The days of Boom Box Guy JJ on USC’s Columbia campus could be growing short.
After a decade of walking around campus with a giant boom box on his shoulder, Jeremiah Shepherd and his alter ego are looking toward graduation and powering down the persona for good.
Shepherd said he has received pushback from people, some of whom have even tried to charge him with noise violations. But most of the feedback has been positive, so he’ll keep the tradition until he receives his doctorate in computer science this August.
We sat down with Shepherd to discuss the decade of the boom box and what the future brings. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What made you first decide to take your boom box, walk around campus and start this whole tradition?
I didn’t create the idea of the boom box guy. Originally, in the spring of 2004 – yes, it’s been 10 years since I’ve been doing this — it was me and my friend Elliot. Elliot was working for this one guy as a bricklayer and the bricklayer ended up just giving him this old beat-up boom box. And he thought it would be really funny if we sat down and figured out how we can carry this on our shoulders and play music. I recorded the first cassette tape that we used for that, and so we started carrying it around campus. So it was actually two of us at first, and that’s really how it all began.
How do you determine what music you are going to play? It just kind of whatever you are in the mood for that day, or is there a strategy to it?
Most of the time [it] is whatever I’m in the mood for. If I’m in a happy mood, which I usually am, I like to play things that are upbeat. Other times I’m going to play crowd favorites, because you kind of have to play to the audience and make people happy. So, it’s kind of a combination of what I’m in the mood for or [something that has some] significance to it.
You have been here since about 2004, and you are getting your Ph.D. in computer science. What exactly is it that you want to do with that?
What I do is serious video game design in the field of language acquisition, so learning a new second language acquisition, helping people who have had strokes to relearn how to speak again, first language acquisition and rehabilitation and also formal language acquisition, which is learning programming language through the use of video games.
How do you balance all that work keeping up with this whole personality you’ve developed?
A lot of people who are my friends don’t actually know what I do, ’cause I kind of just keep the two lives separate in a way, and it’s not because like one’s going to interfere with the other one. It’s just easier to keep it in my head if I separate the two out, and also I don’t want to be boastful or anything like that.
What do you feel that the greatest personal gain you have gotten from this whole experience has been?
Everyone I’ve met. I’ve had so many opportunities show up just because I’ve been kind of this loud — and some people consider obnoxious — person. But at the same time, some people really, really enjoy it and love what I’ve done. I’ve met so many amazing people and great friends.
When you graduate, will it be the end of an era? Are you going to take the character with you, or are you going to hand it down to another student?
I was going to hand it off to different people, but I think they didn’t really understand what comes with it. I don’t know if I’m going to train anyone or anything like that. If anyone does want to take it on after I leave or even while I’m still here, I really don’t mind. The big thing I can give to them is to make it your own, that’s the trick.
The Other Place at Trustus Theatre
Juliana Smithton is a successful neurologist whose life seems to be coming unhinged. A mystery unfolds as fact blurs with fiction, past collides with present and the elusive truth of Juliana’s mental health boils to the surface in The Other Place, running at Trustus Theatre October 17th through November 1st. There will be a talk-back following the matinee on October 19th. Tickets can be purchased here or by calling the box office at 803-254-9732.
Four Miles, Twelve Doughnuts
Winston’s Wish aims to increase knowledge and understanding of children with autism, and you can help by participating in the 4.donut Race on October 25th. Start at Edventure Children’s Museum, run 2 miles to Krispy Kreme, eat 12 doughnuts, and run back! Registration is required and can be done here before October 23rd at 5 p.m.
King Lear in Finlay Park
October 16th-18th and 22nd-25th, the South Carolina Shakespeare Company presents William Shakespeare’s King Lear. All performances held at the Finlay Park Ampitheatre at 7:30 PM. For tickets and more information, click here or call 803-665-2000.
3LAU on Sunday, October 26th and the Unofficial Skrillex Mothership Tour After-Party on the 27th. More information and tickets for both can be found here. VIP tables available.
Bluegrass, Bidding, and BBQ
Join The Palladium Society Thursday, October 23rd from 7-10 p.m. for its 11th annual silent auction, featuring music by The Mustache Brothers and catering by Bourbon and The Oak Table. Tickets are $30 at the door and include admission, drinks, and food. Get yours online now!
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Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com