It's not often that you pick up the phone and a familiar radio voice says, "This is Dr. Demento," and wants to speak with you. But then again, it shouldn't come as a surprise that this fuzzy uncle of all personable radio figures should make his own calls and handle his own affairs intimately.
Born Barret Hansen, Doctor Demento was a music fanatic from the get-go. Inspired by his parents' swooning love of classical music, he soon started a boss collection of jukebox castoffs and 78's that rivaled those of any chick-cruising greaser. By age16 he was the keenest DJ at University High School's sock hops and owned the niftiest spread of records in town.
He soon went on to Reed College in Portland and worked as student manager for the campus radio station. There he received a degree in the classical music his parents loved before setting off to UCLA for a thesis on the evolution of blues into rock 'n' roll. It was then that he got involved in production. His first venture was a demo album for the then unknown Spirit in 1967, which he followed up by co-producing an LP for guitarist John Fahey (recently re- released).
In 1968, while working full-time assembling vintage rock, gospel, and blues albums for Specialty Records, Barret produced the first taste of Dementia. Doo-Wop contains some of the most off- beat licks of early R&B and aired around the same time that progressive radio hit Hansen's home town of L.A. A character from one of these stations, KPPC-FM personality "The Obscene" Steven Clean, invited Hansen to spin a sample of his groovy collection on air. The tunes were such a hit that Hansen took to the air himself in 1970, claiming the now-famous moniker of Dr. Demento.
Several years ago, the syndicated show moved to On The Radio Broadcasting. Now hundreds of radio stations across the nation subscribe to The Dr. Demento Show, and hundreds of thousands of listeners giggle at the charismatic and wacked-out personality of Barret Hansen. The Doctor's personal archives extend back to 1889 and exceed 200,000 albums, tapes, and CD's. Though most famous for his radio show, he also spends his time writing articles and liner notes for such artists as Deep Purple, The Coasters, The Drifters, and Leo Kottke. Dr. Demento has several compilation albums: Dr. Demento Basement Tapes, Dr. Demento's 20th Anniversary Collection, Dr. Demento Presents Spooky Tunes and Scary Melodies, Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Novelty Records of All Time, Dr. Demento's Dementia Royale and for the kiddies Dr. Demento Gooses Mother.
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