Where are they
Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show
With smart-aleck hits and stage antics that included dressing up as their own opening acts, Dr. Hook and the Medecine Show gladly assumed the role of the clown princes of Seventies pop. Their off-center, sardonic approach to music making kept Hook and his cronies on the charts for over ten years, netting them thirty-five gold and platinum records.
The band's loopy stagecraft took shape in the rowdy bars near a bus station in Union City, New Jersey, where New Jersey Native Dennis Locorriere and Southern honky-tonk veteran Ray Sawyer hooked up in 1968 (Sawyer's eye patch, the result of an injury received in a car accident in 1967, inspired the band's name). They got their start singing one of cartoonist-songwriter Shel Silverstein's songs for Dustin Hoffman's 1970 movie Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying All Those Terrible Things About Me?, and it was Silverstein's mock ballad "Sylvia's Mother" that first put the motley band on the charts in 1972.
The following February, another of Silverstein's musical satires, "The Cover of Rolling Stone," put Dr. Hook back in the Top Ten, and by March the band was on the cover of the magazine. "The only thing I regret is that when we got on the cover," says Locorriere, "we were a bunch of assholes and we had nothing to say."
By 1974, though, the group's nonchalance about business matters led to bankruptcy. "If we were in the black when we finished a tour, we'd party into the red," says Locorriere. Although the band, which had shorted its name to Dr. Hook, staged a comeback in 1976 with a Top Ten remake of Sam Cooke's "Once Sixteen," both Sawyer and Locorrier feel that the band's original spirit had been lost. "Our music got real safe in the late Seventies," says Locorriere. "We were on Solid Gold until you wanted to puke. And we started to hate our albums."
Their hitmaking continued through this period, but Sawyer finally left in disgust in 1983. "I became a product with a patch and a hat," he says. The band did a few more tours to pay back bills before packing it in in 1985. "Everybody knew it was time to do something else," says Locorriere. "When we started to play clubs where our picture and Chubby Checker's were in the lobby, I would think, 'Is he coming back or are we on our way out?' "
Now living in Nashville with his son Jessejames, Locorriere, 38, retired from music for a while but resurfaced recently as a backup singer on Randy Travis's album Always and Forever. Sawyer, 50, plays clubs in the U.S. and Canada with an R&B oriented band and has opened in Las Vegas for longtime friend Mel Tillis. Sawyer, his wife, Linda, and their two children live near Nashville.
Although Locorriere has fond memores of Dr. Hook, he's not about to hit the comeback trail. "We could probably still be gigging somewhere," he says, "whether it was in a club or on this tour with the Turtles. But we're semilegendary, and I'd like to keep it there."
- David Browne