Lord Buckley

Lord Richard Buckley (born Richard Myrle Buckley; April 5, 1906 – November 12, 1960) was an American stand-up comedian and recording artist,[1] who in the 1940s and 1950s created a character that was, according to The New York Times, "an unlikely persona ... part English royalty, part Dizzy Gillespie."[2]

Lord Buckley
Richard Myrle Buckley.jpg
Lord Buckley
PseudonymLord Richard Buckley
Birth nameRichard Myrle Buckley
Born(1906-04-05)April 5, 1906
Tuolumne, California
DiedNovember 12, 1960(1960-11-12) (aged 54)
Columbus Hospital, New York City
MediumStage performance, recording and monologue
GenresCharacter comedy
Parent(s)William Buckley and Annie Bone

Michael Packenham, writing in The Baltimore Sun, described him as "a magnificent stand-up comedian ... Buckley's work, his very presence, projected the sense that life's most immortal truths lie in the inextricable weaving together of love and irony—affection for all humanity married to laughter."[3]

Buckley's unique stage persona anticipated aspects of the Beat Generation sensibility, and influenced contemporary figures as various as Dizzy Gillespie, Lenny Bruce, Wavy Gravy, Del Close, and, even after Buckley's death, Ken Kesey, George Harrison, Tom Waits, Frank Zappa, Robin Williams, and Jimmy Buffett.[4] Bob Dylan, in his book Chronicles, said "Buckley was the hipster bebop preacher who defied all labels."[5]

Early lifeEdit

Buckley's father, William Buckley, was from Manchester, England. He stowed away on a ship that eventually arrived in San Francisco.[6] In California, William met Annie Bone. They married, and their son, Richard, was born in Tuolumne, in a mountainous region where lumbering was a major industry.[6] As children, Buckley and his sister, Nell, would often perform on the streets of Tuolumne, singing for change from passersby.[7] When he was a bit older, Buckley got a job in the local lumber camps as a "tree topper", which was considered an especially dangerous position. It involved climbing up to the very top of a tall tree, cutting off the tip and then securing ropes that would guide the rest of the tree as it was felled.[8]


By the mid-1930s, he was performing as emcee in Chicago at Leo Seltzer's dance marathons at the Chicago Coliseum,[9] and worked his own club, Chez Buckley, on Western Avenue through the early 1940s.[10] During World War II, Buckley performed extensively for armed services on USO tours, where he formed a lasting friendship with Ed Sullivan.[citation needed]

In the 1950s, Buckley hit his stride with a combination of exaggeratedly aristocratic bearing and carefully enunciated rhythmic hipster slang. He was known for wearing a waxed mustache along with white tie and tails. He sometimes wore a pith helmet. Occasionally performing to music, he punctuated his monologues with scat singing and sound effects. His most significant tracks are retellings of historical or legendary events, like "My Own Railroad" and "The Nazz". The latter, first recorded in 1952, describes Jesus' working profession as "carpenter kitty." Other historical figures include Gandhi ("The Hip Gahn") and the Marquis de Sade ("The Bad-Rapping of the Marquis de Sade, the King of Bad Cats"). He retold several classic documents such as the Gettysburg Address and a 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." Reportedly, some of his comedic material was written for him by Hollywood "beatnik" Mel Welles.[11]

Lord Buckley appeared on Groucho Marx's popular TV program You Bet Your Life in 1956. In 1959, he voiced the beatnik character Go Man Van Gogh in "Wildman of Wildsville", an episode of the Bob Clampett animated series Beany and Cecil. (The character reappeared in several episodes made after Buckley's death, when he was voiced by Scatman Crothers.)

Buckley adopted his "hipsemantic" delivery from his peers Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Redd Foxx, Pearl Mae Bailey, Count Basie, and Frank Sinatra, as well as Hipsters and the British aristocracy.

Buckley enjoyed smoking marijuana. He wrote reports of his first experiences with LSD, under the supervision of Dr. Oscar Janiger,[12] and of his trip in a United States Air Force jet.

Personal lifeEdit

Lord Buckley claimed to have been married on many occasions. He had a son, Fred Buckley. His final marriage was to Lady Elizabeth Buckley, with whom he had two children, Laurie and Richard. Laurie Buckley had two children, Micholette and Trevor Cole.


In the autumn of 1960, Buckley's manager Harold L. Humes organized a series of club dates in New York City as well as for him to make another appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show (that was broadcast from the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York). However, on October 19, 1960, while Buckley was making a public appearance at the Jazz Gallery in St. Mark's Place in Manhattan, the New York Police Department (NYPD) stopped him over allegations he had "falsified information" on his application to get a New York City cabaret card; specifically he had omitted to record a 1941 arrest for marijuana possession. Cabaret cards had been a legal requirement since Prohibition for anyone, including performers, who wished to work in New York's nightclubs or the entertainment industry. Because working without a license could mean arrest, revoking cards could permanently end careers – a threat that had been used in the past for political purposes or to solicit payoffs from performers.

At a hearing two days later to have his card reinstated, Buckley was supported by more than three dozen major figures in the entertainment and arts world. However, it developed into a confrontation between NYPD Commissioner Stephen Kennedy and Buckley's friends and supporters, including Quincy Jones, George Plimpton and Norman Mailer.

Three weeks later, on November 12, 1960, Buckley died from a stroke at New York City's Columbus Hospital.[13] His funeral was at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel at 81st Street and Madison Avenue in New York City on November 16, 1960. Buckley was cremated at the Ferndale Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. The scandal of Buckley's death, partially attributed to the seizure of his cabaret card, helped lead to the removal of Commissioner Kennedy in 1961, and was the beginning of the end of the cabaret card system,[14] which was finally abolished in 1967.[15]


Ed Sullivan reflected, "he was impractical as many of his profession are, but the vivid Buckley will long be remembered by all of us."[16][17]

"The jingle-jangle morning" in "Mr. Tambourine Man" is a phrase Bob Dylan said he took from Lord Buckley.[18] from the line, "Jingle jangle bells all over", in "Scrooge."[19]

Early in his career Dylan performed "Black Cross", one of Lord Buckley's signature pieces, originally written in 1948 by Joseph S. Newman.[20][21][22] Dylan's version is one of the tracks on the 1969 bootleg recording Great White Wonder.[23]

Composer David Amram composed a concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra titled Ode to Lord Buckley, and dedicated it to Buckley's memory.

Arlo Guthrie has cited Lord Buckley and Bill Cosby as the primary inspirations behind his magnum opus, "Alice's Restaurant".[24]

George Harrison's solo song "Crackerbox Palace" was inspired by Buckley's former home in Los Angeles. The song mentions Buckley in the line "know well the Lord is well and inside of you", as well as Buckley's manager George Grief.[25]

Jimmy Buffett performed a version of Buckley's "God's Own Drunk" on his 1974 album Living and Dying in 3/4 Time and it became a signature piece for him until the release of Margaritaville in 1977. On his 1978 live album You Had to Be There, Buffett states that the song is performed "with much respect to Lord Richard Buckley." Buffett has performed his version less frequently since being sued for copyright infringement by Buckley's son in 1983. This lawsuit prompted the writing of "The Lawyer and the Asshole".[26]

In his acceptance speech at the Second Annual Comedy Hall Of Fame Awards, comedian George Carlin mentioned a long list of his comedy influences, and ended with "the great, great, great Lord Buckley". This can be heard in the televised show.

In November 2015, City Lights released a new edition of Hiparama of the Classics. First published in 1960, this new expanded edition contains, in addition to Buckley's hip-semantic raps, a new foreword by Al Young and photographs by music photographers Jim Marshall, Jerry Stoll, amongst others.[citation needed]

A feature-length documentary, Too Hip for the Room: The Righteous Reign of Lord Buckley was released in 2016.[27]

Samples in musicEdit

Buckley's work has been sampled by Jaylib and Madvillain.

  • A quote from 'The Gasser', saying "They didn't know where they was going but they knew where they was, wasn't it", was sampled in "Everyday Robots" by British singer and Blur frontman Damon Albarn, the lead single from his debut solo album of the same name.
  • Coldcut's "70 Minutes of Madness" mix contains a sample of Buckley's monologue on religion.[28]
  • Buckley's "hipsters, flipsters and finger poppin' daddies" line was sampled by The Waterboys in their song "Where The Action Is."


Lord Buckley recorded over 15 long playing albums in a studio setting. His original vinyl releases, as compiled by Walt Stempek and Oliver Trager,[29] include:

Lord Buckley LP cover designed by Jim Flora, 1955
  • Hipsters, Flipsters and Finger Poppin' Daddies Knock Me Your Lobes, RCA Victor, catalog #'s LPM-3246 (10" 33 rpm LP) and EPB-3246 (7" 45 rpm two EP record set), 1955
  • Euphoria, Vaya Records, catalog # VLP 101/2, 1955
  • Euphoria Volume II, Vaya Records, catalog # LVP-107/108, 1956
  • Way Out Humor, World Pacific, catalog # WP-1279, 1959
  • Buckley's Best, Liberty, catalog # LBS 83191E, 1960
  • Parabolic Revelations Of The Late Lord Buckley, Pye Records/Nonesuch, catalog # PPL 208, 1963
  • The Best of Lord Buckley, Crestview Records, catalog # CRV-801 (mono), 1963
  • Lord Buckley In Concert, World Pacific, catalog # WP-1815, 1964
  • Blowing His Mind (and yours too), World Pacific, catalog # WP-1849, 1966
  • The Best of Lord Buckley, Elektra Records, catalog # EKS-74047, 1969
  • The Bad Rapping of the Marquis De Sade, World Pacific, catalog # WPS-21889, 1969
  • a most immaculately hip aristocrat, Straight Records / Reprise, catalog # STS-1054 / RS-6389, 1970


  1. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 197/8. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ Zinoman, Jason. "And Jonah Said, Can You Dig Me Here in This Fish?" The New York Times. December 10, 2005
  3. ^ Pakenham, Michael. "A Biography of Lord Buckley". The Baltimore Sun. April 28, 2002.
  4. ^ Trager, Oliver. Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley Welcome Rain Publishers. 2001
  5. ^ Dylan, Bob. Chronicles Simon & Schuster. 2005 Chapter 5. ISBN 0743244583
  6. ^ a b Trager, Oliver. Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley Welcome Rain Publishers. 2001. p. 10
  7. ^ Trager, Oliver. Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley Welcome Rain Publishers. 2001 p. 13
  8. ^ Trager, Oliver. Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley Welcome Rain Publishers. 2001. p. 16
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-09-24. Retrieved 2010-10-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ The Last Carousel by Nelson Algren, p. 219
  11. ^ Hoberman, J (31 August 2014). "Video: Drugs, Bets and Other 1950s Perils". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  12. ^ Trager, Oliver. Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley Welcome Rain Publishers. 2001. p. 79
  13. ^ The New York Times obituary, "Richard Buckley Dies; Entertainer, 54, Was Known as the Hip Messiah", November 13, 1960. Pay availability only. Retrieved 2010-12-21.
  14. ^ Ramshaw, Sara (2013). Justice as Improvisation: The Law of the Extempore. Routledge. pp. 29–31.
  15. ^ Trager, Oliver (2001). Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley. Welcome Rain Publishers. p. 350.
  16. ^ Trager, Oliver. Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley Welcome Rain Publishers. 2001. p. 372
  17. ^ "Notes by David Amram on Ode to Lord Buckley". Davidamram.com. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
  18. ^ Sounes, H. (2001). Down the Highway: The Life Of Bob Dylan. Doubleday. p. 182. ISBN 0-552-99929-6.
  19. ^ Buckley. "Scrooge". Lordbuckley.com. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  20. ^ "Dylan, Bob". LordBuckley.com. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  21. ^ "Black Cross by Lord Buckley". Bobdylan.com. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  22. ^ "BLACK CROSS (HEZEKIAH JONES)". Bobdylanroots.com. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  23. ^ Williamson, N. The Rough Guide to Bob Dylan. Rough Guides. pp. 301–03 ISBN 978-1843531395
  24. ^ Doyle, Patrick (November 26, 2014). "Arlo Guthrie looks back on 50 years of Alice's Restaurant". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
  25. ^ Thirty Three & 1/3 (CD booklet). George Harrison. Dark Horse Records. 2004. p. 5.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  26. ^ "Jimmy Buffett Sued for "God's Own Drunk" » Jimmy Buffett World". Buffettworld.com. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  27. ^ "Too Hip for the Room: The Righteous Reign of Lord Buckley". IMDb.com.
  28. ^ "Lord Buckley @ 70 Minutes of Madness – Journeys by DJ". YouTube.
  29. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-09-22. Retrieved 2010-10-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Further readingEdit

  • Trager, Oliver. Dig Infinity: The Life and Art of Lord Buckley, Welcome Rain Publishers (2002); ISBN 978-1-56649-157-0

External linksEdit

  • Lord Buckley – official site, includes his biographical material, discography, transcriptions, and an extensive archive of writings
  • Lord Buckley discography at Discogs  
  • Wig Bubbles – site containing some accurate transcribings of Lord Buckley's hipsemanticisms
  • The Nazz audio recording of Buckley's comic recapitulation of the Life of Christ