Dr. Demento

Dr. Demento

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The Dr. Demento Show, radio's weekly two-hour festival of "mad music and crazy comedy" heard on nearly 100 stations coast to coast, has been amusing and amazing America since 1970.

Biography

The Dr. Demento Show, radio's weekly two hour festival of "mad music and crazy comedy" heard on nearly 100 stations coast to coast, has been amusing and amazing America since 1970.

The Dr. Demento Show is a free-wheeling, unpredictable mix of music and comedy. Along with legends like Spike Jones, Tom Lehrer, Stan Freberg,
Monty Python, and Frank Zappa, the Doctor plays new funny songs sent in by amateur and professional singers and comedians. That's how the world was introduced to "Weird Al" Yankovic, who went on to become today's #1 musical funnyman. A home-made tape that Al made at age 16 and sent to the Doctor provided him with his very first media exposure.

Those who've listened carefully to the Doctor's show have undoubtedly realized that somewhere between his lively larynx and elegant top hat there resides the mind of a seasoned musicologist and dedicated scholar...a world-renowned record collector and music historian, whose lifelong passion for music of all kinds is reflected in his weekly selection of "rare records and outrageous tapes" for the Dr. Demento Show.

Dr. Demento was born Barret Hansen in Minneapolis in 1941. His father was a talented amateur pianist, and Barret began taking piano lessons at age 6, but the family phonograph always interested him more. When he found, at age 12, that a local thrift shop had thousands of old 78 rpm discs for sale at 5ยข each, the Demento Archives were on their way.

Though Spike Jones was an early special favorite, the Doctor-to-be wasn't always a comedy specialist. As rock & roll swept America in the 1950s, he developed a special fondness for the music's roots in R&B and country. Over the years he's done quite a bit of writing in that area, including numerous magazine articles, liner notes and two chapters on early R&B for The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll.

His first DJ work was at his high school's "sock hops" in 1957. At Reed College in Portland, Oregon he became student manager of the campus FM station before graduating as a (classical) music major. At UCLA he indulged his passion for the roots of rock by writing a master's thesis on the evolution of R&B in the 1940s and early 1950s, while making his L.A. radio debut with a program of pre-WWII blues and country on non-commercial station KPFK-FM.

After getting a taste of the contemporary rock & roll life with brief stints as a roadie for two popular L. A. rock groups, Canned Heat and Spirit (and producing a demo for the latter), he went to work for Specialty Records, compiling some 35 reissue albums for that legendary R&B label and also producing new recordings.

It was while he was working for Specialty that L. A.'s legendary free-form rock radio station KPPC-FM asked him to do a weekly program of rock rarities. It was there, in 1970, that Barret Hansen became Dr. Demento, as listeners demanded more and more of such zany blasts from the past as "The Purple People Eater," "Transfusion" and "The Monster Mash."

The Dr. Demento Show moved to KMET-FM in 1972 and soon became the most listened-to Sunday evening radio program in Los Angeles. His spectacular ratings were soon duplicated in many other cities as the show went into syndication in 1974. The show is currently distributed by Talonian Productions.

The first Dr. Demento compilation LP was released in 1976 by Warner Bros. followed by many more, primarily for Rhino - which has also released a Dr. Demento home video. In addition the Doctor's fan club, The Demento Society, has produced annual CD compilations available exclusively to Society members.

In 1991 an hour-long Dr. Demento Anniversary Special was shown by cable's Comedy Central, featuring live performances by "Weird Al" Yankovic, Bobby (Boris) Pickett ("Monster Mash,") Sheb Wooley ("The Purple People Eater,") Tiny Tim and many others. The Doctor's numerous TV credits also include two April Fool's specials for MTV, and voices for 1994 episodes of The Simpsons and Bobby's World.

In 1988, Dr. Demento provided off-screen narration for a feature film, the horror movie spoof Lobster Man from Mars.

When not on the air, the Doctor also keeps busy compiling and annotating new CD projects (primarily for Rhino,) making personal appearances, and keeping up the Archives. His notes for Rhino's "Remains of Tom Lehrer" box set were nominated for a Grammy in 2001. Among those who've commissioned him to provide rarities from the collection are Rhino Records, Time-Life Records, MCA Records and Columbia Records, plus Aerosmith, Randy Newman, Bette Midler, Ry Cooder and David Lindley. Recently he returned to one of his earliest musical passions to write a blues handbook , "Rhino's Cruise Through The Blues," published by Backbeat Books of San Francisco (formerly Miller-Freeman Books) under the Doctor's "real" name, Barry Hansen.

Discography

Dr. Demento's Hits From Outer Space (2003)
The Very Best Of Dr. Demento (2001)
Dementia 2000: Dr. Demento's 30th Anniversary Collection (2000)
Dr. Demento's Basement Tapes (Annual)
Dr. Demento's 25th Anniversary Collection (1995)
Dr. Demento's Country Corn (1995)
Dr. Demento's Holidays In Dementia (1995)
Dr. Demento Gooses Mother (1995)
Spooky Tunes and Scary Melodies (1994)
Scary Stories, Rhino (1994)
Dr. Demento's 20th Anniversary Collection (1991)
Dr. Demento Presents The Greatest Christmas Novelty CD Of All Time (1989)
Dr. Demento Presents The Greatest Novelty Records Of All Time (1985)
Demento's Mementos, Eccentric Records (1982)
Dr. Demento's Dementia Royale, Rhino (1980)
Dr. Demento's Delights (1975)

Set List

Varies