“Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Straight Outta Lynwood” Tour

“Weird Al” Yankovic kicked off his “Straight Outta Lynwood” 2008 Tour at The Cotillion in Wichita, Kansas, on 7 August, and will be performing in a total of sixteen U.S. cities, finishing off with a performance at the Antelope Valley Fair in Lancaster, California. Since his first song parody hit the airwaves in 1979, this multi-talented, three-time Grammy-award winning artist has gained a world-wide following, selling in excess of 12 million albums and entertaining audiences at more than 1,000 live shows.

In a world burdened with doom and gloom, Weird Al has an uncanny ability to bring out a humorous side to virtually any situation in a way that people in general can relate to. A range of “labels” come to mind when thinking of Weird Al – musician, actor, parodist, satirist, songwriter, accordionist, music producer, television producer, but above all, entertainer – and it is his talent for entertaining that draws the crowds to his live performances.

Weird Al was born Alfred Matthew Yankovic on 23 October 1959 in Downey, California, and was raised in the town of Lynwood (hence the theme of his tour). He was the only child of Nick Yankovic and Mary Elizabeth (nee Vivalda). Nick Yankovic believed that the key to success was “doing for a living, whatever makes you happy”, a philosophy which he passed on to his son. Al started off his music career by playing the accordion, with his first lesson taking place the day before his seventh birthday. This choice of instrument came about when a traveling salesman called at his parent’s home offering a choice of guitar or accordion lessons at a local music school. They chose accordion because it brought to mind the renowned polka musician, Frankie Yankovic (no relation). Al lists Frankie Yankovic as one of his early role models, along with Myron Floren.

Al’s influences in comedic and parody music include Tom Lehrer, Stan Freberg, Spike Jones, Shel Silverstein, Allan Sherman and Frank Zappa, many of whom he was introduced to through listening to the Dr. Demento Radio Show. He also admits to being inspired by the Mad Magazine, Monty Python and the ZAZ parody movies, which include Airplane!, Ruthless People, Police Squad! and the Naked Gun films. His first public airing was through the Dr. Demento show in 1976, when the renowned DJ played the tape Al had sent him with a song called “Belvedere Cruisin’”, referring to his family’s Plymouth Belvedere. He went on to be a disc jockey at the Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo, California, where he took on the persona of Weird Al, which was a nickname given him by fellow students.

His parody of The Knack’s “My Sharona” entitled “My Bologna” was aired by Dr. Demento in mid 1979. The Knack’s lead singer, Doug Fieger, liked the song and was instrumental in persuading Capitol Records to release the song as a single, which led to a six-month recording contract. It was at this point that Weird Al realized that his calling in life was not to be an architect, but to entertain – which he has continued to do in grand style, with an impressive list of achievements to his name.

If you have the good fortune to be near one of the cities where “Weird Al” Yankovic will be performing – Wichita, St. Charles, Springfield, Rockford, Billings, Great Falls, San Mateo, Monterey, Sacramento, Vernon, Victoria, Coquitlam, Salem, Monroe, Arcata, Lancaster – be sure to get your ticket and be there for an evening you are likely to remember for a long, long time.