the swingers on this royal FM, may I say, beloveds.
The voice you hear, that greeting, that salutation, is that of His Highness Lord Richard Buckley, referred to by followers as His Hipness. Now, perhaps, during this interview, listeners, you might have a difficult time understanding all that His Highness has to offer. Just remember what he has to say does make sense in it's own strange and unique way. Lord Buckley -
You are considered a humorist, a comedian. You are considered way out too, right?
Yes, well let's say, I've been interested in doing these hip semantics for quite some time. Primarily I became interested in it because of the tremendous advantage you have with the youth of the nation. The hip talk seems to be, more or less, their language.
And I'm curious, years ago you were a traditional, a very buoyant and saucy master of ceremonies, years ago.
When did the revelation come along?
Well, the -
The translation came through - it was first brought in up out of the void of non-moving things to me by application of the zig zag talk. It originates, of course, with the beautiful - our beautiful Negro brothers and sisters. It's a zig zag talk and I found out that - many times when I, in Chicago before. That I was living such a hectic life that I found many times it was impossible for me to explain, or project myself in my normal sense of projection. So, I would slip out of that into the hip and say, "Well, Jack, to hip you, to tell you the truth, I, you know I'm not very cool today - I'm a little on the down and I'd like to get right and tight but I think I need a little more sleep, dig?" So, I'd fall back on that particular type and kind of expression and it seemed to refresh me and then I would return to my normal vernacular. So, in parlaying it and giving it flexibility and the use of it, I - it finally came to me that perhaps I could apply it to the classics, such as Poe, Shakespeare, our Savior, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln. Many people would think "The Gettysburg Address" to be - it would be satirical to employ this semantic against this revered works of Lincoln. But it happens to the contrary. It even comes out stronger - for instance there's a line into the address a little bit that says:And solid sent upon the ace lick that all cats and kitties,
red, white, or blue, are created level in front.
Which means, in essence, that it was so before it was contended. That's some of the strange powers of the semantic.
Well, if we may, try this interpretation, perhaps first the traditional, Marc Antony's address over the corpse of Caesar. Here then his appeal to Friends and the Romans. And this is Brando's voice we hear now, the traditional Shakespeare interpretation.
Marlon BrandoFriends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears.
I come to bury Caesar not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones.
So let it be with Caesar.
The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious.
If it were so it was a grievous fault
And grievously hath Caesar answered it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest,
For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men,
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me.
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honorable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept.
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious.
This then is an excerpt, part, the beginning of Antony's oration - How then would Lord Buckley interpret this in the vernacular of our day?
LBHipsters, Flipsters and Finger-poppin' daddies,
Knock me your lobes.
I came here to lay Caesar out
Not to hip you to him.
The bad jazz that a cat blows,
Wails long after he's cut out.
The groovy is often stashed with their frames.
So don't put Caesar down.
The swingin' Brutus hath laid a story on you
That Caesar was hooked for power.
If it were so, it was a sad drag
And sadly hath this Caesar cat answered it.
Here, with a pass from Brutus and the other brass
For Brutus is a worthy stud
Yea, so are they all worthy studs.
I came to wail at Caesar's wake
He was my buddy cat and he leveled with me.
Yet Brutus digs that he had eyes for power
And Brutus is a solid cat.
It is true that he hath returned with many freaks in chains.
And brought them home to Rome.
Yea, the loony was booty and hipped the treasury well.
Doth thou dig that this was Caesar's groove for the push?
When the cats with the empty kicks hath copped out,
Yea, Caesar hath copped out too
And cried up a storm.
To be a world grabber a stiffer riff must be blown.
Without bread a stud can't even rule an anthill.
Yet Brutus was swinging for the moon,
And, yea, Brutus is a worthy stud.
And all you cats were gassed on the Lupercal,
When he came on like a king freak.
Three times I laid the kingly wig on him
And thrice did he put it down.
Was this the move of a greedy hipster?
Yet, Brutus said he dig the lick
And, yea, a hipper cat hath never blown.
Well, there's certainly the eloquence of Willie the Shake here as managed by that of Lord Buckley
You know why they called him Willie the Shake?
LBBecause he SHOOK everybody. They gave that cat five cents
worth of paper and a nickel's worth of ink. He sat
down and wrote up such a breeze, when he got
through, vrrrrrrrpt, everybody got off. He was too,
too tight a cat. And you remember when Marc and Cleo
was swingin' on that velvet covered barge.
Understand, on the Nile and moon was shinin' down and
all that crazy Egyptian incense was jumpin' and Marc
and Cleo is swingin' up a storm - in the meantime
Caesar had split to Rome, like I explained to you
before, and got in that hassle and they sliced that poor
cat up every which way. Well, that was Marc's buddy
cat, you see. And the Marc's a hip cat, he knows that
every fox has got his box. But the only thing what was
draggin' him - they were bad rappin' Caesar, you see.
Marc didn't dig that - he had to put down Cleo, which
he didn't want to do, 'cause Cleo was one of them early
day Elizabeth Taylor chicks, understand what I mean.
But he had to put her down and go defend Marc like we
just laid the issue.
So this makes it wholly, wholly comprehensible.
Indeed, Your Grace.
We understood. I think that the audience listening - half of it is watching Lord Buckley in action too - for you have the mark of an old time - as you were telling us - of an old time Shakespearean actor.
It has that feeling.
Well, the Pied Piper of Hamlin, Your Grace, is a very interesting and very beautiful thing.
The Pied Piper of Hamlin?
Yes, the - for instance, the description of the rats - I'm going to blow this at a good tight tempo just for the rhythm sound of it - and it says, in description of the rats it says,Rats, they flipped the dogs and knocked out the cats and
nipped the babies in their cradles. And held cheese and
cracker parties right in the vats and swooped up the
soup from the cook cat's own ladles and split with the
kegs of salted sprats. And blew jam sessions in the
men cat's Sunday hats and even hung up the lady cat's
backyard chats by toppin' their speakin' with
shrieking and squeakin' off pitched rat style, rhythm and blues
that shook all the chicks right down to their shoes.
That's some rats ain't it?
Well, the tempo -
It's a magnificent pylon in this. That is a torch - for the - the world torch, that life cannot be as beautiful as it should be. We have the blocks to make the mosaic of life, a dream, a beautiful, wonderful, warm, unendingly delightful schematic of living.
This is your credo.
This is the - this is the truth, we have all these things to put them together. But, the, the pylon that describes the torch for the world, in Browning's Pied Piper of Hamlin, the story of the broken promise is where he said:The unhip mayor and the square council stood like squares
cut out of blocks of wood. Unable to move a step or
make a sound as the children cats swung by on the
bound. They could only dig, with real sad eye, the rock
and roll crowd at the jazz piper's back. To where the
Wisa rolled it's waters, a solid bulls eye for their
daughters. But dig, he turned from south
to west, to Koppelburg hill his rhythm addressed,
close after him the little cats pressed, cool was the
kicks in every breast. Yet he'll never make that far
out top. We're hip he must let the music drop. They
figured the cat could blow on the straight way that way
but when he got goin' up a hill he'd never make it. But,
they said, Double O, when they came to the mountain
side, a great rock and roll portal opened wide. Came on
like a great jazz concert cavern suddenly hollowed.
And the Piper swung in and the little cats followed and
when they all made the inside scene, to the very last. A
jazz fanfare blew and the swinging king size door on
the mountain side, boom boom, shut fast. Did I say
all? Well, there was one little cat, with a very bent
frame. A little crippled cat who could not make the
dance scene all the way. And in the years that swung
after, when he was sounded on his bring down attitude.
Here's was he used to say, he used to say,
"Yeah, yeah, hey, it's a real solid drag in our town
since my play cats cut out. And I can't forget that I'm
forever shut out of all the swingin' sights they see
which the Piper, oooh ooooooh, also promised me. For
he was, he was, he was, he was jazz hipping us, he
said. To a real crazy, joyous land. Close to town and
near at hand where soda pop rivers gushed and hot dog
trees grew and flowers, flowers, flowers blew to a
perfumed hue. And everything, everything was so
cuckoo and new. And sparrows flipped
whiter there than peacocks here and dogs drag raced with
the leaping deer. And honey bees swung with wondrous
kisses instead of stings and circus ponies were born
with eagles wings and just as I solid knew that my
bent frame would be straight, the sweet jazz stopped
and I stood still and dug myself, OUTSIDE the
happy world gate. Playin' the loner against my
will. With my bent frame limping as before and to
never pick up on that sweet jazz no more. Hey, Jack,
hey, Jack, let's you and me be wipers of scores
out with all men, especially pipers. If they made
pipers free from jazz, rock and roll or the blue suede
shoes, yeah, Jack, let's solid keep our promises
and we'll never blow the blues. We'll,
never, never blow the blues.
What's so remarkable about this, Lord Buckley, is how true you are to the Pied Piper of Hamlin, as you where to the Marc Antony speech awhile ago. You, you do not stray from the truth of the original theme at all.
Nay, Your Highness, nay.
Nay, I have to stay right down in the core, you see.
There's something else - Pardon me, there's something else that hit me. The jazz - aside from mentioning jazz, the actual - when you spoke of the rats earlier - the tempo you had was that of a jazz tempo -
Yes, it's a -
What a, what a - has your stuff ever been done to a musical background?
No, but I've heard a competent and respected musician say that this is the only jazz -that should be done - talk that should be done with music, because it has a jazz rhythm. See -
I've taken a, if I may confess, a dim view of much of the poetry to jazz but yours occurs to me as a natural for a -
Yes, it has the -
The tempo, the excitement, the beat?
And the blues feelings.
I think of the various classics you touch upon. You mention Poe. You like Poe.
Yes, Poe, the Bugbird.
The Bugbird, you say?
Yes, it's interesting. So many people - Poe had so much depth and so much swing to him, that, well - people, you know, I was going to say another thing. When you start to fool with these classics you have the tremulous stature of a amateur architect goofing in the Taj Mahal. Say now, "There must be something I can do here." So, it's very dangerous work to begin with. But, Poe's Raven, the Bugbird.The Bugbird, of course, is a little something, an idea, or a
fear that you get caught in your mind, and you throw
it out the front door vrrrrrpppttt in comes in the
back. You throw it out the keyhole vrrrrpppttt it
comes in the transom. You throw it left side vrrrppptt
it comes in right side. It's the Bugbird. And, like I say,
Poe, Poe, Eddie Allen Poe was a swinger. He loved to
enjoy that good whiskey and chase them woody ladies
(?) all over the place, understand what I mean? And
he love to carry on and enjoy.
And he didn't want that bird. He didn't send for the bird. He
didn't dig the bird. He didn't even know what aviary
the bird came from. If they would have put the bird on
him postpaid he wouldn't have dug it. But, just like I
say so many times, when you don't need the bird, when
you don't want the bird, when you haven't got the
first possible use for the bird, vrrrppppt that's when
you get it. And that's what happen to poor Eddie. I want
you to picture that cat. He's sitting in his pad. He's all
spread out. He's flipped, he's flapped. He's had it,
understand what I mean.
He can't make it. If he had it he couldn't swing it. So he's
sitting there goofin' the cool, you see what I mean. And
so he said, It was a real drug midnight dreary
I was goofing beat and weary
Over many a freakish volume of forgotten score
When suddenly there came a tapping
As if some cat were gently riffing
Knocking rhythm at my pad's door.
Ah, "'tis the landlady," I muttered
On her broom she flies the rounding
Sounding for her rent
WHICH only this and nothing more.
Yea, so solid I remember,
It was in that wrought December
And it's swingin', jumpin' ember
Blew it's phantom upon the floor
Groovily I wooed the morrow
Still hung I sought to borrow
From my book kicks
To knock the sorrow
Sorrow for my gone Lenore
For that sweet, square but swingin' maiden
Whom the fly chicks, that's the angels, tagged Lenore
Nameless here forevermore.
And the silky wear deturning [?]
Of each upper curtain
Moved me, hung me
With freakish flipples
Never dug before.
So that now to cool the beating of my ticker
I stood repeating, "'Tis some strange midnight stud
That's sounding a money beat at my pad's door.
A deuce to cool the morrow
Or some juice to drown his sorrow
Some lightweight riff this
And nothing more.
Jack!" I said, "Or Jilly, if I've crossed you.
Don't jump sore
For the solid truth is
This cat was napping
And so cool did you come tapping
And so light hip you came rapping
Rhythm at my pad's door
That I was scarce sure I dug you!"
Here I opened wide the slammer, Jack.
Swhoosh, I dug the breeze
And nothing more.
Now, you see what happen to this poor cat. He's sitting in
his own pad, minding his own business and some cat is
knockin' on his slammer. Ding, ding, ding, ding. And
when he go to open the door vrrrrppptt there ain't
nobody there. So, the cat is subject to flip. He must
flip and he does.
Gone full out
I found the shutter
When with many a flip and flutter
In there stomped a king sized bugbird, Jack
From way back days of yore
Not a minute brought down was he.
Not a minute tipped or hung he.
But with stance of king and queen
He swung above my sweet pad's door
Lit upon the bust of Palas.
Sat goofin' there and nothing more.
"Unsolid hip," said I, "That you're no craven
Gasser grim and beat up raven
Goofin' from the night's Plutonian shore.
Swing hip me to what thy tag is
on the night's Plutonian shore."
Flip the bugbird, "NEVERMORE."
Solid wig me this bird to dig me
Though it copped out not upon the score
For we cannot help it
Being that no single human being
Ever was so sent by seeing a wig like this
Above his pad's door
With such a tag as: Nevermore
Now, you see, Poe's trying every way he can to
communicate with this bugbird. 'Cause this bugbird's
vrrrpppttt blowing all that heat on him. He even tries
sympathy. He looks at the bugbird and says,
No doubt this single seater has flipped his meter.
He comes on automatic to the core.
Still flipped by some unhappy gasser,
Some unmerciful disaster swung fast and hot hipped faster,
'Til his lick one verdune (?) bore
So help me God I think he digs it,
This beat up lick of never more!
Now, you see, Poe, like I say, he gets so tired trying to
communicate with this bugbird that he flips and he
goes out and drinks up a lot of that ignorant oil,
understand. And he comes back with a giant king-sized
hangover, see. Well now, he don't want the bird to
know he's feeling bad, see, for fear the bird put more
heat on him, see. So, he's got to come out under the
rock real happy like, a big act. He said,
"Hey, what you say bird?!"
The Bird say, "NEVERMORE!"
Say, "The milkman get here yet?"
Say, "Well, who won in the fifth race?"
I think he laid one too many nevermores on Eddie. I don't
know how much they weigh but it was just enough to
snap that Einsenglas at the end of the fuse, and blow
the whole gig. 'Cause Poe now wants to divorce the
bird. Before he divorces him, he gets very salty with
him. He looks at the bird and says,
Rat wing of bad kicks, hiphead still,
If bugbird of feather devil,
By the heaven's that swing above us,
By The Nazz we both adore.
Is there, is there somewhere within that destination
I'll get with that swingin' maiden
Whom the fly chicks tagged Lenore."
Flipped the Bugbird, "NEVERMORE!"
And the final bout that Poe has with this black, black bird.
He looks at him and says,
Umm mmmmm, by this lick you have flipped my meter,
You nauseous gasser, you endless repeater!
Split before I blow my red hot stack,
Go back to your Plutonian shore.
Leave no feather on my heather,
Take your black jazz, blow together,
Leave this pad my torch unbroken,
Split from the roost above my door,
Flipped the Bugbird, "NEVERMORE!"
Little did we realize The Raven had that much meaning, Your Highness.
Yes, yes, the breakdown of these semantics of the hip is an amazing thing., an amazing thing.
So, you take any classic and adjust it to the idiom of the day. The idiom of a certain part of the youth of our day, of the hipsters.
What - I'm curious as to the reaction of hipsters themselves, the kids of the - of this world to your performances.
Well, they, they have a tremendously alerted ear for this, for this sound. For instance, like I explained to you, in The Three Miracles I have on Our Savior, from the life of Jesus. The preachers tell me they are bringing hot rodders into the church with it, you see.
I think this is a point that, perhaps, should be made. you do something called The Nazz and some might consider this sacrilegious and yet, it's interesting, others don't. It's a highly devout interpretation. You say that ministers actually have urged some of -
the kids to hear you do this.
This particular work has been read by high ecclesiastical figures and they say, thank you, that unquestionably it is absolutely and positively a religious sound, and, of course it is. I'm not a sick humorist. I admire all kinds and types of humor. And all of it is necessary. Evidently there wouldn't be sick humor if there weren't sick people.
You don't refer to your work as sick humor.
No, no, no, no, not at all.
Yours has an aspect of definite health to it.
Right, absolutely, absolutely.
You said something awhile ago, "There wouldn't be sick humor if there weren't sick people, if some of our values weren't sick. Is that right?
Yes, that's right. That's right. I'll tell you what we have to do, you see. We have to, we have to spread love, we've got to - people of this nation have got to learn to be more kinder, more gracious, they must rehearse kindness and graciousness with other people. They must do that, they must be more generous. The people who have things, who, living next to people who haven't got things, should give them some of the things that they have. We have to learn to give more. We have to learn to tighten, to magnetize this nation by love and this coming fight that we're in. We've got to do that. We must do it. We absolutely must. The government cannot do everything. The people must help.
I think -
And they can help it by rehearsing love for each other.
I think there's something that's present in all that you do. And strangely enough, even though the language is hip. And the language is that of the, of, of the shadowy world, at the same time the element of compassion seems to be present in all of your works.
Just for a change of pace, Lord Buckley, what of The, The Pedestrian. Something you call, this too has -
It's a love song, yes.
What is The Pedestrian?
LBThe Pedestrian is a love song to the people. And it happened
one time we were driving down Hollywood Boulevard.
And we had a rather fashionable car and there were
Rolls Royces to the right and there were Jaguars to
the left and all of a sudden vrrrpppttt the whole line
had to stop. So, I looked around the corner to see what
the hang up was. And I saw one little pedestrian, hinka
da dink, dink ka da dink, dink ka da dink. So, I looked
at this cat and I figured he must be a very important
man to stop this whole parade. So I did a little
research on him and found out he built the buildings,
he built the bridges, he built the airplanes, he built
all the fine cooking recipes, he even built the
automobiles that were trying run him down. So, I
thought it would be nice if we said a little love song
for him. So, it goes like this,
His Majesty the Pedestrian
He's the king of every boulevard in question.When his toes
tap the crosswalk
You must be quiet, don't even talk
That's His Majesty the Pedestrian.
You must never hit, ewww! a pedestrian
Be he north or east or south or a wester'n
For he'll sue you black and blue
And he'll sue your lawyer too
That's Their Majesties the Pedestrian.
Say, remember that nobility
The swinging kings and queens of the utility.
If you are right you were wrong
And you'll never ring the gong
Against the Majesties the Pedestrian
Here they come, who beh dee doop
Bill and Joe, ha deh beh bop
And what do you know, hibehdee bip
The so and so, hah deh beh bop
And mom and pop, deh ewww deh ewww
And gramp and Sue da da da da
And swingin' behind, flippity flap
Their little boy blue, heh whoo heh whooo heh whoooo
You'll never win a case against a pedestrian
It's truly unruly, completely out of the question
And if you're really wise
You'll solid keep your eyes
Upon Their Majesties the Pedestrian
That's a salute then -
to the man that walks. You have one to the policeman too.
Yes, to - I think Orlando Wilson should - I know, beyond question, like everyone else knows that there should be better relationship between the public and the police force. If we didn't have the police force we'd have to have an armed guard to go around the corner to get a package of Chester- cigarettes, right? So, we've got to have, we must have, and we should be proud of, and we should - should be better relations between the, the people and the police. It's because of our provincial attitude that there isn't. So, here's a little love song to the policeman. It says,
His Majesty the Policeman
He's the children's friend at every bend the Policeman
And you can bet your life
He's hip to Mack the Knife
That's His Majesty the Policeman
You should never flip, oh no, a policeman
Or try to gyp or ever tip a policeman
You'll get a ticket to the ball
And you can't fight City Hall
That's Their Majesties the Policeman
Remember that mobility
They're in the air, they're everywhere
You can look near and far but they pin you by radar
That's Their Majesties the Policeman
Here they come, who beh deh boop
The men in blue, hah deh beh bop
The sargent's there, do deh deh do
The captain too, ribbity bip
The chief looks great, reeaaaah
Lieutenant's straight, ha beh deh boo
Hip Hip Hurray for the royal crew
Should always try to swing with a policeman
And never rang a dang a policeman
But if you're really hip
You'll never make a slip
With Their Majesties the Policeman
I think that it's imperative that people, to fully appreciate His Highness Lord Buckley, or His Hipness Lord Richard Buckley, see him as well. Because in the doing of it there's a physicalization that you do. Whether it's a trombone or with a step you take. Is this come, if I may probe into your past just a bit, Lord Buckley -
The early days of your emceeing in vaudeville. All this has become, pretty much, the technique you use. Though your content is wholly different. You still recall you - the technique of the stage and everything.
Yes, yes, yes. It's all - you see in the first place, the theatre, it's a little known truth, but the theatre is, in itself, a church, you see. The theatre is really a very religious institution because it presents life itself in all it's beauty and all it's rhythm. And it gives the people an opportunity to analyze life and to look at life and to see it flowing before their very eyes. And it's a very, very profound and a very, very religious work. And I was in New York recently, I saw all the people along at show time, you know:Ah, got to get the cab, Jack, lookout!
Vrrrrppppt, honk honk, ding ding -
You got your tickets?
Watch it, Mary!
Wait for me, Charles!!
Ring ding ding ding ding!!
They are all running like mad, all running like mad, for church and no one knows it. When you walk into a theatre, you right away, you feel, you have the feeling, you have the feelings it's a meeting of the people. It's a meeting of the people to receive the great reflection of the warm love of life through the talents and the arts of the individual. That they're making love to them.
It seems like Saroyan too, in a way. Saroyan, in a couple of his plays, has used this theme. It's funny, that what you do is not Saroyan, but at the same time is a similar approach, sort of the wild, fantastic in words, the same feeling there. Well, Lord Buckley, I don't want to exploit you too much here. Because I know you are full of so much of the juice of theatre and of life. Perhaps some farewell. Some -
I'd would like to say that, in my feelings for the people, at the Gate and everywhere else I've worked, that they - their wonderful attention, their divine concentration, their precious presence and their attitude to each and every performer on the stage, only goes to prove, more and more, that the flowers, the beautiful, beautiful magical flowers are not the flowers of life. That people, people are the true and wonderful flowers of life and it's always a great honor and a great privilege and a rare pleasure to, even temporarily, stroll into the gardens of their attention. God swing them and God love them.
You say, "God swing them"
That's a - Lord Buckley, thank you very much. What's a hipster - what's a hip good-bye. What would be a hip good-bye?
A hip good-bye -
A hip farewell.
Is to all the solid cats and kitties that swing this precious cherryland of America. May you always put it down solid and in great truth and in great beauty. And it is the prayer of the hipsters that the hip - the gangs, the Cobras and all the gangs quit squaring up and get hip, which means to be wise. And make the people that love them proud of them.
Thank you, Lord Buckley. And how pedestrian it is of me to say "Take it easy but take it." That's my sign off.
It would be equivalent I feel.
Thank you very much, Your Highness. It's very gracious of you.
That's Lord Buckley the non-pareil.