Hooks shot in the arm ~
Jerry Gilbert meets Dr Hook in Los Angeles

Ray Sawyer , Jay David & Dennis Locorriere

DR HOOK still ride around in the back of the truck. Whenever limos congregate to pick up bands of equal stature, Dr. Hook and his whole entourage pile into the back of the band's equipment truck and steam off to the gig. It's the life they're used to and, says number one funny guy Dennis Locorriere (pronounced Lockyear), it's this way of life that's given birth to the humour they carry across so well on stage. Dr. Hook's stage show may be cleverly rehearsed to suggest spontaneity but the Hook I saw on stage in Los Angeles and the Hook I'd met a few hours earlier in their hotel room were separated by the finest of dividing lines.

Keep the conversation straight and Ray Sawyer, ol' Hook himself, will give you a good interview. But references to last year's bizarre Freaker's Ball, thrown by Bob Gibson,who dreams up novel party ideas like there may never be another chance, or ask how the band secured the colour spread of the fag mag Zipper by posing nude to expose genitalia et al, and Dennis Locorriere immediately flashes in on cue.

In fact the only non-gimmick is Ray Sawyer's eye patch which ultimately led to the Dr. Hook institution. "He's had the patch for six years since he lost his eye, so that's how he thought of the name Dr. Hook", explained Dennis "It's no gimmick".

The first time I saw Hook perform was at the Hollywood Palladium shortly over a year ago. As a then unknown band they opened the show for West, Bruce and Laing and their act fell to the ground. At the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles last week a similar fate befell the group; Dennis' humour which hours before had brought the tears streaming down our faces, now lacked the spontaneity to carry it across . To add to their problems, the act had to be curtailed to keep in tune with the schedules. "We had to leave out 'Get Your Rocks Off' and 'Rolling Stone'," lamented Locoriere afterwards .

What exactly do Hook and his men have to offer? Were their hit records purely based on circumstance or on the single talents of songwriter Shel Silverstein? Certainly not, fellahs. With their inextricable manager Ronnie Haffkine in close attendance, a sinister looking figure with a hat screwed on tighter than a gun-slinging cowboy, they are a band who give rock music a welcome shot in the arm.

"In the early days we all starved to death and it was just the desire to really do something that kept us together", recalled Ray Sawyer. "In a sense, though, very little has changed because we were still doing things the way we felt them in the old rock and roll style. But the humour thing has only been with us for about a year." The most radical change in the band's approach came about when they met Shel Silverstein through their manager Ronnie Haffkine . "Ron had been a friend of Shel's for about nine years, and Shel had written the score for two movies 'Ned Kelly' and 'Who Is Harry Kellerman?' which was how we got into that picture," Ray went on. "I don't know why they wanted an unknown group", cut in Dennis, "but they sure got one". And by singing the title track and another number, Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show were on the way - and by now they had formed an inextricable partnership with Silverstein. "He writes so good - we were just amateurish by comparison. We wanted the best material we could find and Shel happened to be writing it", voiced Ray and Dennis. "So on the first and second albums just about everything we recorded was his although the album we've just finished has some of our own tunes on because Shel felt that it's time that we did our own - but we'll go on doing his songs until he kills us."

How, I wondered, had the band been drawn out in the open as it were, by posing nude for Zipper? Was this the kind of publicity that would boost their career? Locorriere looked aghast. "We really didn't know what was going on", he remarked doubtfully. "We thought we were getting shots to go to Europe and someone said get our clothes off. Actually the bodies were ours but the heads were overdubbed ..." Truth is that the band were invited to pose in full frontal nudity and they jumped at the opportunity. And what about the Freakers Ball - an event so zany that it hit the television news reels the following night? "Shel wrote the song 'Freakers Ball' so the conception of it was his. We went along because we didn't have to dress up in weird gear. Actually it was a really bland, ordinary night in fact it was just like playing in the bars again - nobody cared what happened, everyone just wanted to dance."

But Dr Hook still haven't made it to Europe in spite of a scheduled tour this Spring. "There was an English tour but we decided to stay in the States when the single really started happening but now we may be coming in September", explained Ray. Rumour has it that a cosmetics firm wanted to sponsor the band in Europe by investing huge sums of money in them - and the band have a lot of theories on that score too .

Reproduced from Sounds ~ May 19th 1973

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