“Lord Buckley”, who was born Richard Myrle Buckley on April 5, 1906 and who died in New York City on November 12, 1960, was a nightclub comic who specialized in hipster monologues based mainly on classic literature. He combined the visual persona of a wildly stilted “English milord” with rapid-fire African-American hipster slang, which he then applied to works by Shakespeare (‘Willie the Shake’), Dickens (‘Scrooge’), Poe (‘The Bugbird’), Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca (‘The Gasser’), Gandhi (‘The Hip Gahn’), the Marquis de Sade (‘Bad-Rapping of the Marquis de Sade’), Einstein (‘The Hip Einie’), Lincoln (‘The Gettysburg Address’), Nero (‘Nero’), George Carlin, and several others. Although Lord Buckley appeared on several television and radio variety and talk shows of the 1950s, his career is basically a footnote — some would say, a footnote to a footnote — in the history of mid-20th Century popular culture.
Or …, was Lord Buckley a genius?
An unknown genius, I’ll grant you; but possibly, just possibly, an inspired “outsider” poet, theologian, and philosopher.
What we can say, with absolute certainly, is that Lord Buckley was a major influence on the following, all of whom said this in words and music: Jerry Garcia, George Harrison, Robin Williams, Dizzy Gillespie, Jonathan Winters, Dick Gregory, Wolfman Jack, Henry Miller, George Plimpton, James Taylor, Ed Sullivan, and many, many others. (You can read about Lord Buckley’s many influencings in Oliver Trager’s 2002 book entitled Dig Infinity!: The Life and Art of Lord Buckley.)
What I am mainly interested in, however, is the religion of Lord Buckley. Lord Buckley said more than once, and in stenographed courtroom testimony at the end of his life:
“I am the only comic who brings the words of Christ into the nightclubs. And the more people who are exposed to that Message, no matter where they are, the better.”
At the end of his inspired ‘take’ on A Christmas Carol, Lord Buckley said, “You can get with it if you want to — there’s only one way straight to the road of love!”
In “The Nazz”, here is how Lord Buckley describes the ministry of Jesus. Note what he has to say about Imputation:
“And there went The Nazz with these five thousand cats and kitties stompin’ up a storm behind him. There’s a great love river of joy is goin’ like a great chain through these gorgeous cats and kitties as they swingin’ along the great beat of The Nazz. And the birds are flyin’ along on one side and singin’ love songs to these cats and kitties and there’s a great jubilee of love and The Nazz talkin’ about, ‘How pretty the hour, how pretty the flower, how pretty you, how pretty me, how pretty the tree!’ (Nazz had them pretty eyes. He wanted everybody to see through his eyes and see how pretty it was.)”
In this podcast, dear Listener, Behold! I seek to give you Lord Buckley, who gives you The Nazz.
Podcast 56 is dedicated to Bill Bowman. Listen here.