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2011-11-26 12:29:33

Dr. Demento's Blog - November 26, 2011 - Future topics? / Benny Bell / Musical Mike

This week, along with planning our Christmas & Hanukkah celebrations, I’ll be working on our topics for early 2012. I’ll be exploring certain topics in depth as I did in 2011, but on some shows I’ll be featuring two or three topics rather than just one. There are many topics that have inspired a few great comedy songs, but not enough to fill an hour or more – bicycles and chickens come to mind. I might also have a couple of “random selection” shows like I did a few years ago.

Suggestions warmly welcomed! What topics would you like me to cover in 2012?

We explored the 1980s this year, one year at a time…would you like me to explore the 1970s, the 1990s, or years from other decades?

When you suggest a topic, feel free to suggest a few favorite songs (or a lot of them, if you like).

Use the “request a song” feature on the home page.


On this week’s show, in addition to the 1989 flashback and the November Top Ten, I play songs in memory of Gary Garcia, of Buckner & Garcia, and Lee Pockriss, hit songwriter of the 1950s and 1960s.
I also explore the history of “Sweet Violets.” It was the first hit song in the long career of Ben Samberg, better known as Benny Bell. Benny published “Sweet Violets” in 1929, and claimed to have written it as early as 1922. The title, and some of the lyrics and melody, were borrowed (perhaps unconsciously) from a song first published in 1882. What Benny added was a string of “suggestive” verses, each of which leads you to believe it will end on a certain word, often an inelegant word, but instead we jump right into the chorus. He used the same method in the 1940s for “Shaving Cream.”
Benny’s version of “Sweet Violets” became a hit in 1931, recorded by Dick Robertson (using the pseudonym Bob Dickson) and also by Joel Shaw and his orchestra, with Robertson singing, and several other artists. In 1935 the Prairie Ramblers, one of the top country groups in the USA at that time, recorded it under the pseudonym Sweet Violet Boys, and that ultimately became the best selling version. Benny did not apparently record the song himself until later; at some unknown time he overdubbed his own singing to the instrumental parts of Joel Shaw’s record. (That version is on our show for May 28, 2011).
The Shaw record is not a waltz, like the “Bob Dickson” and Prairie Ramblers records, but a lively jazz performance. Just recently, my longtime colleague “Musical Mike” Kieffer turned up a 1927 jazz record of “Sweet Violets” by Bernie Schultz and his Crescent Orchestra. None of Benny’s suggestive verses are there; only the chorus is sung, but it’s a progressive, energetic jazz performance for its time, in very fast tempo. It’s on our show for today, along with a rare recording of the waltz version by the Sons of the Pioneers, and a version of “Shaving Cream” sung by Benny Bell himself (not Paul Wynn, as on the familiar version).
More about “Sweet Violets” and Benny Bell’s whole career in the recent biography “Grandpa Had a Long One” by his grandson, Joel Samberg. It’s available at

A word about Mike Kieffer. I first met Mike in the early 1970s, when he was 14. He came to a record collector’s gathering and bought a few duplicate 78s from me. Eventually he started computing our year-end countdowns, and answering phones for me on our local KMET-FM show in Los Angeles. Nowadays Mike works as a scientist-engineer for a major defense contractor. He also has one of the finest 78 rpm collections on the planet, and has combined his musical and electronic knowledge to become a world-class expert in digitally restoring old records. (I cleaned up that Bernie Schultz record myself; the sound on that is not representative of what Mike could do if he spent some time on it). Mike is also a co-owner of a record label called Origin Jazz Library, which has produced magnificent CD compilations of such artists as jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke and western swing pioneer Milton Brown. Mike has also produced outstanding newly recorded CD’s by acoustic guitarist Craig Ventresco (I wrote liner notes for that CD) and, just recently, 26-year-old traditional fiddler-banjoist-guitarist-singer Frank Fairfield.

Previous Replies:
2011-12-02 16:10:18
From: Dr. Demento

Thanks for the topic suggestions. Please, send more! Still a few days yet before I have to start scheduling the topics for next quarter.

Johnny - people have been "stuffing the ballot box" for as long as I've been doing countdowns. It's easier than ever to do that online, of course. I've contemplated requiring an email address with every request, but haven't done so thus far.
As I've said before, the Top Ten is for entertainment only. I try my best to figure out what people really like and want to hear again, but I do not claim that my methods are infallible, or even accurate.
December requests may be used to break ties, but otherwise they'll be held over until after the holiday shows.-Dr D
2011-11-30 22:49:15
From: Edwin
Party Records
How about a special Topic about Party Records?
I have always enjoyed listening to the risque party records!
2011-11-28 07:16:17
From: john
How about a demented look at jazz--Louie Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Spike Jones, Cab Calloway, etc? That was inspired by Mike Kieffer from your blog post!
Any Barak Obama demented material out there--you need to build your collection!
2011-11-27 06:48:31
From: Dr. Al
Future Topics
I consider the 90's a lost decade as it became increasingly difficult to get the show in my part of southern Maryland. Another topic could be words where the words are more of the melody than the lyrics or form a pseudo melody. E.g., Lemon Demon's Word Dissassociation, the Monkees' Zilch (there's an interesting remix on YouTube), and Radio Free Vestibule's Waiting for the Bus.

Dr. Al
Patuxent River, MD
2011-11-27 06:26:08
From: Dr. Chuck
Future Topics 1990s
Count me in as someone who would like to hear the 1990s explored. I enjoyed the 1980s exploration, and was hoping the 1990s would be featured next year.
2011-11-27 05:11:41
From: Johnny
Dr. D
How often do people try to stuff the ballot box to get a song into the Top Ten? Since there is no Top Ten for December, does that mean that December requests don't count towards determining the Funny 25 for the year?