Dig Infinity!

Greetings infinity diggers and welcome to diglordbuckley.com.

Here you may join in celebrating the life, art and legacy of master hepcat storyteller Richard “Lord” Buckley (1906-1960).

You will also discover info and background about Dig Infinity! my Lord Buckley theatre and literary vision quest.

If the name Lord Buckley is unfamiliar to you that may be good news: you have many hours of sublime, uplifting discovery ahead of you. I’m jealous!

Gate of Horn, Chicago, Ill. Summer 1960. Stills from “Chicago: First Impressions of a Great American City” directed by Denis Mitchell.

Briefly, Lord Buckley was a now nearly forgotten if highly influential white jazz humorist, visionary storyteller/philosopher, hipster saint, and premier beatnik rapper best remembered for his classic and dynamic “hipsemantic” raps that recast incidents from history and mythology into a patois cross-pollinating jazz jive talk and the King’s English. A deeper web/YouTube search should reveal much, but it might be instructive to know that his career spanned Al Capone’s murky Windy City dives, a storied stint as a Dance Marathon emcee, A-list Vaudevillian, proto-hipster/beatnik, Ed Sullivan Show regular, Vegas entertainer, Beat Generation elder, and early psychedelic adapter. Truly, a gamut of the mid-20th century American show biz/cultural experience.

I was first exposed to Lord Buckley’s amazing monologues at Bennington College in the mid-1970s and—as a Lit major and jazz freak—his melange of oral and musical traditions combined with a buoyant worldview grabbed me like few things had before or have since.

Some years later, I commenced researching Buckley’s life in depth and eventually wrote Dig Infinity! The Life & Art of Lord Buckley (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2002), the only biography of this most exotic of creatures from the American sub-terrain. (https://www.amazon.com/Dig-Infinity-Life-Lord-Buckley/dp/1566491576)

Photo © Ray Avery/CTS Images

Concurrent and subsequent to my book’s publication, I produced an annual series of Lord Buckley spoken word and musical events at the Bowery Poetry Club in NYC at which Living Theatre member (and personal mentor of mine) Steve Ben Israel, composer/multi- instrumentalist David Amram, comedian Prof. Irwin Corey, and hippie crown prince Wavy Gravy among many others performed.

And I wrote a screenplay based on my research—also titled Dig Infinity!—that I adapted into a stage friendly, ensemble display. After staged readings in 2012 & 2013 and an award-winning production at the 2014 Planet Connections Theatre Festivity (Outstanding Adaptation, Lead Actor, Supporting Actor), a successful run of Dig Infinity! at the 2015 Fringe NYC Festival enjoyed five full houses, fine reviews and press including a splashy “New Yorker” Hilton Als-penned write-up (see the “Reviews” portal above), and enthusiastic and responsive audiences.

Most recently, I have once again adapted the work into a hour and twenty minute solo show I have performed with live musical accompaniment as a more mobile and logistically simpler endeavor at a small arts festival in Brooklyn in 2016, well-attended and received one-nighters in Vermont, Dixon Place in Lower Manhattan, the Guthrie Center in western Massachusetts in 2017 and 2018, and a five performance California mini-tour in the spring of 2019.

Photo © Ray Avery/CTS Images. Design: William Jennings.

In all theatrical iterations of Dig Infinity! I inhabit and channel the spirit of Lord Buckley, spinning out his life story and conjuring his signature material while engaging the audience in a one-way dialogue interspersed with flashbacks to various points in Lord Buckley’s epic journey and curvy career that includes a trip to Hades and a cameo by God as it becomes increasingly apparent that Lord Buckley is bargaining for his very soul. Laced throughout the piece are a variety Buckley monologues and philosophical riffs that augment and embellish the presentation. These include his celebration of Jesus Christ (“The Nazz”), Shakespeare (“Hipsters, Flipsters & Finger-Poppin’ Daddies”), Gandhi (“The Hip Gahn”), The Old Testament (“Jonah and the Whale”), Charles Dickens (“Scrooge”), and Abraham Lincoln (“Gettysburg Address”). And, along with my own interstitial writing coalescing the narrative, I include some of Buckley’s other forms of storytelling that draw on elements of Americana, sexuality, politics, transcendence, and, most saliently, race and racism.

A cipher of the American underground, Lord Buckley has remained a talismanic cipher since his mysterious, controversial death. The torch he lit was effectively grabbed by Lenny Bruce and the folk protest movement of the late 1950s and early ’60s. Other icons of the following decades who picked up on and referenced and/or celebrated Buckley in their own work in the following decades include Bob Dylan, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, George Harrison, Julie Taymor, Ken Kesey, Joni Mitchell, Jack Kerouac, Sly Stone, David Bowie, Bill T. Jones, Jerry Garcia, and even some Hip Hop and Electronica folks to name just a very few.

What attracted them all to Lord Buckley is what attracted me: a big-hearted grasp of humanity in all its elevating and autumnal beauty.

In all its theatrical iterations Lady Laurie Lord Buckley of the Lord Buckley estate is giving her permission for the specific usage of His Lordship’s material for a one time non-exclusive stage performance of Oliver Trager’s Dig Infinity! of the Apocalypso Theatre Collective.

Copyrighted images by Ray Avery posted on this site used with permission via www.ctsimages.com