Thursday, May 30, 2013

Internet Radio: Dr. Demento Plays On

Dr. Demento
The doctor's program - and indeed, his identity - has its roots at former local underground station KPPC, now KROQ, 106.7 FM Los Angeles and according to the Press-Telegram in Long Beach,  is tied to a song by an artist called Nervous Norvus (real name Jimmy Drake) called "Transfusion," released in 1956.

In the song, Drake sings a cheery tune of careless driving, each verse ending with the sound effect of a car crash and lyrics talking of receiving a transfusion. Each verse ends with a promise of better driving; each verse starts with more bad driving.

For about six months prior to his being hired by the station for his own show, Barry Hansen would make weekly guest appearances on KPCC's "The Obscene," Steven Clean's show to play songs. One day in 1970 he played "Transfusion;" Clean thought it weird enough to muse that Hansen had to be demented to play it.

On that day, Dr. Demento was born.

Once he was officially hired, his show was actually a rock oldies show, but the novelty records he added began to get traction. Soon the show evolved into an all-novelty song program. Those were the days of creative programming especially on the freeform FM stations. Nothing like this could happen today.

The days of KPPC would be numbered, however, with the entire air staff being fired in October 1971. Hansen took his show to KMET, now KTWV, 94.7 FM, in early 1972, where it ran every Sunday night until that station's demise on Valentine's Day 1987. Hansen later did live, local shows for KLSX,now KAMP, 97.1 FM, from 1987 to 1992, and KSCA 101.9 FM from 1994 to 1997. A syndicated version was heard on stations across the country from 1974 to 2010, when the program left radio for good, a victim of media consolidation and changing tastes. The novelty of novelty records had apparently run its course.

So where is he now? Living in Lakewood, still playing novelty records and producing a new show every week. But like many other DJs who were pushed to the curb as part of the great media consolidation push, he can be found on the Internet. So instead of hearing the programs on your FM radio, you just point your computer browser to

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the article! And keep your eyes and bananas peeled for UNDER THE SMOGBERRY TREES, a documentary film on the Doctor just Kickstarted and in pre-production! We need to let everyone know that not only is Dr Demento STILL ALIVE (fer gawd's sake), but he is still doing his show!!! I shall RT profusely!

    Chris Mezzolesta
    Power Salad (#1 Dr D artist, 2008)