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Dr Hook

Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show was a pop-country rock band formed around Union City, New Jersey in 1969. They enjoyed considerable commercial success in the 1970s with hit singles including “Sylvia’s Mother”, “The Cover of the Rolling Stone”, “A Little Bit More”, “When You’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman” and “Sexy Eyes”. In addition to their own originals, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show performed songs written by poet Shel Silverstein, of children’s book fame.

History

The founding core of the band consisted of three friends–George Cummings, Ray Sawyer, Billy Francis–who had played up and down the East Coast and into the Midwest, ending up in New Jersey one by one, there adding future lead vocalist, Dennis Locorriere. Told by a club owner that they needed a name to put on a poster in the window of his establishment, Cummings made a sign: “Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show: Tonic for the Soul.” The name was inspired by the traveling medicine shows of the old West. To this day, frontman Ray Sawyer is mistakenly considered Dr. Hook because of the eyepatch he wears as the result of a near-fatal 1967 car accident in Oregon.

The band played for about two years in New Jersey, first with drummer Popeye Phillips, a session drummer on The Flying Burrito Brothers’ first album, The Gilded Palace of Sin. Citing musical differences, Popeye returned home to Alabama and was replaced by local drummer Joseph Olivier. When the band began recording their first album it became obvious that they would need a more solid back beat, and Olivier left (in order to spend more time with his wife and child-on-the-way) was replaced by session player John “Jay” David, who was asked to join the band full time.

In 1970, their demo tapes were heard by Ron Haffkine, musical director on the planned Herb Gardner movie, Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?, starring Dustin Hoffman as a successful songwriter having a nervous breakdown. The songs for the film were written by cartoonist, poet and songwriter Shel Silverstein, who determined that Dr. Hook was the ideal group for the soundtrack. The group recorded two songs for the film: Dennis Locorriere sang the lead on both “The Last Morning,” the movie’s theme song, later re-recorded for their second album, Sloppy Seconds, and “Bunky and Lucille,” which the band can be seen performing in the film. The film was released in 1971 by National General Pictures to mixed reviews, but helped Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show secure their first record deal.

Clive Davis, CBS Records head, had a memorable meeting with the group, described in Davis’s autobiography. Drummer David used a wastepaper basket to keep the beat, and while Sawyer, Locorriere and Cummings played and sang a few songs, Francis hopped up and danced on the mogul’s desk. This meeting secured the band their first record deal. Subsequently the band went on to international success over the next 12 years with Haffkine as the group’s manager as well as producer of all the Dr.Hook recordings.

Their self-titled 1971 debut album featured lead vocals, guitar, bass and harmonica by Locorriere, guitarist Cummings, singer Sawyer, drummer David, singer/guitarist, and keyboard player Billy Francis. The album included their first hit, “Sylvia’s Mother.”

Shel Silverstein wrote the songs for many of Dr. Hook’s early albums (in fact, he wrote their entire second album), such as “Sylvia’s Mother”, “Everybody’s Makin’ It Big But Me”, “Penicillin Penny”, “The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan”, “Carry Me Carrie”, “The Wonderful Soup Stone”, and many more, some co-written with Dennis Locorriere and/or Ray Sawyer .

The Medicine Show’s lineup changed a few more times over the years. In 1972, the band added a full-time bassist, Jance Garfat, and another guitarist, Rik Elswit. When David left the group in 1973, he was replaced by John Wolters. The next to depart was founding band member Cummings, who left in 1975 due to personal and musical differences. The band also had an able guitar player in Elswit, so they did not initially replace Cummings. When Elswit was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years later, the band added Bob “Willard” Henke (formerly of Goose Creek Symphony).

Elswit recovered and returned to the lineup, but they kept Henke on as well for a while. When Henke left in 1980, they added Rod Smarr.

The band’s second single, “The Cover of the Rolling Stone” from Sloppy Seconds attracted the attention of those who would appreciate their irreverent attitude and stage show. It also actually did get the band on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine — albeit in caricature rather than photograph. The song poked fun at the idea that a musician had “made it” if they had gotten on the cover of Rolling Stone.

In the United Kingdom, the BBC Radio network refused to play “The Cover of the Rolling Stone,” as it was considered advertising a trademark name, which was against the BBC’s policy. The song was re-released with a host of BBC DJs shouting ‘On the cover of the Radio Times!’ over the band’s vocals in the choruses. The song was released as “Cover of the Radio Times” for the UK market. The BBC found no problem in playing the record, since they published the Radio Times, weekly. The single found real cult status after that.

The group’s next hit, “A Little Bit More”, was taken from the 1976 album of the same name. It was written and originally performed by Bobby Gosh. Other hit singles from Dr. Hook include “Only Sixteen” (originally by Sam Cooke) (U.S. number 6), “Sharing the Night Together” (number 6), “When You’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman” (number 6) and “Sexy Eyes” (number 5). Save for “A Little Bit More” (number 11), all the singles mentioned above were certified million-sellers. “When You’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman” reached number 1 for several weeks in 1979 in the UK. They had another hit single with “Better Love Next Time” (number 12). The band toured constantly but never managed to turn their success with singles into album sales.

Discography

Studio Albums

1971 Dr Hook & The Medicine Show – coming soon 17/01/2012

Compilations

Classic Masters – http://www.bopping-elf.co.uk/dr-hook-classic-masters/

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