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“Dr. Hook” A New Jersey Band! (VIDEOS)

Dr. Hook on the cover of "Rolling Stone." (facebook)

“Sylvia’s Mother,” “The Cover Of The Rolling Stone,” “When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman.” Just a few of the big hits for “Dr. Hook,” a band formed in Union City New Jersey in 1968!

The core of the band, originally callled “The Chocolate Papers,” was made up of 3 southerners: George Cummings, Ray Sawyer, and Billy Francis. After that band broke up, Cummings came to New Jersey, to form a new band. Sawyer came with him. They took on Jersey native Dennis Locorriere as a bass player (and later vocalist). Billy Francis came north, rejoining as the new band’s keyboard player.

When a club owner told the guys that they needed to come up with a band name for a poster, Cummings wrote: “Dr. Hook And The Medicine Show: Tonic For The Soul.”  The Hook name was inspired by Sawyer’s eyepatch, and Captain Hook of “Peter Pan.”  The Medicine Show and Doctor terms were intended to be a tongue-in-cheek reference  to the travelling shows of the 1800s, and drug abuse.  By the way, Ray Sawyer’s eye patch is real. He lost an eye in a near-fatal car crash in 1967, and has worn the eye patch ever since.

The newly-named band played a few years here in New Jersey, and band members came and went through the late 1960s (as they would in later years). Dr. Hook  recorded two songs for the 1971 movie “Who Is Harry Kellerman And Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?” While the band can be seen in the movie, the movie itself was not a success…but it did help Dr. Hook secure its first recording contract.

Clive Davis (who also discovered Jersey native Whitney Houston) met the band in his office: Drummer Jay David pounded out the beat on a wastepaper basket, as Cummings, Sawyer and Locorriere played and sang a few songs. Billy Francis danced on Davis’ desk!

The 1971 debut album “Dr Hook,” gave the band its first hit: “Sylvia’s Mother” (#5 on the charts). The band’s 1972 album contained the #6  hit: “The Cover Of The Rolling Stone,” which poked fun at the idea that a band had “made it” when it was pictured on the cover of the magazine.

Of course, Dr. Hook made the cover…in caricature form.  Afterall, this was an irreverant band!

In 1975, the band’s name was officially shortened to “Dr. Hook”…and the guys took on a softer sound…and after 1976, the hits just kept coming! “Only Sixteen” (#6/1976), “A Little Bit More” (#11/1976), “Sharing The Night Together” (#6/1979), “When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman (#6/1979 U.S., #1 in England), “Better Love Next Time” (#12/1980), and “Sexy Eyes” (#5/1980). 

Eye-patched Ray Sawyer left the band in 1983, for a solo career.  “Dr. Hook” continued to tour, with a varying lineup for a few more years in the ’80s, but by “Dr. Hook’s One And Only Farewell Tour,” only Dennis Locorriere remained of the original lineup.

Over the years, Ray Sawyer, Billy Francis and Dennis Locorriere have appeared in tours supporting Dr. Hook songs. A “Dr. Hook Hits and History” CD/DVD box set was released in 2007.

Dr Hook_Album Art
From "Sometimes You Win..." album (1979). Craig Allen photo

Until now, did you even know that “Dr. Hook” was a New Jersey band?

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