Dr Hook was formed in 1968 when Dennis Locorriere (singer/songwriter) joined George Cummings’s band called the Chocolate Papers. The band played in Union City, NJ and was made up of singer Ray Sawyer (1937 -2018), George Cummings (lead and steel guitars), Billy Francis (keyboards), and Popeye Phillips (drums). John "Jay" David later replaced Popeye Phillips when he left the band. George came up with the name when he was put off the stop by a club owner who wanted to know the band’s name. On stage Ray Sawyer had a distinctive look and wore a cowboy hat and eye patch to hide injuries from a serious car accident in 1967. George was reminded of Captain Hook and christened the band, Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show. The Medicine Show was more than likely a tongue in cheek reference to recreational drugs. Dr Hook and the Medicine Show worked the roughest bars in the Union City area, and out of necessity sang country music to their red neck audiences. Meantime they made some demo discs for recording companies. After Ron Haffkine heard Denis Locorriere's voice, he was keen to match the group with singer song writer Shel Siverstein. Silverstein had been a folk singer turned humorist, cartoonist (Playboy), and children's author who also wrote Johnny Cash's hit "A Boy Named Sue."
Recognising the group’s potential with Shel Sileverstien writing their material he became the group's manager and producer, signing them to record "Last Morning" for the film soundtrack of Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?
Now recording artists for CBS, the band worked on their first album called Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show. The single "Sylvia's Mother," was a parody of teen-heartbreak weepers which flopped initially but gradually took on at radio stations and eventually gave the band their first million-seller and hit the Top Five in the summer of 1972.
Jance Garfat (bassist) and Rik Elswit (lead guitar) joined the group soon after. Sloppy Seconds was their second album and again featured Silverstein’s compositions. The hit single was "The Cover of Rolling Stone."
Not surprisingly the band did eventually get themselves caricatured on to the front cover of the magazine in 1973.
The illustration was done by Gerry Gersten. Despite success Jay David left in 1973 and was replaced by John Wolters. 1974 was a barren year and the band filed for bankruptcy mainly to get out of their contract with CBS. In 1975, the group now called Dr Hook signed for Capitol Records and released Bankrupt album which featured more group originals and not just Silverstein’s works. A cover of Sam Cooke's "Only Sixteen" was an out an out hit and the group was back on top.
A Little Bit More album was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, which was now the group's new home base. Despite the commercial success of album and single, George Cummings left the line-up mid-way through the recording of the album. The single from Makin' Love And Music (1977) was a cover of The Rooftop Singers “Walk Right In,” and sold well in the US and UK.
In 1978, they repeated the success with Shel Silverstein's More Like The Movies, from the A Little Bit More, and Sharing The Night Together, taken from the Pleasure And Pain album.
By 1979, Dr Hook was established as disco-tinged ballad singers but Ray Sawyer’s dissatisfaction with the direction of the band was growing. Sexy Eyes proved to be the last major hit single for Dr. Hook.
During their peak years, Dr Hook was a fantastic live act always full of surreal banter, jokes, and funny impressions between the music. Their repertoire was immense and sang rock, country and ballads effortlessly in their endeavour to entertain. In 1980, Rik was forced to leave the band due to illness. Rik's place was taken over by Bob 'Willard' Henke, who remained within the ranks for some time after Elswit's return. Two years later Ray Sawyer left to pursue a solo career. Dennis Locorriere carried on with the band, doing sell out tours of the U.K and Australia. Other lineup changes took place and the group switched labels but with little success, so finally they called it a day in 1985. Dennis Locorriere continued write songs in Nashville and worked as a session and touring vocalist, backing Randy Travis in 1989 as well as a one-man show at Lincoln Center, "The Devil and Billy Markham", written by Shel Silverstein. Dennis eventually relocated to England and has released three solo albums, Out of the Dark (2000), One of the Lucky Ones (2005) and Post Cool (2010). He toured Australia for the first time in nearly 15 years in 2014.
Ray Sawyer continued to tour under the name Dr. Hook featuring Ray Sawyer before retiring in 2015. Ray licensed the name from Dennis Locorriere, who owns all rights. Drummer John Wolters died of cancer in 1997 and Ray passed away in 2018 after a short illness.
Worth a listen:
Sylvia's Mother (1972)
Carry Me, Carrie (1972)
Quennof the Silver Dollar (1972)
The Cover Of The 'Rolling Stone' (1972)
Only Sixteen (1976)
A Little Bit More (1978)
Sharing the Night Together (1978)
When You're in Love With a Woman (1978)
Sexy Eyes (1980)
Ballad Of Lucy Jordan