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Abbott Vaughn Meader
Vaughn Meader
(March 20, 1936 – October 29, 2004), known professionally as Vaughn Meader, was an American comedian, impersonator, musician, and film actor. Meader began his career as a musician but later found fame in the early 1960s after the release of the 1962 comedy record The First Family. The album spoofed President John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
– who was played by Meader – and became the fastest selling album in history and went on to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year
Grammy Award for Album of the Year
in 1963. At the peak of his popularity, he performed his Kennedy impersonation on variety shows and in nightclubs around the country and was profiled in several magazines. Meader's career success came to an abrupt end after President Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963. The First Family was quickly pulled from stores and Meader’s bookings were canceled. He attempted to take his career in a different direction by performing non-Kennedy related comedy and released a new comedy album, Have Some Nuts!!!, in early 1964. However, sales for the album were low as public interest in Meader had waned. His career never rebounded as he was too closely associated with President Kennedy. Meader eventually returned to his native Maine where he resumed performing music and managed a pub.

Contents

1 Early life 2 Career

2.1 The First Family 2.2 Assassination aftermath

3 Later years 4 Personal life and death 5 Legacy 6 References 7 External links

Early life[edit] Meader was born in Waterville, Maine
Waterville, Maine
during one of the worst floods ever to hit New England: he often said he was born on "the night the West Bridge washed out". He was the only child of Charles Vaughn Meader, a millworker, and Mary Ellen Abbott. After his father broke his neck and drowned in a diving accident when Meader was only eighteen months old, his mother moved to Boston to work as a cocktail waitress, leaving Meader behind with relatives. A sometimes unruly and troubled child, Meader was sent to live with his mother in Boston at the age of five but she had become an alcoholic, and placed him in a children's home. After shuttling among several schools in Massachusetts and Maine, Meader eventually graduated from Brookline High School in 1953. He enlisted in the United States Army, and while stationed in Mannheim, West Germany
West Germany
as a laboratory technician formed a country music band – the Rhine Rangers – with fellow soldiers, later adding impressions of popular singers to his repertoire. Meader married the German-born Vera Heller in 1955.[1] Career[edit] Meader began his career in entertainment as a singer and piano player. Upon his return from Germany, he began a comedy act in New York City, where he discovered his skill at impersonating Kennedy. With his New England accent naturally close to Kennedy's familiar, and often parodied, Harvard accent, he needed to adjust his voice only slightly to sound like the President. Meader also mastered the facial expressions that allowed him to bear a passable resemblance to Kennedy.

Vaughn Meader
Vaughn Meader
(center, right) featured on the cover of The First Family, 1962

The First Family[edit] On October 22, 1962, Meader joined writers Bob Booker and Earle Doud and a small cast of entertainers to record The First Family. The album poked fun at Kennedy's PT-109 history; the rocking chairs he used for his back pain; the Kennedy family's well-known athleticism, football games and family togetherness; children in the White House; and Jackie Kennedy's soft-spoken nature and her redecoration of the White House. The First Family became the fastest-selling record in the history of the United States. It sold 1.2 million copies during the first two weeks of its release, and ultimately sold 7.5 million copies.[2] Kennedy himself was said to have given copies of the album as Christmas gifts, and once greeted a Democratic National Committee group by saying, " Vaughn Meader
Vaughn Meader
was busy tonight, so I came myself."[3] At one press conference, Kennedy was asked if the album had produced "annoyment [sic] or enjoyment." He jokingly responded, "I listened to Mr. Meader's record and, frankly, I thought it sounded more like Teddy than it did me. So, now he's annoyed."[4] Kennedy told Benjamin Bradlee
Benjamin Bradlee
that "parts of it were amusing."[5] Other sources, such as Thomas C. Reeves' A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy, state that President Kennedy was upset with the parodies, and that First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy
Jacqueline Kennedy
was furious, even demanding that the President keep Meader off radio and television. Still in his 20s, Meader was suddenly famous, rich, and in constant demand. He was profiled in Time and Life magazines, appeared on network television variety shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Jack Paar Program, The Andy Williams Show
The Andy Williams Show
and Hootenanny. Though a series of tour dates in early 1963 were notably unsuccessful (Billboard reported that he "bombed" in Pittsburgh, and only 742 people showed up in Philadelphia),[6] he still played to packed houses in Las Vegas. The First Family won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1963. That March, Meader recorded a follow-up album, The First Family Volume Two, a combination of spoken comedy and songs performed by actors and comedians portraying members of the President's family and White House
White House
staff. The sequel was released in the spring of 1963, and while not as successful as the first volume, still sold hundreds of thousands of copies. In July 1963, Meader left Cadence Records and Booker/Dowd to sign with MGM Records. Meader planned to record general satire and abandon his JFK impersonations.[7] Assassination aftermath[edit] In November 1963, Meader was busy recording a new comedy record, written by a different group of writers and not involving his Kennedy impersonation. On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, and Kennedy's death effectively ended Meader's career. Copies of The First Family were pulled from stores and a JFK-related Christmas single by Meader that had been released by MGM's Verve Records
Verve Records
shortly before the assassination was quickly withdrawn. Appearances that were already booked were canceled, including one for the Grammy Awards
Grammy Awards
ceremony. An episode of The Joey Bishop Show was also pulled, which Meader filmed one week before the assassination. The episode was never aired and was reportedly destroyed.[8][9] Meader reportedly first learned of President Kennedy's assassination after hailing a taxicab in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The driver, recognizing his celebrity passenger, asked "Did you hear about Kennedy?" Meader thought the driver was telling a joke and responded "No, how does it go?" The driver then informed him of the sad news, and from the taxi's radio Meader heard the breaking news bulletins for the first time.[10] According to several sources, standup comedian Lenny Bruce
Lenny Bruce
went on with his November 22 nightclub show as scheduled. Just hours after Kennedy's death, Bruce walked onstage, stood silently for several moments, then said sadly, "Boy, is Vaughn Meader
Vaughn Meader
fucked."[11] The joke proved true. Meader discovered that he was so completely typecast as a Kennedy impersonator that he could not find anyone willing to hire him for any of his other talents. His non-Kennedy album for Verve Records, Have Some Nuts!!!, came out to minimal attention in early 1964. A similar follow-up If The Shoe Fits... was released in late 1964, and included sketches on almost everything except the Kennedys, but sales were meager at best. Meader's income evaporated, new-found friends and associates stopped calling, and by 1965 Meader was virtually broke. Sinking into depression, he became addicted to alcohol and drugs, and was forced to take whatever work he could find. He reunited with Earle Doud in 1971 for an album called The Second Coming, a comedic look at what life would be like for Jesus if he had returned to earth around the time of Jesus Christ Superstar, but airplay and sales were virtually nonexistent. Later years[edit]

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Meader tried several times to revive his career, but achieved only moderate success, and then mostly outside of show business. He appeared briefly in the 1975 movie Linda Lovelace for President and has a very brief cameo on the 1981 Rich Little
Rich Little
comedy album, The First Family Rides Again, which both parodied Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
and paid homage to the original The First Family album. Both the Kennedy and Reagan First Family albums were produced by Earle Doud. Eventually, Meader resumed a career in bluegrass and country music, becoming a popular local performer in his native Maine. During the mid-1970s, he performed in Louisville, Kentucky, mostly at a small tavern known as the Storefront Congregation, under the name "Abbott Meader and the Honky-Tonk Angels." Meader sang and played piano. Personal life and death[edit] Meader was married four times. He married his fourth wife, Sheila Colbath, in 1984. They remained married until his death.[2] On October 29, 2004, Meader died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the age of 68. He was survived by his wife, two stepchildren and a step-granddaughter.[2] Legacy[edit] After Meader's death, he has been credited for having broken new ground in the area of political humor, particularly in impersonations of the President of the United States.[12] In July 2006, nearly two years after Meader's death, the independent documentary First Impersonator
Impersonator
premiered at the Maine International Film Festival in Waterville, Maine, Meader's birth town.[13] The film chronicled Meader's life and death, his rise to fame and equally famous fall, and his influence on today's political impersonators. References[edit]

^ John A. Drobnicki, Meader, (Abbott) Vaughn," in The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Thematic Series: The 1960s (Scribner's, 2003), Vol. 2, p. 68. ^ a b c Fox, Margailt (October 30, 2004). "Vaughn Meader, Star as Kennedy Mimicker, Dies at 68". nytimes.com. Retrieved January 22, 2013.  ^ "Vaughn Meader, Satirist of Kennedy Family, Dies". The Washington Post. November 1, 2004. Retrieved April 3, 2006.  ^ Clip from JFK: As It Happened, broadcast on the A&E network November 22, 1988 ^ Bradlee, Benjamin (1975). Conversations with Kennedy. W.W. Norton & Co. p. 123. ISBN 0-393-08722-0.  ^ Rolontz, Bob (February 2, 1963). "The 'First Family' Story - WOW!". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 75 (5): 12. ISSN 0006-2510.  ^ Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 6. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved May 15, 2015.  ^ "The Joey Bishop Show (1961–62)". ctva.biz. Retrieved January 22, 2013.  ^ Smith, Jacob (2011). Spoken Word: Postwar American Phonograph Cultures. University of California Press. p. 136. ISBN 0-520-26703-6.  ^ http://mentalfloss.com/article/66030/surprising-story-famed-jfk-impersonator-vaughn-meader-and-why-youve-never-heard-him ^ Queenan, Joe (April 20, 1997). "Closing Time: A Memoir". autobiography.  ^ "Cabaret: Jim Morris'S Impressions". New York Times. February 1, 1987. Retrieved April 16, 2012.  ^ "First Impersonator
Impersonator
website". firstimpersonator.com. Retrieved May 15, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Vaughn Meader
Vaughn Meader
on IMDb NPR tribute to Vaughn Meader

v t e

Grammy Award for Album of the Year

1959–1979

The Music from Peter Gunn
The Music from Peter Gunn
Henry Mancini
Henry Mancini
(1959) Come Dance with Me! – Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
(1960) The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart
The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart
Bob Newhart
Bob Newhart
(1961) Judy at Carnegie Hall
Judy at Carnegie Hall
Judy Garland
Judy Garland
(1962) The First Family – Vaughn Meader
Vaughn Meader
(1963) The Barbra Streisand Album
The Barbra Streisand Album
Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand
(1964) Getz/Gilberto
Getz/Gilberto
– Stan Getz, João Gilberto
João Gilberto
(1965) September of My Years Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
(1966) A Man and His Music Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
(1967) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles
The Beatles
(1968) By the Time I Get to Phoenix – Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell
(1969) Blood, Sweat & Tears – Blood, Sweat & Tears (1970) Bridge over Troubled Water
Bridge over Troubled Water
– Simon & Garfunkel (1971) Tapestry – Carole King
Carole King
(1972) The Concert for Bangladesh – Various (1973) Innervisions
Innervisions
Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
(1974) Fulfillingness' First Finale
Fulfillingness' First Finale
Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
(1975) Still Crazy After All These Years
Still Crazy After All These Years
Paul Simon
Paul Simon
(1976) Songs in the Key of Life
Songs in the Key of Life
Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
(1977) Rumours – Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac
(1978) Saturday Night Fever – Bee Gees/Various (1979)

1980–2000

52nd Street – Billy Joel
Billy Joel
(1980) Christopher Cross
Christopher Cross
Christopher Cross
Christopher Cross
(1981) Double Fantasy
Double Fantasy
John Lennon
John Lennon
and Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono
(1982) Toto IV
Toto IV
– Toto (1983) Thriller – Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson
(1984) Can't Slow Down – Lionel Richie
Lionel Richie
(1985) No Jacket Required
No Jacket Required
Phil Collins
Phil Collins
(1986) Graceland – Paul Simon
Paul Simon
(1987) The Joshua Tree
The Joshua Tree
– U2 (1988) Faith – George Michael
George Michael
(1989) Nick of Time – Bonnie Raitt
Bonnie Raitt
(1990) Back on the Block
Back on the Block
Quincy Jones
Quincy Jones
and various artists (1991) Unforgettable... with Love Natalie Cole
Natalie Cole
(1992) Unplugged – Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton
(1993) The Bodyguard – Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston
(1994) MTV Unplugged – Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett
(1995) Jagged Little Pill
Jagged Little Pill
Alanis Morissette
Alanis Morissette
(1996) Falling into You
Falling into You
Celine Dion
Celine Dion
(1997) Time Out of Mind – Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan
(1998) The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill
(1999) Supernatural – Santana (2000)

2001–present

Two Against Nature
Two Against Nature
Steely Dan
Steely Dan
(2001) O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack (2002) Come Away with Me
Come Away with Me
Norah Jones
Norah Jones
(2003) Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Outkast
Outkast
(2004) Genius Loves Company
Genius Loves Company
Ray Charles
Ray Charles
and various artists (2005) How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
– U2 (2006) Taking the Long Way
Taking the Long Way
Dixie Chicks
Dixie Chicks
(2007) River: The Joni Letters – Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
(2008) Raising Sand
Raising Sand
Robert Plant
Robert Plant
& Alison Krauss
Alison Krauss
(2009) Fearless – Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift
(2010) The Suburbs
The Suburbs
Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire
(2011) 21 – Adele
Adele
(2012) Babel – Mumford & Sons (2013) Random Access Memories
Random Access Memories
Daft Punk
Daft Punk
(2014) Morning Phase
Morning Phase
Beck
Beck
(2015) 1989 – Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift
(2016) 25 – Adele
Adele
(2017) 24K Magic – Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars
(2018)

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 16838868 MusicBrainz: c70bd566-0c54-4ab8

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