(9 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show were sort of a strange band. Whilst they were not nearly as profound as bands that I prefer, they were also not annoying. They did not pretend to be profound, and some of their early material was actually pretty good.
They are best remembered for “The Cover of the Rolling Stone“, a piece that I found to be quite witty and clever. They did an excellent job of self parody on this number, and it paid off for them in that they did indeed make it there after it charted.
I intend to concentrate on the years from 1968 to 1976, although they in various reincarnations continued for a long time thereafter. Most of their good material is from that era.
There are not a lot of sources of background for the band, so I paraphrase their entry on Wikipedia for most of this. I apologize for that, but one works with what one can find. The iteration of the band on which I concentrate consists of the following members, in no particular order:
Billy Francis – keyboards
Ray Sawyer – vocals, guitar
George Cummings – lead and steel guitars, vocals
Dennis Locorriere – vocals, guitar, bass, harmonica
John “Jay” David – drums
Jance Garfat – bass
Rik Elswit – lead guitar
John Wolters – drums
As you can see, this was a seven person band, and as a general rule the more members the harder it is to keep a band together. David was the original drummer, but was replaced by Wolters in 1973. In all, 15 different people performed with the band.
The group were founded in 1968 when Cummings got together with some former members of a band called The Chocolate Papers, including Francis, Sawyer, and Popeye Phillips (drums), along with Locorriere. Phillips left and was replaced by Joseph Olivier, who also left, being replaced by David.
They did not get a recording contract right away, but in 1970 found their manager and producer in the person of Ron Haffkine, who stayed with them until the end. They finally got a contract with CBS records and released Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. Information about this record is obscure, but it was released in 1971. It only charted to #45 in the US, and not at all in the UK.
Interestingly, a release of a single from this album charted at #5 in the US and #2 in the UK in 1972, “Sylvia’s Mother” was written by Sheldon Silverstein who wrote other material for the band. Here it is:
WOW! I had forgotten how emotional that song is! This may well be their best piece. I am bawling like a little kid, but in the past couple of years have become less willing to conceal my emotions.
Here is a very nice live version:
Note that Locorriere is the lead singer in both versions.
Their second album, Sloppy Seconds, was released in 1972 and charted at #41 in the US but not in the UK. It is best remembered from their signature song, “The Cover of The Rolling Stone”.
When that was released as a single, it charted at #6 in the US, but did not chart in the UK. It was also written by Silverstein. Here we go.
Evidently Sawyer (the one with the eyepatch, and he really lost that eye in 1967) is the lead singer on both versions.
Their next album, released in 1973, was called Belly Up! and charted at a pitiful #141 in the US and not at all in the UK. There was sort of a funny song from that album called “Roland the Roadie and Gertrude the Groopie”, and it sounds like a Silverstein song, although I am not sure.
Their next album, the 1975 Ballad of Lucy Jordan failed to chart anywhere, whilst Bankrupt, also from 1975, charted at #141 in the US but no where else. There was one hit single from Bankrupt, a cover of the Sam Cooke “Only 16” charted at #6 in the US but failed to chart in the UK.
Their A little Bit More from 1976 charted at #62 in the US and oddly, at #5 in the UK. The single of that name charted at #11 in the US and at #2 in the UK.
This is a mimed version, and by that time the group were getting quite uninteresting to me. I lost interest completely actually before that song came out and think that I shall stop now.
To be capable of the depth of emotion shown on “Sylvia’s Mother” and even the humor shown on “The Cover of The Rolling Stone” to the utter pap of “A Little Bit More” is dramatic, and they did not get any better afterwards. I think that without “Rolling Stone” this band would have been a one hit wonder, but “Sylvia’s Mother” is just outstanding.
Part of the reason for that is the writing, because it is a true story from Silverstein’s life. However, I can not help but to respect the soul that the band, in particular Locorriere, put into that piece.
My wrist continues to improve, but maddeningly slowly. I had to do some banking today and get car tags, and since writing is still impossible I had to get The Girl to fill out the forms and checks for me, except for what passed as my signature at the bank and the court house. Tonight is very quiet since The Girl and The Little Girl went to spend the weekend with her sister out of town. I got to spend time with them today, but it will be late Monday before they return. I already miss them.
If you have more specific information about what I consider a mediocre band with one brilliant contribution, please let us know in the comments. I just can not get that excited about them except for the superb exception.
Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith
Daily Kos, and at