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Dr Demento – Page 5

The history of Rhino Records....

READERSVOICE.COM: How did Rhino records, the label that’s released a lot of the Dr Demento anthologies, come about, and how did you hook up with them?
DR DEMENTO: Rhino started as a record store.

Richard Foos and Harold Bronson were independent used record dealers, who sold at swap meets and such, who decided to pool their resources and rent a storefront.

A few years later, Wild Man Fischer wandered into the store. He made up a song about the record store, and then and there Richard and Harold decided to record him. The resultant 45 rpm single was quite an underground hit, and was soon followed (1978) by a Wild Man Fischer LP.

This was followed by several other comedy LP’s. A year or two later they were able to obtain the rights to the Turtles’ 1960s hits (the two Turtles lead singers had known Harold in high school). Their Turtles Greatest Hits LP was something major record store chains were eager to carry, and Rhino the label took off from there.

My first release had been on Warner Bros. Records, where I had my day job in the 1970s. By 1980 they were moving in another direction, and I no longer worked there, so my manager went looking for another label for my second LP.

Rhino seemed to be a natural, since they were starting to get good distribution and had several comedy albums in their catalog. The deal was sealed over lunch and we were on our way.

However, as it happened, my third album was on a different label, before I went back to Rhino, this time to stay for quite a while.

RV: When did you start collecting comedy records? What was it about Spike Jones’s records that you connected with the most, and what are some of his best recordings in your opinion?

DR D: My dad bought me “Cocktails For Two” in 1945, when it was new and I was four.

He bought me half a dozen more Spike records over the next few years, and we often listened to his CBS radio show.

“William Tell Overture,” “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” and “Jones Polka” were other favorites from my single-digit years.

A beat up copy of “Der Fuehrer’s Face” was an early find at the Salvation Army. (That copy repeated a groove about halfway through, and I still subconsciously expect it to hang up right at that point, even on a CD).

In the 1950s and 60s I collected comedy along with everything else, not necessarily paying special attention to it. That changed as soon as the Dr Demento Show took its comedic turn in the early 1970s.

RV: What is it about the song Monster Mash that gives it that timeless magic, in your opinion?

DR D: It initially hit because it was timely, tying in with the numerous dance craze tunes of the immediate pre-Beatles era. It survived because it was well-produced and entertaining, a better Halloween party song than anything that had preceded it, so it got revived every year.

RV: When and where was the Dr Demento fan club, the Demento Society, formed and can you talk a bit about it?

DR D: We’ve had The Demento Society since the show went national in 1974. It is a fairly standard fan club, i.e. primarily a merchandising operation rather than a social group.

RV: What are some of the events you’ve done personal appearances at? What would be involved for you in a typical appearance?

DR D: I do quite a few “cons”. Each one is a little different. Typically I will emcee a concert, a masquerade, a dance and/or my Festival of Dementia video show. (I’m doing the first three on that list at Marcon this year).

I’ll also sign autographs and participate in the opening ceremony, and perhaps appear on a panel or two. Other places such as colleges or community arts programs will bring me in just for the Festival of Dementia.

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