JFK Helped Vaughn Meader Win Chart-Topping Popular Vote
In 1962-63, the comedic John F. Kennedy impersonator crowned the Billboard 200 for three months with parody album "The First Family"
As the nation observes the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, music fans can remember that in addition to his inspirational persona, he also became the subject of a three-month No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
In December 1962, comedian and JFK impersonator Vaughn Meader began a whopping 12-week command (of the “Mono” albums chart, at a time when the list consisted of separate “mono” and “stereo” rankings) with “The First Family.” The release would go on to win Grammy Awards for album and comedy album and spend 49 weeks on the chart.
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The set sports such send-ups as “Press Conference” (see video above), in which, after a family dinner, “Kennedy” takes questions on such vital topics as daughter Caroline’s allowance (and how it relates to “the current financial deficit at hand”) and why he didn’t touch the salad that wife Jackie had prepared. (“I would prefer if, er-uh, in the future, we stuck to cole slaw …,” he asserts in his best over-the-top Kennedy/New England accent; Meader himself was from Maine.)
In May 1963, Meader’s well-received follow-up, “The First Family, Volume Two,” debuted on the tally, reaching No. 4 in a 17-week run.
Sadly, but not entirely surprisingly, Meader’s career was felled upon Kennedy’s death and he never appeared on the Billboard 200 again, his spoofing of the President’s mannerisms no longer in vogue following such a tragic loss. (According to a Los Angeles Times interview with Meader in 1997, seven years before Meader passed away at age 68, legendary comedian Lenny Bruce performed a stand-up set the night of Kennedy’s passing. Bruce walked on-stage and said, “Man … poor Vaughn Meader.”)
Meader subsequently released comedy albums not related to Kennedy, although he never returned to chart-topping status. While he suffered from alcohol and drug abuse following his run of chart success, he revealed in that L.A. Times Q&A an appreciation for the turns in his life and career. “In a way, I’m better off than I’ve ever been,” he said. “When I had the album, all those lowlifes [were] around me who said they were friends. What I didn’t realize was, they were in it for the business.
“Now, I find people who really care.”