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1976: The Demented Year in Review

What a year 1976 was!

President Ford lost the presidency to Jimmy Carter with the help of his teeth. Nadia Comenci was cute on the parallel bars on the Olympics. Chevy Chase left Saturday Night Live that fall, and Francisco Franco remained dead for the first full year since he was born. TV introduced us to three beautiful ladies as private investigators on Charlie's Angels, and John Travolta was the breakout teen heartthrob on "Welcome Back, Kotter." And in music, a mixture of disco, heavy metal, ballads, country, and funny songs all were sharing the same pop music chart.

This is one of the best-selling funny songs of 1976. Here is the song as it was heard live on the Los Angeles version of the Dr. Demento show, and a bit later in syndication on April 25, 1976. Dr. Demento first played the single in the fall of 1975 and it became a major hit the following spring.

  • "Junkfood Junkie (performed live on KMET 94.7 March 23, 1976)", by Larry Groce

    and in the background we hear the TV theme of "S*W*A*T" by Rhythm Hertiage which was the #1 instrumental of the year.

    1976 was a vintage year in novelty songs and this was one of two funny singles to reach the #1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart that year...

  • "Disco Duck (Part 1)", by Rick Dees & His Cast of Idiots

    Disco music and dancing were the rage in 1976, but not everybody was sold on the musical trend. Frank Zappa were among the first to come out with an anti-disco song...

  • "Disco Boy", by Frank Zappa from his "Zootalures" album

    There was so much hype about the bicentennial birth of the United States of America, that when the big birthday finally came on July 4, 1976, it was anticlimatic. This artist came up with our favorite bicentennial song of the year on a rare 45, of which exactly 200 copies were manufactured...

  • "200 Candles", by Father Guido Sarducci

    One other craze caused almost as big a fuss as disco and it yielded another funny song to top the pop chart. It was the C.B. radio craze.

  • "Convoy", by C.W. McCall from Omaha, Nebraska

    and in the background we hear Mannheim Steamroller, the band that got its start as C.W. McCall's backup band years before they made millions doing Christmas music.

    Convoy may have been the best-selling single about C.B.'s, but these two songs actually got more requests on the Dr. Demento Show that that one. The first time Dr. Demento played that song on his show, he was about to put the record on the turntable and he dropped it on the floor, he got a crack in it. He played it anyway. Anybody remember hearing it that first time with the crack in it?

  • "Hey Shirley (This Is Squirrely)", by Shirley & Squirrely

    This is another C.B. song that was popular on Demento's show, and we have not heard that song in many years. WARNING: This song is politically incorrect, years before the phrase was coined and it is without any social value whatsoever. It was on the country and pop charts back then. The original singles came with special pink labels. Rod Hart had a small part in the Sam Peckinpah/Steve McQueen movie "Junior Bonner"

  • "C. B. Savage", by Rod Hart

    and in the background we hear "Scotch on the Rocks", another instrumental hit of 1976, the band of the black watch.

    Rockabilly music was having one of its periodic revival back in 1976, and this record became a favorite on the Demento Show that year. It's from the legendary Rollin' Rock record label...

  • "I Wanna Eat Your Pudding", by Alvis Wayne

    No, this is not Barry White, or Isaac Hayes, but this famous comedian who did imitations of several R&B singers, even James Brown on an album called "Bill Cosby is Not Himself These Days, Right On, Right On, Right On."

  • "Yes, Yes, Yes", by Bill Cosby

    and in the background we hear ?

    One of the big movies that year was a big budget remake of King Kong. We come so far since 1976, all the way from a King Kong revival to a Godzilla revival in 1998. King Kong inspired several novelty records including this one...

  • "King Kong (Your Song)", by Bobby Pickett & Peter Ferrara

    This funny song was a semi-hit single. This song was originally done by The Robins back in 1954, and it was their sequel to "Cell Block Number 9", which we heard not too long ago.

  • "Framed", by Cheech & Chong

    and in the background we hear "School Days" by Stanley Clarke on the electric bass, one of Dr. Demento's favorite non-demented instrumentals from that year.

    Another person who had a novelty single charting that year was this famous country singer...

  • "One Piece At A Time", by Johnny Cash & The Tennessee Three

    1976 was the first year that the Dr. Demento Show started getting a lot of original unreleased demented songs on tape from listeners from all over America. It was on March 14, 1976, without any particular fanfare that Dr. Demento played for the very first time a song by a 16-year-old singer from Lynwood, CA. Now Alfred would go on to record much better music and gain much more fame, especially after he began calling himself "Weird Al" a couple of years later. But this day in history was when it all started. That accordion really caught Dr. Demento's ear. You didn't hear many accordions in songs in 1976, rock and roll music especially.

  • "Belvedere Cruisin' (excerpt)", by "Weird Al" Yankovic (Alfred Yankovic)

    It would be another three years before Star Trek's popularity would regain high warp speed with the help of a motion picture reuniting the original cast, but this was just the beginning of what was yet to be, the flood of Star Trek funny songs and sketches inspired by the short-lived series of the same name running for just three years on NBC. This was far away the most popular funny song of 1976 and number one on the Funny Five surveys for many more years to come...

  • "Stardrek", by Bobby Pickett & Peter Ferrara

    Events in 1976

    01/01, Marijuana fans changed the "Hollywood" sign to read "Hollyweed."

    01/05, the soap satire "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" premiered in syndication.

    01/09, C.W. McCall's single "Convoy" hit #1 on the country music charts. It also hit #1 on the pop chart. 10-4, good buddy!

    01/10, Is it a dessert topping or a floor wax? "Saturday Night Live's" Chevy Chase delivers the good news that new "Shimmer" is both

    01/17, on "NBC's Saturday Night", The Blues Brothers debut (and Paul Shaffer introduces his Don Kirshner impersonation).


    01/31, R.C., "Love Rollercoaster" by Ohio Players peaked at #1 on the pop singles chart. What was that mystery behind the screaming woman between verses about?

    02/28, Mr. Bill first appears on SNL, then is rearranged.

    03/14, "Weird Al" Yankovic's first airing of one of his tapes on The Dr. Demento Show was "Belvedere Cruising".

    03/20, R.C., "Love Is The Drug" by Roxy Music peaked at #30 on the pop singles chart.

    03/20, R.C., "Junk Food Junkie" by Larry Groce peaked at #9 on the pop singles chart.

    03/22, George Lucas began filming the first of nine planned movies in the "Star Wars" epic.

    04/17, the "Bass-O-Matic '76" classic Saturday Night Live ad parody aired.

    04/20, George Harrison sang "The Lumberjack Song" with Monty Python.

    04/24, R.C., "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen peaked at #9 on the pop singles chart.

    05/29, "Saturday Night Live" presents "the last episode of Star Trek," a sketch which nets host Elliott Gould a fan letter from Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who calls it "delicious. That is the proper word for it -- imaginatively conceived and ably carried out with the kind of loose good humor that an entertaining parody demands." Roddenberry also requests tapes of the sketch to play for the crew of the Star Trek theatrical film he hopes to start work on "to Remind us to hang loose and have some fun with what we're doing."

    05/29, R.C., "One Piece At A Time" by Johnny Cash peaked at #29 on the pop singles chart.

    06/00, Weird Al Yankovic was at the Head of the Class as he graduated as a 16-year-old valedictorian, and bound to Cal Poly for architecture.

    06/03, "Bohemian Rhapsody" single by Queen was certified Gold by the RIAA 06/14, "The Gong Show" (TV Game Show) premieres on NBC hosted by Chuck Barris where bad acts get gonged if they stink.

    07/04, R.C., "Framed" by Cheech & Chong peaked at #41 on the pop singles chart.

    07/28, Rick Dees & His Cast Of Idiots' "Disco Duck" was released. Why? I don't know. He just released the song with the cheap Donald Duck imitation set to some disco tune, okay?

    08/05, "What's Happening!!", TV Comedy; debut on ABC. Smack in the middle of rerun season, ABC strikes gold with a character named "Rerun" -- Fred Berry, the rotund center of the hit urban comedy What's Happening!! Started as a summer replacement, the show lasts three seasons.

    08/31, a judge found George Harrison guilty of "subconscious plagiarism" of the melody line of the 1963 Chiffon's hit "He's So Fine" in writing "My Sweet Lord". The judge said that the chorus to Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" was identical to "He's So Fine" and it eventually (appeals went on for about five years) cost the former Beatle over half a million dollars. In 1983, a ska song "Just Got Lucky" by JoBoxers sounds suspiciously patterened after "My Sweet Lord."

    09/00, "The Muppet Show", TV Variety; debut in syndication.

    09/00, Weird Al Yankovic entered Cal Poly, also worked as a D.J. for the campus radio station known as "weird-al".

    09/04, R.C., "Hey Shirley (This Is Squirrely)" by Shirley & Squirrely peaked at #48 on the pop singles chart.

    09/11, "Monster Squad", & "The Kids From C.A.P.E.R.", TV Childrens; debut on NBC.

    09/13, Rick Dees was fired from WMPS/Memphis in a dispute over his hit "Disco Duck." The rest is history. Dees is now quacking all the way to the bank.

    10/02, Joe Cocker appeared on NBC's Saturday Night Live. He performed a duet of "Feelin' Alright" with John Belushi in which Belushi dows a memorable Cocker imitation. Belushi performs his exaggeratedly spastic imitation of Cocker. The crowd goes nuts and Cocker, familiar with Belushi's "tribute" to him, claims that since "my band likes it, I'm as happy as a pig in s---."

    10/06, Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots receive a gold record for one of the more bizarre novelty hits of the decade, "Disco Duck." In December, it will become only the fourth single ever to be certified platinum.

    10/09, Bobby Bare's "Dropkick Me Jesus (Through The Goalposts Of Life)" entered the country charts

    10/16, R.C., "Disco Duck (part 1)" by Rick Dees (a Memphis DJ at the time) & His Cast Of Idiots peaked at #1 on the pop singles chart. Dees is still around, but not as a recording artist. He's a DJ in Los Angeles and is hosting several varieties of the "Weekly Top 40" show, syndicated around the world.


    10/29, Frank Zappa's album [22] ZOOT ALLURES was released including the tracks "Wonderful Wino" and "Disco Boy".

    11/20, Paul Simon appeared on "Saturday Night Live" in a turkey outfit. George Harrison also managed an appearance (what with his busy schedule and all).

    11/26, The Sex Pistols released their debut single "Anarchy In The U.K."


    12/13, "Disco Duck" single by Rick Dees and His Cast Of Idiots was certified Platinum by the RIAA

    12/17, Superstation TBS Goes National! Ted Turner changes the world of TV by placing WTBS-17, then WTCG, Atlanta on satellite for cable systems countrywide to beam back to tens of millions of cable homes. Four cable systems picked up the signal. The rest is history.

    12/27, "Occupation:Foole" album by George Carlin was certified Gold by the RIAA

    12/28, 14-year-old Genie Francis joined the soap "General Hospital" as Laura Vining. Luke wouldn't be on for a couple of years, yet somehow, history would be made between them going into the next decade. She retired from soap opera acting in 2002 and is raising her two children with Star Trek actor-director Jonathan Frakes.

    12/30, The Smothers Brothers, Tom and Dick, played their last show at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas and retired as a team from show business. Each continued as a solo artist. They reunited years later for another stab at TV (on NBC) plus concert appearances that proved very successful.

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