An era in music history sadly ends this year…

One of the best syndicated radio hosts ends his run after decades of entertaining millions of listeners and making stars out of aspiring musicians.

Even though I know all things must come to an end, there is part of me that wishes his show would continue – even though it doesn’t air on radio stations in the Capital District any more.

I’m talking about the legendary Dr. Demento.

After 40 years of bringing the  greatest oddball and novelty and off-kilter recordings to our radios and airwaves, Barry Hansen, also known as Dr. Demento, is ending his syndicated radio show.  His demented broadcasts will continue on the Internet (you can access them on his website), but still, it’s the end of an era.

For as long as I can remember, the Dr. Demento show aired locally on PYX-106 on Sunday nights, usually after the “Racing with Hart” stock car racing wrapup show and just before Redbeard’s In the Studio program.  But a couple of years ago, I felt like listening to the broadcast – only to sadly discover that PYX-106 took it off the air.

When I say “Dr. Demento” made stars, I’m not kidding.  When his show premiered in the early 1970’s, no other radio program gave airplay to the wild, the wacky and the completely obtuse.  His discovery and airplay of the old Benny Bell / Paul Wynn double entendre song “Shaving Cream” actually got the song on mainstream Top 40 radio for a few weeks.  “Weird Al” Yankovic listened to Dr. Demento broadcasts, and later worked for the radio host as an intern – and eventually became a world-wide superstar in his own right. Even today, you can’t book a decent fan convention without hiring The Great Luke Ski, Sudden Death, Throwing Toasters, the Four Postmen or Carla Ulbrich.

Dr. Demento was not just an aficionado of novelty and comedy music, he also had an encyclopaedia of knowledge regarding jazz, blues, ethnic recordings and vintage recodings.  And he played almost all of them on his radio show – everything from the early cylinder “talking stories” of Uncle Josh at Pun’kin Centre to the saucy songs of Ruth Wallis and Rusty Warren.  His record collection is one of the largest private collections known – with over 300,000 recordings stored in his house.

He’s also one of the nicest people in the music industry – I’ve worked with him on several occasions, he’s helped me get in touch with various artists for my Goldmine articles.  He was able to provide contact information for Ruth Wallis, and thanks to this initial contact, I was able to write an article about the saucy chanteuse.  He also provided me with anecdotes about being a mentor to “Weird Al” Yankovic, anecdotes that eventually turned into a Goldmine cover story.

Ten years ago, the good Doctor and I met him face-to-face at a “Weird Al” Yankovic fan convention in Chicago.   Yes, for a while there were such things as “Al-Con” fan conventions.

Dr. Demento gets a letter from my daughter Cassaundra. Photo by Chuck Miller.

The photo you see here was when Dr. Demento actually read a piece of fan mail – not from me, but from my daughter Cassaundra (who also loved the Dr. Demento show).  She had written a letter to the good doctor, and I promised that if I saw him at the convention, I would give the letter to him.  After we finished taking photos, I talked with him for a while about vintage music and the like; and then I asked if someone would take my camera and get a picture of us together.  After we took the photo, Dr. Demento gave someone his camera and asked to take a picture of us together; apparently he enjoyed reading my Goldmine articles all this time!

Thanks for 40 years of radio broadcasts, Dr. Demento – and let’s hope for 40 years of Internet broadcasts as well!