Fans of Weird Al Yankovic would know all his funky parody songs like Smells Like Nirvana, Party in the CIA, Eat It, and more. But did you know how the band started and how long they’ve been together?
Weird Al Yankovic has had the same core band for the past 38 years. Weird Al started working with Jon Schwartz, Jim West, and Steve Jay in 1983. The band still makes music today. Their latest song, “Who’s Gonna Stop Me,” was released in 2020.
Who is Weird Al Yankovic?
Alfred Matthew “Weird Al” Yankovic was born on October 23, 1959, in Downey, California. He is the only child of Mary Elizabeth Vivaida, a stenographer, and Nick Yankovic, an awarded World War II veteran. Yankovic’s parents believed that the key to success is doing whatever made you happy, and they constantly reminded him of this.
Before his 17th birthday, a door-to-door salesman offered accordion and guitar lessons at a local music school. Yankovic had his first accordion lesson after his parents decided that there should be one more accordion-playing Yankovic in the family. They were referring to Frankie Yankovic, who they are not in any way related to. Needless to say, these lessons sparked his interest in music. He also enjoyed playing the instrument with the goal of revolutionizing rock and roll.
Yankovic’s mother was very overprotective of him that he rarely when outside. He spent more time practicing his instrument. After three years of practicing and attending music classes, he decided to learn the rest independently.
Yankovic went to Lynwood High School, and because he started preschool early, he was the youngest in his class. Unlike other boys in his class, he was not interested in sports. He was more inclined to arts and sciences that he joined extracurricular programs like the National Forensic League. Yankovic graduated in 1975 and was the valedictorian of his batch. Then he attended the California Polytechnic State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture. (Source: The Glamourous Life of Al Yankovic)
How Did The Band Start?
Yankovic has been sending homemade demos of his songs to Dr. Demento when he was a teenager. Demento is a disc jockey (DJ) who is well known for playing comedy and novelty music. Fortunately, Yankovic’s accordion ditties charmed Demento, and he was given a spot on his show.
In 1981, Dr. Demento brought Yankovic on tour, where he met Jay Levey, a nightclub manager. Levey asked Yankovic if he considered creating a whole band making his music. At the time, he was already working with Jon Schwartz. The next thing Yankovic knew, auditions were being held, and Steve Jay and Jim West were added to the mix. (Source: Weird Al)
Does the Band Get Permission to Do The Parodies?
While the law permits making parodies without permission, Yankovic feels that it is crucial to maintain a good relationship between the original artists and writers. He wants to make sure that he gets credited and is awarded a share of the royalties too.
Most artists are actually flattered that Yankovic considers their music. Bands like Nirvana claim that they didn’t realize they had really made it until Yankovic made a parody of their music. (Source: Weird Al)