Podcast link, in case the embedded player isn’t working for you.
The First Family featuring Vaughan Meader was a blockbuster album from 1962 that was a parody of the Kennedy family.
Amazon has it: https://amzn.to/2W8uG4j
Mo Rocca is a correspondent for CBS This Morning. He has a new podcast called MOBITUARIES, the very first episode really caught my attention. He talks about a very famous comedy album from 1962 called The First Family, and I have a personal connection to that record. Check out mobituaries.com
Before I explain all that, let me just say, as a vlogger and podcaster, I really look up to the Mo Rocca’s of the world. His work is polished and beautifully written and produced. There’s a team of pros involved, and he leverages everything CBS News has to offer. It’s first class, and I recommend you check it out at mobituaries.com, and on every podcast platform you could possibly have.
Now, about The First Family. I have no firsthand recollection of John F. Kennedy. I wasn’t born until two years after he was assassinated. But I was the youngest of 4 children, and my nearest sibling is 8 years older than me, so I missed an experience they all had. I had my own record player and a small collection of records that I was allowed to play myself, as opposed to the grownup collection that contained my father’s Broadway show soundtracks, and my mother’s collection of classical music in which I had no interest. There was a whole separate collection for my brothers containing contemporary artists, but it was off limits to me.
So my child safe collection consisted of relics from earlier childhoods – a Mickey Mouse Club album, a kids album by Groucho Marx, a Peter and the Wolf album, and in 1970 I got my first new record that was mine alone – The Sesame Street Album. I played them over and over and over. Playing these records was something I could do myself, and it was tons of fun.
There was one album in the kid collection, “The First Family”. I never question why it was in the kid collection, I just played it over and over like all the others. It was a political parody of President Kennedy and the First Family. I liked it because the cover had a picture of a family including the kids, and balloons, so it seemed like it was for kids, and there were kids in the album too.
The question is “Why was The First Family” even a part of my playlist as a kid? I have no idea. I learned from the Mo Rocca podcast that this album was a blow out success in 1962 – It won Album of the Year, it was one of the best selling albums in history. Why wasn’t it protected in one of the grownup collections? Did my parents not like Kennedy? Why did they buy it in the first place? Who knows?
Then, watching Rocca made me think about my own direct connection to the album? Why did I love it so much? The jokes were over my head. I had no idea who Barry Goldwater was, or Albert Schweitzer. To this day I don’t get a lot of the political references. So what was it that made me love it so much?
The answer is that it was funny, AND because if you listen to it carefully, Vaughan Meader, the guy who plays Kennedy, gets applause and adoration at the end of every cut. And as a kid all I wanted was attention like that. And third, because The First Family on that album seemed like a fun family, one that spends time together and has fun. Listen to this:
So I ran around my house at the age of 5, 6 and 7 talking like Jack Kennedy, with a kid’s ear version of a New England accent, saying “Ask not what your country can do for you…” But what I was really doing was imitating Vaughan Meader impersonating Jack Kennedy. It didn’t matter. I killed it, and the grownups loved it. It never failed to get a laugh from relatives and friends that came over. I didn’t know what I was doing, or why they were so amused by it.
Coincidentally, I found The First Family album in my basement a few week ago. I don’t even have a record player to play it on now. I was inbetween my Sesame Street album and the Mickey Mouse Club album. I still have them, but now I would have to play it back on Spotify if I want to hear it.
The Mo Rocca podcast, Mobituaries looks like it’s going to be a winner. I strongly recommend this first episode. He has interviews with Vaughan Meader’s wife, one of the producers of the album, and clips from a 1998 interview that CBS did with Vaughan Meader. A lot of the podcast is about how Meader’s career basically ended with the assassination, and how Meader himself never fully recovered from the trajedy. But there’s a jawdropping surprise ending. It’s very hard for a podcast to pull off a stunt like that, but Mo managed to do it. I listened to the entire 52 minutes and you should too.
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