Dementia Finds A New Home In The Big Apple
The first program on March 2 featured a special in-person visit from the Doctor, broadcasting live from the WAPP studios in New York, and honoring hordes of humor-hungry Fun City listeners with three hours of special requests. "Dead Puppies," "Fish Heads," "Existential Blues" and other longtime favorites were in high demand along with demented classics by "Weird Al" Yankovic, Tom Lehrer, Spike Jones, Frank Zappa and Allan Sherman. WAPP's phone lines were jammed throughout, but the Doctor was able to take many phone requests personally, while program director Steve Ellis made sure the demented discs and tapes kept rolling. A live performance of "Shaving Cream" with the Doctor singing (?) special verses written for the occasion brought the program to a climax well into the wee hours.
"When we recently had the Doctor in on The Morning Show," remembers Steve Ellis, "the response was so overwhelming that we had to bring him back on a full-time basis!"
"The Apple is amazing," the Doctor was heard to say. "Truly the, uh, core of Dementia."
We've had a very busy but most enjoyable winter and spring here in the Land of Dementia.
Shortly after the six-record set Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Novelty Records of All Time was released by Rhino last fall, I visited several major cities to promote the albums. Among the many highlights of this fast and fun trip were appearances on several nationally known TV shows. In New York City I appeared on Comedy Tonight, singing "Shaving Cream" together with Uncle Floyd and the song's composer, Benny Bell. I also hosted a special edition of USA Network's Night Flight, in which I introduced a half-hour of demented videos including "Fish Heads," "Dare To Be Stupid," "The Curly Shuffle," "Time Warp" and "Minnie the Moocher" starring Betty Boop and Cab Calloway. Also in New York was an appearance on the legendary Joe Franklin Show. Jetting to Washington, D.C. I talked with Larry King, America's best-known national talk-show host, on both his radio and TV shows. It was a special thrill to take calls from Dementoids from all across the U.S.A. on Larry's live radio show on the Mutual Radio Network (now a division of Westwood One, the company that distributes my own radio show).
I also appeared on many radio stations (including KJJO in Minneapolis, WROR in Boston and WMMR in Philadelphia), hosted a few special local video shows in New York and Boston, and did about fifty newspaper and magazine interviews -- all in a week and half. Making sure I got everywhere on time was my eminently capable and energetic tour manager Mr. Joe Cardosi, fresh off four months on the road with "Weird Al" Yankovic.
There was one special "offstage" highlight of the trip for me personally: in Boston I shared a fine seafood dinner with Tom Lehrer. Though Tom and I have been in frequent touch by mail and phone in the past couple of years, this was the first time I'd ever had a chance to meet him. He is in fine health and spirits, is a regular listener to the show and is very much aware of everything that's happening in comedy today. He's also actively supporting the stage revue Tomfoolery, based on his old songs, which has been performed in quite a few American and British theatres lately. However, he says (as he has for many years) that he has no plans or desires to perform again or to publish any new songs. So we'll just have to keep enjoying the old ones, as we always have!
Over the weekend just before New Year's I appeared at the Westport Playhouse in St. Louis, doing a show similar to the one I did with Weird Al in quite a few Eastern cities last September and October.
Since the first of the year I've been busy at home with the radio show every week, and laying plans for new projects which I'll be able to tell you about in future newsletters! I did make a quick trip to New York to launch the show on WAPP-FM (see separate story) and one to San Diego where I taped a brief appearance on the West Virginia Public Radio show Mountain Stage. This is a program of folk and country music hosted by Larry Groce, whose recording of "Junk Food Junkie" became a Top Ten hit single in 1976 after being introduced on my show. Larry visited my show in 1976 to do that song live, and it was a huge pleasure to return the favor ten years later! Also featured on the show was Bryan Bowers, singing "The Scotsman" (on the 80's volume of my Rhino set) and other fine songs. This program will be aired on many public radio stations nationwide during July.
Speaking of the radio show, we've had some especially fascinating guests in recent months. In January we had a visit with Firesign Theatre, who brought along their twenty-first album Eat Or Be Eaten. This has to make them the most prolific comedy group since Spike Jones and his City Slickers, and they're still one of the finest. Original members Phil Austin, Peter Bergman and Phil Proctor spun some of their favorite records (including vintage R&B as well as novelty discs), talked knowingly about advances in recording techniques as they relate to comedy albums, and also spoke of the recent (amicable) departure of the fourth Firesign, David Ossman.
Next on the guest list was one of America's most brilliant and popular young comedians, Steven Wright. We took our microphones to nearby Claremont, California this time, where Steven was preparing to do a sold-out show at a college auditorium. This is the man who has virtually re-invented the one-liner as a form of comedy. With his nonchalant deadpan he looks and sounds like no other standup comedian I've ever seen. If you saw him in a roomful of people, and didn't know who he was, he'd probably be the last person in the room you'd guess was a comedian. Offstage he's very softspoken, almost diffident. We had been told that he rarely tells jokes during interviews, but that certainly wasn't the case that day!
Two weeks later we welcomed a man who is as flamboyant as Steven is modest. "Screamin' Jay" Hawkins mesmerized us all with his regal bearings and fantastic costumery. He looked like a voodoo king -- but when the mikes were open, he talked freely and frankly about the ups and downs of his long career, and the differences between his stage persona and his offstage personality. A marvelous storyteller, he had us spellbound as he told about the recording of his greatest hit, "I Put A Spell On You," and about how he almost suffocated when his famous coffin refused to open as planned at the beginning of one of his stage shows.
We also had a lively visit in March with Frankie Yankovic, the "Polka King." Frankie was in town to do a guest appearance on (no relation) Weird Al's Guide to the Grammys, and to promote his album 70 Years of Hits which, as it happened, won the Grammy for best polka recording of the year. Frankie told some fine stories of his long career playing "the happiest music this side of heaven," and topped off the occasion by unpacking his accordian for a sprightly live-in-the-studio performance of one of his biggest hits, "Just Because."
Leon Redbone, whose masterful revivals of old pop tunes fill several of our favorite albums, came by in April for his second appearance on the show. As he did in 1981, Leon selected a few prize 78s from the Demento Archives to play on the show, along with some rare gems from his huge traveling cassette collection. Cliff "Jiminy Cricket" Edwards' 1928 recording of "Halfway to Heaven" inspired Leon to a spontaneous demonstration of his expert whistling. During the interview portions Leon was as mysterious as ever, though he did volunteer one bit of information few might have guessed: his earliest musical passion was not blues or old jazz, but opera.
In May we welcomed Kip Addotta, whose "Wet Dream" was the most requested demented disc of 1985. His new song "Life In the Slaw Lane" does for vegetables what "Wet Dream" did for fish. He spoke of his new all-musical album, his upcoming concert tour and his love of motorcycles.
We're busily lining up more guests for future shows, and also lots of
"profiles" and other special features. As always, I'd be more than
get your song requests! Requests are the very first thing I consider when
putting together each week's show. The address is the same as that for the
Demento Society: Dr. Demento, PO Box 884, Culver City, CA 90230...and of
course our Request Line is at your service, 1-213-652-8028.
Mike Elliot and Bud Latour, of station KZZP in Phoenix (which carries the Dr. Demento Show every Sunday) sent this parody of "Rock Me Amadeus" to us in March, and it almost immediately went to #1 on our request lines. It's still a regular on the Funny Five as this is written.
Mike, who is a mid-day air personality at KZZP, says that he got the idea for the parody when he was vacuuming his carpets and "Rock Me Amadeus" came on the radio. The noise of the vacuum cleaner distorted the lyrics in Mike's mind...and the rest is history. Bud Latour, production director and weekend DJ at KZZP, and a "musical genius" according to Mike, arranged the music for the tape. Mark Davis, morning show producer, collaborated on the lyrics and on the production and the promotion of the record.
"We did it just for fun, to play for our friends," says Mike and Bud. But when other KZZP employees heard it, they were convinced it had to go farther. It quickly displaced "Rock Me Amadeus" itself as the most-requested record on KZZP. Guy Zapoleon, KZZP's program director, called me personally to make sure I heard the tape. Meanwhile the station's chief executive had copies sent to KZZP's sister stations, including one in Las Vegas, where who should hear it but -- Jerry Lewis himself.
"We didn't know what he'd think of it," says Mike. But they needn't have worried. Jerry not only loved the song, but he even traveled to Phoenix to give his personal endorsement at a press conference/party celebrating the record's release. "He's an idol of ours," says Bud. "I've been a big fan of Jerry's since before I was born."
The song has been written up in USA Today and Newsweek among others. What's next for Mike and Bud? "For our next idea I'm going to go to Bud's place and vacuum his carpets. Fluff up his sofa pillows too!" says Mike.
"Rock Me Jerry Lewis," with its B-side "The Making of 'Rock Me Jerry Lewis'," is available by mail for $2.00 plus $1.50 shipping and handling from Nationwide Communications Inc., PO Box 5159, Mesa, AZ 85201. All proceeds go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association -- "Jerry's Kids."
KAAR-AM PORTLAND OR WRLS-FM HAYWARD WI WOOJ-FM FT. MYERS FL KQQQ-AM PULLMAN WA WOSE-FM PORT CLINTON OH KDWD BURLINGTON IA KAGO-FM KLAMATH FALLS OR KWIN-FM STOCKTON CA KQIZ AMARILLO TX WUVA-FM CHARLOTTESVILLE VA
Adapted from an article originally written by the Doctor for Waxpaper, a Warner Bros. Records promotional magazine.
"His needle goes deep but leaves no scars."
Daily Variety, May 3, 1963.
It'd be hard to think of the Dr. Demento Show without Allan Sherman. He was, quite simply, the greatest musical parodist who ever wrote in English.
There were other talented people who preceded Sherman (1924-1973) in the art of setting funny new words to familiar tunes. One thinks of Homer & Jethro, and especially of Mickey Katz whose half-English, half-Yiddish rewrites of 1940's and 1950's pop tunes undoubtedly influenced Sherman.
But Sherman at his best was peerless. His "Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh" (the "Camp Granada" song, set to the tune of Ponchielli's "Dance Of The Hours") is very likely the best known parody in all of American pop music. Unlike other parodists who so often run out of ideas after the first verse, Sherman added new layers of hilarity with every line. He was as perceptive an observer of human foibles as ever there was and a master lyricist whose turns of phrase rivaled the best of Cole Porter. He was a huge influence on, among others, "Weird Al" Yankovic, who has essentially done for rock music what Sherman did for the familiar songs of his time.
One hearing of a new song was all Sherman needed to inspire one of his unique rewrites. He used puns, asides and outrageous rhymes to make devastating fun of the song's original lyric message, or some previously unrelated subject, or both, while retaining the original melody (or as much of it as his perfect shower baritone could accommodate).
For many years Sherman's parodies were strictly a hobby for him. Born November 30, 1924, in Chicago, he began singing twisted tunes at private parties while pursuing a career in New York as a gag writer for comedians such as Joe E. Lewis, Frances Faye and Jackie Gleason. In 1951 he recorded a solitary 78, coupling parody versions of two then-current hits, "Sam's Song" and "A Bushel And A Peck". The latter became "A Satchel And A Seck", with Sherman singing key words in Yiddish a la Mickey Katz. Sales were minimal, but Sherman quickly found success in another medium. In that same year, 1951, Sherman and a friend developed the idea for the game show I've Got A Secret, which premiered on CBS-TV June 26, 1952, and was a great success. For the next six years Sherman was the show's producer, moving in 1958 to similar responsibilities with The Steve Allen Show.
In 1961, though, he found himself out of a job, living on $55 a week unemployment. All the while he had continued to sing parodies at parties. Several friends, including Harpo Marx, encouraged him to try making records again.
Another friend, "Bullets" Durgom, got Sherman an unusual gig: he had Sherman tape an obscene song about an official at Warner Bros. Records, which was then played at a stag dinner honoring the man's retirement. That was Sherman's introduction to the record label where he spent nearly all the rest of his career.
Sherman was signed to Warner Bros. in June 1962. It was decided that his first album would consist of parodies of traditional folk songs. That way, he wouldn't have to seek permission from publishers to do his parodies, and he would also be capitalizing on the folk music revival which was then at its peak.
My Son the Folksinger was recorded at a Hollywood studio on the evening of August 6, 1962 (the day after Marilyn Monroe's death, incidentally). After a three-hour rehearsal, a bar was set up, the doors opened, and in came 100 of Allan's closest friends, including Harpo, Theodore Bikel, and famed songwriters Johnny Mercer, Harry Warren and Leo Robin.
It was the perfect party. The entire album was recorded in one take -- about 45 minutes!
It didn't take much longer than that for Folksinger, which included his classic "Sarah Jackman", to become the #1 LP in America. It sold over 900,000 copies, a phenomenal figure in those days. When the printing plant couldn't keep up with orders for covers, some copies of the LP were sold without them, with a slip entitling the bearer to claim his cover at a later date.
Ed Sullivan wanted Sherman right away for his top-rated TV variety show. When Sherman opted instead for the rival show hosted by his old friend from I've Got a Secret, Garry Moore, Sullivan played the record of "Sarah Jackman" on his show with actors mouthing the lyrics.
Sherman did a brief but wildly successful East Coast tour, playing Carnegie Hall on New Year's Eve, singing the My Fair Lady parodies he couldn't record, with the New Christy Minstrels as the opening act. Jubilee Records unearthed Sherman's 1951 recordings and combined them with vintage Borscht Belt humor by other artists on a quickie album called More Folk Songs by Allan Sherman and His Friends. Meanwhile Warner Bros. lost no time in rushing out a legit Sherman sequel, My Son the Celebrity. Recorded at Sherman's 38th birthday party, Celebrity included such gems as "Harvey and Sheila," "Won't You Come Home, Disraeli" and "The Let's All Call Up A.T. & T. And Protest To The President March."
For the third LP, whose full title is My Son The Nut/Allan Sherman Sings Nutty Things, This Time with Strings, musical director Lou Busch and producer Jimmy Hilliard augmented their forces with strings and horns. This summer 1963 release not only reached #1 on Billboard's LP charts a mere three weeks after its initial entry, and stayed #1 for eight weeks...it also spawned Sherman's biggest single and most enduring song, "Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh."
Sherman's next three albums are more uneven, but each has its highlights. Best of the three is Songs for Swingin' Livers (that's the album with "Pop Hates the Beatles" and "The Twelve Gifts of Christmas"). During this period (1964) Warner Bros. lent Sherman to RCA Records, enabling him to fulfill a longtime dream by recording his full-length parody of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf with the Boston Pops Orchestra -- Peter and the Commissar. He then returned to Warners for two more albums, Allan Sherman Live and Togetherness, which yielded noticeably fewer laughs and still fewer sales.
On the cover of his swan song, Togetherness (1967), Sherman looks remarkably slim. He was not able to maintain that shape for long after the photo session, alas. A lifelong victim of obesity, Sherman may have seemed the ultimate rolypoly teddy bear to his fans. The reality is recalled by Jerry Hopkins, biographer of Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix and a close friend of Sherman's during the comedian's last years. He recalls Sherman commenting with much pain: "Somebody once said that inside every fat person there's a thin person trying to get out. It's true..."
Sherman's weight problem, together with chronic emphysema, made him physically miserable, and compounded what Hopkins called "the horror show success became." The emotional changes wrought by sudden stardom led to the breakup of his family. The loss of that stardom, or most of it, with the declining sales of his albums and the failure of his 1968 Broadway musical The Fig Leaves Are Falling was even harder on him.
He found some satisfaction in writing. He produced two fine books, his autobiography A Gift of Laughter, and one of the best books ever written about sex and other human obsessions, The Rape of A-P-E (American Puritan Ethic). Both are out of print but well worth combing used bookstores for; both were published in paperback as well as hardcover.
He kept his show-biz juices flowing by doing an occasional Tonight Show, directing a few TV shows for Bill Cosby (whose first LP he'd produced for Warner Bros.) and developing a set of stand-up comedy routines about golf. Warner Bros. Records was impressed enough with the golf stories to sign Sherman to a new contract in 1973. But, alas, he died before the album could be completed, suffering a heart attack while being driven home from a recording session. It was November 20, 1973, ten days short of his 49th birthday.
His recorded merriment remains, of course, to delight us forever The Best of Allan Sherman, volumes 1 and 2, on Rhino Records should be available anywhere fine comedy albums are sold. The Warner Bros. albums are all out of print, but the first three (his best overall) are relatively easy to find, as old albums go. (See Collector's Corner elsewhere in this issue for some shopping tips). The remaining Warner Bros. issues, the RCA and the Jubilee are scarcer, and may fetch up to $20 in connoisseur's shops. The hardcore Shermanophile might want to scour stacks of old 45s for such elusive items as RCA 47-9693, which presents two selections from The Fig Leaves Are Falling (the complete score was recorded but never released), Warner Bros. 5806, an ill-fated attempt to present Sherman as a straight pop singer with the songs "Odd Ball" and "His Own Little Island", and Warner Bros. 5419, the theme from the film "My Son the Vampire."
(Discography) (U.S. LP's only)
THE BEST OF ALLAN SHERMAN (Rhino RNLP 005).
Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh!/Crazy Downtown/Eight Foot Two, Solid Blue/Harvey and Sheila/When I Was a Lad/Good Advice/Sarah Jackman/You Went the Wrong Way, Old King Louie/J.C. Cohen/One Hippopotami/The Twelve Gifts of Christmas/Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh! (New 1964 Version).
THE BEST OF ALLAN SHERMAN. Volume Two (Rhino RNLP 70818).
A Waste of Money/Grow Mrs. Goldfarb/Shake Hands With Your Uncle Max/Lotsa Luck/You're Getting To Be a Rabbit With Me/Me/Shticks of One And a Half Dozen Of the Other/Al 'N' Yetta/The Rebel/Pop Hates the Beatles/Rat Fink/Chim, Chim, Cheree/Streets of Miami/Hail To Thee, Fat Person.
MY SON THE FOLKSINGER (Warner Bros. WS 1475) 1962.
MY SON THE CELEBRITY (Warner Bros. WS 1487) 1963.
MY SON THE NUT (Warner Bros. WS 1501) 1963.
ALLAN IN WONDERLAND (Warner Bros. WS 1539) 1964.
FOR SWINGIN' LIVERS ONLY (Warner Bros. 1569) 1964.
MY NAME IS ALLAN (Warner Bros. WS 1604) 1965.
ALLAN SHERMAN LIVE (hoping you are the same!) (Warner Bros. WS 1649) 1966.
TOGETHERNESS (Warner Bros. 1684) 1967.
PETER AND THE COMMISSAR (RCA LSC-2773) 1964.
MORE FOLK SONGS BY ALLAN SHERMAN AND HIS FRIENDS (Jubilee 5019) 1962.
Marvin -- Marvin the Paranoid Android
"Marvin" is one of the two novelty singles released in England in 1981 featuring Stephen Moore, the original voice of Marvin on BBC radio and TV.
Marvin is a main character of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To the Galaxy, which originated as a series of radio plays written by Douglas Adams, broadcast by the BBC beginning in 1978. These radio plays were subsequently adapted for television and for a series of books which have been best-sellers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Two LP albums based on the series have also been released, but neither this recording of "Marvin" nor its sequel "Marvin I Love You" are included, as they were intended strictly as novelty singles and not as part of the radio or TV dramas. "Marvin" has not been released for sale in the USA, but "Marvin I Love You" may be found on the 1980s volume of Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Novelty Records Of All Time on Rhino Records.
"Marvin" was written by Moore, Adams, and John Sinclair, who is himself a fine actor well-known in Los Angeles theatre circles for his one-man show based on the life and works of the legendary American comic Lord Buckley.
Big Butt -- Bobby Jimmy and the Critters
Comedy rap songs have become increasingly popular in the past year. One of the most demanded comedy raps on our request lines is "Big Butt" by Bobby Jimmy and the Critters.
Russ Parr, a popular Los Angeles disc jockey, is the leader of the band; he also wrote and produced the record, and released it on his own Rapsur lable (spell it backwards for a clue). It's one of two Bobby Jimmy and the Critters songs that have been featured on the Dr. Demento show, the other being "We Like Ugly Women."
"Big Butt" has been released as a 12" single (with a vocal version on one side and an instrumental track on the other). A remixed version appears on an album called Ugly Knuckle Butt.
These will most likely be found in the dance music, rock or soul sections of larger record stores, rather than the comedy section. The address of Rapsur Records is 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90038.
It's A Real World (After All) -- Duck Logic
Duck Logic is a Chicago comedy group which makes its own tapes from time to time. They have not been released on records, but in the past few months several of them have become popular features on Jonathon Brandmeier's high-rated morning show on Chicago station WLUP (which is also a member of the Dr. Demento Network).
Duck Logic's latest creation may well turn out to be its most popular yet. He's "Joe, the Love Potatoe," the ultimate male chauvinist. By popular demand, Duck Logic has made available for sale a cassette tape of Joe's philosophy called "Learn To Be a Man Again." For more information write to Duck Logic c/o Jonathon Brandmeier at WLUP, 875 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611
The members of Duck Logic are Michael Crawford (the voice of Joe) Dave-id Dunlosky, Walter Michka, James F. Russell and Tim Thomas.
Column I Column II 1. Cyndi Lauper A. Spike Jones & his City Slickers 2. Martin Mull B. The Goons 3. Todd Rundgren C. Flaming Youth 4. Cheech & Chong D. Kay Kyser and his Orchestra 5. Phil Collins E. City Lights 6. Doodles Weaver F. Nazz 7. Flo & Eddie G. Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra 8. Peter Sellers H. Soop 9. Ish-ka-bibble J. The Turtles 10. Frank Sinatra K. Blue Angel
If you would like to write to a Dementite or Dementoid, please send us a postcard and include your name, address, city, state, zip, sex and age. Make all cards legible. No phone numbers or photos please! In 20 words or less tell what kind of Pen Pal you would like to have. Cards submitted will be printed in the Demento Society News as space allows.
I've been into comedy/novelty albums for years & have found a definite lack
of girls who I can talk to. Doc -- I know you're not running a dating service
here but, Help! Let me correspond with a few. They have to be out there!
235 Main St. #5E
East Hartford, CT 06118
Male, Age 28
Australian Dementoid, at least 16 years old. Academically inclined. Crazy, of
course! Enjoys art, rock and roll, and horror films.
1821 N.W. 42nd St.
Oakland Parks, Fla. 33309
Female, 16 yrs. old.
I enjoy comix, records, TV, movies, & things demented. I'd enjoy
corresponding with anyone who can stand such things.
75 Mirabel Ave.
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Male, Age 22
1. Benny Bell & Dr. D. both sang this song
10. The Little Engine said, "I think I ____"
11. What Vivian's friends call her
12. I Love Rock 'N ____
14. Cassini's first name
16. George Carlin calls the refrigerator this
18. Who's life & "tombs" did Steve Martin sing about?
19. What a hummingbird does
20. Mississippi John ____
21. Country bumpkin
23. Campy vamp: ____ West
26. Monster or 4077th
27. The Who's "Kids Are ____"
30. Barnes & Barnes' "Something's ____ The Bag"
32. "They're Coming to Take ____ Away"
33. What time of night David Letterman likes
36. More than a single, less than an album
37. ____ Zeppelin
39. Why Nervous Norvus needed a transfusion
41. The Paranoid Android
44. Road (abbrev.)
46. What Weird Al lost on
1. Guy who wears a kilt
2. A short laugh
3. "____ One Rides The Bus"
4. Who's got a secret?
5. The time to howl dementedly
6. What doesn't pay?
7. Rock without the k
8. "Sister Mary ____"
9. Alberta (abbrev.)
13. Tool for Monty Python's lumberjack
15. Louisiana State University (abbrev.)
17. What to say if you fall down
22. Zappa's "You Are What You ____"
24. Crazy accordionist ____ Yankovic
25. ____ Came From Outer Space
26. Actress Farrow
28. Who's a little teapot, short and stout?
29. Pencil Necks
31. Dangerfield's first name
33. Between heaven and hell
34. Mistress of the Dark
34. Newsman Nessman from WKRP
38. Two letters Old MacDonald sang on his farm
39. We do this to earn money
40. Stopper of a bottle
43. Breakfast starter
45. Princess ____
47. Initials: Elvis Costello
48. Not A.M.
49. A clown who needs counseling
In the early years of the Dr. Demento Show, the program consisted almost entirely of out-of-print, unavailable "collector's items."
Nowadays, contemporary favorites like "Weird Al" Yankovic, Bill Cosby and Cheech & Chong play a much larger role in Dementia. Records by these artists can be found in just about any well-stocked record store, in the "COMEDY" section.
We still get many, many calls, though, for the collector's items -- "Shaddup You Face," "Loving You Has Made Me Bananas," "Argument Clinic," "Martian Boogies," "Daffy Duck Rhapsody" and "It's In the Book" (the "Grandma's Lye Soap" song) -- just to name a few out-of-print recordings featured recently on the show.
Each of these was readily available at one time or another. "It's In the Book" reached #1 on the sales charts, in fact. At the present time, though, each is "out of print" -- copies are no longer being manufactured. For this reason, you are highly unlikely to see new copies of these for sale in ordinary record stores.
Do not give up hope, though! There are ways of obtaining out-of-print records. I've been doing it for years, and so have many other collectors; record collecting as a hobby has become much more popular in recent years.
A good place to start is the Yellow Pages of the phone book, under Records. Along with the usual shopping-mall chain stores you may well find ads for one or more stores that advertise "New and Used Records." These are generally stores that accept used albums as trade-ins, which they then put on sale priced at whatever they feel the market will bear ($2 to $3 an album is about average). Many of these albums will be out of print. Along with yesterday's rock and disco heroes, and a whole lot of bands hardly anybody remembers, you may well find a few Demented Discs. Some stores have a separate Comedy section for used discs; in others you'll just have to plow through the whole pile. Many stores now sell used cassettes and even compact discs in addition to LPs -- but only a few sell used 45s or 78s (I'll get to those later).
Most stores that sell used albums, and some that don't, also sell what are called "cut-outs." These are new albums that have been declared surplus by the manufacturers or distributors. They have holes punched in the covers, or their corners cut off, or some other mark to distinguish them from full-price albums, but they're otherwise brand-new and perfectly satisfactory. If an album has gone out of print fairly recently the "cut-out" department is a good bet. These typically sell for $3.99 or $4.99. You'll also see some cut-out cassettes; in fact you'll see these nowadays in many places that don't sell records at all, such as truck stops and car washes.
You'll have to do your own hunting in these "new-and-used" type stores; the clerks will rarely know whether or not they have a particular item in the "used" or "cut-out" sections, or exactly where it might be. And with used records, of course, you have to check the condition carefully. Dust and fingerprints can be removed, but scratches and wear are there to stay.
In larger cities, you're likely to find another type of record store in the phone book; stores catering specifically to record collectors. The ads will usually say something like "Hard-To-Find Records," "Out-of-Print," or "Collectors" Records.
I've been to hundreds of these store and there are no two alike. Each tends have its own specialty: 50s rock, 60s rock, jazz, show tunes, picture sleeves, 78s, 45s, whatever. Some also sell books. Most also sell new records. Some are very expensive, some are reasonable. In just about all cases you'll pay more for a record than you will if you're lucky enough to find the same record in a "new-and-used" store, but on the other hand your chances of finding scarcer items are considerably better, and the clerks will generally have a good idea of just what they have and don't have. Most of these stores will have at least a small comedy section, at least for LP's, and at practically any of them you'll find Demented Discs hiding here and there.
Clerks at collector's stores will often be able to give you a few leads on tracking down items they might not have. They'll also be able to tell you if there's a record "convention" coming up in your area soon. At these conventions, generally held in hotel meeting rooms for a day or two at time, annually, quarterly or monthly, dozens of different dealers will exhibit rare (and not-so-rare) records for sale or trade. Prices are whatever each dealer thinks he or she can get, and may be sky-high or dirt-cheap. In any case, let the buyer beware! If it's a good convention, you will see records you won't often see elsewhere. They tend to be best for rock, but you never know when or where someone will just happen to have some prized Demented Discs.
Finally we come to the Last Frontiers record collecting: secondhand stores, garage or yard sales, and swap meets. When I started collecting years ago, every Salvation Army, Goodwill or St. Vincent dePaul store was a potential goldmine. Most of the thrift-store gold is panned out now, but nearly every one of these stores has some records, and nuggets do still turn up on occasion. Independent thrift stores run by local churches or charities also usually have a few records. Old vinyl and shellac also turns up in used bookstores, used furniture stores, and antique stores (generally the less spiffy ones). These are a waste of time if you're just looking for one particular record, or just a few, but if you have a fairly wide-ranging want list, or just feel like picking up anything that looks interesting, you can still luck out in secondhand stores. Prices can vary enormously, but $1 each for LPs and 78s, and 25c for 45s, is about average. Once again, check the condition of the records carefully!
Much of the merchandise that people used to give to the Goodwill or "Sal Army," they now prefer to sell themselves, on their lawns, in their garages, or at swap meet (typically held at drive-in theaters on Saturday and Sunday mornings). Trash and treasures mingle freely at swap meets and yard sales, and that often includes records. Get there bright and early and you might be lucky enough to find a boxful straight from someone's attic or closet that hasn't been picked over by every other collector or dealer in the vicinity.
That about covers the sources for picking up out-of-print records "on the street." Next issue we'll look at the thriving business of buying and selling rare records by mail, and talk a little bit about what's worth a fortune and what's not.
Dear Doctor: I have an original Napoleon XIV album that I
purchased back in
1966, and my mother has an 8 track tape of "The Engelbert Humperdinck
by George Ascott. We are curious if these are of any value. --
Theresa M. Gall, Tipton, IN
The Doctor Replies: The value of old records, like other collectibles (and commodities in general, such as vegetables) is a matter of supply and demand.
You have one item that is quite valuable, and one that is just about worthless.
The Englebert Humperdinck Sound on an 8-track falls into the latter category. This is simply not the sort of music that appeals to serious collectors today, the kind that are willing to shell out big bucks. Moreover, there is very little demand today for 8-track tapes of any kind, since most owners of 8-track players have discarded them due to their inferior sound and notorious unreliability. I do look for certain 8-track rock tapes (the Beatles, for instance) to have some modest value as artifacts in the future, but not this one.
The Napoleon XIV album is another story, however. Unlike the single, it sold very few copies upon its original release, and it is in high demand today, thanks to people who've enjoyed it on my show and others who want to have it for nostalgic reasons or whatever! Copies have changed hands for as much as $200.
Several words of caution: The value of old records is heavily influenced by their condition, both disc and jacket. A scratchy record may be worth 10% or less of what a brand new (or "mint") copy of the same record will bring. The value of this particular item has probably dropped a bit because Rhino has recently reissued the album in its entirety with the original cover design; however, there will always be those who will want to have the first edition, and be willing to pay for it. Finally, converting rare records into cash can be extremely tricky; I'll cover this aspect in a future newsletter.
If you have a question you would like to ask Dr. Demento in this column, write to: "Ask The Doctor," The Demento Society News, P.O. Box 884, Culver City, CA 90230.
Executive Dementor............The Doc
Creative Director.....Kristine Weaver
Bureau Chief ..............Jay Levey
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Ace Photographer.........Robert Young
2-H. Well-known today for his TV and film acting and for the seven splendid solo LPs of whimsical, often risque songs he made beginning in 1972, Martin Mull actually began his recording career circa 1970 with a five-piece band called Soop. Soop cut an entire album of amusing if somewhat ragged performances at this time, including several Mull compositions (there's an early version of "Margie the Midget") but it was not released until 1974, long after Mull had left the band to begin his solo career.
3-F. Todd Rundgren, who has often supplied his superbly crafted albums with a track or two of comic relief, made his initial reputation in the late 1960s with a Philadelphia group called Nazz. Their three albums (plus a Best of Nazz compilation) have been reissued on Rhino. One of the albums includes an early version of "Hello It's Me," which became Todd's biggest hit as a solo artist.
4-E. City Lights was a Vancouver, B.C. troupe consisting of "three freaks, four topless dancers, a mime artiste and a roaring audience." It was in this group that Richard Marin (from Los Angeles) and Tommy Chong (from Edmonton, Alberta) first performed together, and worked out the first of the stoned-hippie comedy dialogues that they became world-famous for in 1971 under the names of Cheech & Chong.
5-C. Long before his No Jacket Required won the Grammy for Album of the Year, Phil Collins was world-famous as drummer, singer and songwriter with Genesis, which he joined in 1970. A year before that, at the age of 18, Collins recorded an album with a four-piece group called Flaming Youth. The album, entitled Ark 2, was not a big seller but did manage to get itself released in the USA, on Uni Records. A pleasing if not overpowering example of vintage British psychedelia, it features a charming Collins vocal on a cheerful, "trippy" piece called "Jupiter," recently heard on the Dr. Demento Show.
6-A. Doodles Weaver was already a popular nightclub comedian when he joined Spike Jones and his City Slickers in 1946, but it was with Spike that he won his greatest fame with his hysterical horse and auto races (each won by an improbable nag named Feetlebaum). After leaving Spike he became a popular character actor in films, and made a few solo recordings including "Eleanor Rigby" (on the album Dr. Demento's Delights) and "Gentry's Gin."
7-J. Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, better known as Flo & Eddie, grew up together in the Westchester district of Los Angeles (near the airport) where they formed a surf band called The Crossfires which soon evolved into a very popular pop group called The Turtles, which had five Top Ten singles in the 1960s. After The Turtles broke up, Flo & Eddie sang with Frank Zappa on several albums before "going duo" with their own band.
8-B. Britons, and Anglophiles everywhere, remember the late Peter Sellers not only as a brilliant film actor but as one of the three stars (with Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe) of the BBC's most beloved radio comedy series of all time, The Goon Show. The Goons also recorded a few musical novelty singles that were big hits in the U.K.,and some of their half-hour BBC shows have been released more or less in their entirety on LPs.
9-D. Merwyn Bogue, trumpeter and comedy vocalist with Kay Kyser's popular big band of the 1930s and 1940s, recorded a number with Kyser in 1935 called "Ish-Ka-Bibble (I Should Worry)." This nonsense song became so closely indentified with Bogue that he changed his own name to Ish-ka-bibble. He is featured on Kay's biggest hit, "Three Little Fishies" (on the 1940s volume of Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Novelty Records of All Time). He made a few solo records after leaving the band.
10-G. Frank Sinatra has made more than a few solo records since leaving Tommy Dorsey's big band in 1942, but it was with Dorsey that he won his intitial fame and made his first hit records. (His very first records, unsuccessful at the time of release, were with the Harry James band beginning in 1939).