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Dr. Demento Ends His 40 Year Old Radio Show

The novelty tunes, wacky sounds, comedy bits and parody songs, all hosted by one crazy "doctor," has come to an end. This weekend is the final airing for the syndicated "Dr. Demento Show." The show's syndicator, Talonian Productions -- which is owned by Dr. Demento -- has told the affiliates that this is the end.

In a simple email to its few remaining stations, the email stated "Dr. Demento and his management have decided to no longer offer The Dr. Demento Show on terrestrial radio stations and to concentrate on offering the show via internet streaming only."

The Dr. Demento Show was one of the most unique syndicated radio shows in history, specializing in finding, playing and promoting novelty songs, comedic songs, and the strangest songs ever recorded, from new recordings to classic recordings from decades ago. Dr. Demento, who real name is Barret ("Barry") Eugene Hansen, got his start playing oldies on a radio station in Pasadena, California. As he and his listeners had fun focusing on the old novelty songs like "Alley Oop" and "Purple People Eater," the show then focused only on that. By 1970, the "Dr. Demento" personality was born. The weekly, goofy, all-novelty song Pasadena show from 1970 grew in popularity and became syndicated nationally by 1974.

The popular weekly show is credited with bringing "Weird Al" Yankovic to world wide fame. The show is also credited (or blamed, depending upon your perspective) for bringing the song "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" by Elmo and Patsy to national attention in the late 70's and early 80's. Because of Dr. Demento, that song is now heard seemingly non-stop through the month of December.

Dr. Demento was inducted into the Comedy Music Hall of Fame in June 2005. This past November, Dr. Demento was honored with an induction into the Radio Hall of Fame -- introduced at the induction ceremony by Chicago's Jonathon Brandmeier.

In the last few years, his syndicated radio show had fallen on tough times. Some of the reasons had to do with comedy songs not being very popular any more and very few new novelty songs are being released. That seemed to peak in the mid-80's. Some of the reasons had to do with the fact finding advertisers for this show became close to impossible in the last few years. While some of the reasons had to do with Dr. Demento himself. He and his management team had become very demanding of their affiliates. Asking for high fees for the show, demanding certain time slots, and most recently, demanding that all affiliate radio stations shut down their Internet streaming while his show was on the air. Listeners were only allowed to listen via airwaves or via a subscription to his own website. These demands, coming from a low-rated weekend show, did not sit well with many station managers. In the last three years, the show went from many, many dozens of stations down to under a dozen. As of this weekend -- Dr. Demento's final weekend on the air -- the show is down to only six radio affiliates.

The very last station to drop the Dr. Demento Show? Chicago's own WLUP-FM, who had been one of the show's longest supporters, even through numerous management and ownership changes. For around 25 years, Dr. Demento was heard in Chicago on 97.9. WLUP dropped the show three weeks ago. A few days later, Dr. Demento took that lost Chicago affiliate as a sign to end the show. It was only a matter of weeks before the true 40th Anniversary of the show was to happen.

The show will continue on, but now it will only be streaming and in podcast form on his own website. Even then, only for those who choose to join the "Demento Online Club."

It's the end of era for novelty songs. It's the end of an era for radio.

UPDATE #1 06/06/10: As a point of clarification for Chicago readers, Dr. Demento's company did not ever make payment demands or time demands upon WLUP. For many years, the show was on the air there via a barter agreement. In recent years, the show simply aired for free. WLUP management did not choose to cancel airing the show for these reasons.

UPDATE #2 06/06/10: This evening, Dr. Demento's website did finally acknowledge the end of the terrestrial radio show and make this news official. The good Doc had this to say:
"This weekend, the Dr. Demento Show will have its final broadcast...

This was a very painful decision for the Doctor...he really hates to let it go after almost 40 years...but he has come to agree with his manager and his family that it's necessary. The broadcast has been losing money for some time.

THE GOOD NEWS -- Dr. Demento intends to continue producing new shows every week for www.drdemento.com for the foreseeable future. A new one will be available Saturday morning, June 12, and more new shows will be posted every Saturday thereafter."




And now, a little audio salute to the good Doctor, with a few of the songs he helped make famous...

Dr. Demento presents: "Fish Heads" by Barnes & Barnes


"Shaving Cream" by Paul Wynn


"Dirty Deeds Done With Sheep" by Bob Rivers


"Another One Rides the Bus" by Weird Al Yankovic


Remember: "Staaaaay deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeemented!"


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