Friday, October 24, 2014

Dr. Hook, The #77 Artist of the Seventies*

Three members of the Chocolate Papers (lead singer Ray Sawyer, George Cummings (guitar), and keyboardist Billy Francis) founded this group, adding bassist Dennis Locorriere, who would become their lead singer.  When a club owner asked for a name to help promote the group, the members came up with Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show.  "Hook" was inspired by Sawyer's eyepatch and a reference to "Captain Hook" of Peter Pan fame.     

Dr. Hook played in New Jersey clubs, adding drummer Popeye Phillips, another former member of the Chocolate Papers.  He was soon replaced by Joseph Olivier behind the kit, but Olivier left shortly afterwards as well.  Session drummer John "Jay" David filled in, and was invited to join the band in 1968. 

In 1970, the group's demo tapes found their way to Ron Haffkine, musical director for the movie Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?  Haffkine requested Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show record two songs for the soundtrack and, although the movie didn't do very well, it helped the group land a contract.

Clive Davis of CBS Records signed the group, and Haffkine took on the dual roles of manager and producer.  Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show released their debut album Doctor Hook in 1971.  Their first single was a stunning success, hitting #1 in Australia, and reaching #2 in the U.K. and Canada and #5 in the United States.

The following year, the group added bassist Jance Garfat and guitarist Rik Elswit.  The album Sloppy Seconds yielded another big hit--"The Cover of the 'Rolling Stone'", which landed at #2 in Canada and #6 in the U.S.

The group's next two albums, Belly Up! and Bankrupt, did well in Denmark but little anywhere else.  David's departure left the group without a drummer again in 1973, so John Wolters stepped in.  By this time, the band had shortened its name to Dr. Hook,  and they did score a hit from the latter album with their remake of "Only Sixteen", #3 in Canada and #6 in the U.S.

Founding member Cummings left about this time due to personal and musical differences.  In 1976, Dr. Hook released the album A Little Bit More.  The title song reached #2 in the U.K. and #11 in the United States.

Elswit was diagnosed with cancer, and Dr. Hook added Bob Henke.  Fortunately, Elswit recovered and rejoined the group, which kept Henke as well.

The band then hit a cold spell with five singles released before the 1978 album Pleasure and Pain.  Dr. Hook achieved a huge hit with "Sharing The Night Together", #3 in Canada and a solid #6 in the U.S.  Many radio stations had the song at #1 or near it. 

Dr. Hook then landed another smash from the album.  "When You're In Love With A Beautiful Woman" hit #1 in the U.K., #4 in Canada, and #6 in the United States.

In 1979, the group released the album Sometimes You Win, which contained their last hit of the decade, "Better Love Next Time".  It reached #8 in the U.K. and #12 in the U.S.

Dr. Hook continued their success into the early 80's as a formidable act.

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