Lord Richard Buckley (born Richard Myrle Buckley; April 5, 1906 – November 12, 1960) was an American stand-up comedian and recording artist, 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."
|Pseudonym||Lord Richard Buckley|
|Birth name||Richard Myrle Buckley|
|Born||April 5, 1906|
|Died||November 12, 1960 (aged 54)|
Columbus Hospital, New York City
|Medium||Stage performance, recording and monologue|
|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."
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. Bob Dylan, in his book Chronicles, said "Buckley was the hipster bebop preacher who defied all labels."
Buckley's father, William Buckley, was from Manchester, England. He stowed away on a ship that eventually arrived in San Francisco. In California, William met Annie Bone. They married, and their son, Richard, was born in Tuolumne, California, in a mountainous region where lumbering was a major industry. As children, Buckley and his sister, Nell, would often perform on the streets of Tuolumne, singing for change from passersby. 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.
By the mid-1930s, he was performing as emcee in Chicago at Leo Seltzer's dance marathons at the Chicago Coliseum, and worked his own club, Chez Buckley, on Western Avenue through the early 1940s. During World War II, Buckley performed extensively for armed services on USO tours, where he formed a lasting friendship with Ed Sullivan.
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 retelling 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.
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.)
Lord Buckley claims 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 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 Buckley died from a stroke at New York City's Columbus Hospital on November 12, 1960. His funeral was at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel on 81st Street and Madison Avenue in New York City on November 16, 1960. Lord 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, which was finally abolished in 1967.
Early in his career Dylan performed "Black Cross", one of Lord Buckley's signature pieces, originally written in 1948 by Joseph S. Newman. Dylan's version is one of the tracks on the 1969 bootleg recording Great White Wonder.
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.
Jimmy Buffett performs a version of Buckley's "God's Own Drunk" on his 1978 live album You Had to Be There. In his introduction, Buffett states that the song is performed "with much respect to Lord Richard Buckley."
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.
His work has been sampled by the likes of 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 Lord Buckley's monologue on religion.
In November 2015, City Lights will release 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 legendary music photographers Jim Marshall, Jerry Stoll, amongst others.
A feature-length documentary, Too Hip for the Room: The Righteous Reign of Lord Buckley is anticipated for release in 2017.
Lord Buckley recorded over 15 long playing albums in a studio setting. His original vinyl releases, as compiled by Walt Stempek and Oliver Trager, include:
- 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
- Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 197/8. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
- Zinoman, Jason. "And Jonah Said, Can You Dig Me Here in This Fish?" The New York Times. December 10, 2005
- Pakenham, Michael. "A Biography of Lord Buckley". The Baltimore Sun. April 28, 2002.
- Trager, Oliver. Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley Welcome Rain Publishers. 2001
- Dylan, Bob. Chronicles Simon & Schuster. 2005 Chapter 5. ISBN 0743244583
- Trager, Oliver. Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley Welcome Rain Publishers. 2001. p. 10
- Trager, Oliver. Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley Welcome Rain Publishers. 2001 p. 13
- Trager, Oliver. Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley Welcome Rain Publishers. 2001. p. 16
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-09-24. Retrieved 2010-10-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- The Last Carousel by Nelson Algren, p. 219
- Hoberman, J (31 August 2014). "Video: Drugs, Bets and Other 1950s Perils". The New York Times Company. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
- Trager, Oliver. Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley Welcome Rain Publishers. 2001. p. 79
- 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.
- Ramshaw, Sara (2013). Justice as Improvisation: The Law of the Extempore. Routledge. pp. 29–31.
- Trager, Oliver (2001). Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley. Welcome Rain Publishers. p. 350.
- Trager, Oliver. Dig Infinity! The Life and Art of Lord Buckley Welcome Rain Publishers. 2001. p. 372
- "Notes by David Amram on Ode to Lord Buckley". Davidamram.com. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
- Sounes, H. (2001). Down the Highway: The Life Of Bob Dylan. Doubleday. p. 182. ISBN 0-552-99929-6.
- Buckley. "Scrooge". Lordbuckley.com. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
- "Dylan, Bob". LordBuckley.com. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
- "Black Cross by Lord Buckley". Bobdylan.com. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
- "BLACK CROSS (HEZEKIAH JONES)". Bobdylanroots.com. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
- Williamson, N. The Rough Guide to Bob Dylan. Rough Guides. p. 301-03 ISBN 978-1843531395
- Doyle, Patrick (November 26, 2014). "Arlo Guthrie looks back on 50 years of Alice's Restaurant". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
- Thirty Three & 1/3 (CD booklet). George Harrison. Dark Horse Records. 2004. p. 5.CS1 maint: others (link)
- "Lord Buckley @ 70 Minutes of Madness - Journeys by DJ". YouTube.
- "Too Hip for the Room: The Righteous Reign of Lord Buckley". IMDb.com.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-09-22. Retrieved 2010-10-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- 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