It's been a delightfully busy summer here in the land of Dementia. I was on the road for a couple of weeks in late June and early July. After visiting my mother in Minneapolis, I headed for Altamont, NY (near Albany) and the Old Songs Fest. This is an annual gathering for acoustic music, AKA "folk music" performers and fans, held at an old fairgrounds on the edge of town, with concerts, workshops and vendors. I presented my video program in a huge old barn, emceed one of the concerts, and hosted a workshop on funny folk songs. People really listen to the lyrics in acoustic music, and those lyrics are often humorous. That applies to newly written "folk songs" as well as old ones.
It was a rare chance to hang out with acoustic music's most fabulous character, Bruce "U. Utah" Phillips. You probably know his "Moose Turd Pie," but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Utah Phillips has seen everything, and written songs about everything, but his main passions are the struggles of the American working man, and railroads. These are serious matters to him, but he faces life with one of the world's great senses of humor. You feel you should be taping every little remark he makes, they're so funny and insightful. He's had some heart trouble lately, and doesn't travel like he used to, but the Old Songs people have supported his musical career since day one, so he rode Amtrak across the country from California to be there.
Bryan Bowers was there too. Though he refused many requests to sing "The Scotsman," saying "That song's been good to me, but it's time to move on," he had a couple other funny songs which I hope he records soon. Lou and Peter Berryman, funny song specialists who have several CD's out, kept the crowd in stitches with their literate, Leheresque humor.
Andy and Bill Spence put on a great show and a joyous gathering every year, and it was a privilege to be invited. It was wonderful to meet some of the Dementites and Dementoids who hear me on WPYX, where I was a guest on the riotous Mason & Sheehan morning show.
Next stop: Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University and Morris Studios. Jeff Morris, who is building a nice recording facility in his home there, is familiar to many Dementites as the man behind the " Doctor Is In" Internet website. I taped a radio show there, which was aired the last weekend in July; we slipped in a few records from Jeff's collection. I also gave a talk on Frank Zappa for a rock history class at the university, and signed autographs at the local alternative record store called Earwax. As you might guess, we also did a bit of record shopping.
On to Indianapolis where I visited the syndicated Bob and Tom morning radio show. They use a lot of funny music and have produced many CD's of it which are sold locally to benefit charities. More record hunting, and then it was on to the Inconjunction, an annual convention of science fiction fans.
I presented my video program again, this time with a science fiction slant, and hosted a workshop about funny sci-fi based songs (which are called "filk" songs). Michael Longcor, a nationally known "filk" singer was there (he played guitar while I sang "Shaving Cream"). Also there was Dave Arnason, inventor of Dungeons & Dragons, who was delighted to hear for the first time the Dead Alewives' popular comedy bit on the subject. The convention had a large gaming section as well as the usual focus on science fiction literature, art and paraphernalia. The Society for Creative Anachronisms, whose members dress in medieval costumes and joust (for fun) was out in force. There was a talent show, with first prize going to someone you may have heard on the show - The Great Luke Ski, with a Star Trek-inspired song. Luke arrived just in time, having driven to Indianapolis from his home in Kansas City.
I signed a whole lot of autographs and had a great time meeting old friends and new. Hope to do it all again real soon! Meanwhile I'm back at Dementia Central working on Basement Tapes #6 and the rest of the 1998 Demento Society membership package with my wife Sue and our art director Arthur Chadbourne. I'm also doing a bit of extra-curricular activity: writing a book on blues for Rhino Books -- more about that in the next Demento Society News. Looks like I'll also be in the next Doo-Dah Parade in Pasadena, Calif.(see DSN #111 for a story about the 1996 parade). The date is Sunday, November 23.
Photos of the Indiana portion of my trip are available at
the Doctor Is In website:
If you haven't yet renewed for 1997 - time is running out! Renew at any time; your membership will be extended for one year (or four Demento Society News issues) beyond its original expiration date.
I'm currently working on two projects: a set of field recordings of female Cajun a cappella singing which will be coming out on a Smithsonian/Folkways CD -wonderful music that's unlike anything else available...and volumes 4 through 6 of the complete Bix Beiderbecke recordings for Origin Jazz Library.
After that I'll probably be working on some reissues of African music that are now in the planning stages.
Other than that, I've been kept busy with my day job, working on software and control algorithms for space-based cryogenic coolers, and trying to figure out where to put all the records!
Yes, it was only a matter of time before my pointing-and- clicking led me to conjure up my own little space on the Internet -- WW on the WWW, if you will.
At my site, I share several of my "Demented News" resources, beginning with a collection of sound bites frequently heard on my reports, as well as info on how to order my updated "Cutting Up with Whimsical Will" cassette tape compilation. Plus, there's the "Mystery Sound Bite" contest, where you can test your "Demented News" IQ (and win a demented goodie!) by identifying the source of various demented audio snippets. There's also a Demented Chat Room where Dementians and Dementoids from all over the Land of Dementia can sound off.
The response has been terrific -- More than 800 hits to my site in 2-1/2 weeks!! This is really taking off! I hope you'll surf on over to check it out:
STAY WHIMSICAL! -Will
Good Time Gil here. The Dr. was kind enough to ask me to write a few lines about what I've been up to lately --a mini version of How I Spent My Summer Vacation if you will.
The Summer's been quite busy for me. As many of you now know, we set up an e-mail address for the Society, where we answer questions regarding Society memberships, send out our latest catalog and answer general inquiries about the show. We answer questions like "What is the name of that song about...", and "Who does that song called...?" and of course the main one, "How can I get a copy of...?" We now have a different e-mail address from the one in the last newsletter, which should be a little easier to remember. Here it is:
(The other address is still good, for the time being anyway). I've had a lot of fun corresponding with my fellow Dementites around the country. There's nothing like the feeling you get from helping someone find that Demented Classic that they grew up with, and how it brought back so many memories of days gone by. But what they're really thankful for is the fact that there's actually somebody responding to their questions -- whatever the answer may be.
If I take a little bit of time to respond to your inquiries, it's because in addition to my duties with the Dr., I'm also an assistant to "Weird Al" Yankovic. I help with his mail and also answer questions that come over the e-mail address we set up for Close Personal Friends of Al. By the way here is that address:
With all that plus attending night classes in Computer Maintenance and Repair, I've had a pretty busy summer. So if the winter is going to be anything like the summer, I'm going to be just as busy as ever. But that's OK -- when you're working for the Dr. the word "work" doesn't even apply. So keep those e- mails coming!
Continued "good times" and I'll see you in cyberspace.
- Good Time Gil
JOHN FORSTER: Helium
The title song is the funniest thing I've heard in years about putting chemicals into your body. A couple of other songs tackle more serious topics with deft and profound satire -- gays in the military, tearing down neighborhoods to build highways. Then there are the songs about Euro-Disneyland, Prince Charles and the one that intertwines the plots of The Barber of Seville and Sweeney Todd. This is highly stimulating intellectual comedy, the kind we haven't heard much of on records since Tom Lehrer put down his pen. "You don't need me anymore" says Lehrer in an endorsement on this CD cover. "You've got John Forster to kick around." Superb production.
PHILO RECORDS, DIST. BY ROUNDER - IN STORES OR CONTACT ROUNDER, 1 CAMP ST., CAMBRIDGE, MA 02140.
THE ARROGANT WORMS: Live Bait
A rousing live album featuring some of the Worms' greatest hits (including "Carrot Juice Is Murder") and swell new stuff including "Me Like Hockey."
THE ARROGANT WORMS, 2255B QUEEN ST. E., #214, TORONTO, ONT. M4E 1G3, CANADA
DARRYL RHOADES: Radio Daze...The Shroud of
Rhoades has been makin' 'em laugh in Atlanta since the 1970s when "Surfin' Shark" and "Burgers from Heaven" by Darryl and his Hahavishnu Orchestra were hits on the Dr. Demento Show. His new CD has wicked satirical songs about UFO's, white gospel music and gangsta' rap, and the deliciously risqué "My Baby Likes Fishin'," strung together by hilarious spoofs of radio stations with such call letters as WOOD, WGOD, KRUD and KOTX.
NO BIG DEAL RECORDS, PO BOX 190672, ATLANTA, GA 31119.
LUKE SKI'S PSYCHO POTPOURRI: Fanboys 'n da
Hood/Shadows of the Bunghole
Luke Sienkowski has been a radical Dr. Demento fan for years -- and also a big-time hip-hop fan who's now become an ace rapper himself (with help from his friend Jason). Naturally, he leads off with a rap about comedians, "Funny Man" before going into his popular spoof of TV's Pinky and the Brain, "Insane and the Brain." On these two CD's (sold as a set) "The Great Luke Ski" deconstructs numerous icons of American pop culture including Star Trek, The Simpsons, MST3K and, dare I say, The Dr. Demento Show. Hip-hop dominates, but rock, folk and the Macarena are also grist for Luke's mill. He's not afraid to take chances and get far out. OK, you might hit the skip button once or twice (Luke doesn't sing quite as well as he raps and talks) but all in all, open-minded Dementites (is there any other kind?) should have a ball with these CD's.
GNOME PRODUCTIONS, PO BOX 32186, KANSAS CITY, MO 64171. PRICE $15.00 FOR BOTH CD'S, POSTPAID - CHECKS TO LUKE SIENKOWSKI.
TOM SMITH: Plugged
Tom is a popular "filk" singer (one who sings original acoustic songs based on science fiction and fantasy subjects) who goes a shade more "pop" on this release but also includes three very funny songs, "Psychic Voicemail Hotline" and a pair about the Internet, "On-Line Religion" and "Spam Spam Spam." The other songs include one about Tom's grandmother that's twice as touching as "Butterfly Kisses."
PRETZEL PRODUCTIONS, 2232 S. MAIN ST. #424, ANN ARBOR, MI 48103.
R. BRUCE: Still Laughin'
"Dysfunctional Family Reunion," "Too Much Butt" and other fun songs by this laid-back Virginia singer-songwriter-guitarist. "Are The Lunatics Runnin' The Asylum" is a witty piece about baby boomers who grew up in the 60s trying to run America in the 90s.
LAUGHING FISH PRODUCTIONS, PO BOX 426, HAMPTON, VA 23669.
DICKIE GOODMAN AND FRIENDS: Greatest Fables
For as long as there's been a Dr. Demento Show, Dickie Goodman has been one of our most requested artists. He's the guy who does all those mock radio news interviews in which the "answers" are bits from hit records. Between 1956 and his death in 1989, many of his own records were hits as well. He was a major inspiration for Whimsical Will's Demented News. There have been several bootleg editions of Goodman's recordings; now we have the first legit CD, compiled by Goodman's son Jon. 38 tracks, including all the hits -- the Flying Saucer series with Bill Buchanan, "Mr. Jaws," and "Hey E.T.," plus dozens more that chronicle the fables and foibles of America from the 1970s energy crisis and Watergate to Superman and King Kong. The sound quality isn't always perfect; Goodman's work came out on various fly-by-night record labels and many of the master tapes are lost -- but it's generally better than on the bootlegs. (Several items including the original "Flying Saucer" exist in slightly different alternate versions; I'd try to sort them out for you except we need a little space to review some other CD's too!). Bonus track: "Return of the Flying Saucer ('97) " by Jon Goodman in his father's style, inspired by The X-Files.
IN STORES, OR CONTACT HOT PRODUCTIONS, INC., 1450 W. 159TH ST., MIAMI,. FL 33169.
THE ERNIE KOVACS RECORD COLLECTION
The pioneer TV comedian Ernie Kovaks loved to use odd records in his TV shows, as background music and sometimes as the focus of a sketch. Here is a selection of them, including several heard on the Dr. Demento show through the years -- Leona Anderson's "Rats In My Room" and "Fish" and Ernie's own rare vocal "Hot Cakes and Sausage" -- plus the famous "Song of the Nairobi Trio" and of course Ernie's theme song "Oriental Blues." Perfect for "Incredibly Strange Music" fans. I helped a bit with the re-mastering.
IN STORES, OR CONTACT VARÉSE SARABANDE RECORDS, 11846 VENTURA BLVD., #130, STUDIO CITY, CA 91604.
BATMANIA: Songs Inspired by the Batman TV
You've heard the songs about Adam West...now hear the man himself sing on this collection of rare relics from the Sixties. Also starring Burgess Meredith as The Penguin, Jan & Dean, LaVern Baker, Peggy Lee, and many more.
VARÉSE SARABANDE RECORDS -- SEE PREVIOUS REVIEW.
GET YOUR FRIENDS TO WRITE LETTERS TOO. Get a bunch of them to sign a petition! Many radio executives are simply not aware how many people enjoy Mad Music and Crazy Comedy. Let 'em know!