Though born as Alfred Matthew Yankovic, the prince of parody is known as Weird Al. If you're curious about what Weird Al was like growing up, rest assured he was a firecracker, just as he is now. Weird Al has remained uniquely authentic, uniquely talented, and uniquely... weird - which is precisely why many people still respect him, decades later.
Anyone who has listened to Weird Al's hilarious spoofs of popular songs recognizes that he is more than a funnyman - he's musically talented and extremely bright. All of those traits - his sense of humor, skills, and intellect - developed early in life, thanks to his parents. His unorthodox career has allowed him to share his talents with the world, and he's won many hearts (and laughs) in the process.
Weird Al's career had an unusual beginning - it all started in 1965, when Al was six years old. A door-to-door salesman arrived at the Yankovic home and tried to sell them guitar or accordion lessons at a local music school.
Al recalled, "My parents opted for accordion lessons, perhaps because they figured there should be at least one more accordion-playing Yankovic in the world." This was a reference to Frankie Yankovic, who was known at the time as the world's premier accordion-playing polka maestro. Frankie has no relation to Al or his family.
Yankovic confessed that he "was labeled a nerd early on" because he started kindergarten a year early, then skipped the second grade entirely. Young Al was two years younger than his classmates for most of his schooling. He said bullies picked on him, but did not often beat him up because he "learned to run pretty fast."
He's always had an affinity for numbers. He claimed his "favorite subject was probably math. This seems kind of warped, but [he] can remember solving algebra problems for fun when [he] was in seventh or eighth grade."
As a kid, Yankovic was a huge fan of MAD Magazine and dreamed of writing for them someday. In 2015, his wish came true when MAD named him their first-ever guest editor. Weird Al said, "It was my childhood dream to one day be a contributor to MAD Magazine."
He added, "This is an excellent example of why children are never allowed to make important decisions."
Yankovic had his first career break when he was still in high school. Legendary radio broadcaster Dr. Demento spoke at Yankovic's school, then 13-year-old Al gave Demento a tape of original song parodies, which included the songs "Belvedere Cruisin,'" about the family car, and "Dr. D. Superstar," a Jesus Christ Superstar spoof about Demento.
Weird Al felt inspired by Dr. Demento's radio show from an early age, stating:
I remember the first time I heard the show. It was in '71 or '72. I listened for a while and I remember my mom came into the room and heard some [risqué] song and demanded that I turn that thing off immediately, but I was hooked and continued to listen week after week. If it hadn't been for the Dr. Demento Show, my life would have taken a dramatically different course. Luckily, those weekly doses of Spike Jones, Allan Sherman, Tom Lehrer, and Stan Freberg warped me at an early age.
Demento ended up playing "Belvedere Crusin'" on the radio, recalling:
[It] might not have been the very best song I ever heard, but it had some clever lines, and that accordion definitely caught my ear. I put the tape on the air immediately. Rock-'n'-roll-style accordion was not something one normally heard in 1976 - from anybody!