Arts & Culture
8:18 am
Mon December 23, 2013

The President, The Comic, and The Man in the Santa Claus Hat

In the early 1960s, comedian Vaughn Meader recorded a satirical album in which he poked some gentle fun at President John F. Kennedy. He wasn't the first person to imitate a sitting president, but Meader was the first to add such a satirical bent to his work.

It was ground breaking at the time, and his first JFK recording, The First Family, became the fastest-selling album in U.S. history up to that point.

Comedian Vaughn Meader, in a publicity photo for his Kennedy-themed album, "The First Family."
Comedian Vaughn Meader, in a publicity photo for his Kennedy-themed album, "The First Family."
Credit Wikimedia Commons

The First Family and its sequel are both now widely available. But Meader also recorded a holiday single -- called "St. Nick Visits the White House" -- that was almost lost to history, largely like Meader himself. Many of those singles never made it to store shelves, instead being thrown out or destroyed in the wake of the Kennedy assassination in 1963.

But for collectors and amateur preservationists, the single remained an important piece of cultural and political history.

And for the most dedicated among them, it became the stuff of legend and obsession.

WBOI's Sean Bueter has the fascinating story of the rise and fall of a presidential impersonator, and one man's decade-long quest to preserve a recorded relic.

Special thanks to Rob Martinez, Kelly Walker, Sarah Delia, and Katy Anderson for their assistance with this story.