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Weird Al Yankovic Biography

Last updated: 02/13/2013 12:33:36 PM

How did Al get his start in the music business?

As a teenager, Al began sending homemade tapes of his songs to Dr. Demento, a nationally syndicated disc jockey known for playing comedy and novelty music. Demento found a certain charm in the accordion-powered ditties that Al recorded on a cheap cassette player in his own bedroom, and gave him his first airplay. By the time Al graduated from college, he not only had a modest cult following from the good Doctor's radio show, but he also had a couple of nationally-released singles ("My Bologna" and "Another One Rides The Bus"). In 1982 he signed a deal with Scotti Bros. Records, who went on to release all of his albums through Bad Hair Day (1996). Volcano Records eventually bought Scotti Bros. Records, issuing Running With Scissors and Poodle Hat, and re-releasing Al's entire catalog on the Volcano/Way Moby label.

Does Al get permission to do his parodies?

Al does get permission from the original writers of the songs that he parodies. While the law supports his ability to parody without permission, he feels it's important to maintain the relationships that he's built with artists and writers over the years. Plus, Al wants to make sure that he gets his songwriter credit (as writer of new lyrics) as well as his rightful share of the royalties.

What do the original artists think of the parodies?

Most artists are genuinely flattered and consider it an honor to have Weird Al parody their work. Some groups (including Nirvana) claim that they didn't realize that they had really "made it" until Weird Al did a parody of them!

What about Coolio? I heard that he was upset with Al about "Amish Paradise."

That was a very unfortunate case of misunderstanding between Al's people and Coolio's people. Short version of the story: Al recorded "Amish Paradise" after being told by his record label that Coolio had given his permission for the parody. When Al's album came out, Coolio publicly contended that he had never given his blessing, and that he was in fact very offended by the song. To this day we’re not exactly sure who got their facts wrong, but Al sincerely apologizes to Coolio for the misunderstanding.

Have any artists ever turned Al down for a parody?

Even though most recording artists really do have a pretty good sense of humor, on a few very rare occasions Al has been denied permission to do a parody. Actually, the only artist to turn Al down consistently over the years has been the Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. Go figure.

Does Al only do parodies of other songs?

Uh, no. About half of the songs on Al's albums are originals, meaning that Al wrote the music as well as the lyrics. Some originals are in the style of another artist (like “Bob” or “Genius In France” on the new album), but they’re still entirely new compositions. If you're not sure whether a song is an original or a parody, check the writing credits in the liner notes of Al’s albums.

Who are Al's musical influences?

Al credits Spike Jones, Stan Freberg, Tom Lehrer, Allan Sherman, Shel Silverstein, Frank Zappa and all the other wonderfully sick and twisted artists that he was exposed to through the Dr. Demento Radio Show.

What's Al's full name?

Alfred Matthew Yankovic.

Where was Al born?

Al is the only child of Nick & Mary Yankovic. He grew up in Lynwood, California (a suburb of Los Angeles), although the hospital he was actually born in was in the neighboring town of Downey.

How old is he now?

Al was born at 1:56 PM on October 23, 1959. You figure it out.

Where did Al go to school?

Al attended Lynwood High school, where he was a straight-A student and graduated as Valedictorian at the age of 16. From there he went to the California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, where he got a degree in Architecture.

Did Al ever have any "real" jobs before he got famous?

In high school Al was a part-time accordion teacher and occasional accordion repo-man (don't ask). After graduating from college, Al decided that architecture was not for him, so he worked for a few years in the mailroom and later at a desk job for a large radio syndication company in Culver City, California.

What are Al's physical statistics?

Al is 6'-0" tall and weighs between 170 and 175 pounds (when he’s in shape). He has brown eyes and naturally curly (no perm!) reddish brown hair. His shoe size is 10½, his underwear size is Medium, his shirt size is usually Large, and his head is larger-than-human.

What happened to Al’s moustache and glasses?

In January 1998 Al got LASIK (Laser Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis) surgery to correct his near-sightedness, so he no longer needs to wear glasses. He decided to get rid of the facial hair about the same time, although he sometimes grows it back when nobody’s looking.

What is Al’s marital status?

Al got married on February 10, 2001 to his wife Suzanne. They have a daughter named Nina, born February 11, 2003.

Where does Al live now?

Al, Suzanne and Nina live with their cockatiel Bo and poodle Bela (yes, that’s her on the album cover) in their home in the Hollywood hills.

Is Al related to the famous accordion-playing Polka King, Frankie Yankovic?

No, although they were friends for many years. (In October 1998, Frankie passed away at his home in Florida at the age of 83.)

What nationality is Al?

Al's grandparents on his father's side were Yugoslavian, and on his mother's side they were Italian and English.

How did Al get the name "Weird Al"?

Although he seems to remember people calling him "Weird Al" during his freshman year in the Cal Poly dorms, it didn't become official until Al started doing shifts as a DJ at his campus radio station, KCPR. He gave himself the air-name of "Weird Al" because of his penchant for playing music that was, well, kind of weird… and the nickname just kind of stuck.

What instruments does Al play?

Although he can play other keyboard instruments, the accordion has always been Al's main "axe," and he continues to play it on record as well as in concert. His first lesson was on the day before his 7th birthday. After three years of accordion lessons, he quit, deciding to continue learning on his own.

Is Al a vegetarian?

Yes. He changed his diet in 1992 after a fan gave him a book called "Diet For A New America." He currently eats no meat and also tries to avoid eggs and dairy products.

Thanks to Al Yankovic for submitting the biography.