The advent of a site like Kickstarter has been a wonderful gift with some flaws. Wonderful because it has given folks the chance to get such viable things released and funded, like the previously lost work of cult filmmaker H.G. Lewis, not to mention a high definition release of the surreal Sominex horror film, Manos, The Hands of Fate. It can be flawed because there are some whose projects got kicked off of Kickstarter and not in a good way, including the HD restoration of The Opening of Misty Beethoven. (Though, the rubber still met the road on that project without Kickstarter, thankfully.)
However, that is not why I am here today. Instead, this is about an outfit called the Meep Morp Studio and their undertaking of a truly worthy project entitled Under the Smogberry Trees: The True Story of Dr. Demento. Anyone like myself who grew up listening to Dr. Demento’s radio show will instantly feel their heart swell knowing about this project. Championing “novelty” music and giving airplay to acts ranging from Spike Jones to Frank Zappa, not to mention the wholly underrated Barnes & Barnes (who warrant their own documentary), Dr. Demento was a breath of fresh air in a radio landscape often dominated by AOR, over-produced country and butt rock as far as the eye can see. Heck, we have the man to thank for basically helping jump start the career of Weird Al Yankovic.
Novelty music has always been the awkward redheaded stepchild of musical genres and often unfairly so, since it takes real talent to be boldly ridiculous, wonderfully weird and steadfastly true to a sound that has a snowball’s chance in Hell of making anyone a millionaire. Formerly a roadie for Spirit, Demento, also known as Barret Hansen, has done more for esoteric music in the past forty years than all the music historians combined. Given his contributions to radio and strange music, on top of featuring interviews with Art & Artie Barnes and Bill Frenzel aka Ogden Edsel (“Dead Puppies,” “Kinko the Clown”) among others, it would be a gift if this documentary gets fully funded.