||"I'm Dr. Demento and|
I approve of this Web Site"
From: Dr. Demento
Dr. Demento Live in Portland, OR
Once again this year Dr. Demento will be giving three programs at Reed College, in Portland, OR. The programs are happening January 21 through 23.
Thursday, January 21 - We’re All Americans Now – Diversity and Integration in American Music:
a survey of the many different types of music that have been brought to America through the years...music originating in Africa, continental Europe, Asia, the Pacific Islands, Latin America, and more...and how they influence what we hear today...and how the changes in the music reflect the relationships between the different peoples of America. With numerous audio examples.
Friday, January 22 - The Life and Music of Frank Zappa:
The colorful story of rock music’s most brilliant satirist, and one of its great composers. With excerpts from my own interviews with Zappa, and many other audio and video examples.
Saturday, January 23- Punk Rock from the Beginning:
From the Ramones, the Sex Pistols and the Clash through the Dead Kennedys, Nirvana, Misfits, Meat Puppets, Bikini Kill and many more, into the 21st century. With audio and video examples. (Dr. Demento gave a talk on punk music at Reed in 1976, quite possibly the first lecture ever given on punk rock at any college campus).
All programs are in Vollum Lecture Hall, near the main entrance to the campus on S.E. Woodstock Blvd. Admission for the general public is $5.
Last Reply: 2016-01-07 06:42:03
From: Dr. Demento
Dr Demento on the radio, New Year's Eve
On December 31, from 11 PM to midnight Pacific time, I will be a guest on Jim Svejda's (schvay-da) program on KUSC, 91.5 in Los Angeles or http://www.kusc.org/listenonline/Index.aspx online. I'll be playing some Stan Freberg and some classical spoofs (Spike Jones, etc.) which is appropriate since KUSC is a classical music station. Tune in if you get a chance! -Dr D
Last Reply: 2015-12-14 06:16:21
From: Dr. Demento
Dr Demento Christmas CD's still available
The Demento Society still has CD's in stock of "Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Christmas Novelty CD Of All Time" and "Holidays In Dementia." Orders accepted through December 15! Just visit the Online Store, right here at our web site.
Last Reply: 2015-12-06 20:09:34
Dr. Demento at Zombie Walk this weekend!
Once again this year Dr. Demento will be appearing live at the Long Beach
Zombie Walk, at Rainbow Lagoon in Long Beach, CA. He'll be spinning the
haunted hits for your listening and dancing pleasure from 6:30 to 8 PM on
Saturday, October 24. Info at
https://longbeachzombiefest.com/ (see the
menu across the top of the page for more details). Tickets are $13 at the
gate. (Make sure you get this year's web site - if you search for the
event, last year's page may come up first).
Last Reply: 2015-10-22 08:30:09
new trailer for Under The Smogberry Trees
Hi all! The Doc wanted me to let you know that there's a spiffy new trailer available for the Dr. Demento movie! Visit http://www.smogberrytreesmovie.com/ and click on "video." Accept no imitations!
Last Reply: 2015-09-13 06:22:50
free stream of the Doc's greatest hits!
For those who missed the post on the official Facebook group, we wanted to make sure everyone knew you could stream a live appearance from 2013 for free right here on drdemento.com. Just look for 2013-11-03 or click here!
Last Reply: 2015-06-04 07:22:23
From: Dr. Demento
Dr Demento on the air New Year's Eve
From 11 PM to midnight New Year's Eve, Dr. Demento will be a guest with Jim Svejda on KUSC-FM, 91.5 in Southern California. KUSC is normally a classical station, but Jim has a tradition of playing comedy on December 31. The station can be heard online at http://www.kusc.org/listenonline/index.aspx
Last Reply: 2014-12-20 20:57:43
From: Dr. Demento
Dr. Demento Live in Portland, OR - January 2015
Once again, Dr. Demento will be appearing live on the Reed College campus. All events begin at 8 PM in the Vollum Lecture Hall, near the center of the campus in southeast Portland. Enter from Woodstock Blvd. Admission is $5 (free for Reed students, staff and alumni).
Thursday, January 22 - FROM JOE HILL TO MICHAEL BROWN: A CENTURY OF PROTEST SONG
From the World War I years up to today, people protesting war, racism, economic inequality and other injustices have used songs to spread their message and rally the troops. We’ll hear troubadours of the 1960s like Seeger, Dylan and Ochs, but also protest songs from many other times, from World War I to today, in a variety of genres from art song to punk.
Friday, January 23 - FROM RAGTIME TO RAP IN AN HOUR AND A QUARTER
Along with hosting the Dr. Demento Show, Barry Hansen (Reed ‘63) has been an inveterate collector and student of many kinds of music since childhood. He will take us on a whirlwind trip through the hit sounds of the Jazz Age, the Swing Era, the rock revolution and the birth of hip-hop. He’ll show how each movement led to the next, and the one great trend that unifies them all.
Saturday, January 24 - LIFE OF DEMENTO
Dr. Demento retraces his life as a radio outlier, from his very first broadcasts at Reed’s own KRRC to his continuing adventures in cyberspace. He’ll talk about his on-air encounters with George Carlin, Frank Zappa, “Weird Al” Yankovic and many more, his days as a roadie and record producer in the 1960s, and his upcoming movie. Many audio and video examples. He will be happy to sign autographs and pose for pictures afterward.
Be the first to comment!
From: Dr. Demento
Dr. Demento Appearance in L.A. August 30
Dr. Demento will be featured in a "show and tell" August 30 at the Cinefamily theatre in Los Angeles (on Fairfax south of Melrose). He will show videos, play Demented hits, and answer lots of questions. Jack Black will be introducing him. For more info see "Road Schedule" on our home page (at upper left).
Be the first to comment!
From: Dr. Demento
DR. DEMENTO LEADS JOHN FAHEY TRIBUTE IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MARCH 23rd
This just came together, sorry for the short notice! Dr. Demento will be hosting a 75th Birthday tribute to the late John Fahey, Sunday afternoon, March 23 in Altadena, California (just north of Pasadena). Fahey, the highly influential guitarist and composer who originated the "American Primitive" genre merging country blues and avant-garde classical, will be celebrated in an event organized by Terry Roland and featuring guitarists Harry Taussig and Pete Steinberg along with Dr. Demento, who was Fahey's nextdoor neighbor and close friend in the 1960s, and compiled Rhino's Fahey collection "Return of the Repressed." Details at http://www.coffeegallery.com/showsat.htm (select "Schedule of Shows") and scroll down to March 23rd.
Be the first to comment!
DR. DEMENTO AT FUMPFEST NEAR CHICAGO IN JUNE!
Marscon is a mere week away, and the Doc will be there with the Smogberry Trees documentary crew.
But coming up in June is another big event! This time the Doc is going to be Guest of Honor at the first ever FuMPFest taking place June 20-22 in Wheeling Illinois just outside Chicago.
He's going to be presenting his Festival of Dementia, doing a Q&A along with Meep Morp Studios about the Under the Smogberry Trees documentary, signing autographs, and hosting the 2014 Logan Whitehurst Memorial Awards for Excellence in Comedy Music.
The convention will also feature about 15 performances by regulars on the show including Devo Spice, the great Luke Ski, Worm Quartet, Power Salad, Dan Hart, Tony Goldmark, Tom Smith, and more.
All the info can be found at www.fumpfest.com
Pre-registration is $35 for the weekend until March 31st. After that it's $45.
Last Reply: 2014-03-01 21:13:16
From: Dr. Demento
Dr. Demento returns to Marscon in Minneapolis
DR. DEMENTO RETURNS TO MARSCON IN MINNEAPOLIS
Dr. Demento will be in attendance at this year's Marscon fan convention in Bloomington, MN, a Minneapolis suburb. On Saturday, March 8 he will join a panel discussion with the makers of the Dr. Demento documentary film, "Under the Smogberry Trees," which will be "filming" that weekend in Dr. D's home town. Musical performers at Marscon will include Henry Phillips, the great Luke Ski, Devo Spice, Power Salad, Worm Quartet, Insane Ian, TV's Kyle and other artists often heard on the show. Dr. Demento will also hold an autograph/photo session on the same day. Information: http://marscon.org/2014/index.php
Be the first to comment!
streaming problems solved!
Several people had various streaming issues over the past week. After intense work on the issue, we finally have it solved. Thank you for your patience! Please report any continuing issues to the webmaster ASAP.
Last Reply: 2013-12-24 13:15:16
From: Dr. Demento
Dr. Demento back on live radio - one show only!
The Dr Demento Show is coming back to live radio for one show only! I will be live for two hours on "The Sound L.A." (KSWD) from 6 to 8 PM, Pacific time on Sunday, November 3. This will be the grand finale of a three-day tribute to legendary L.A. rock station KMET ("Little bit of heaven, 94 point seven") which was my home base from 1972 to 1987.
Other KMET personalities who will be participating include Jeff Gonzer and Ace Young (who will kick off the tribute at 3 PM Friday), Jim Ladd, Cynthia Fox, Jack Snyder, Paraquat Kelley, Rick Lewis, Rick Scarry, Billy Juggs, Dr. Leon, Frazer Smith, Rauool and David Perry.
All of The Sound's programming can be heard online at thesoundla.com.
Last Reply: 2013-11-26 11:49:36
recent additions to the demented archives
The Doc has been busy lately, so I figured it's time for ol' Mose to start blogging! :-)
For those who aren't aware, besides the new show on Saturdays, we also add additional past shows to the archives on Sunday night.
Here are some of the more interesting episodes added in recent months:
* Dickie Goodman
* Barnes & Barnes
* John Landis
Other Special Events:
* live at USC 1975
* KSCA Funny 25 for 1995
* 1982 novelty song contest winners
* Christmas 1987
Also a non-demented item, an early 1970 interview with Barry Hansen, before the was a doctor of dementia! He discusses the history of rock 'n' roll.
We hope you enjoy these. There are more on the way every week. Let us know what you want to hear!
Last Reply: 2013-11-07 19:47:49
From: Dr. Demento
Kickstarter for new Dr Demento documentary is live!
As you may have heard, some very talented people are making a documentary about Dr. Demento! I will be actively participating in this project. Take a look at the demo, and contribute if you like. Thank you from the bottom of my Demented heart!
Click here to contribute.
Last Reply: 2013-08-13 19:44:56
From: Dr. Demento
Dr Demento on radio Sunday, Feb. 3
On Super Bowl Sunday, Feb, 3, Dr. Demento will be a guest on "Anything Anything" with Rich Russo on two New York City-area stations.
The show will air on WXPK ("The Peak") 107.1 FM at 9 PM eastern time, and on WDHA 105.5 FM at 11 PM. Both stations stream online.
Last Reply: 2013-02-06 17:00:02
From: Dr. Demento
Dr D Returns to Portland, Oregon
Dr. Demento will be making his annual visit to Reed College in Portland, Oregon this month.
He will be giving three talks which are open to the public. All talks are at 7 PM (note time change from last year) in Vollum Lecture Hall near the center of the Reed campus.
Admission is $5.00.
Friday, January 25: "Grandpa's Pornograph." Soft-core and hard-core porn on phonograph records, from the 1890s to the 1960s. Not recommended for children!
Saturday, January 26: Blues From the Beginning. Before he became Dr. Demento, Barry Hansen was a blues collector and researcher, who wrote about blues in his book "Rhino's Cruise Through the Blues."
Sunday, January 27: The Life and Music of Frank Zappa…with audio and video examples including excerpts from Dr. D's interviews with Mr. Zappa. This has become Dr. D's most popular lecture topic.
Reed College is located at 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd. in Portland. Vollum Lecture Hall is in the Vollum College Center. If you use the main entrance, Vollum will be straight ahead. To reach the main parking lot, take the first right after entering the campus.
Last Reply: 2013-02-02 17:30:29
From: Dr. Demento
Dr D on Nerdist Podcast now!
Hello, haven't written in way too long, but you can hear me now on Chris Hardwick's Nerdist Podcast. Also participating: TV exec Dan Pasternack (Portlandia), talking about his youthful experience as a major Dr D fan...plus comedian Jonah Ray and Matt Bennett of Nickelodeon's "Victorious." http://www.nerdist.com/2012/08/nerdist-podcast-dr-demento/
Last Reply: 2012-09-11 00:23:07
From: Dr. Demento
Vintage Children's Records
In response to many requests, our show for July 7 includes over an hour of vintage children's records. This show spotlights stories from 1947-1950; we will move into the 1950s on our show for August 4. I plan several more such features in the future; let me know what you want to hear!
Children's records have been part of the Dr Demento Show almost since the beginning…I'd drop one or two in for a little ping of nostalgia now and then, in between the grown-up songs. The Disney song "Minnie's Yoo-Hoo" was on our very first year-end countdown, in 1972, along with the Three Stooges "Alphabet Song," "Laugh And Be Happy" by the local Los Angeles kiddie TV show host Sheriff John, and of course "The Purple People Eater." When I was with Westwood One and other radio networks I was sometimes asked to cut back on the kiddie records, since they were constantly telling radio stations and sponsors that my audience was young adults, people with buying power…and besides kids didn't count in the ratings. What they didn't realize is that certain kids' records appeal to adults of all ages…because they bring back memories of their own younger days, or simply because they appreciate the artistry and imagination that went into the best kids' records.
Children's records date back to the earliest days of the phonograph industry. Records of nursery rhymes are known to have been issued in Germany in the early 1890s. Children's records appeared sporadically in the years before World War Two but didn't really catch on at first. Records were expensive, of course, and in those days they were very fragile, and kids were always breaking them. Also, most of the early ones weren't terribly imaginative or exciting, just nursery rhymes and familiar stories for the most part.
That began to change at the end of the 1930s. Major labels began putting more effort into their children's releases, with original songs and stories and better production including more realistic sound effects. Another key was the increasing use of vinyl and other plastics that were not as breakable.
The end of World War II brought on the "Golden Age" of children's records. By the late 1940s all the major labels had extensive lines of such records (often called "kiddie records" or "kidiscs" in the trade). RCA Victor, Columbia, Decca and especially Capitol all regularly put out wonderful records, often featuring well known film and radio stars. Along with singles there were many story sets, with two, three or four 78 rpm records released in colorful albums with marvelous illustrations. Meanwhile, a maverick label called Young Peoples' Records offered subcriptions to their monthly releases, which were carefully designed to be educational as well as entertaining; they were always among my favorites as a kid. The 1940s were also the peak of the music appreciation movement, which sought to educate kids about classical music. That turned records like Tubby the Tuba and Rusty in Orchestraville into best-sellers.
The 1950s brought two enormous changes to the kiddie record industry, one very good, one not so good. The good one was the introduction of long-playing 12" albums and 45 rpm singles. You could now have an entire extended story on one disc, enough to keep a kid contented for half an hour or more. For those with shorter attention spans, 45s were handy and inexpensive…and both were relatively unbreakable.
The not-so-good change, for the kiddie record industry anyway, was television…much more fascinating for practically any kid (somehow I was an exception), and once you bought the set it was free. That did not kill off the kiddie record industry, any more than television killed off radio, but by 1953 the days of elaborately produced, truly imaginative original kiddie records were pretty much finished. Children's records were still made, in large quantities, but most of the best ones were spinoffs from TV, especially Disney, which became a major player in kiddie records in the late 1950s, and a little later Hanna-Barbera and Sesame Street. Young People's Records bit the dust, dogged by accusations of Communist ties, but Folkways Records persevered with artists like Pete Seeger and Ella Jenkins who were heard in many a classroom. Meanwhile, one of YPR's most prolific artists, folksinger Tom Glazer, broke into the Top 20 with "On Top of Spaghetti" in 1963 while continuing to make educational LP's for a variety of labels.
In the early 1980s the Armenian-Canadian singer Raffi heralded a new wave of enlightened kids' records with such songs as "Bananaphone" and "Baby Beluga." Peter Alsop (whose adult songs have been heard on our show) and Dan Zane also sang original songs which sought to nurture and educate kids while entertaining them. Meanwhile, Barry Louis Polisar spoke to modern-day kids in their own language with such songs as "I'm a Slug" and "Never Cook Your Sister In a Frying Pan." More recently, They Might Be Giants, whose brainy New Wave music always had a certain childlike quality, has made several successful albums specifically intended for kids, along with a delightful cover of Tom Glazer's 1960 educational song "Why Does the Sun Shine" ("The sun is a mass of incandescent gas…"). TMBG carries on the trend of mixing education with entertainment, going so far as to record "Why Does The Sun Really Shine" after becoming aware that new scientific discoveries had rendered the original song's scenario somewhat outdated.
That about brings us up to date. Meanwhile, people continue to enjoy and collect kids' records from the past, especially the "golden age" of the 1940s and early 1950s. Only a fraction of the thousands of kiddie records released during the "golden age" are available today through normal commercial channels. They do of course show up from time to time on eBay, and quite a few have been posted to YouTube by collectors and fans.
We are very fortunate to be able to access an extensive and excellent web site called KiddieRecordsWeekly. The proprietors have made hundreds of vintage records available for free downloads, including most of the top-drawer productions of the major labels in the 1940s and early 1950s, but including oddball rarities as well. (You can even download "Little Black Sambo," a lively story about a kid growing up in the jungles of India, very popular in the 1940s but politically incorrect today).
Another site worth checking out is http://kiddierekordking.com/, run by collector Peter Muldavin. This site offers a nice capsule history of the genre from its beginnings to the end of the 78 rpm era in the 1950s. Muldavin has also written a book, The Complete Guide to Vintage Children's Records, available from his site.
Another book of interest is Revolutionizing Children's Records by David L. Bonner (Scarecrow Press, 2008). This is a thorough, scholarly history of Young Peoples' Records and its successor, Children's Record Guild. The origins of YPR, and its extensive connections to "progressive" politics which landed it in hot water on many occasions, are described in great detail, but there is also a lot of information on the artists and on the children's record industry in general, along with a complete discography.
Finally, a just-released book presents a highly detailed discography of the most brilliant of all the golden-age major label kiddie record series, The Capitol Records Childrens' Series, 1944 to 1956. The compiler is Jack Mirtle, who has previously produced the definitive discography of Spike Jones among other milestones. You can find recording dates and complete personnel for hundreds of records by Pinto Colvig (Bozo the Clown), Mel Blanc, Tex Ritter, Stan Freberg and countless others. Privately printed in Canada, the book is not generally available in the USA at this time, but can be procured by sending a money order for $26 (that includes shipping) to Walt Mitchell, PO Box 201, Oriskany, NY 13424-0201.
Last Reply: 2012-07-13 09:45:38
From: Dr. Demento
My Name's On Jeopardy, baby
I'm told there will be a clue about me on tonight's Jeopardy (Wednesday, May 16).
Last Reply: 2012-05-24 00:11:02
From: Dr. Demento
Dr. Demento Meets the Beach Boys
New to the streaming shows at www.drdemento.com is an unreleased hour-long interview with the Beach Boys, which I conducted in July 1973 while working for Warner Bros. Records (my day job for most of the 1970s). This was a few months after the release of the Beach Boys' "Holland" album.
This is not a comedy program. Instead I'm in my earlier persona as a rock 'n roll historian and commentator, which is how I was known before the Dr. Demento Show really took off (which was just about to happen at the time of this interview; the show went national eleven months later).
In the 1970s, Warner Bros. periodically produced hour-long radio specials, each one presenting a conversation with a Warner Bros. artist and tracks from their albums. This was intended to be part of that series. (Many of them were pressed up on LP's with red labels, which sometimes show up on eBay). For reasons unknown, this one was never released. A tape copy of the interview has survived, however, along with notes showing which songs were to be inserted and where.
Our official historian/archivist Jeff Morris has reconstructed the program, and we're happy to make it available for the first time anywhere.
The interview features Mike Love, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine, and Ricky Fataar. (Fataar was only with the group for a short time, so this is a rare opportunity to hear him).
The Beach Boys discuss the origins of the group, "Pet Sounds" and their other great albums, and the unresolved status of Brian Wilson, who had ceased performing with the group but was still considered a member. They talk about their decision to relocate back to the USA after "Holland," the new studios they were building, the live album they were working on (which would be released at the end of the year,) and their individual projects. Mike Love describes a song he was working on, quoting some of the lyrics (as it turned out the song was never released). There's also a discussion of the "Smile" album in which the group categorically denies the story, widely believed at the time, that Brian Wilson had destroyed the master tapes. That would undoubtedly have made some news if the interview had been broadcast in 1973.
After the hour-long finished program, you can hear some more very interesting conversation that was trimmed from the original interview due to time limitations. The Beach Boys discuss artists they've worked with. Among them are Daryl Dragon and Toni (Shears) Tennille, who would become well known a couple of years later as The Captain and Tennille. Also discussed are such things as the making of the Beach Boys Party album, the group's work with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and advanced stereophonic recording techniques.
Last Reply: 2012-04-30 18:13:19
From: Dr. Demento
R.I.P. Dick Clark
R.I.P. Dick Clark
The world's oldest teenager is dead, and we're all a little older.
Like a couple million other 1950s teenagers, I'd rush home from school to tune in "American Bandstand," the TV show where Clark would spin current hit records (sometimes lip-sync'd by the artists) and Philadelphia teenagers would show off their dance moves on screen.
In my bedroom I had a TV. Kind of unusual in those days…only rich families had more than one TV. Mine was a late 1940s model, salvaged from a neighbor's garage. It had a round screen, about 7" in diameter. It'd probably be worth some bucks today. But I never watched those Bandstand dancers. I couldn't – the picture tube on that ancient TV was blown when I got it. However, the sound worked fine, and I soon realized that when I taped the hits off Bandstand on my Ekotape reel-to-reel, the tapes came out better than the ones from our local AM stations. (FM stations never played Top 40 hits in those days).
In the fall of 1957 I began spinning records for the sock hops at my high school, held in the gym on Friday nights after football or basketball games. I'd augment my record collection with songs I'd taped off the radio, and American Bandstand. One Thursday afternoon, I heard Dick Clark say that on the next afternoon's show he'd have a new single by Elvis Presley. With a sock hop scheduled for that evening, I made extra sure to be home for Bandstand the next day, and had the Ekotape running when the show started. Sure enough, Dick played that new single, which turned out to be "Jailhouse Rock."
I headed back to school, connected my Ekotape to the gym's P.A. system, and waited impatiently for the football game to end. About a half hour after the students arrived at the gym, the time seemed just right, and I cued up my precious tape. The opening chords rang out, and when Elvis began to sing, every girl in the gym screamed (probably some of the guys too). EEEEELLLLLL-VIIIIIIS!!!
That moment gave me an amazing feeling of power…a transcendent moment for a kid who'd always been something of a wallflower in school. Right then and there I felt it might be real rewarding to be a disc jockey. It was quite a while before that actually came to pass, but every now and then I look to the sky and thank Elvis – and now Dick Clark – for that moment.
Last Reply: 2012-04-30 18:17:40
From: Dr. Demento
More about DeepSouthCon 50
As I've mentioned here and on the show, I'll be appearing at DeepSouthCon50 in Huntsville, Alabama, June 15-17, 2012.
I'll be presenting at least one program (probably my Greatest Hits), signing autographs, posing for pictures, and generally getting demented...and enjoying the convention's great lineup of funny music performers, including Danny Birt, Devo Spice, Steve Goodie, the great Luke Ski, Nuclear Bubble Wrap, Power Salad, Carla Ulbrich and Worm Quartet, all of who you've heard on our show.
We will also be presenting the second annual Logan Awards at DeepSouthCon. Named in honor of the late Logan Whitehurst ("The Robot Cat"), these awards will honor the best original comedy songs, song parodies and comedy music videos of 2011.
For more info about DeepSouthCon50 please visit the web site. See you there!
Last Reply: 2012-04-18 21:58:01
From: Dr. Demento
Dr. Demento's Hip-Hop Hour
Our newest show features more than an hour of hip-hop music. It's not the first time I've featured rap music as a topic, but it is the first time since 1997, and the first time I've featured mainstream hip-hop instead of just songs that were created for comedy connoisseurs like the listeners to our show. ("Rap music" is almost, but not quite, a synonym for hip-hop – Wikipedia sorts out the difference between the two terms fairly well, so I won't belabor that here).
A lot of hip-hop is deadly serious. It is often misogynistic and/or violent in its subject matter. However, there's also a lot of totally hilarious hip-hop. It's full of amazingly clever and skillful wordplay. Rappers make very funny comments about such things as pop culture, bodily functions, and other rappers. The instrumental accompaniment, often rudimentary and repetitive in the early years of the movement, can now be as inventive and skillfully executed as anything in rock music, if not more so.
As I point out on this week's show, the main reason I haven't played more mainstream hip-hop in the past has to do with the way my show was distributed. During the last 15 years or so that the Dr. Demento Show was on FM radio, most of our outlets were "classic rock" stations. These stations generally play a limited rotating selection of the songs that were most popular on rock radio stations of the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Since the Dr. Demento Show was often a regular feature on those rock stations back then, it fit nicely enough into the classic rock format as a weekly diversion.
I'm still very grateful to the classic rock stations that carried my show in the 1990s and 2000s. However, the classic rock format lacked the sense of adventure and exploration that marked the best rock stations in the days when Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, Hendrix and Springsteen were pushing the boundaries. The classic rock format was driven by research, which included elaborate surveys to find out exactly which songs the format's intended audience (generally males from around 25 into their 50s) liked the most. Formula classic rock stations then played those songs repeatedly, and nothing else.
Research also found that these kinds of listeners often had a deep distaste for certain forms of music. Classic rock listeners tended to greatly dislike hip-hop music in particular. Without getting into the sociological implications of that, we all know people who venerate Hendrix and Springsteen but go ballistic over hip-hop's perceived lack of melody and harmony, its harsh and abrasive sound (especially those subwoofer bass tones that disturb the peace at stoplights) and its seemingly aggressive and/or incomprehensible lyrics.
To stay in the good graces of the classic rock program directors whose support was crucial to the survival of the show in the 1990s and 2000s, I left most mainstream hip-hop alone. Meanwhile, Devo Spice (aka Sudden Death) and The Great Luke Ski, who along with a few others produced tracks with hip-hop musical style (often parodies of actual hip-hop hits) but with appealing comedy lyrics about Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, malfunctioning cell phones or the minor infirmities of middle age. Our listeners requested those songs often, and I was happy to oblige.
This week's show mixes established Dr. Demento Show favorites with choices from the hip-hop mainstream, or maelstrom if you prefer. A big tip of my top-hat to Luke Ski who talked me into this, and sent me CD-R's of his favorites along with extensive notes about them, and also to Devo Spice who suggested several more excellent choices.
I still wouldn't say mainstream hip-hop is my very favorite music, but wonderful things are being done in that area and I can't ignore them. This show barely scratched the surface, and I look forward to doing this again, with different songs, in the not too far distant future. Please – let me know what you thought of this, and if you have some special favorites I didn't get to, use the "Request a Song" feature on the home page.
Last Reply: 2012-04-16 07:41:57
From: Dr. Demento
Peter Bergman (corrected version)
From: Dr. Demento
As you have probably heard, Peter Bergman of Firesign Theatre died on March 9, from complications of leukemia. He was diagnosed with the disease last fall, but it did not go into acute state until a few days ago, and he did not choose to tell the world about it.
For anyone who went to college in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Firesign Theatre's first four albums, "Waiting for the Electrician, or Someone Like Him" (1968), "How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All" (1969), "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers" (1970) and "I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus" (1971) were as much a part of college education as draft deferments. Inspired by 1940s radio dramas on the one hand, and bootleg tapes of Britain's "Goon Show" on the other, Firesign Theatre created anachronistic, anarchic theatre of the mind, using the most advanced studio techniques available.
I never played a lot of Firesign on my show, because their twenty-minute sketches didn't quite fit in with the short attention span theater that my show evolved into (well before someone else started using that name on TV)…but I jumped at the chance to interview them on the show, and did so three times, in 1979, 1986 and 1998.
Peter Bergman and his fellow Firesign Phil Proctor performed and recorded as a duo on and off in the 1970s and 1980s (Proctor and Bergman), and I interviewed them in 1978. A year earlier, I went to see a Spike Jones Jr. performance at the Comedy Store on the Sunset Strip, and sat next to Peter and Phil. We got to talking about management, and they put me in touch with an agent who wound up putting together the deal that established my show on the Westwood One Radio Network for the next fourteen years.
I'll have a little more to say on the March 17 show. Thanks for everything, Peter, and rest in peace.
Last Reply: 2012-03-13 16:45:45
From: Dr. Demento
Frank Fairfield at the Museum of Jurassic Technology
I went to an exciting concert last Sunday. As I've mentioned I have other musical passions aside from funny stuff, and one of them is American traditional folk music (or indigenous music, to use the preferred scholarly phrase these days).
Frank Fairfield is a 24-year-old singer, fiddler, guitarist and banjo player who grew up somewhere near Fresno (more specific info is a bit hard to come by). He grew up obsessed with fiddle, guitar and banjo music on records made by Southern musicians in the 1920s, and somehow learned to play all three instruments splendidly, just the way they did back then. (For example, he holds his fiddle against his chest, not under his chin in the classical manner). Listening to him, you can easily forget that anything that happened in country music after 1920 – singing cowboys, Western swing, the Nashville Sound -- ever happened at all. Yet he never sounds exactly like anyone on an old record...it's his own style, especially his understated singing. It took me a couple of listens to one of his CDs before I quite got it, but it’s magical.
A few years ago Frank was discovered busking on the streets of Hollywood. This quickly led to numerous club gigs, a tour opening for Fleet Foxes, shows in Europe and Australia, and two CD's (the more recent one produced by Michael Kieffer, who was "Musical Mike" on the Dr. Demento Show before he became an accomplished engineer and a world-class record collector).
The concert last Sunday was in a venue that's very noteworthy in itself (some might even say it's Demented). It was at the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City (just a few blocks from PO Box 884). The name may mislead some – there are no dinosaurs here – but it somehow makes sense. This small privately-owned museum is devoted to the varied obsessions of human eccentrics. Once inside its honeycomb of tiny, hushed, dimly lit spaces, you're a world away from busy Venice Blvd. outside. There are mosaics made from individual scales from butterfly wings, visible only under a microscope. There are photographs and artifacts from house trailers built before WWII. There is an exhibit of artworks made from dice. There is a library of books about Napoleon...and a dozen or so varied and wondrous exhibits. The museum has a web site at www.mjt.org.
Upstairs, along with more exhibits, is a room where tea and cookies are served, and an open-air performance space, decorated like some kind of Moorish villa. It seats about 30, with some standing room. That's where I heard Frank's concert. It was like hearing Frank casually playing a few old tunes for friends and family. Afterward I got to meet him. Wearing a jacket and tie for the concert, he's very polite and softspoken, and seemed genuinely embarrassed when I asked him to sign my CD. He collects 78 rpm records, like I do. He had to get ready for the next sold-out show, but I look forward to talking records with him someday soon. Check out Frank's CD on the Tompkins Square label (http://www.tompkinssquare.com) – and if you're in Southern California, the Museum of Jurassic Technology is definitely worth a visit (check the web site for its limited opening hours).
Last Reply: 2012-02-28 14:24:50
From: Dr. Demento
First, a correction: in the intro to the bonus track for the 2-18-12 show, I say that the book Uncle Tom's Cabin was published in 1952. I mis-read my notes; the year was, of course, 1852.
I've been playing "party records" almost since the Dr. Demento Show began. These records of risqué songs and titillating comedy bits were virtually never played on radio when they were new. They were called "party records" because people generally heard them for the first time at each other's parties, not on radio. They were considered pornographic, or nearly so, in the 1930s and 40s. However, the broadminded free-form FM stations where my show began in the early 1970s had no problem with them, as long as they didn't use the forbidden "seven words," which most of them did not. Old party records like "Davy's Dinghy," "The Freckle Song" and especially "Shaving Cream" were among the most popular things I played for many years. They were relatively easy to find in the 1970s, and I collected hundreds of them.
I don't think I'd ever featured "party records" as a special topic before, however. I already knew a fair amount about them, but learned quite a bit more in the process of researching this segment, which wound up being structured a little more like one of my college lectures than like my usual shows. (No background music, for one thing).
The party record business began in 1933, at the very bottom of the Great Depression. Before that, the record business had been very strait-laced, with rare exceptions. The first party records were made for the only people that still had money, the "one percent" of their day, and featured entertainers from some of the posher nightclubs of Manhattan, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. Most of them were on small independent labels (which usually contracted with one of the major labels for pressing, and sometimes studio facilities). The openly gay entertainers Ray Bourbon and Bruz Fletcher were among the early stars of the party record genre. By the mid-1930s party records with an earthier flavor took their place alongside the café society entertainers, especially the products of the somewhat mysterious Los Angeles indie label Hot Shots from Hollywood (re-named Hollywood Hot Shots), and self-released records by the intrepid Brooklyn DIY artist Benny Bell.
In the 1940s the party record business simultaneously went in two different directions: more sophisticated releases packaged in attractive albums, which found their way into some of the more adventurous mainstream record stores (but still not onto radio playlists), and earthier products sold under the counter along with stag films and pornographic literature. The latter category included two hot sellers which were bootlegged time and again ("Uncle Tom's Cabin" and the still highly amusing "Crepitation (i.e. farting) Contest.") Hollywood Hot Shots releases from the 1930s were also widely bootlegged, the originals having been unavailable since that label abruptly shut down about 1937.
The under-the-counter side of the business faded away in the 1950s. Ruth Wallis remained popular, as did a few other stars from the 1940s and earlier. The big new star of party records was Redd Foxx. His early records were released on singles, like party records always had been, but his big sales were on LP's. They cost almost nothing to make and sold in the hundreds of thousands. By 1960 there were nine Redd Foxx LP's available. (Yes, the same Redd Foxx who starred in Sanford and Son.)
Redd Foxx's success led to huge careers for other black comedians like Moms Mabley, Pigmeat Markham, Rudy Ray Moore and especially Richard Pryor, who took things to a whole new level. By 1970 the old language taboos were fading, and records by Pryor (and George Carlin) could be sold in mainstream record stores almost everywhere. The party record business as a separate entity ceased to exist...but just as that was happening, dozens of old party platters were finding new life on the Dr. Demento Show...especially "Shaving Cream," which made the Billboard pop charts in 1975.
There are far more wonderful party records than I had time for on this show...I didn't get into the 1960s Southern-style records by Jeb and Cousin Easy, for instance. Do let me know what you'd like to hear next time.
Thanks to Edwin Harvey Jr. for suggesting this topic. Lots more info on party records of the 78 rpm era can be found on the David Diehl's "Blue Pages" website.
Last Reply: 2012-02-25 10:28:42
From: Dr. Demento
Spike Jones centennial salute, with Dr D in person
Here are the details: http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=j48nlwbab&v=001C8QXJYUMj5doYpC6kuEZi6GC-veSNFZdYNr54Ah-K4ISRlW0EHla6Ps9BtOZmbmLPkB3M2OKGQUZJui4c6tx-2eCBKXaArKeFvSYPHqDR0Z7CAERXaM_PQ==
Last Reply: 2012-02-10 09:04:47
From: Dr. Demento
A little more about Johnny Otis
Johnny Otis, a Greek-American, grew up in an African-American neighborhood in Berkeley and always felt most at home in black communities. A drummer, singer and bandleader, his recording career began in the mid-1940s; his first hit was a big band version of "Harlem Nocturne." His biggest record hit, "Willie and the Hand Jive," came in 1958, but that was just one of hundreds of great records over a nearly 50-year span. His records ranged from an album based on highly explicit African-American folk humor, released under the name of "Snatch and the Poontangs" (we have a track from that on the show) to gospel music; in the 1980s and 90s he pastored churches in both Northern and Southern California. There's a nice biography of Johnny called "Midnight at the Barrelhouse" by George Lipsitz. Johnny also wrote two books himself, ran an organic farm, marketed his own brand of apple juice, was chief of staff for a U.S. Congressman…that man knew no limits! I just realized that on the show I forgot to mention his paintings.
On Saturday's show: songs that ask questions, from "Who Put the Benzedrine In Mrs. Murphy's Ovaltine" to "What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?" A tip of my top hat to Johnny Heering for suggesting that topic.
Last Reply: 2012-02-08 19:20:39
From: Dr. Demento
That Was The Month That Was
It's been a busy January. I made another visit to my alma mater, Reed College. Had a great time, and people seemed to enjoy my talks about the Beatles, protest songs, and Dr D's Greatest Hits (with video of Fish Heads, Zappa, Lehrer, Weird Al, and lots more). You can see my rendition of "Shaving Cream" on YouTube (the link is in a reply to my previous post, thanks M. Lestatkatt!) However, the video is missing the verse I sang as an encore, which went something like
I studied so hard at Reed College
I just did not know when to quit
I learned so darn much at Reed College
My brain nearly turned into…
a finely tuned organ of dazzing intellect, superbly prepared for grad school
and all life had to offer. I love Reed, wonderful to be here, thank you for coming
and you’ll always look keen!
Which pretty much sums up how I feel about the place where I made my radio debut (on the 10-watt campus FM station, which like our own show has now migrated to cyberspace).
The Beatles talk was about the music they listened to when they were growing up, and how it influenced them. They heard and treasured all the American rock 'n roll hits of the 1950s, of course, but they also knew, and often covered in their early days, such pop standards as "September In the Rain," "Falling In Love Again," "The Shiek of Araby" and even Fats Waller's "Your Feet's Too Big." Working with George Martin further expanded their horizons. What made their music special was the unique blend of their voices, evident even in their earliest scraps of tape, and their songwriting which took longer to develop. I'm amazed at how much today's college students appreciate 50-year-old music – that was not the case when I was a student!
The protest song talk was subtitled "What Occupy needs is a hit song." Occupy gatherings often have singing, and you can find quite a bit of it on YouTube, but the movement doesn't yet have a theme song, like "We Shall Overcome" for the civil rights movement. It doesn't have (so far, anyway) a Woody Guthrie, a young Pete Seeger or a young Dylan. If the Occupy movement had that, it might actually change the course of this country. Just a thought.
I got home and launched into the next show, which went online January 28. It wasn't finished until the morning of the 27th! We used to have a three-week "lead time" for the network show in the 1980s, when it had to be pressed on LP records and snail-mailed to the affiliate stations.
Along with the first Top Ten of 2012, with some great new songs, that show features an all-too-brief tribute to the three R&B stars we lost in the preceding few days: Etta James, Johnny Otis and Jimmy Castor. Johnny Otis' passing hit me especially hard: he was a colleague of mine at KPPC-FM in Pasadena, where the Dr. Demento Show began in 1970-71. When Sue and I were married, Johnny and his band played at our wedding reception. People danced so hard that two of our friends had to go to the emergency room!
Last Reply: 2012-02-02 19:04:08
From: Dr. Demento
Correction - re Reed College appearances
I've been informed that Reed is charging $5 admission for the general public (i.e. people who aren't Reed students, faculty or staff).
Everything else remains the same.
Last Reply: 2012-01-24 20:28:13
From: Dr. Demento
Sorry I haven’t written for awhile...but I'd like to tie up a few loose ends regarding the 2011 Funny 25.
My scalpel slipped a bit when it came to song #23. "L.A. Dream" by Henry Phillips is number 23. That's the way it's listed, and that's the way it is...but on the actual show I played another song by Henry instead. Just a little slip of the Doctor's scalpel there. To confirm, "L.A. Dream" is #23 on the Funny 25.
Second, listener Lester Norton, who for the past few years has kept a list of the all time top songs on this show, as measured by combining all our different year-end countdowns together, has confirmed that with the 2011 countdown, "Fish Heads" has pulled back out ahead of "Dead Puppies" by a nose as the number one song of all time. (Do fish heads have noses?) Congratulations Barnes & Barnes!
As the Funny 25 show drew nearer, I did notice a bit of ballot box stuffing on our Request a Song page. Naughty naughty! I really do want to keep the process of requesting a song as simple as possible. However, the way the page was set up, it was ridiculously easy to stuff the ballot box without fear of detection. That's why I'm now encouraging people who request songs to enter email addresses.
From now on, you can still request a song without entering your email address. I will take careful note of the request, and if it's appropriate and I haven't just played it recently, it's got a good chance of being heard on the show soon. However, entering your email address does give the request more credence, like you're willing to stand up and tell me you really like that song. I promise, promise, promise, that I won't actually use these addresses for anything except maybe asking you a question about the request, or maybe letting you know when it's going to be played. If you don't want your real name announced on the show, just enter a pseudonym under "Name".
Do keep those requests coming! I've got thousands of songs here just waiting for you to let me know which ones you'd really, or even just kinda, want to hear.
Last Reply: 2012-01-11 03:34:07
From: Dr. Demento
Dr. Demento Speaks in Portland, OR
Once again I'll be giving some talks this month at my alma mater, Reed College in Portland, OR.
Thursday, January 19 - Here, There and Everywhere: Where the Beatles' music came from. We'll listen to the skiffle, R&B and pop sounds the Beatles grew up with, and learn how they influenced and inspired the Fab Four to create their own wondrous music.
Friday, January 20 - A Century of Protest Songs: What Occupy USA needs is a hit song. We'll hear a few new songs from the movement, along with memorable songs from protest movements through the years. Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Lead Belly, Tom Waits, Gil Scott-Heron, many others.
Saturday, January 21 - Dr. Demento's Greatest Hits: Weird Al, Frank Zappa, Tom Lehrer, "Fish Heads" and more, in audio and video. Dr. Demento, radio's king of funny songs, tells the stories behind the songs, and how his radio career began right there at Reed.
All events will be at 8 PM, at Vollum Lecture Hall on the Reed campus on S.E. Woodstock Blvd. The events are open to the public and admission is free. Park in the east lot off Woodstock Blvd.
Last Reply: 2012-01-11 19:47:35
From: Dr. Demento
Still More Christmas (and Chanukah!)
Two songs I received on tape in the late 1970s heralded a new direction in holiday humor. "Open Me First" by Ogden Edsl (1978) was about a puppy wrapped in a Christmas gift package without the benefit of ventilation. "Santa Claus Is Dead" by Don Noon (1979) needs no explanation.
People who write funny songs often try to come up with something that will surprise as well as amuse listeners. The introduction of dark and gruesome images into the holiday song genre, always known for sweetness, light, comfort and joy, had considerable surprise value. Shock value, even. Both of these songs brought negative comments, along with a good many requests to hear them again.
That was also around the time when people started laughing at horror movies, especially the really gruesome parts. "I Found The Brains of Santa Claus" by Jason and the Straptones (1982), sung to an irrepressibly cheerful tune, has remained a favorite ever since.
In 1986, "Weird Al" Yankovic answered his record label's request for a holiday song with "Christmas At Ground Zero." Inspired not by B-movies but by daily news headlines, this rivaled "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" on our holiday request lines for the rest of the Eighties.
Horror movie imagery was front and center in Al's second holiday song, "The Night Santa Went Crazy" (1996). After writing it, Al had second thoughts about all the blood and gore, and the version on the Bad Hair Day CD was toned down somewhat. After he let the original lyrics escape as a CD single bonus track, our listeners were unanimous in preferring that "extra gory version," which reigned over our holiday festivities for the next decade.
Fart humor was huge in the late 1990s, and some of that gas escaped into the holiday season, as I received (and occasionally played) a half dozen CD's of fart sounds contorted into Christmas carols, sometimes using similar technology to the Jingle Cats and their fellow caroling critters.
When one considers mainstream success along with popularity on our show, the king of Christmas novelty music over the past quarter century has to be Bob Rivers. Twisted Christmas, released in 1987 by the veteran Seattle morning radio entertainer, has to be, cut for cut, the best holiday comedy music album ever. Twenty-four years after its release, the opening track "The Twelve Pains of Christmas" was still (as of 12-22-11) the top-ranked Christmas comedy single on iTunes. Rivers followed this up with four more holiday CD's, containing such perennial delights as "I Am Santa Claus" (a parody of "Iron Man"), "Walkin' Round In Women’s Underwear" and "Chipmunks Roasting On an Open Fire."
Actually, the #1 holiday comedy song these days is not a Christmas song, but "The Chanukah Song" by Adam Sandler. It is not, of course, all that new, having been introduced on Saturday Night Live in 1994. Sandler has since recorded two updates, but the original is still the funniest. As of 12-22-11 it tops the iTunes comedy singles list. Along with a cover by Neil Diamond, it has inspired several parodies, including one about how tired people are of "The Chanukah Song." Regardless, we still get requests for it every year.
Hanukkah songs had been around for centuries, of course, but few secular ones. My sidekick SuLu wrote and sang one that was heard on the show in 1977. The first Hanukkah novelty released on records, as far as I know, was "Hanukkah Rocks" by Gefilte Joe and the Fish, released in 1981. (The Hanukkah songs written by the great folksinger Woody Guthrie in the 1940s, after he married into a Jewish family, were only recently rediscovered and recorded). Now there are lots and lots of Hanukkah comedy songs, ranging from lighthearted musings on how to spell the name of the holiday and how to figure out when it occurs each year, to the edgy "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel" from the South Park holiday album Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics. New this year is Latkes, Smatkes! Comedy songs for Chanukah by Lauren Mayer.
Do let me know what you thought of the holiday shows this year, and what you might like to see included (or not included) next time around!
Last Reply: 2012-01-06 17:11:06
From: Dr. Demento
Rhino Discontinues More Dr. Demento CD's
Rhino Records has been severely trimming its CD catalog lately. This unfortunately includes most of the Dr. Demento releases that haven’t been discontinued previously. Newly deleted CD’s include The Very Best of Dr. Demento and my two Christmas CD’s,
Dr. Demento Presents The Greatest Christmas Novelty CD of All Time and its sequel Holidays In Dementia. The Demento Society has just a handful of Very Best remaining, and expect to receive a very few copies of the Christmas CD’s in a week or two. If you ever wanted any of these, best to order immediately!
Dr. Demento’s 20th Anniversary Collection, my best-seller (certified gold by the RIAA) will remain in print, at least for now.
Last Reply: 2012-01-10 20:27:51
From: Dr. Demento
Christmas – continued
Forgot to mention The Singing Dogs last time. Recorded in 1955 in Denmark, and painstakingly assembled, bark by bark, with splicing tape, their rendition of "Jingle Bells" has reappeared almost every Christmas ever since. It seemed to get more popular as the years went by. By 1991 similar records could be produced with much less effort, thanks to sampling synthesizers, and that year brought us the highly successful Jingle Cats from producer Mike Spalla. Since then we've had Christmas CD's featuring singing cows, chickens, ducks and babies, not to mention Spalla's Jingle Dogs. (I was expecting more of the same when a CD called Christmas Is All It’s Quacked Up To Be by The Waddles arrived this year, but it turned out to be a human singing holiday standards in a Donald Duck voice).
"The Chipmunk Song" was followed by several shameless knockoffs, including "The Happy Reindeer" by Dancer, Prancer and Nervous and "The Doctor and the Monks" by the Tip Top Band. More notable were a couple of later releases – a cover of the original Chipmunk song by The Whales, in which the voices are slowed down instead of sped up, and a remake by the Chipmunks themselves together with the very popular blues-boogie band Canned Heat, who happened to be on the same record label. My dear friend Alan Wilson, who sang on Canned Heat’s hits "On The Road Again" and "Goin’ Up The Country," called me after the session, quite excited after watching David Seville (Ross Bagdasarian) record the voices of Alvin, Theodore and Simon at normal speed. Alan much admired the way Bagdasarian subtly altered his vowels and consonants so that the lyrics would be clearly intelligible when sped up.
The Chipmunks eventually became a dynasty, making millions for Ross Bagdasarian Jr. who revived the act after his father's death. None of the countless Christmas novelty records released in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s came close to matching the Chipmunks' success, but a few do stand out. Allan Sherman's "The Twelve Gifts of Christmas" (1963) is still hilarious, even if there aren’t many Japanese transistor radios under today's Christmas trees. "Santa Claus And His Old Lady" by Cheech & Chong (1971) became an FM rock radio perennial. (I helped out a bit on that one; producer Lou Adler asked me to lend him a few Christmas records to play for the artists. One of those was "Donde Esta Santa Claus" by boy soprano Augie Rios, which Cheech & Chong quote at the start of their record).
Whereas "The Chipmunk Song" was an instantaneous smash, the biggest Christmas novelty song since then took a few years to hit its peak. Randy Brooks, a part-time songwriter from Louisville who is the nephew of comedian Foster Brooks, wrote it about 1977. The following year he was appearing at a club in Lake Tahoe, and Northern California husband-and-wife duo Elmo and Patsy, entertaining at the same club, heard it and asked Brooks for a tape. Elmo and Patsy recorded it and released a 45 on their own label in 1979. It was played by a San Francisco DJ and soon sold out at local record stores. I believe I was the first to give the song national airplay, on my December 16, 1979 show. It was by far our most requested Christmas song of the 1980s.
The original version, re-pressed on Oink Records, sold more and more each year. In 1984 Epic Records re-recorded and re-released the song, and it was then that it made its way into the mainstream. The Epic version is mostly similar to the original, with two noticeable differences: a piano is added to the accompaniment, and when Elmo asks the question "Should we open up her gifts or send them back" voices answer "Send them back!" I always liked it better with the question left unanswered, and was a bit disappointed when the only version we could license for my Rhino CD Dr. Demento Presents The Greatest Christmas Novelty CD of All Time was the Epic re-make. (To be continued)
Last Reply: 2012-02-12 22:14:21
From: Dr. Demento
Our Christmas shows are completed for another year. Always fun to hear all those songs that normally don't get played at other times of the year.
There are a whole lot to choose from, of course! (If I didn't get to all of your favorites this year, look for them on the many earlier Christmas shows available on our web site. Visit the Demented Music Database and use the playlist search engine).
Songs about the birth of Jesus have been around for centuries, but secular Christmas songs are a relatively recent phenomenon. Aside from "Jingle Bells" (1857), which never actually mentions Christmas, the earliest one to become a hit was "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," published in 1934. In 1941 Irving Berlin wrote "White Christmas"; Bing Crosby’s version, first recorded in May 1942, became the best-selling record of all time.
"White Christmas" is not, of course, a novelty song.* The era of novelty Christmas songs began in earnest in the late 1940s. "Here Comes Santa Claus" by Gene Autry (1947) brightened my childhood, but it was "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" by Spike Jones and his City Slickers, featuring trumpeter George Rock's wonderful little kid voice, that truly set off a holiday laugh riot when it was released in 1948. "I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas" by Yogi Yorgesson made the national Top Five in 1949, the first Christmas song to humorously mention drinking and disorderly conduct at a holiday celebration.
"I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" (which my own mother despised) and "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas" followed in the early 1950s. By mid-decade there were dozens of new secular Christmas songs released every year, humorous and otherwise, each one striving for not just temporary notoriety but the potential for fresh customers every Christmas for years to come.
Customers! Presents! Money! Only seven shopping days till Christmas! Buy! Buy! Buy! By the mid-1950s it seemed that was what Christmas was all about. Tom Lehrer was the first to look askance at all that, writing "A Christmas Carol" in 1954. That wasn't released on records until 1959, but in the meantime (1958) Stan Freberg wrote and released "Green Christmas," which very explicitly condemned the commercialization of Christmas. Freberg's record, widely condemned as being sacrilegious, was anything but. At the end of the record he makes his feelings crystal clear, even though he has to take a bit of the edge off his satire to do so. (Ironically, not long after its release, Freberg began phasing out his recording career to concentrate on advertising...but he never, to my knowledge, made specifically Christmas-oriented ads).
"Green Christmas" was a hit, despite its lack of airplay...but the biggest novelty hit of that Christmas, or any Christmas, was "The Chipmunk Song" by David Seville and The Chipmunks. What people noticed about that was the sped-up voices and the funny dialogue, but the lyrics are also worth noting. Totally centered around the furry rodents' craving for presents, as if nothing else about Christmas was worth bothering about, one could say it validated Lehrer's and Freberg's unease about the way the holiday celebrations were evolving.
(To be continued).
*Despite the presence of Spike Jones as a virtually inaudible studio drummer on the original 1942 recording, which is rarely heard today, having been replaced by a very similar but Spike-less remake in 1947.
Last Reply: 2011-12-22 07:26:49
From: Dr. Demento
new holiday show online **tonight**!
We're making our third holiday show of 2011 available tonight (midnight Pacific, 3AM Wed. Eastern). This is the kid-friendly show -- no nasty words or dismembered Santas! I wanted to give everybody a chance to play it at a convenient time...one less thing to worry about on Christmas Eve.
The Funny 25 show will go up at the normal time, early on December 31.
Happy, safe and demented holidays, everyone!
Be the first to comment!
From: Dr. Demento
Happy 100th Birthday, Spike Jones
The man who turned the novelty record into an art form...creating masterpieces in which every moment of apparent chaos is carefully, painstakingly designed for maximum humor and excitement...Lindley Armstrong "Spike" Jones was born 100 years ago today, December 14, 1911, in Long Beach, California.
Last Reply: 2011-12-20 18:09:04
From: Dr. Demento
Geoff Cooper (R.I.P.) and the Roto Rooter Goodtime Christmas Band
One Sunday evening in the late summer of 1973, I was doing my live show on KMET in Los Angeles (that was before the show went national). Captain Chaos and Jungle Judy were answering the phones for me when the Captain announced "There's this guy on the phone who says he has Napoleon XIV with him!" I picked up the call, and was quickly introduced to Jerry Samuels, who is indeed the creator of "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-haaa!" Just another amazing little moment in the history of the Dr. Demento Show.
The guy who made the call was an amazing fellow himself. It was the late Geoff Cooper, who died on November 28 at 65. After I spoke with Jerry, Geoff got back on the phone and told me about the band he was in, the Roto Rooter Goodtime Christmas Band. He asked me if I'd like to come to his place and meet Jerry and hear some music by the band.
I didn't normally play unreleased music on the show at that time...station management was worried about lawsuits and such. But the chance to meet Jerry was a temptation I could not refuse. I went to Geoff's place, met Jerry, and heard some tapes of the Roto Rooter band's irresistible music. On my next show, lawyers be damned, I played the band's brilliant rendition of "March of the Cuckoos," the Laurel & Hardy theme.
That opened the door for a whole lot more unsigned artists, including, eventually, "Weird Al" Yankovic. But in the meantime I became a rabid fan of the Roto Rooter band, catching as many of their shows as I could. I'd often act as a quasi-M.C., and eventually made them the guest stars on my own shows. After the network show began we did some out of town shows as well, as far away as Seattle.
The Roto Rooter band was no ordinary group. The members met while playing brass, saxes and drums in the UCLA marching band, which connived to get Geoff selected as UCLA's head cheerleader. (His long hair and hippie-ish demeanor were acutely controversial on campus). After graduation they stayed together as a sextet, playing concerts and impromptu appearances (often outdoors). Their repertoire consisted of breezy arrangements of the classics plus nostalgic tunes like "On the Good Ship Lollipop" and "Happy Trails" along with such incongruities as Jimi Hendrix' "Purple Haze."
Roto soon evolved into a nightclub/concert act with zany, elaborate staging in the Spike Jones tradition. With indoor sound systems they added such specialties as "Martian March," featuring space-age sound effects and Auf the Wally's dulcet vocals. The band was signed to Vanguard and made an album, which included their rendition of my theme song, "Pico and Sepulveda." One day they appeared at my manager's office and surprised me with a complete set of themes and jingles for my show. The opening theme from that package, an instrumental version of "Pico and Sepulveda," is still heard on every single show. It's also Roto that plays the fanfare that introduces the Top Ten, and "It's time for Number One, this is it, here it comes, Number One!"
Geoff played saxophone in the band. Like all the members he sported a crazy nickname, "Dr. Mabuse DOA." He was also the band's recording engineer deluxe. He studied TV sound production at UCLA, and spent a little time doing studio engineering in New York, which is how he met Jerry Samuels. A bit later he became an audio engineer for NBC-TV's Los Angeles studios, and remained there for a decade or so. He also recorded many live reggae performances in Jamaica for Roger Steffens' well-known radio show. After that he opened a collectors’ record shop in Burbank, named for D. B. Cooper, the storied airline hijacker (no relation). It was there that the Roto Rooter band, which had broken up in the early 1980s, held a joyful reunion in 1997, with me once again as the quasi-M.C.
Geoff did like his smokes, and he became ill with lung cancer last summer, just as the band was starting work on a comeback CD. After his passing, many warm and hilarious tales were told about him at a gathering of friends on December 3.
The Vanguard album has never appeared on CD, but something even nicer is available -- a CD of Geoff's excellent recordings of the band, including superior versions of "Pico and Sepulveda" and "The Martian March" along with "Jungle Boogie" and "The Rite of Spring" (a wondrous showcase for Geoff's sound effects). It can be found at amazon.com.
Last Reply: 2011-12-17 22:47:02
From: Dr. Demento
Dr. Demento's Blog - December 3, 2011 - Logan Whitehurst
A few words about Logan Whitehurst, who died at 29 five years ago Saturday, December 3. There is a tribute to him on the show that uploads that day.
Logan was an awesomely talented songwriter, musician and recording artist. I thought he was just getting started on a sure-to-be-brilliant career…I felt sure he’d be writing songs for major animated films before very long. Just recently, The Logan Awards were named after him. (http://www.loganawards.com/ -- click on “About Logan” to see a nice video about him.)
Logan was born in 1977 in Los Banos, California, in the northwestern part of California’s agricultural San Joaquin Valley. He grew up with his parents’ record collections; special favorites were The Beatles and Randy Newman. It was a musical family: his sister Emily, known as Agent M, was lead singer of the popular punk rock band Tsunami Bomb.
Logan graduated from Sonoma State University with a major in printmaking, and designed covers for Tsunami Bomb and other artists in addition to his own projects. After college he settled in Petaluma, California, played drums in the band Little Tin Frog, and then in The Velvet Teen with which he made two full length albums and toured nationally and in Japan. Meanwhile he began creating his own humorous, quirky music in his apartment, and recording it on four-track. He compiled his songs into albums, using the name Logan Whitehurst and the Junior Science Club. One day some friends gave him a plastic snowman, like you’d find on lawns at Christmas time. From that point on Vanilla, the Plastic Snowman was on stage at all Junior Science Club performances. He even had his own Live Journal page.
Logan made four full-length albums that were circulated on the former mp3.com before he was signed to Pandacide Records. For Pandacide he produced (with Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie) his album Goodbye, My 4-Track, which was released in 2003 and blew me away when I first heard it. I just thought it was the most imaginative, tuneful, and downright brilliant CD I’d heard from a relatively new artist in years. A month later, Logan came to L.A. (with Vanilla, of course) to promote the album and appear on my show. A portion of that interview is on the Dr. Demento Show uploading early December 3.
By that time Logan was beginning to suffer frequent bouts of nausea, which doctors were unable to explain for some time. He continued to play with The Velvet Teen until he was diagnosed with brain cancer in April 2004. Surgery was performed in May, and Logan seemed to be on a slow road to recovery. In the summer of 2006 he felt strong enough to make another Junior Science Club album. This was Very Tiny Songs, a collection of 81 short songs mostly based on ideas sent to him online by his fans. The cover has artwork by Logan illustrating every one of those songs.
As he was finishing up the album, Logan’s cancer returned. This time there was nothing that could be done, and he died on December 3rd, five years ago today. The CD was released a few weeks later.
A memorial was held that spring in Petaluma. I gave a little talk, and got to meet his family and friends, many of whom performed his songs.
Logan’s own web site can still be seen at http://www.loganwhitehurst.com/, pretty much the way he left it. His CD’s Goodbye, My 4-Track and Very Tiny Songs can be ordered from http://www.pandacide.com/store.html. His earlier songs can be heard at http://www.juniorscienceclub.com/loganarchive/.
"He was a gentle and sincere person, filled with humor and joy, amazingly gifted in all aspects of art and music, and a dear friend whom I miss terribly." –Josh Drake, head of Pandacide Records
Last Reply: 2011-12-04 07:38:25
From: Dr. Demento
Dr. Demento's Blog - November 26, 2011 - Future topics? / Benny Bell / Musical Mike
This week, along with planning our Christmas & Hanukkah celebrations, I’ll be working on our topics for early 2012. I’ll be exploring certain topics in depth as I did in 2011, but on some shows I’ll be featuring two or three topics rather than just one. There are many topics that have inspired a few great comedy songs, but not enough to fill an hour or more – bicycles and chickens come to mind. I might also have a couple of “random selection” shows like I did a few years ago.
Suggestions warmly welcomed! What topics would you like me to cover in 2012?
We explored the 1980s this year, one year at a time…would you like me to explore the 1970s, the 1990s, or years from other decades?
When you suggest a topic, feel free to suggest a few favorite songs (or a lot of them, if you like).
Use the “request a song” feature on the home page.
On this week’s show, in addition to the 1989 flashback and the November Top Ten, I play songs in memory of Gary Garcia, of Buckner & Garcia, and Lee Pockriss, hit songwriter of the 1950s and 1960s.
I also explore the history of “Sweet Violets.” It was the first hit song in the long career of Ben Samberg, better known as Benny Bell. Benny published “Sweet Violets” in 1929, and claimed to have written it as early as 1922. The title, and some of the lyrics and melody, were borrowed (perhaps unconsciously) from a song first published in 1882. What Benny added was a string of “suggestive” verses, each of which leads you to believe it will end on a certain word, often an inelegant word, but instead we jump right into the chorus. He used the same method in the 1940s for “Shaving Cream.”
Benny’s version of “Sweet Violets” became a hit in 1931, recorded by Dick Robertson (using the pseudonym Bob Dickson) and also by Joel Shaw and his orchestra, with Robertson singing, and several other artists. In 1935 the Prairie Ramblers, one of the top country groups in the USA at that time, recorded it under the pseudonym Sweet Violet Boys, and that ultimately became the best selling version. Benny did not apparently record the song himself until later; at some unknown time he overdubbed his own singing to the instrumental parts of Joel Shaw’s record. (That version is on our show for May 28, 2011).
The Shaw record is not a waltz, like the “Bob Dickson” and Prairie Ramblers records, but a lively jazz performance. Just recently, my longtime colleague “Musical Mike” Kieffer turned up a 1927 jazz record of “Sweet Violets” by Bernie Schultz and his Crescent Orchestra. None of Benny’s suggestive verses are there; only the chorus is sung, but it’s a progressive, energetic jazz performance for its time, in very fast tempo. It’s on our show for today, along with a rare recording of the waltz version by the Sons of the Pioneers, and a version of “Shaving Cream” sung by Benny Bell himself (not Paul Wynn, as on the familiar version).
More about “Sweet Violets” and Benny Bell’s whole career in the recent biography “Grandpa Had a Long One” by his grandson, Joel Samberg. It’s available at amazon.com.
A word about Mike Kieffer. I first met Mike in the early 1970s, when he was 14. He came to a record collector’s gathering and bought a few duplicate 78s from me. Eventually he started computing our year-end countdowns, and answering phones for me on our local KMET-FM show in Los Angeles. Nowadays Mike works as a scientist-engineer for a major defense contractor. He also has one of the finest 78 rpm collections on the planet, and has combined his musical and electronic knowledge to become a world-class expert in digitally restoring old records. (I cleaned up that Bernie Schultz record myself; the sound on that is not representative of what Mike could do if he spent some time on it). Mike is also a co-owner of a record label called Origin Jazz Library, which has produced magnificent CD compilations of such artists as jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke and western swing pioneer Milton Brown. Mike has also produced outstanding newly recorded CD’s by acoustic guitarist Craig Ventresco (I wrote liner notes for that CD) and, just recently, 26-year-old traditional fiddler-banjoist-guitarist-singer Frank Fairfield.
Last Reply: 2011-12-02 16:10:18
From: Dr. Demento
Dr. Demento's Blog - November 19, 2011
First, a correction: “Have a Peanut Butter Sandwich” by Art Paul Schlosser, featured in the Nov. 19 show, was released in 2001, not 1991 as I said on the show. Thanks to Edwin Harvey Jr.
Among the comments about the Nov. 12 show featuring marijuana songs (still available at www.drdemento.com, of course) was this one:
This was a very good show, Doctor. You also filled us in with behind-the-scene information, good work there. I am interested in how you were saying the network placed restrictions on your choices in this area in the past. Were there any tricks you used to get around this and were there other subjects that you had to be restricted with? –Kevin J
Kevin – thank you!
Drugs could be a very controversial subject, especially in the 1960s and 70s. Other controversial subjects include religion, race and ethnicity, and sexual orientation. I have played songs and comedy touching on all these areas, and during my 39 years in commercial radio I became highly aware of what I could get away with and what I couldn’t. These standards would change from time to time and from station to station.
However, the majority of censorship issues in radio are simply a matter of language. Long before I began my show, I knew that one was not supposed to say “fuck” on the radio, or “shit,” or various other words. George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television,” released on records in 1972, provided a handy guide, especially after the recording was played on radio and the Federal Communications Commission (more about that later) took action. There are other objectionable words Carlin didn’t mention, though (racial slurs, for instance). On the other hand, since 1972 some of those seven words have become acceptable under certain conditions. Like I said, things keep changing. Our flagship station in L.A., KMET, found “titties” permissible, though it would not allow “tits.” Then they got some complaints and said “titties” had to go. On the other hand, “fart,” which was a no-no when I started in radio, gradually became acceptable, as did “piss.” The word “ass” has several distinctly different meanings, so it’s acceptable in certain contexts but not in others.
I got to be quite an expert at bleeping those nasty words on the reel-to-reel tape we used in those days, using razor blades and splicing tape. (It’s much easier now with a computer). I came to realize that with the word “shit,” if one cuts out just the voiced vowel sound but leaves the “sh” and the “t”, it’s acceptable to many stations yet is perfectly understandable and doesn’t sound awkward. “Fuck” can be handled the same way, but being a more objectionable word in our culture, I had to bleep a little more of it, perhaps leaving the “f” or the “ck” but not both. Sometimes I used sound effects rather than bleeps; a cuckoo clock sound effect worked nicely for “titties” (in Frank Zappa’s “Titties and Beer.”)
Why are radio stations so concerned with these things? They are in business to please the public, and most stations believe that a majority of the public feels that there should be some restraint on language and subject matter in a medium that is readily accessible to children.
In addition, a commercial station has to keep its sponsors happy. Companies that sell cars, fast food, soft drinks, beer or whatever are often quite sensitive to what sort of content surrounds their commercials. Our show once lost a station affiliate in Wichita because one of their major sponsors, a car dealer, heard “Vatican Rag” on my show, and it offended the dealer’s Catholic faith.
Finally, there is the FCC. The Federal Communications Commission was originally created to keep radio stations from drowning out each other’s signals, but before long it also got involved in content. Some of the first FCC actions to restrict content came in the 1930s, when certain stations were accused of promoting racial and/or religious bigotry. The FCC continues to monitor station content, and now and then issues fines or other punishments against stations that broadcast material it considers objectionable, such as Carlin’s “Seven Words.” Under extreme circumstances the FCC has the power to take away a station’s license, worth many millions of dollars, without recompense. That hasn’t happened for many years, but even the remote possibility is a powerful tool for keeping stations in line. Adding to stations’ anxiety is the fact that the FCC has often seemed arbitrary, even capricious, in its standards for what constitutes objectional content. (The FCC does not constantly monitor stations for content, as is often believed, but acts in response to complaints from ordinary citizens).
Now, of course, I don’t have to worry about the FCC, or station owners or sponsors...that’s one big advantage of Internet radio. (There’s a new song on today’s show that I wish George Carlin were around to hear!)
Last Reply: 2011-11-21 06:39:18
From: Dr. Demento
Dr. Demento's Blog - November 13, 2011
Our latest show (uploaded 11-12-11) is a marijuana marathon – over 2 hours of songs about reefer, pot, grass, boo, doobies, the killer weed, whatever you want to call it!
When the Dr. Demento Show began in 1970, “Coming Into Los Angeles” (“bringin’ in a couple of keys”, or kilograms of weed) and “Friendly Neighborhood Narco Agent” had just come out. Major radio stations, which had let a few marijuana melodies slip by earlier in the 1960s, were feeling pressure from community leaders to come out against drugs. Fortunately, the station where I began the show, KPPC-FM in Pasadena, didn’t pay much attention to that at the time.
At first I was a lot more likely to play obscure roots music from the 1950s, but as I began taking more requests, I realized that songs about marijuana were much in demand. I especially liked coming up with songs from the 1930s like “Reefer Man,” since a lot of listeners seemed to find it incredible that anyone from their parents’ or grandparents’ generation could have enjoyed the herb that they had so recently discovered.
Marijuana was a popular song subject through the 1970s. Two very explicit songs about it, “One Toke Over the Line” and “Wildwood Weed,” hit the pop Top Ten in 1971 and 1974 as radio’s attitude relaxed a bit.
When I joined the Westwood One Radio Network in 1978, and the show was carried by radio stations all over the country, some of them highly corporate pillars of their communities, I was told I could play “one drug song per show.” I snuck an extra one in now and then, but sometimes the pendulum swung the other way. “The Smoke-Off” was immediately popular when it came out in 1978, and remained one of my most requested songs year in and year out, but some stations complained about it, and it was banned from my Westwood One show from 1985 until I left the network in 1992. (It remained a great favorite on my separate local show in Los Angeles).
There were fewer dope songs in the 1980s…weed was everywhere, and the subject may have lost its novelty appeal for awhile…but then along came Cypress Hill and Kottonmouth Kings.
There are far more reefer rhapsodies out there than I could possibly fit onto one show. On the new show I tried not to repeat too many of the songs that I played the last time I covered the subject, on the show for November 15, 2009...so if you want to hear “Wildwood Weed” or “Cruisin’ with Pedro de Pacas” be sure and check out that show here at drdemento.com. And you know what…there are still a whole lot more, and I do plan to revisit that topic in 2012.
Last Reply: 2011-11-19 10:39:21
From: Dr. Demento
Dr. Demento's Blog - November 8, 2011
Hello again! Our latest show, along with the Top Ten for October (a week late due to Halloween), also has the three winners of the first annual Logan Awards. They are truly three of the most brilliant comedy songs of 2010. The Logan Awards, the brainchild of web-comic creator and sometime comedy musician Robert Balder of thefump.com, were named in honor of the late Logan Whitehurst, who died of brain cancer in 2006 at age 29. Logan’s Goodbye, My 4-Track is in my opinion the finest comedy music CD so far in the 21st century, and his early passing was a huge loss to our culture. I will have a tribute to him on our show for December 3rd, the fifth anniversary of his death.
In other news, Dementia Central has a new roof! The studio where I produce the show and keep many of my CD’s and records sprang a small leak awhile ago, which turned into a big leak when our winter rains came early this year. Fortunately nothing important was severely damaged (except the fax machine, which isn’t used much anymore anyway) but I was very happy to be able to put everything back where it belongs after the job was finished. Anderson Roofing of Bellflower, CA did a fine job and kept disruption to a minimum.
A little Q&A…
Dr D: I heard this song on your show in 1978 or 1979, possibly 1980. It had a bluesy beat, and was sung by a man who, to my ear, sounded black. The subject of the song was throwing up; the gist of it, as well as I can recall, was this gentleman recounting all the people and things he had thrown up on. The one line I seem to recall is “I throw up all over you.” In the background, immediately after this line is sung, a woman’s voice (also black-sounding) is heard to complain, “Why you do that?” -Robert Ferguson (via email)
Robert: You have stumped me, at least for now. Can any readers help? -DrD
Dr D: I was listening to an old show that had songs on it that were a minute long or less. Supposedly they were on an album called Miniatures. There was one that I liked and have been trying to find and it was about a theater intermission if it were only a minute long. It would state the show will start in 45 seconds (ding) and had the sound of popping corn and people scuttling about then and another announcement the show will start in 30 seconds (ding). Do you remember this and is it something I can get? -Richard Alan Pennington (via email)
Richard: I’m happy to report that Miniatures, a 1980 LP compiled by Morgan Fisher, has been reissued on CD as part of a two-disc set with Miniatures Two. It is available from amazon.com and other sources. Miniatures has 51 short pieces by as many artists, famous and obscure, with music ranging from avant garde to very traditional, along with a number of humorous pieces. The one you mention (untitled, like the other tracks) is by Phantom Captain and closed the first side of the original LP. -DrD
Dr D, it seems to have been a while since a compilation has been released. Do you think downloadable music has made this more difficult? Compilations that are put together by musicologists should continue to be relevant--right? Who else is going to expose listeners to novelty music than yourself? -John
John: thanks for the good words! Downloadable music has indeed cut sharply into CD sales. I would like to produce more compilation CD’s but the finances have to make sense. I will of course continue to expose listeners to novelty music on my show, as long as I am able! -DrD
Last Reply: 2011-11-13 21:00:46
From: Dr. Demento
Dr. Demento's Blog - October 30, 2011
Happy Halloween everyone! Our second Halloween show for 2011 is now online.
A few of our best-known Halloween songs have been given a rest this year to allow for more variety, but be assured you can find “Werewolves of London,” “Nature Trail To Hell,” etc. on our many past Halloween shows available right here for streaming. Meanwhile, this week’s show has lots of your requests, some fun new things, and some oldies I just discovered or re-discovered. That seems to happen every Halloween, even after I think I’ve heard them all!
Continuing our little history of Halloween music from last time: Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell On You,” released in 1956, was the scariest song of the Fifties (or maybe any decade). It didn’t chart in 1956, though. The first big Halloween hit of the rock ‘n roll era was John Zacherle’s “Dinner with Drac”. Oddly enough, it hit the Top Ten in the spring of 1958. (Of course, Dracula is scary any time of year, and so is Frankenstein). That same spring brought us “The Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley, the fastest selling novelty 45 ever, and still a Halloween favorite, though I never thought of it as being especially scary or spooky. My pick for the most frightening 45 of 1958 is one that didn’t sell a lick: “Dead” by the Poets, five kids from Thomas Jefferson High School in L.A. It was amazingly ahead of its time, almost doo-wop rap. (We are told that Roy Ayers, the great jazz vibraphonist, was one of the Poets, who have absolutely nothing to do with The Dead Poets Society).
Over the next few years dozens more spooky songs were released on 45’s. Hundreds may be more like it – I seem to run across a few more every year that I hadn’t heard before. Of course we’ll probably never know many early 1960s novelty records there were…there’s certainly no handy discography like there is for the Beatles, for instance, or for records that made the Billboard charts, which very few of these did. “Dead Man’s Stroll” by the Revels did chart in 1959, after it was re-titled “Midnight Stroll”…and “Castin’ My Spell” by Johnny Otis, “Frankenstein of ‘59” by Buchanan and Goodman, and the original “Haunted House” by Johnny Fuller also got play that year.
I suspect much of that activity was inspired by a 1958 megahit made for another holiday, “The Chipmunk Song.” That kicked off a flood of Christmas novelty records, as seemingly every record label in the business, large and small, tried for an out-of-nowhere holiday smash with some sort of clever or would-be-clever angle on the Christmas legend. The same activity soon spilled over to Halloween, whose cast of witches, warlocks, goblins, ghouls, werewolves, vampires, zombies and other bizarre creatures were tailormade for rock ‘n roll.
Just before Halloween 1962, one of those out-of-nowhere records totally hit the jackpot: Bobby (Boris) Pickett and his “Monster Mash” on Garpax Records in 1962. (You can hear Bobby telling the story of the song’s creation on our show dated Oct. 31, 1999; a later interview with Bobby is on our show for Oct. 29, 2006. Both are available for streaming at www.drdemento.com).
A great time capsule of those years is a lamentably out-of-print CD, Monster Rock ‘n Roll Show, released by DCC Compact Classics in 1990. Compiler Alan Warner links the songs together with vintage radio ads for horror movies. While you’re trolling for that one, you might also seek out Doo-Wop Halloween Is a Scream (Wanda) which includes “Dead” by the Poets and 26 other scary melodies, most of them even more obscure!
The days of novelty 45s may be gone, but Halloween’s traditions continue to inspire the creators of funny music in today’s era of do-it-yourself Dementia. I could easily do a month’s worth of Halloween shows without repeating myself.
Have a happy, safe and demented Halloween, everyone!
Dr D - Is there any way to buy, beg, borrow, steal or download Dr D. Basement Tapes I just finished listen to #5 and #8 Basement CD tapes…. Got to find more! -chips moondogs
Chips – There are 17 Basement Tapes CD’s. Due to our contracts with the artists on the discs, we can only sell them to active members of the Demento Society. When you join, you get #17 as part of your membership kit…and then you’re able to purchase the others, for $9.95 each plus shipping. Some of the earlier ones are in very short supply, but as of now we have them all. See membership info right here at www.drdemento.com.
Last Reply: 2011-11-08 18:37:48
From: Dr. Demento
Dr. Demento's Blog - October 24, 2011
Happy Halloween everyone! The first of our two new Halloween shows for 2011 is up and ready for streaming.
I’ve had lots of fun mixing together some old favorite “spooky tunes and scary melodies”, and ghosts of Halloweens past that we haven’t heard for a long time, with some funny and exciting new stuff.
We’ll hear the Cool Ghoul, longtime TV horror movie host John Zacherle (who just celebrated his 93rd birthday). Zacherle’s late night TV screamfest inspired dozens of imitators around the country, featuring such hosts as Seymour, Elvira and one Bob Guy. Like Zacherle before him and Elvira more recently, Bob Guy made a novelty record, which was written and produced by a young Frank Zappa. We’ll hear that, along with such other collector’s items as “With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm” by Stanley Holloway, “The Loch Ness Monster” by Thurl Ravenscroft and “Little Orley and the Haunted House” by Uncle Lumpy Brannum.
When I was a little boy in Minneapolis, Trick or Treat was a big deal in our neighborhood. Several neighbors invited all the kids in to bob for apples, pin the tail on the donkey, and other amusements. Nobody had any qualms about letting us 6- and 7-year-olds roam the neighborhood on our own after dark. It was the same way in Kenilworth, Illinois, where I spent one very snowy but festive Halloween at age 8.
There weren’t many songs specifically about Halloween in those days. We heard spooky tunes from the classics – “Danse Macabre” by Saint-Saens (my third-grade teacher played a record of that in class, and told the whole story of the Dance of Death), “Night On Bald Mountain” by Moussorgsky, “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from Grieg’s Peer Gynt, and “Funeral March of a Marionette” by Gounod (best known as Alfred Hitchcock’s TV theme). And then there’s that little two-bar musical phrase that’s so often used to set a spooky mood, the one quoted at the start of Jon Schwartz’s version of “Mr. Ghost Goes to Town” (on this week’s show). Does anyone know where that originated? I wish I knew!
As long ago as the 1920s, pop singers and bands would do occasional novelty numbers about ghosts and graveyards. There are some wonderful graveyard scenes, with music to match, among Max Fleischer’s cartoons, including “Mysterious Mose” and others with Betty Boop. The theme song of that one was a hit in 1930, and Mose is of course the namesake of our worthy webmaster. In 1990 a label called Jass Records put out a fine CD of spooky jazz and swing, mostly from the 1930s. They called it Halloween Stomp, and even though there’s little if anything about Halloween in the lyrics, it’s a fitting title for a very entertaining disc. Alas, the CD is long out of print and hard to find, but a couple of tracks are on this week’s show.
Next week: rock ‘n roll Halloween.
DrD: I have never heard The Who's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde--is it demented Halloween material? Any thoughts regarding Careful with that Axe Eugene (by Pink Floyd)? […] Current popular music seems to lost its sense of humor. –John
John – Pop music took a serious turn in the early 1970s…and Pink Floyd was a big part of that. Humor has been in short supply ever since…which is one of the reasons the Dr. Demento Show took off when it did. “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” is mostly instrumental, except for some screams in the middle, which you will hear on this week’s show if you listen closely! On the other hand The Who has had its moments of levity, especially in the early going. John Entwistle’s B-side “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was part of that (along with his “Boris the Spider”). We hear both on this week’s show. I use the UK mix of “Dr. Jekyll” which is a little different from the US release.
DrD: Just wanted to say thanks for the many many years of joy your show has brought me…and now that i have found you here on the internet you can bet that my children will be listening as well.:) –lindaheern
Lindaheern – thank you!!!
Last Reply: 2011-10-29 07:30:35
From: Dr. Demento
Dr. Demento's Blog - October 17, 2011
We’re getting ready for our Halloween celebration – two big new shows, uploading Oct. 22 and Oct. 29.
Until the late 1950s there were only a handful of Halloween novelty songs, but the "golden age of novelty records" (roughly 1955 to 1966) produced hundreds of them. With the continued growth of do-it-yourself (D. I. Y.) music production, the universe of Halloween music keeps expanding.
Every time I get to thinking the whole holiday has been turned over to small children, we get some very adult-oriented Halloween songs.
Still time to make your Halloween requests (act fast!) You’ve got until about Oct. 21 to make requests for our second Halloween show. I cannot of course promise to play every request, but each and every one will be considered. Please use the "Request a Song" button on the home page to make requests– it’s located in that blue area at the upper left corner.
In the 1970s and 1980s our network shows were generally recorded three weeks or more before the air date, to allow for duplication (on tape or on vinyl records) and mailing – each station got its own copy of the show, via U.S. Mail. That meant that if you made a Halloween request much after Oct. 5, it had to be held over until the next year. I can move more quickly these days, but it still takes time to seek out requested songs, check out new ones, and put everything together.
If you’ve got a new Halloween song…send it to me on an mp3 in the next couple of days (let’s say, by Oct. 19 at the latest) and I’ll give it a listen. In case our mailbox gets full, try again later. Please, just one song at a time. email@example.com
Thanks so much for your responses to last week’s words. Here are a few of them:
Dr D - keep us posted on your road schedule. Will you be in the Halloween Parade?
Alas, the Trick or Treat celebration at the Orange County Marketplace in Costa Mesa, CA has been scaled back this year...budget cuts! )-: I will be appearing at a fan convention in Huntsville, AL next summer – watch for more about that soon. A few more appearances are being discussed at the moment.
Dr D - Where is the best place to get your music you play -- so I can play it on my Radio show on KCAW. Been a fan since 76 or 77 back in Minnesota. Thank You again. –CHIP
I’ve been collecting music for most of my life and it came from here, there and everywhere! It’s actually easier to find rare stuff now than it ever was before, thanks to eBay, as well as iTunes and other mp3-based websites, and of course YouTube...and we have 600+ shows worth of great Dementia available for streaming right here at www.drdemento.com. Tell us more about your radio show, Chip – is it online?
Dr D - how did you find out that "Felix Figueroa" ("Pico and Sepulveda") was really Freddy Martin? -Johnny
I heard rumors for years. In the early 1980s my musician friend Brad Kay turned up a recording of Martin performing (under his own name) on an L.A. radio station in 1947, which included a performance of "P&S" very similar to the one on the record. Felix’s true identity was finally confirmed in 1986 when I met and interviewed the co-writer of "Pico and Sepulveda," the late Eddie Maxwell (aka Eddie Cherkose).
Freddy Martin’s band was featured for many years at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, and in 1947 Freddy opened a small record shop at the hotel. Freddy was signed to RCA Victor Records at the time, but recorded a handful of discs under the "Felix Figueroa" pseudonym to sell at his shop, on the "Ambassador" record label. (They were apparently available elsewhere as well, but did not receive the national distribution that RCA Victor did). "Pico and Sepulveda" was one of those.
By the way, Figueroa St. is a major thoroughfare in Los Angeles, like the other streets mentioned in the song lyrics. A year before the song came out, and with much fanfare, Felix Chevrolet opened its doors on Figueroa St.
Also – reader Ryan Johnson responded at length to my thanking Steve Jobs and Apple, Bill Gates and Microsoft for making it easier for me to do the show. "It bothered me because I'm sure this is how most people think about computers," Ryan writes. "The fact is that neither of those two scumbags enabled that. The things you use in day-to-day general purpose computing were made by a large community of people in the industry who hate Microsoft, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs for many solid, good reasons. […] You can contribute this knowledge to your followers and you can join the open source movement by advocating and demanding open source business practices from companies, and refusing to be controlled by the abusive licenses typical of Apple and Microsoft products. Google has been steadily applying open source business practices and is making money doing it. It works. These other companies view it as a threat to their secrecy-based businesses."
Well-spoken, Ryan. I don’t have the space or the expertise to devote much of this blog to computer issues, but you make a good point.
More about Halloween next week!
Last Reply: 2011-10-24 23:57:24
From: Dr. Demento
Dr. Demento's Blog No. 1
I never used to enjoy writing. I used to put it off and put it off, until it couldn't wait any longer, and then I'd rush something out, which I'd invariably have to revise and re-write. Plus, I'm not an accurate typist (I do it mostly with four fingers) so I went through Liquid Paper by the quart. I once spent an absurd amount of money for an IBM office typewriter that let you correct errors by pressing a button which activated a white ribbon that would remove the offensive characters from what you'd just mis-typed.
Now I enjoy it much more...and I have the dearly departed Steve Jobs to thank for that, or at least Apple in general, along with Bill Gates and Microsoft.
And thus, I have been persuaded to start a blog. I will be writing some new words for this space every week or so, until further notice. I hope you enjoy them. Your comments will be gratefully welcomed, read, and (in some cases) responded to.
I get questions about many things, but most frequently about a song or comedy bit someone remembers hearing on my show, or perhaps elsewhere, and can't identify. I have a pretty decent fielding average with such questions, but it's not 1.000! After all I've played thousands of different songs, and listened to tens of thousands more, and the memory is not a perfect machine. Here's one I couldn't immediately identify...if you can make a positive identification, I'll be happy to give you credit in this space.
I remember in the 80's I heard a song on your show - "The Unemployment Polka", and it was really great (clap your hand, slap your tail, 7 on the richter scale), etc. Can't find it anywhere - am I mistaken? Thanks, Bill G.
And then there's this one...
I have been trying to find a song that was played a long time ago on your show. It's called "Country Transvestite." Wanted to show my wife that there is at least one country song i like. Thanks Doc.
Seth, you may be thinking of "Truck Drivin' Song" by "Weird Al" Yankovic, from his 1999 CD "Running with Scissors," or possibly the Country Gentlemen's version of the 1969 semi-hit "Big Bruce." But I suspect you're looking for something different. Can anyone help?
And here's one I can answer:
I have been searching for years for the song I wanna be a cow by Stretch Marks. That has been a family favorite. My father used to be a dj and made a cassette for us kids of the Dr. Demento songlist. Is there anyway I could purchase a cd or download a mp3? Thanks so much for your help! -Trish
"I Wanna Be a Cow" by Stretch Marks was played on our show of August 3, 1986. An excerpt from it was played on the show of January 10, 2010 (the online show only, not the radio version). The latter show is among the hundreds available for streaming here at www.drdemento.com. I was able to confirm this info by visiting the Demented Music Database (dmdb.org), clicking on "playlist search engine," and entering the title (the artist's name also works).
You can of course use the Database yourself...enter the name of any song heard on the show, or an artist's name (be sure and spell them accurately) and the database will quickly identify every show on which that song or artist was played.
As for "I Wanna Be a Cow," I can also tell you it was on a tape sent to us from Elyria, Ohio, and as far as I know it was never released commercially.
And there's Dr. Demento Blog No. 1. More in a week or so. Please feel free to ask me anything you like, and/or suggest topics for me to write about.
Till next time, stay deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeemented!
Last Reply: 2011-11-02 19:18:40