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Biography

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Overview (3)

Date of Birth 20 March 1936Waterville, Maine, USA
Date of Death 29 October 2004Auburn, Maine, USA  (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
Birth NameAbbott Vaughn Meader

Mini Bio (1)

It's probably very safe to say that no performer within memory ever became a has-been as quickly as the man born Abbott Vaughn Meader. After toiling away on the small-club circuit for several years, his spot-on impersonation of then-President John F. Kennedy got him noticed by writer/performer/producer Earle Doud, who decided to build a comedy album around the nation's highly popular Presidential family. Built up of a series of satiric audio sketches about the Kennedys, and surrounding Meader with a supporting cast of top New York-based character actors, "The First Family" (Cadence: 1962) became an unprecedented success when it was released around Thanksgiving time in 1962. Its sales were so phenomenal that copies had to be rationed, it occupied several weeks at Number One on the Billboard Album charts, and was one of only two comedy albums ever to be awarded the Grammy for Album of the Year. A follow-up, "The First Family, Part Two" (Cadence: 1963), released the following summer, did almost as well. Both a third album and a TV special were in the works. Kennedy himself was a fan of the album, his biggest criticism being that he felt Meader sounded more like Robert F. Kennedy than himself.

Then, on November 22, 1963, the unthinkable happened. John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas. Literally within hours of the shooting, all of Meader's engagements were canceled. Meader, who admired Kennedy and was as much in shock as everybody else, was at a loss. His Kennedy impersonation, which comprised a small portion of his club act, could have been easily cut. But, as he himself later put it, "literally overnight, nobody wanted to know from me. As far as they were concerned, I was as dead as the President."

In the forty years since that time, Meader has made numerous attempts at a comeback. A 1970 album, "The Second Coming," on which Meador played a hip Jesus, won the praise of the critics, but didn't sell well. In 1975, he played Walter Winchell in the film Lepke (1975), again to critical praise. At one point, during the mid-'seventies, there was even talk of his doing a serious one-man show on JFK, much in the manner of Hal Holbrook's "Mark Twain Tonight!" or James Whitmore's "Will Rogers' U.S.A.," but nothing came of it. When last heard from, he was living in quiet retirement in Gulfport, Florida.

As to "The First Family," it was reissued several years ago, in tandem with "The First Family, Part Two," on CD on the Collector's Choice label. Heard today, it is a good-humored reminder of a bygone era.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Bob Sorrentino

Spouse (4)

Sheila Colbath (22 September 1984 - 29 October 2004) (his death)
Christine Surma (1 November 1978 - ?) (divorced)
Susan L Hannah (15 September 1970 - ?) (divorced)
Vera Heller (1955 - 1965) (divorced)

Trivia (5)

Best known for his impersonation of former US President John F. Kennedy.
Prior to the "First Family" album fame his salary was $7.50 per hour performing at the SoHo Coffee Houses. After the album was released and he rocketed to fame he was headlining at the Sahara in Las Vegas with a salary of $22,500 per week.
The "First Family" original album set a Guinness world record for the fastest selling album in history.
The major record companies did not wish to produce Meader's "First Family" album which lampooned the Kennedys. They were fearful of offending the White House. It was picked up by a small company Cadence. The album sold over seven million copies.
Living in Gulfport, Florida. [2003]

Personal Quotes (1)

A lot of people don't know this, but we recorded 'The First Family' on the night of October 22, 1962, the same night as John F. Kennedy's Cuban Missle Crisis Speech. The audience was in the studio and had no idea of the drama that was taking place. But the cast had heard the speech and our throats almost dropped to our toes, because if the audience had heard the Cuban Missile Speech, we would not have received the reaction we did.

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