Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
Born Abbott Vaughn Meader in Waterville, ME, satirist and singer Vaughn Meader joined the U.S. Army upon graduation from high school. After being stationed in Germany and marrying overseas, Meader returned to civilian life only to endure a series of menial jobs. By the early '60s Meader was performing in comedy clubs in New York City; one night Meader spontaneously broke into an imitation of then newly elected President John F. Kennedy and his impression was so good that the audience response was encouraging. Meader soon developed a Kennedy shtick that was regarded as the best in show business.
On October 22, 1962, Vaughn Meader and a cast under the direction of Bob Booker and Earle Doud recorded The First Family, a satirical sendup of Kennedy and his family and administration, featuring Meader in the role of the popular president. The First Family was a smash, selling 300,000 copies in its first three weeks of release and seven and a half million copies within a few months. Meader was propelled to overnight stardom; he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, packed clubs in Las Vegas, and forged friendships with other influential stars in show business. The First Family won the Grammy for Best Album of the Year, the only time this distinction has been awarded to a comedy album. Certain catch phrases from The First Family, such as "The rubber swan is mine!," temporarily became part of everyday lingo.
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX. Within a week of the President's death, not a single copy of The First Family was to be found in New York City record stores, and all of Meader's forthcoming engagements were canceled. The First Family had set a record for being the fastest-selling recording in history, but this was superseded by a memorial album for President Kennedy. Even before the end of 1963, many fans who once enthusiastically embraced The First Family's humor were already trying to expunge the album from their collections; it was no longer considered appropriate to laugh at a president whose life had ended so tragically.
Meader, still only 27 with only a few months logged on the roller coaster of fame, was already a has-been. He continued to make comedy albums and ultimately began to explore the musical side of his talent in bluegrass and honky tonk-styled recordings under his given name of Abbott Meader. By the mid-'70s, however, Meader was appearing as a token celebrity guest star in adult films such as Linda Lovelace for President. In the years left to him, Meader returned to Maine, remarried, and ran a restaurant where he'd also perform. In the 1990s Meader did benefit from a small swell of interest due to nostalgia for his Kennedy impressions, and made some final recordings in his Kennedy voice on an album entitled The Last Word. Overall, Meader was featured on about 30 albums, both comedy and music, some of which are very difficult to find, though not The First Family nor its follow-up, The First Family Rides Again. As of this writing, The First Family is still the best-selling comedy album ever made, and even today there probably isn't a thrift or junk store in the United States without a dusty copy of this album residing somewhere on its shelves.