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.
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.
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), 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.