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Dr Hook
Overcomes an
Identity Crisis

By John  Swenson

Ray_Den_RS287.JPG (80694 bytes)
Photo By Larry White

 

"Disco Continental !" shrieks Dennis Locorriere in response to an observation about his new hairstyle .A few years ago the singer's long, stringy hair was as much a Dr. Hook tradernark as co-frontman Ray Sawyer's crushed cowboy hat and eye patch. But with his new blow-dry look and onstage dancing, Locorriere finds himself a contender for John Travolta's throne. "I used to he the twist champion  in school !" he says with a laugh. "I was the only one who could twist all the way through Joey Dee and the Starlighters"Shout" twice without getting a pain in my side !"

Locorriere's discojokes are true to form .Dr Hook is a group that will try anything. They once posed as a glitter rock band and played a warm-up set without being recogized at a show they were headlining.On their current tour with Sha Na Na they grease themselves up in mock Fifties garb for encores . And their stage antics always baffle audiences expecting to hear such hit ballads as "Sylvia's Mother" and the recent "Sharing the Night Together." Locorriere, who sings those ballads, plays straight man to Sawyer who runs around the stage like a madman, leers mischievously at the crowd, yodels, whistles anything to get a reaction .

"We never got backed into one category" Locorriere says at a Capitol Records conference room on a rare off-day during the band's gruelling tour "We just play all kinds of music .We can put on a good-timey country-ballad show at the Grand Ole Opry and then play a bikers show in Pasadena. We play audiences where Hell's Angels are screaming for 'Only Sixteen' and somebody's grandmother is screaming for Freakin' at the Freaker's Ball"

At one time the bands eclecticism nearly killed off Dr. Hook. The group went bankrupt not long after its early seventies hits, Sylvia's Mother and The Cover of Rolling Stone "People thought we were two different groups," Locorriere explains "It got to the point where we were doing three or four gigs a week earning $ 1000 a gig and it would cost us $4500 a week to stay on the road." After the bankruptcy, the band decided to start from scratch instead of packing it in altogether. "We sat everybody down," Loccorriere recalls, "and said, Now that we're bankrupt, if anybody wants to leave it's the perfect time? but we all believed it would work again. You can make believe you're chickens , you can make believe you're Martians, you can make believe androgynous, but you can't make believe you're friends, especially under duress like that ".

Five of the groups seven current members are from the same band that recorded the first Dr. Hook album in 1972. Keyboardist Bill Francis played with Sawyer in pre~Hook bands down South . Guitarist Rik Elswit and bassist Jance Garfat joined after manager Ron Haffkine got the group a recording contract based on its versioni of Last Morning' the theme song from the movie Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying These Terrible Things About Me? Those difficult early days helped forge the camaraderie that has kept the band together . "When we started' says Sawyer "we went from making sixty dollars a week in New Jersey bars to woodsheding in a Connecticut house, really living hand to mouth. We used to have to get together to eat or to smoke a joint because there was always just one "

When the band made the demo that got Dr Hook signed to Capitol after the bankruptcy one of the songs was 'The Millionaire' which Locorriere admits was a strange selection. "We were sing 'And I got more money than a horse has hairs ' and the engineer was saying, 'If we don't get another fifty dollars we'll have to close down this session.' "

After stiffing with its first three albums for Capitol, Dr Hook re-discovered its success formula with Pleasure & Pain. Aside from 'Sharing the Night Together' there are a couple of humorous tunes and even a disco cut, "When You're In Love With A Beautiful Woman ""We didn't do it as a joke" Locorriere insists "but we weren't looking for something you can shave to or bring back World War II to either.You can tell what songs of ours are parodies and what ones aren't . 'You Make My Pants Want to Get Up and Dance' is not a love song. A few years ago people thought everything we did was a parody. They assumed that Sylvia's Mother was a parody of a love song but it wasn't . I have a feeling that the day we die , if we had a double funeral - Ray & I - people would stand around, waiiting for us to smile saying ' I'm not gonna feel too bad for him because I know he ain't dead. He's got a hole in his patch where he can see,I know it "

Issue No 287
March 22nd 1979

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