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Radio Survivor's Top Radio Shows – Jennifer's #4: Dr. Demento Show

Dr. Demento (image from www.drdemento.com)

Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the Dr. Demento show began in 1970 on Los Angeles freeform station KPPC as a “rarities” show.

By 1974 the popular radio program, which specializes in a mix of music and comedy, moved into syndication all over the country.

Hosted by former college radio DJ (at the Reed College station), music historian, and record executive Barret Hansen (aka Dr. Demento); the show has celebrated not only novelty recordings, but also rare musical and comedic gems.

When I was a kid my sister and I used to spend hours and hours listening to the Dr. Demento show, cracking up over the silly comedic songs that were aimed at just our level of maturity.

The program’s bread and butter is both novelty songs like “Fish Heads” and full-on parodies of popular hits by Weird Al Yankovic. To this day, I am always reminded of “Another One Rides the Bus” when I hear “Another One Bites the Dust” and I smile when thinking of Weird Al’s “Eat It” (and its accompanying video) which pokes fun of the Michael Jackson hit “Beat it.”

But, probably more important for me, is that the Dr. Demento show was the first show that inspired me to “play DJ.” My sister and I would not only listen to the show together, but we would also pretend to do radio shows modelled after Dr. Demento using my portable tape recorder.

Somehow the personality of Dr. Demento invited us into that radio world and gave us the idea that radio might be fun. Although my actual radio shows bear zero resemblance to the antics of Dr. Demento, his program still holds a place in my heart for showing me the joyful aspects of radio. And, clearly, Dr. Demento is still having a ball with the show. A scan of some of his recent playlists reveals that he’s been keeping things interesting by doing theme-based shows, including a whole set of vegetable songs last week and a bunch of “I Want” songs on his January 10th program.

You can listen to archives of the Dr. Demento show online, catch it on a handful of terrestrial stations, or purchase any number of Dr. Demento collections or oddities on his website.

P.S. Another Dr. Demento-esque show worth checking out is the Uncle Al Show on Sundays from noon to 3pm Pacific time on KFJC 89.7 FM (yes, the station where I DJ too). Like Dr. Demento, he plays a selection of comedy, novelty songs, and retro music from the “Hippy’s Graveyard.”


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