A Beginner's Guide to Weird Al

The Basics

Don't know a lot about Weird Al? Wanna learn more about him and his work? You've come to the right place!

You may know Weird Al for his parody songs. Maybe you grew up hearing White and Nerdy on the radio or Eat It on MTV. What I've found that many people don't know, however, is that Weird Al has had a prolific career that spans 14 albums and over 40 years. On top of that already incredible achievement, Weird Al has won 5 Grammy Awards and is the best selling comedy artist of all time.

Before all of that, though, Al was just a nerdy kid in his bedroom, recording comedy songs on a little tape recorder and playing his accordion. Al started playing the accordion when he was seven after a traveling salesman sold lessons to his parents. Through the years, he found the songs they taught him at his lessons, which were mostly classical or polka songs, kind of boring. Al was much more interested in playing the rock-and-roll songs he heard on the radio. So he stopped having lessons and started learning the songs he liked by ear. Eventually, Al started writing his own stuff. Al had a very offbeat sense of humor, thanks in part to the stylings of MAD magazine and the various novelty artists featured on The Doctor Demento Show. So, naturally, this sense of humor influenced his work. He sent recordings of his songs to the aforementioned radio show and it earned him airtime!

Along with being very funny, Al was also a bit of a nerd (shocker!). After Al graduated high school at the age of 16, he went off to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo to earn a degree in archetecture. He wasn't very passionate about it. What Al was passionate about, though, was the radio show he hosted on his college radio station, The Weird Al Show. After a change in management sparked creative differences, Al left his college station to work with Dr Demento in LA. This led to him getting his first record deal!

Left: Teenage Al playing his college coffeehouse in the late 70s. Right: Al and his drummer, Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz, preparing for their TV debut on The Tommorow Show with Tom Snyder, 1981.

Many people may see Al as a one-man act, but Weird Al is actually a frontman for his band! The band doesn't have an official name, but fans usually refer to them as "the band", "Al's band", or "the boys in the band". A couple of joke names for them (such as "the stupid band") have also stuck over the years. This band's lineup has also only changed once in the entirety of Al's career with the addition of a keyboardist in 1992. The band consists of Rubén Valtierra on keyboard, Steve Jay on bass, Jim West on guitar, and Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz on drums! The band are obviously all very close friends, and they're all incredibly talented. Check out their websites on my links page!

Left: Al and his band after a concert (from left to right: Rubén, Steve, Al, Jon, Jim). Right: Al and his band performing a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR.

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