March 29th, 1973 Dr. Hook And The Medicine Show got their picture on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine after their hit, “The Cover of Rolling Stone” reached number 6 on the US singles chart. According to members of the group, they really did buy five copies for their mothers, just like the song said.
Dr. Hook (shortened from Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show in 1975) was an American rock band, formed in Union City, New Jersey. They enjoyed considerable commercial success in the 1970s with hit singles including “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), “Better Love Next Time” (1979), and “Sexy Eyes” (1980). In addition to their own material, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show performed songs written by the poet Shel Silverstein.
The founding core of the band consisted of three Southerners, George Cummings, Ray Sawyer (from Alabama) and Billy Francis, who had worked together in a band called The Chocolate Papers. They then took on future primary vocalist, New Jersey native Dennis Locorriere, at first as a bass player. Francis, who had returned south after the Chocolate Papers broke up, returned to be the new band’s keyboardist.
Ray Sawyer had lost his right eye in a near-fatal car crash in Oregon in 1967, and thereafter always wore an eyepatch. The eyepatch would mistakenly lead some people to believe that Sawyer was ‘Dr. Hook’. When anyone asked the band which one of them was ‘Dr Hook’ they always directed everyone to the bus driver.
A meeting with Clive Davis, CBS Records 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 twelve years, with Haffkine as the group’s manager, as well as producer of all the Dr. Hook recordings.
Silverstein and Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show became a great combination. Haffkine, having a knack for picking songs, quickly became Dr. Hook’s #1 A&R man, as well as their producer and manager. 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 singer/guitarist/keyboard player Billy Francis.
The band’s second single, Silverstein’s “The Cover of ‘Rolling Stone'” (1972) from Sloppy Seconds, 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.
The band shortened its name to Dr. Hook in 1975. They signed with Capitol Records in 1975, releasing the aptly titled album 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.
“When You’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman” reached number 1 for several weeks in 1979 in the UK and they had another UK hit single with “Better Love Next Time” (number 12). Though the band toured constantly, they never managed to turn their success with singles into album sales.
Ray Sawyer left in 1983 to pursue a solo career, while the band continued to tour successfully 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 name of the band. He released several solo albums and did concert tours under the names Voice of Dr. Hook and Dennis Locorriere Celebrates Dr. Hook Hits and History tour. In 2019 he will start the Dr Hook 50th Anniversary World Tour.
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. He died on December 31, 2018.