Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show

By Gary:
It was the early 70’s, maybe 1971 and one of the weirdest bands (in my opinion) came on the scene.  A back up singer by the name of Ray Sawyer wore a legitimate eye patch due to a loss of an eye in 1967 but the lead singer and founder, Dennis Locorriere, was very talented and hailed from New Jersey. 

To this day most people think that the bands name came from Ray wearing the eye patch, No, it was Peter Pan and Captain Hook.  They were not a huge favourite of mine, but they wrote and recorded some great music.

Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show
Changed to just Dr. Hook in 1975


 1974 / Sylvia’s Mother /
1976 / Only Sixteen /
1980 / BBC Show / The cover of the Rolling Stone /
1980 /The Midnight Special / When your in Love with beautiful Women /
Sharing the Night together /


1972 / Sylvia’s Mother / #5 US #2 Canada
1972 / Cover of the Rolling stone / # 6 US # 2 Can
1975 / Only Sixteen / #6 US #3 Can
1976 / A little bit More / #11 US #4 Can
1978 / Sharing the Night Together / #6 US #3 Can
1979 / When you’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman / #6 US #4 Can
1979 / Better love Next Time / #12 US #39 Can
1980 / Sexy Eyes / #5 US #8 Can
Bonus album cut / Stagger Lee / was never released as a single

Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show‘s sardonic, country-flavoured pop/rock made them one of the most fondly remembered acts of AM pop radio’s heyday in the ’70’s. Although the band had a reputation as a mouthpiece for humourist  Shel Silverstein, who supplied several of their biggest hits (including “The Cover of Rolling Stone”), they didn’t rely exclusively on his material by any means. And, during their peak years, they were just as famed for their crazed stage antics, which ranged from surreal banter to impersonating their own opening acts.

The band was formed in Union City, NJ, in 1968, when a young singer/songwriter named Dennis Locorriere teamed up with Alabama-born country-rocker Ray SawyerSawyer‘s distinctive stage presence stemmed from his enormous cowboy hat and an eye patch that hid injuries from a serious car accident in 1967. Sharing the spotlight on guitar and lead vocals, the duo teamed up with Sawyer‘s band mates from a group called the Chocolate Papers: George Cummings (lead and steel guitars),Billy Francis (keyboards), and Popeye Phillips (drums). Phillips soon moved home to Alabama and was replaced by local drummer John “Jay” David. Sawyer‘s eye patch inspired the nickname Dr. Hook, after the Captain Hook character in Peter Pan; with the rest of the band christened the Medicine Show(a possible drug reference), they began playing some of the roughest bars in the Union City area, concentrating mostly on country music out of sheer necessity. Anxious to find a more hospitable environment, the band recorded some demos, and in early 1970 their manager played the tapes for Ron Haffkine, who was working as musical director for the film Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? Haffkine had been looking for bands to perform the songs written for the soundtrack by Shel Silverstein, an ex-folkie, Playboy cartoonist, and children’s author who’d penned Johnny Cash‘s hit “A Boy Named Sue.” He took an instant liking to Locorriere‘s voice, and became the group’s manager and producer, signing them to record “Last Morning” for the film soundtrack and also landing a deal with CBS.

Silverstein wrote all the songs for Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show‘s self-titled debut album, which was released in 1971. 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 (even if many listeners took it as sincere). That year, the band added a full-time bassist in Jance Garfat, as well as another lead guitarist, Rik Elswit. Their second album, Sloppy Seconds, was again written by Silverstein, and featured more risqué material, perhaps in response to the success of “Sylvia’s Mother.” “The Cover of Rolling Stone,” written specifically to get the band featured on same, became another Top Ten smash in early 1973, and Rolling Stone soon granted the band’s wish. However, following it up proved difficult. Drummer David left the group in 1973, to be replaced by John Wolters; the title of their next album, Belly Up, was unfortunately prophetic, and the band filed for bankruptcy in 1974 (partly as a way to get out of their contract with CBS). Now known simply as Dr. Hook, they signed with Capitol in 1975, debuting with Bankrupt, which began to feature more group originals. A cover of Sam Cooke‘s “Only Sixteen” returned them to the Top Ten in 1976 and revitalized their career; although Cummings left the band that year, further hits followed over the next few years in “A Little Bit More,” “Sharing the Night Together,” “When You’re in Love With a Woman,” and “Sexy Eyes.” 1979’s Pleasure & Pain became their first gold album, cementing the band’s transition into disco-tinged balladeers. However, Elswit had to leave the band for a year after developing cancer; he was replaced by Bob “Willard” Henke, who remained in the line-up after Elswit‘s return. Ray Sawyer, however, did not; dissatisfied with their newly commercial direction, he departed in 1980, robbing Dr. Hook of, well, Dr. Hook. With Rod Smarr replacing Henke, the remainder of the band switched from Capitol to Casablanca, with very little success; after a few bill-paying tours, they finally gave up the ghost in 1985.Locorriere became a session and touring vocalist, backing Randy Travis in 1989, and in 1996 recorded the solo LP Running With Scissors. Sawyer still tours under the Dr. Hook name, though he licenses it from Locorriere. Drummer Wolters died of cancer in 1997.



2 responses to “Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show

  1. William b. Grice

    What! Another great group, your pages always take me back to my younger years…….Thank you…..What’s next? Can’t wait……..Bill

  2. Cathy Meechan

    Very good use to like them

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