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Tuesday, April 02, 2013

April 2, 1941

Welcome to the second day of April! And, welcome to another edition of the Tuesday Timeline! This is the first of FIVE Tuesday Timelines this month, so I hope you're all ready for this trip back through time.

And, this time, I promise you that there won't be as many problems with this entry as I had with the April Fools Day entry. Though, I can't guarantee you that the entry will be completely devoid of gags and humour. You'll understand why I have made this disclaimer as you read ahead.

For now, why don't we wish the following famous people a very happy birthday! I extend birthday greetings to Gloria Henry, Linda Hunt, Reggie Smith, Emmylou Harris, Pamela Reed, Gregory Abbott, Amelia Marshall, Buddy Jewell, Christopher Meloni, Keren Woodward (Bananarama), Clark Gregg, Roselyn Sanchez, Adam Rodriguez, Aiden Turner, Lindy Booth, Jesse Carmichael (Maroon 5), Bethany Joy Lenz, Ashley Peldon, and Lee DeWyze.

And, here are some of the events that happened on April 2 throughout history.

1513 – Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon first sights land, which eventually becomes the state of Florida

1792 – The U.S. Mint is established following the passage of the Coinage Act

1800 – Ludwig van Beethoven leads the premiere of his First Symphony in Vienna

1863 – The early beginnings of the Richmond Bread Riots take place

1865 – Confederate President Jefferson Davis flees Richmond, Virginia as does most of his Cabinet at the tail end of the American Civil War

1902 – The Electric Theatre, the first full-time movie theatre to open up in the United States, opens in Los Angeles, California

1912 – Just thirteen days before it sinks, the RMS Titanic begins sea trials

1956 – Daytime soap operas “As The World Turns” and “The Edge of Night” both debut on CBS

1972 – After being labeled a communist during the Red Scare and spending years away from the United States on a self-imposed exile, Charlie Chaplin returns to the country for the first time since the accusation was issued

1975 – Construction is completed on the CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, becoming the world's tallest free-standing structure

1989 – Mikhail Gorbachev and Fidel Castro meet in Havana, Cuba in an attempt to mend strained relations between Cuba and the Soviet Union

1992 – John Gotti is convicted of murder and racketeering in a New York City courtroom

1998 – Thirty-three year old Rob Pilatus of disgraced music group Milli Vanilli is found dead in a Frankfurt hotel room, due to a drug overdose

2005 – Pope John Paul II passes away at the age of 84

That's quite a lot of history, isn't it? Kind of makes you wonder what year we will be going back in time to, huh?

Well, the date on today's time machine dial is...April 2, 1941!

Yes, we're going back in time to 1941 to commemorate the birth of a man who has had an impact in the radio world. He turns seventy-two years old today, and shows absolutely no sign of slowing down!

I'll also be the first one to admit that this guy probably had more influence on me than I really should admit!

Those of you who only know me through the blog will probably not know this...but those of you who do know me on a more personal level know that I can be quite goofy. After spending a lot of time taking life more seriously that I really should, I've developed a bit of this wacky personality that involves taking popular songs and rewriting the lyrics of them to make them bizarre, grotesque, and even mildly offensive. It's particularly bad during the Christmas season, where I tend to do a feature known as “The Bastardization of Christmas Past”.

And, if it weren't for this man's popular radio program which introduced me to other artists who enjoy a good parody as much as I do, my twisted holiday songs might never have been penned.

(You see, people? Now you have someone to blame!!!)

On April 2, 1941, a man by the name of Barret Eugene Hansen was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But, fans of his might know him by his other stage name...DR. DEMENTO!

Now, Dr. Demento's love for music was instilled into him at a very early age. His father, after all, was an amateur pianist. Because he was always surrounded by music, he began collecting records at a very young age. Dr. Demento estimated that he started his collection just before he became a teenager, aided by a local thrift store that sold them at just a nickel a piece.

He began attending Portland, Oregon's Reed College in 1959, and while he was there, he worked at the school's radio station, KRRC, where he worked his way up to General Manager of the station two years into his studies. After graduating from the college in 1963 (following writing his senior thesis on Allen Berg's “Wozzeck”, and Claude Debussy's “Pelleas et Melisande”), he began attending UCLA, where he earned a Master's Degree in folklore and ethnomusicology.

Following his graduation from UCLA, he settled into a home in Topanga Canyon where he lived with the members of rock band Spirit, and during this time, he worked at local radio stations while working a second job as a talent scout for Specialty Records and Warner Brothers Records.

It wasn't until 1970 when the Dr. Demento name was born, at a little old station from Pasadena called KPPC. When Hansen debuted the persona, he also made a little bit of a tweak to his playlist when he started mixing novelty records with rock and oldies music. Thanks to the positive reaction that he received from listeners, he got rid of the oldies rock and made his program 100% novelty. The show proved so successful that at the end of 1971, he moved to Los Angeles to work for KMET, where he debuted a four-hour long live program in 1972. That program would end up lasting for eleven years!

Dr. Demento's good fortune increased in 1974 when his weekly radio program became syndicated nationwide in a two-hour format. Initially, the show was produced by his manager, Larry Gordon, and in 1978, Westwood One took over the syndicated show production. Westwood One would continue to carry the show until 1992, with On The Radio Broadcasting taking over for the next eight years when Westwood One handed the reins off. From 2000 onward, Dr. Demento handled the syndication of his program himself under the name “Talonian Productions”. This continued until June 2010, when the terrestrial radio format aired its final show. But, fear not, Demento fans. The show still continues in an online format, and you can listen to the shows on his official website, which you can visit by clicking HERE.

So, who ended up getting more notoriety by having their songs featured on Dr. Demento? Well, this guy for one.

Yes, believe it or not, back when Weird Al Yankovic still went under the name of Alfred Matthew Yankovic, he handed a demo tape off to Dr. Demento in 1976 when he came to Yankovic's high school to speak with the students. Dr. Demento not only listened to the tape, but played it as well. Listeners of the Dr. Demento program loved Yankovic's parodies, and their interest helped secure Weird Al a record deal in the 1980s. He still continues to perform and record music today, and Dr. Demento has since appeared in several Weird Al videos as well as in the 1989 Weird Al feature film, “UHF”.

Another group that made tongues wag when they appeared on the Dr. Demento program was Spinal Tap. In the late 1980s, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer appeared on the program completely decked out in their Spinal Tap attire, and stayed in character for the near three hours they spent chatting with Dr. Demento on his program.

Certainly other celebrities got the star treatment when they appeared on the Dr. Demento show. It's hard to forget Mel Brooks' appearance on the program when he was presented with a present, courtesy of Canter's absolutely huge cheesecake!

But perhaps no celebrity was more influential on the Dr. Demento program than the late Frank Zappa. I mean, when you consider that he named his kids Dweezil, Ahmet, Diva, and Moon Unit, Zappa and Dr. Demento seemingly gelled together much like Reese's Peanut Butter and milk chocolate! Of all the guests that Dr. Demento had on his program, he admitted that Frank Zappa was one that influenced him the most, and Zappa appeared on the Dr. Demento show several times as a guest. When Frank Zappa died in December 1993 at the age of 52, Dr. Demento dedicated the next scheduled radio show in memory of Zappa, and played Zappa's music throughout the entire program...the first time in the program's history that Dr. Demento devoted an entire episode to a single artist.

Dr. Demento was a definite influence on the radio industry, and he also happens to have influenced my silly side as well...well, much to the chagrin of those closest to me.

And, he was born 72 years ago today, on April 2, 1941.

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