Dr Hook from the beginning
Dennis Locorriere grew up in New Jersey but spent a great deal of time in the city, sitting in at bars that had music acts playing. He was underage but he would join in with the bands, playing drums or playing harmonica with anybody that was up on the bandstand. One night he met the two guys who would become his future band mates. George and Ray had come up from Alabama and Mississippi and were gigging there so Dennis started just started playing with them. They were both a lot older than Dennis and as they hailed from the South, they found Dennis to be a bit of a curio. It was a year or so after Ray had had the car accident that cost him his eye. He was already wearing that famous eye patch. Somehow the guys merged, their chemistry was extraordinary. Dennis sang the Beatles songs, Ray sang the country songs and George did the Blues numbers.
They put together a band but never even formalised the arrangement. One night in the bar, a guy came up to them and asked for some of their music on tape. The guys obliged and much to their surprise, discovered this man was the musical director on a film that Dustin Hoffman was in called, Who is Howie Kellerman, and why is he saying those terrible things about me. Their music was wanted for the film. And that’s how they met the brilliant writer, Shel Silverstein who would write several of their biggest hits to come.
Enter Shel Silverstein
For people who haven’t heard of him., Shel Silverstein wrote a lot for Johnny Cash. He wrote a boy named Sue for Johnny Cash. He wrote for Loretta Lynn and for Kris Kristofferson amongst others. Dennis and Ray we were loving recording Shell’s songs and hanging out with him, but one day he said to them, you know, you guys have some nice things. I hear you writing. Why don’t you start recording your own songs so everybody doesn’t think you’re just a mouthpiece for me? And so they did.
Dr Hook and the Medicine Show: Tonic for the Soul
The name was inspired by Ray Sawyer’s eye Patch, coupled with a reference to Captain Hook of Peter Pan fame. Ray lost his right eye in a car crash in 1967. The band itself achieved 60 golden platinum singles and gained number one chart status in more than 42 countries. Dennis is also a songwriter whose songs have been recorded by artists like Bob Dylan, Crystal Gayle BJ Thomas, Helen Reddy, Willie Nelson, Olivia Newton John and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Tell us a story behind cover of the Rolling Stone. That was Shel again, being generous. We were on the road. Sylvia’s mother had been a big hit and we were on the road in America where we lived. We did pretty well, but it was the expenses. Expensive for us to travel. We had seven guys in the road crew, so we tried to concentrate on America. And even with a big hit like Sylvie’s mother, you know, one hit wonder kind of thing. We needed something else, We needed some kind of kick in the butt. And Shel called us one day in a hotel room and said, Look, I’ve been thinking, you know, I wrote this song and it was cover Rolling Stone. And he said, Why don’t you write this down and, and, and see play it tonight and see if people like it, so we did.
Cover of the Rolling Stone
if you remember the song in depth, Dr Hook were really taking the piss out of an awful lot of rock stars and how they lived with their limousines and the like. Funny thing was, they were often on stage supporting these sort of acts and making fun of them albeit in a kind way. The audience just loved it!
Despite their success, the band had no money. They were getting bigger gigs and supporting bigger acts that were traveling further afield, and they simply couldn’t afford it. Literally could not afford it. They played with Alice Cooper in Miami, Florida. He was on his way to Dallas, Texas the next day on his Lear Jet and Dr Hook rented a car to drive the 2100 miles. It was expensive to travel in a time when we didn’t have computers. There was no FaceTime, there was no way you could call home and when you did, you’d arrive back to face a $6000 phone bill! So they borrowed money and recorded their Bankrupt album. The title was apt and the song that had the biggest impact was Millionaire. Audiences seemed to really like the fact that they had an album called Bankrupt and the single was called The Millionaire.
Millionaire from the Bankrupt album
Dr Hook are now celebrating their 50th anniversary and when asked why their music has changed so much over time – from country rock to poppier, often disco-influenced sound , Dennis told me that they simply wanted to be on the radio, as did Rod Stewart and The Rolling Stones, some of the coolest acts in the world. He added that it’s interesting when they do a show now, because they do songs from every bit of their career and they all hang together – it’s not like they have to roll in a disco ball for these songs, or wait now, I’ve got to go put on my bellbottoms… it’s all music and it’s cool. Dr Hook has the kind of audience where the original fans have passed the music on to their kids, and then on to their kids and sometimes even to a fourth generation.
Dennis Locorrierre solo music
Dennis Locorrierre has a stunning collection of solo albums available right now. The 73 year old’s voice is better than ever and he has just as much, or more enthusiasm and passion for the music, than he ever had. Check out the offerings at his website https://www.dennislocorriere.com and listen to my full interview with Dennis on this week’s show. Warning though – his enthusiasm is infectious!
Also this week... Linda Ronstadt: Feels Like Home
The queen of California cool recalls her heyday and the formative years a global superstar in the 1970s and ’80s. In those pre-internet days, Ronstadt was a pop culture darling the likes of which don’t really exist anymore. the recipient of 11 Grammy Awards as well as the 2016 recipient of the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award, she is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and, in 2014, she was honoured by President Barack Obama, who awarded her the National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony. Now at 76 her singing voice has been silenced. A decade ago, Ronstadt was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (her last public performance was in 2009). But in 2019, that diagnosis was changed to progressive supranuclear palsy, a degenerative, Parkinson’s-like disease that has made it hard for her to walk, grip everyday things around her house and even brush her teeth.
Ronstadt’s new book, Feels Like Home: A Song for the Sonoran Borderlands. (A companion album of Ronstadt’s songs and collaborations with her famous friends is also available.) follow-up to her 2013 best-selling memoir. This one tells of her growing up in Tucson, hearing her mother sing Gilbert and Sullivan show tunes, her father play the music of his Mexican ancestors. She shares recipes from her homeland too before she moved to California when she was quickly on the path to stardom. In the ’70s, she had hit after hit but by the ’80s, things had changed. She had huge success with the American Songbook albums — long before Rod Stewart and a host of other rockers took them on and then went back to the music she grew up with. She released a string of albums of Mexican mariachi and Spanish music, earning a clutch of Grammys in the process.