Doctor Demento: Wikis


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Dr. Demento

American radio personality Dr. Demento
Background information
Birth name Barret Eugene Hansen
Also known as Dr. Demento
Born April 2, 1941 (1941-04-02) (age 68)
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Genres Comedy, parody
Occupations Disc jockey
Years active 1970–present
Associated acts "Weird Al" Yankovic, Whimsical Will

Dr. Demento is the professional name of Barry Hansen (Barret Eugene Hansen, born April 2, 1941),[1] a radio broadcaster and record collector specializing in novelty songs, comedy, and strange or unusual recordings dating from the early days of phonograph records to the present.

He created the persona in 1970 while working at Los Angeles station KPPC-FM.[1] After Hansen played "Transfusion" by Nervous Norvus on the radio, DJ Steven Clean said that Hansen had to be "demented" to play that. Thereafter, the name stuck. His weekly show went into syndication in 1974[1] and from 1978 to 1992 was syndicated by the Westwood One Radio Network. It is still on the air as of September 2009, syndicated by his own company, Talonian Productions. Since August 3, 2009, he is also starring in a weekly video podcast show, called simply Dr. Demento, on The Real UHF.[2]

Dr. Demento was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in November 2009.[3]

Contents

Background

Hansen was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of an amateur pianist. He claims to have started his vast record collection as early as age 12, when he found "that a local thrift store had thousands of old 78 RPM records for sale at 5 cents each."[1] He attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where he was promoted to Program Director of KRRC in 1960 and General Manager in 1961. He wrote his senior thesis on Alban Berg's opera Wozzeck and Claude Debussy's opera Pelléas et Mélisande. He graduated in 1963, and later studied at UCLA, from which he earned a master's degree in folklore and ethnomusicology.

After earning his master's degree, he lived for two years "in a big house on a hill" in Topanga Canyon with members of the rock band Spirit. He also served briefly as a roadie for Spirit, and for Canned Heat, before being hired as an A&R man, or talent scout, for Specialty Records. It was while working for Specialty that the Doctor began his weekly radio show. He later worked for Warner Bros. Records.

Hansen has been married since 1983 to Sue Hansen, a former training officer at the Union Pacific railroad. Hansen describes himself as "an armchair railfan", and has occasionally drawn from his extensive collection of railroad-related songs on his show.

Hansen has a longtime interest in the roots of rock 'n' roll in R&B and country music, and he has written about it in many magazine articles, liner notes to compilations and new recordings by a variety of artists, and two chapters on early R&B for The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll. His shows and public appearances display an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of recorded music in general, from the earliest Edison cylinder recordings onward.

The Dr. Demento radio show

Hansen created the persona of Dr. Demento in 1970 while working at Pasadena station KPPC-FM.[1] The positive listener response to the offbeat novelties that Hansen included in his rock oldies show led to his eventually turning it into an all-novelty show. At the end of 1971, he moved to KMET in Los Angeles. From 1972–83, he performed a four hour live show on KMET.

His weekly show went into national syndication in a two-hour all-novelty format in 1974[1], and during 1978–92 was syndicated by the Westwood One Radio Network. The Westwood One period marked the height of the show's national popularity; it was carried in most major radio markets, airing mainly on FM rock stations, usually late on Sunday evenings. From 1992 to 2000, the show was syndicated by On the Radio Broadcasting. Between the mid-seventies and the mid-nineties, Hansen continued to do live broadcasts on KMET and other California stations, in addition to his weekly taped syndicated show. He also made occasional television appearances, on such shows as Bobby's World and The Simpsons, and on the Barnes and Barnes music video for "Fish Heads." The weekly show is still being produced as of 2010, syndicated by Hansen's own company, Talonian Productions.

The syndicated show normally starts with an hour of randomly chosen records and listener requests. The second hour is mostly devoted to a specific theme (cars, sports, pets, romance, movies, etc.) with a final segment taken up by a "Funny Five" countdown of the most requested songs (in 2008, the weekly Funny Five was replaced by a monthly Top Ten in order to allow for longer special topic segments). There are also shows devoted to holidays and seasonal events, with the most important being the Halloween and Christmas shows, because of the large number of novelty records those holidays have inspired. For most of the syndicated show's history, Hansen has done 52 original weekly shows every year; repeat broadcasts are rare.

The program's opening theme is an instrumental version of "Pico and Sepulveda" recorded for the show by The Roto Rooter Good Time Christmas Band. The same Los Angeles area group recorded some of the musical teasers used on the show, such as "It's time for number one...." The other "countdown" intros come from "Barstow" by the American maverick composer Harry Partch. Hansen's opening line, "Wind up your radios", refers to the rare 78rpm novelty records from the days of wind-up phonographs that he has featured on the show, especially in its early years. The closing theme is "Cheerio, Cherry Lips, Cheerio", a 1929 vocal by Scrappy Lambert (recording under the name Gordon Wallace), which Hansen tells listeners he discovered in a thrift shop. The Doctor closes each show with "Stay demented!"

Influence

Dr. Demento may be best known for bringing parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic to national attention. Starting in 1976, the then-unknown Yankovic sent self-recorded tapes of comedy songs and parodies to Hansen (e.g. "School Cafeteria", "My Bologna"), who featured some of them on the show. The positive listener response encouraged Yankovic to record more parodies, leading eventually to a record deal and pop chart success in the 1980s. Hansen appeared in a number of Weird Al's music videos, as well as Weird Al's movie UHF.

Other artists who made the pop charts after getting exposure on the Dr. Demento show include Larry Groce ("Junk Food Junkie", 1975) and Elmo and Patsy ("Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer", 1979). The show helped revive and maintain interest in novelty hits from the 1950s and 1960s that received scant airplay on mainstream pop or oldies radio stations, including "Alley Oop" by the Hollywood Argyles, "The Battle of Kookamonga" by Homer and Jethro, "Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett, "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (A Letter from Camp)" by Allen Sherman, "I Want My Baby Back" by Jimmy Cross, and "They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Ha" by Napoleon XIV. Hansen also revived interest in the double entendre songs of 1940s Borscht Belt comedian Benny Bell, especially Bell's signature tune, "Shaving Cream." He introduced a new generation to the manic big-band parodies of Spike Jones, the musical black humor of Tom Lehrer, and the many novelty records recorded by satirist Stan Freberg in the 1950s.

Another frequently-featured artist is Frank Zappa, whom Hansen cited as a major influence on the show and who appeared several times as a guest. The tribute show following Zappa's 1993 death was the first time the entire two-hour show was devoted to a single artist.

Dr. Demento in recent years and today

Starting in the mid-1990s, the show began to lose affiliates, a victim of media consolidation and other changes in the radio industry that were pushing many alternative rock stations and individualistic broadcasters off the air, along with Hansen's 1992 decision to take over syndication of the show himself as opposed to a major American network like Westwood One. According to Hansen, the show has steadily lost advertisers, and as such, he had to restructure the distribution of the show from the usual barter system to a system in which stations pay a rights fee for the program. He stated in October 2007 that "unless the show's financial situation changes soon, I will be unable to continue the show much longer."[4] However, the show still continued to be produced on a weekly basis two years after that announcement.

The Dr. Demento Show can also be heard via audio streaming at his official website. Large archives from 1992 to the present, as well as a few select archives from the early 1970s, are available, but the syndicated programs from 1978 to 1992 are not because Westwood One apparently still owns those programs. Some live local shows which aired in Los Angeles from this period are slowly being added, with a small per-show fee levied for this service so as to make the show profitable. As part of the contract between Dr. Demento and radio stations, radio stations are prohibited from streaming the program online. Several radio stations have been forced to drop the program because of this policy, thus reducing Dr. Demento's affiliate count (at last count, the show only broadcasts on seven stations (as of 10/09), down from over 100 at its peak), making the show even less appealing to advertisers. A spokesperson for Dr. Demento mentioned in his official forum in October 2007 that the show is working to make "lots of changes" regarding the Internet services.[5]

Dr. Demento was inducted into the Comedy Music Hall of Fame in June 2005.[6]

In September 2007, Dr. Demento portrayed the role of Hippocrates on The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd.

In addition to his syndicated show, he still makes occasional guest appearances for other shows. His most recent guest-hosting stint was for Montel Williams on the now-defunct Air America Media. (Despite the network's politically-driven format, the guest stint followed his normal format of novelty music, specifically Halloween music, since the show aired on October 30, 2009, the day before Halloween.) [7]

On November 7, 2009, Dr. Demento was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame.[8]

Favorite songs

At the end of each year on his syndicated radio show, he counts down the top 25 comedy hits of the year, called the "Funny 25." (From 1972–82, he also did a year-end top 50 countdown for his four-hour live show in Los Angeles, plus a separate pre-taped top 50 in 1979 for San Francisco.) The chart is based on requests, so it is common for classic comedy songs to appear on the chart for many years in a row. Despite that, only four artists have appeared at the top of the chart in two consecutive years; three of those appeared at the top of the charts with two different songs each year, and the fourth is the case of Ogden Edsl, whose song "Dead Puppies" is thus far the only one to appear at the top of the charts two years in a row.

1980 - "Another One Rides The Bus"
1981 - "Yoda" (Original Demo Version)
1982 - "Dead Puppies"
1983 - "Dead Puppies"
2002 - "Peter Parker" (with guest vocals by Sudden Death)
2003 - "Stealing Like A Hobbit"
2004 - "Great Idea For A Song"
2005 - "Inner Voice" (as guest vocals for Sudden Death)
  • On hunting themed shows, Dr. Demento features the song "Second Week of Deer Camp" by Michigan comedy music group Da Yoopers.

The 1947 song "Pico and Sepulveda" by Felix Figueroa & His Orchestra (actually Freddy Martin & His Orchestra) was frequently featured on Dr. Demento's syndicated radio show.[9] During the early years of his show, this song became so requested, and hence played, that the "Doctor" decided to give the song a special status. From May 1973 onward, the song was played once a month, on the first Sunday of every month, at the end of a set of songs about the Los Angeles area. The Doctor's unidirectional covenant he made with his listeners was that in exchange for playing this same song ad infinitum once a month via this special arrangement, it was thereafter voided from ever being voted upon, requested, and/or played in any monthly Top 10 or annual Top 50 format. Since July 1974, a version of this song by the Roto Rooter Good Time Christmas Band has been used as his opening theme.

Discography

A number of compilations have been released by Dr. Demento, including:[10]

  • Dr. Demento's Delights (1975)
  • Dr. Demento's Dementia Royale (1980)
  • Dr. Demento's Mementos (1982)
  • Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Novelty Records of All Time Volume I: The 1940s (and Before) (1985)
  • Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Novelty Records of All Time, Volume II: The 1950s (1985)
  • Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Novelty Records of All Time, Volume III: The 1960s (1985)
  • Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Novelty Records of All Time, Volume IV: The 1970s (1985)
  • Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Novelty Records of All Time, Volume V: The 1980s (1985)
  • Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Novelty Records of All Time, Volume VI: Christmas (1985)
  • Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Novelty CD of All Time (1988)
  • Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Christmas Novelty CD of All Time (1989)
  • Dr. Demento 20th Anniversary Collection (1991)
  • Dr. Demento: Holidays In Dementia (1995)
  • Dr. Demento 25th Anniversary Collection (1996)
  • Dr. Demento 2000! 30th Anniversary Collection (2001)

Affiliates list

Previous Affiliates list (no longer carried)

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f "About The Dr." The Online Internet Site For Information on Dr. Demento music, songs, lyrics, and chat. 2005. 03 Mar. 2006 <http://www.drdemento.com/dr-bio.html>.
  2. ^ The Real UHF (August 1, 2009). "The Real UHF". TheRealUHF.tv. http://www.therealuhf.tv/. Retrieved 2009-08-05. 
  3. ^ National Radio Hall of Fame & Museum (August 5, 2009). "National Radio Hall of Fame & Museum". RadioHOF.org. http://www.radiohof.org/. Retrieved 2009-08-05. 
  4. ^ Dr. Demento (October 6, 2007). "Home page: "A Note from the Doctor"". DrDemento.com. http://www.drdemento.com/. Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  5. ^ Site admin "Arthyr" (18 October 2007). "Forums: General Discussion: "Lots of buzz"". DrDemento.com. http://www.drdemento.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=589. Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  6. ^ ""Dr. Demento / Inducted: July 11, 2005"". throwingtoasters.com. Comedy Music Hall of Fame. http://www.throwingtoasters.com/cmh/inductees/drdemento.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  7. ^ http://airamerica.com/ondemand/10-30-2009/montel-10-30-2009-09-04-01/
  8. ^ http://www.radiohof.org/musicvariety/drdemento.html
  9. ^ ""Pico and Sepulveda"". The Mad Music Archive. http://themadmusicarchive.com/song_details.aspx?SongID=283. Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  10. ^ ""Dr. Demento: Discography: Compilations"". Allmusic. http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&searchlink=DR.|DEMENTO&sql=11:aiftxq95ldhe~T21. Retrieved 2007-12-04. 

External links








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