||Reviewer ... Scholar ... Roadie ... Dementia!
by Dewayne Wright
A version of this story originally appeared in the Indiana Daily Student on May 20, 1991.
Dr. Demento was almost an Indiana University alumni.
But Barry Hansen, a.k.a. Dr. Demento, opted for UCLA instead of IU when he was looking for a graduate school for folk music studies.
"I considered going to IU for my masters'," Hansen said. "At the time, UCLA and IU were it as far as folk music studies went. I decided on UCLA, though."
Hansen was in Bloomington this weekend as part of The Richard Reuss Memorial Folk Music Conference. The conference was held as a symposium on the folk music revival of the 1950s and '60s. Hansen was invited because of his scholarly background in folk music and his work with the seminal Little Sandy Review during the '60s.
"I wrote reviews of blues LPs for LSR," Hansen said. "It never had more than 300 subscribers, but many people considered the Little Sandy Review the conscience of the folk music revival."
Hansen moved up through the magazine's ranks, though he didn't always know before he opened an issue.
"One day I opened it up and looked at the credit box," Hansen said, "and my name was listed as the Los Angeles editor. That was a bit of a surprise."
He took over as editor-in-chief of the publication for the final two issues before the magazine closed.
Hansen reflected on his career in the music industry as part of a panel entitled "Record Reviewing, Criticism and the Folk Revival."
"I've always liked music, but due to a lack of manual dexterity and a less than diligent attitude toward rehearsal, I can't sing or play a note," he said.
Hansen explained that this is the reason he went into record criticism during his junior year in high school. His high school newspaper reviews led to a stint writing capsule reviews of blues records for Record Research, a jazz magazine, which in turn brought him to Blues Research, a magazine devoted to the blues. Since then, Hansen has written reviews for Rolling Stone from time to time.
Other than a record critic, Hansen has performed many other jobs related to the music industry. He has served as a roadie for the rock group Canned Heat, a record producer, an usher at the Ash Grove (a noted club in L.A.), and as a disc jockey named Dr. Demento.
"The show (Dr. Demento) has been on for 20 years, 16 of them in syndication," Hansen said. "I had always wanted to be a DJ, and I was offered a job to play the rarest things I could find on an underground FM station in San Francisco.
"The funny stuff got the best response and a person at the station named me 'Dr. Demento' and it stuck."
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