Our Rare.US Salute To The Ultimate JFK Impersonator, Vaughn Meader

Vaughn Meader in 1962, AP Photo.

Vaughn Meader’s impersonation act targeted one of the most notable figures in American History, John F. Kennedy. Initially, he was a piano-player in a nightclub. Sometime in 1962, around the time when John F. Kennedy was elected, Vaughn Meader made his first impression in Greenwich Village, New York. After that, his life changed forever.

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He’d been born in Waterville, Maine, in 1936. He was brought up by his single mother after the death of his father, who drowned when he was young. She moved them to Boston and found a job as a cocktail waitress. Meader spent much time tousled around between his mother’s home and children’s homes. He got his comedic start when he was young, attempting to stay out of trouble. After his mother was institutionalized, he spent some time in Germany, enlisted in the army. After which, he returned to New York, where he played piano in a variety of performing acts changing his identity from Abbott Vaughn Meader to Vaughn Meader.

The First Family:

TV show “Talent Scouts” is where Meader got his big break. Bob Booker and Earle Doud were searching for a JFK  impersonator for a comedy album. When they found Vaughn Meader, they knew they had their guy. They recorded the album in front of a live audience and was called “The First Family” and released by Cadence after most labels passed for fear that impersonating the president would garner controversy. “The First Family” premise was simple: it was Vaughn Meader impersonating JFK, addressing his household family in a press conference manner, discussing topics that truly didn’t require that level of seriousness. When the album was handed to New Yorks WINS radio, it was played for three hours straight and an immediate hit. The First Family was awarded Grammy Album of the Year, and Vaughn Meader went from being an unknown comedian to the holder of a Best Comedy Performance Grammy.

Although he was thankful for his newfound rocket into fame, he had initially wanted to be an actor, singer, and comedian. He was only wanted as a JFK impersonator. He was reluctant to record a Volume Two of his Grammy-winning “The First Family.” It was recorded in the spring of 1963, although Meader was hesitant. He was probably glad he did because his career being JFK ended in November of that year. The story goes that Meader got in a taxi and was told that JFK had been assassinated. And just like that his career as over.

He attempted to continue his career afterward, as himself, but he never reached any acclaim and eventually quit. He did have a few television appearances in the late 90s. He died in 2004.

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