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Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show

Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show

Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show (shortened to Dr. Hook in 1975) is an American rock band, formed in Union City, New Jersey. The band had commercial success in the 1970s with hit singles "Sylvia's Mother", "The Cover of 'Rolling Stone'" (both 1972), "Only Sixteen" (1975), "A Little Bit More" (1976), "Sharing the Night Together" (1978), "When You're in Love with a Beautiful Woman" (1979) and "Better Love Next Time" (1979). In addition to its own material, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show performed songs written by the poet Shel Silverstein.

The band had eight years of hits in the United States. Its music, spanning acoustic ballads, and soft rock, was played on Top 40, easy listening, and country music outlets throughout the English-speaking world.

After 1975, the band recorded under the name Dr. Hook.

The founding core of the band consisted of George Cummings, Ray Sawyer, and Billy Francis, who had worked together in a band called the Chocolate Papers. Cummings, Sawyer and Francis started a new band and included primary vocalist Dennis Locorriere, who initially joined as a bass player.

The new band was named Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show: Tonic for the Soul. The name was inspired by Sawyer's eyepatch and a reference to Captain Hook of the Peter Pan fairy tale. Sawyer lost his right eye in a near-fatal car crash in Oregon in 1967 and, after that, wore an eyepatch, leading some people to believe that he was Dr Hook; when asked by fans which band member was Dr Hook, they would all point to the bus driver.

The band played in New Jersey, first with drummer Popeye Phillips, who had also been in the Chocolate Papers. Phillips left the band to become a session musician, contributing to the first album by the Flying Burrito Brothers. Drummer Joseph Olivier replaced him. When the band began recording its first album, Olivier was replaced by session player Jay David, who became a band member in 1968.

In 1970, the band's demo tapes were heard by Ron Haffkine, musical director on Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?. Haffkine asked the band to record two songs for the film, including "The Last Morning" and "Bunky and Lucille", which the band can be seen performing in the movie. The film helped Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show secure their first recording contract.

The group met with Clive Davis of CBS Records. David used a wastebasket in the meeting to keep the beat, and Francis danced on the mogul's desk while Sawyer, Locorriere, and Cummings played and sang. With the CBS Records deal, the band experienced international success over the next 12 years with Haffkine as the group's manager and producer.

Haffkine, having a knack for picking songs, quickly became Dr. Hook's No. 1 A&R man and their producer and manager. Acclaimed poet Shel Silverstein wrote all the songs for their self-titled debut album, released in 1972. Doctor Hook featured lead vocals, guitar, bass, and harmonica by Locorriere, guitarist Cummings, and singer Sawyer, plus drummer David and keyboard player Billy Francis. The album sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA on August 2, 1972. It has been released 20 times in the US, Canada, and Europe. The single "Sylvia's Mother", a subtle parody of teen-heartbreak weepers, flopped on first release, but with some more promotional muscle, became the band's first million-seller and hit the top five in the summer of 1972.

Silverstein continued to write songs for Dr. Hook, including their entire second album, Sloppy Seconds, released in the US, Australia, Europe, and Canada. It featured some of their most famous songs, including "Freakin' at the Freaker's Ball" and "The Cover of 'Rolling Stone'". The album was listed in the Billboard 200 in 1973.

The band's second single, "The Cover of 'Rolling Stone'" (1972), was another million-selling disc, poking fun at the idea that a musician had "made it" if they had been pictured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Haffkine visited Jann Wenner, one of the founders of Rolling Stone, proclaiming, "I've just given you guys the best commercial for this rag that you'll ever get." Wenner then sent Cameron Crowe (who later wrote and directed Almost Famous about his time as a music journalist), then 16 years old, to interview the band for issue 131 (March 1973). Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show appeared on the cover, albeit in caricature rather than in a photograph. In the United Kingdom, the BBC Radio network refused to play "The Cover of 'Rolling Stone'", because it considered doing so would be advertising a trademark name. CBS Records responded by setting up a phone line to play the song to anyone willing to dial in, which helped build the buzz. The BBC found itself able to play the song only after some of its DJs edited themselves shouting the words "Radio Times" (a BBC-owned magazine) over "Rolling Stone".

In 1972, the band added a full-time bassist, Jance Garfat, and another guitarist, Rik Elswit.

The group had difficulty meeting the high expectations created by Sloppy Seconds, and the result was Belly Up!, which Huey noted: "was unfortunately prophetic". The album was sold in the US, UK, Europe, and Canada. Dr. Hook was just as famed for their crazed stage antics, ranging from surreal banter to impersonating their opening acts; the group's disregard for business matters led to bankruptcy. "If we were in the black when we finished a tour, we'd party into the red," says Locorriere. They were forced to file bankruptcy in 1974, although they continued to tour incessantly.

The Medicine Show's lineup changed a few more times over the years. 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 did not replace him. 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 for a while.

In 1974, Dr. Hook recorded an album that was to be titled Fried Face; it was not released.

The band shortened its name to Dr. Hook in 1975. They signed with Capitol Records in 1975, releasing the aptly titled Bankrupt. Unlike previous projects, this album included original material written by the group. The hit from the project was a reworked version of Sam Cooke's "Only Sixteen" (US number 6), revitalizing their career and charted in the top ten in 1976. Haffkine discovered a song titled "A Little Bit More" written and originally performed by Bobby Gosh and released on his 1973 album Sitting in the Quiet, on a record he purchased for 35 cents at a flea market in San Francisco. The band recorded and released the song, which reached number 11 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and spent two weeks at number nine on the Cash Box Top 100. It also reached number two on the UK Singles Chart, matching "Sylvia's Mother".

The band followed Bankrupt with 1976's A Little Bit More, which was certified double gold in Australia in November 1976. It was quickly followed in turn by the 1977 album Making Love And Music, which featured "Sharing the Night Together" (US number 6), "When You're in Love with a Beautiful Woman" (US number 6), and "Sexy Eyes" (US number 5). Save for "A Little Bit More" (US number 11), these singles were certified million-sellers. "When You're in Love with a Beautiful Woman" reached number 1 for several weeks in 1979 in the UK, and the group had another UK hit single with "Better Love Next Time" (number 12). Though the band toured constantly, they had yet to manage to turn their success with singles into album sales.

Pleasure & Pain (1978) was Dr. Hook's first gold album in the US. The band changed labels again to Casablanca Records in 1980, but could not replicate earlier successes. In late 1980, Dr. Hook released "Girls Can Get It" (US number 34) and had their final top 40 hit (which peaked in the US at number 25) with "Baby Makes Her Blue-Jeans Talk" in 1982.

Ray Sawyer left in 1983 to pursue a solo career, while the band continued to tour for another couple of years, ending with Dr. Hook's One and Only Farewell Tour in 1985, with Locorriere as the sole frontman.

After Dr. Hook split up, Dennis Locorriere retained ownership of the band's name. However, from 1988 to 2015, Sawyer was granted a license to tour separately as "Ray Sawyer of Dr. Hook" or "Dr. Hook featuring Ray Sawyer" (joined for a time in 2001 by Billy Francis); Sawyer did not perform publicly after his last tour ended in October 2015 and died on December 31, 2018, at the age of 81.

Billy Francis joined Sawyer in 2001 during his Dr. Hook concerts. He died on May 23, 2010, at age 68.

After the original band split, Dennis Locorriere released several solo albums and toured under the names Voice of Dr. Hook and Dennis Locorriere Celebrates Dr. Hook Hits and History Tour. Now fronting the band Dr Hook starring Dennis Locorriere, he started the Dr Hook 50th Anniversary World Tour in 2019, but this was postponed due to Locorriere undergoing a prostate procedure resulting in kidney problems. The band resumed their 50th Anniversary Tour on September 3, 2021, with a show at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall and with performances scheduled for Scandinavia, the UK, and Ireland in 2022. Currently Locorriere's version of Dr Hook is made up of John Maher, Michelle Cordelli, Damien Cooper, Tim Bye, Jon Poole, and Ryan Farmery.

Former guitarist and keyboardist Bob 'Willard' Henke died on February 2, 2023, at the age of 71.

  • Dennis Locorriere – vocals, guitar, bass, harmonica (1968–1985, 2019–present)
  • Ray Sawyer – vocals, guitar, percussion, congas, maracas (1967–1983, 1988–2015, died 2018)
  • Billy Francis – keyboards, vocals (1968–1985, 2001–2010; died 2010)
  • George Cummings – lead and steel guitars, vocals (1968–1975)
  • John "Jay" David – drums (1968–1973)
  • Rik Elswit – guitar (1972–1985)
  • Jance Garfat – bass (1972–1985; died 2006)
  • John Wolters – drums (1973–1982, 1983–1985; died 1997)
  • Bob 'Willard' Henke – guitar, keyboards (1976–1980; died 2023)
  • Rod Smarr – guitar (1980–1985; died 2012)
  • Walter Hartman – drums (1982–1983)
  • Leonard Wolfe – keyboards (1983–1985)
  • Joseph Olivier – drums (1968)

(from the 1975 album Bankrupt onwards, the band name was shortened to Dr. Hook)

  • Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show discography at Discogs
  • Dr. Hook discography at Discogs

Text submitted to CC-BY-SA license. Source: Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show by Wikipedia (Historical)