Thursday, November 09, 2006

Dr. Demento spins camp songs

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Nationally recognized radio personality Dr. Demento knows his novelty songs and has actively promoted hunting tunes by Da Yoopers and Bananas at Large to the delight of his many fans.

Demento, also known as Barry Hansen, isn't a hunter himself, but he's played "Second Week of Deer Camp" and "Da Turdy Point Buck" on his syndicated weekly radio program dozens of times.

Da Yoopers, based in Ishpeming, have been Upper Peninsula favorites for more than two decades, with "Second Week," written by Joe Potila and Jim DeCaire, probably their biggest hit. Demento said the song, clocking in at just under three minutes, "was a monster hit on our show in 1988, and still gets requests every hunting season. Same goes for 'Da Turdy Point Buck,' which we first aired in 1991," he added.

I asked Demento, owner of the world's largest collection of novelty and comedy recordings, why those two songs struck a chord with his listeners.

"Before 'Second Week' there'd never been a good funny song that celebrated deer hunting in the north woods. Since a lot of people are passionate about that, Da Yoopers had an instant audience.

"There had been hunting songs before that, but they were all southern, so with their colorful northern accent, Da Yoopers created something new and unique and had an instant jukebox hit clear across the northern tier, anywhere from Maine to Washington where deer hunters gathered to hoist a few.

"I've never hunted deer, but as a northerner, born and raised in Minneapolis, I was all too happy to hear a funny song that celebrated the culture of my part of the country."

"Da Turdy Point Buck," meanwhile, was recorded by Bananas at Large, a trio of "weirdos" (their word) from Amherst Junction, Wis., who tracked the successful footsteps of Da Yoopers.

Written by Mike Skurek, Gary Nilsen and Shane Totten, the song, appearing on Impact Media, consumes a radio-challenging five minutes and 12 seconds. The disc's cover sports a familiar fluorescent orange color and the drawing of an amazingly-antlered snorting buck, demolishing a firearm while a bullet whistles through his ears.

The good doctor had some insight into that deer season classic, as well.

Demento said the Bananas at Large recording "added a new wrinkle with its great storyline and its sly use of rap and reggae and became even more popular." Still, the Wisconsin group "didn't have quite the success making a career out of it that Da Yoopers did," Demento added.

Da Yoopers are immortalized on the Dr. Demento "25th Anniversary Collection," a compact disc set on Rhino Records. The opening track on the 34-cut album is "Smells Like Nirvana," a smash hit by "Weird Al" Yankovic, who's career Demento helped launch. He's played Yankovic's music on his radio program since 1976 when the Grammy winner was sending him homemade tapes while still in high school.

Demento is a classmate of well-known slide guitarist Ry Cooder, and in his early days served as a roadie for blues heavies Canned Heat as well as Spirit, who had a hit with "I Got a Line on You." He was later employed by Specialty Records and compiled 35 reissue albums for the label. In addition, he worked for Warner Brothers on their acclaimed "Loss Leaders" series of double-LP sampler albums during the early 70s.

A classical music graduate of Reed College in Portland, Ore., Demento has operated his weekly radio program for over 35 years. Now 65, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife Sue.

Continuing to record on the You Guys Records imprint, Da Yoopers are preparing their ninth album called "21st Century Yoopers in Space." Bananas at Large count three compact discs and a video release to their credit.

As deer hunting season approaches in Michigan, it may be time to give these two fall anthems another spin, just for laughs.

You know Dr. Demento will be doing just that.


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