Doctor Hook: This Is Your Life and Your Cover
Rock & roll history was made in Charlotte, North Carolina, –under cloud-swept skies as the sun moved into the last decan of Aquarius. On Sunday, February 18th, to be exact, seven formerly unknown musicians calling themselves Dr. Hook stumbled onto the stage of a cavernous dance hall called the Midnight Sun.
The rest is fodder for the Historians of this Troubled Age.
Dennis Loccorriere, the bearded 23-year-old lead singer——in his alter-ego role as Larry the Times Square wino——spoke at a record-breaking 27 motherfuckers per hour and was cheered roundly for this feat. People threw joints at him. He moved like an abuser of the drug alcohol, lurching around the stage, grabbing at the microphones, and slurring his often indelicate words.
The big thing in rock, he claimed, is “all guys dressed up like girls,” and if that’s what it took, “I’m as big a fag as any of them guys.” He claimed to have a garter belt holding up his boots and boasted that he took a closet on the road with him. Pointing to Ray Sawyer, the eye-patched Dr. Hook of the group, he proclaimed, “And Ray’s an even bigger fag than me!”
Microphones wobbled, Dennis lurched and stumbled and Ray did the sensual strut. To visualize the way Ray moves, you have to think of the chicken-scratching music played on the great hillbilly situation comedies to introduce a rural scene, and then imagine someone dancing to that. Temper this vision with the knowledge that for almost four years Ray was the only white singer with any number of soul bands playing the raunchiest clubs in Chicago and Mobile.
The music was loud and good and the harmonies were all there, as surreal and inept as the band’s physical appearance. Billy Francis came out from behind the keyboard, gangly and slinking. He moved like Ray and the two men gangled and slunk at one another until Ray drove the taller man back behind the keyboard. Dennis almost fell over. At least one microphone hit the floor. People in the Midnight Sun were standing and screaming and elbowing their way forward.
Stage front, three beefy guards, not one under 200 pounds, took turns watching the band and the crowd. One of them, a man who seemed less experienced than the others, was bobbing and weaving with excitement, bouncing playful punches off another’s arm.
“These motherfuckers are crazy,” he said.
The man taking the punches was tensed with fear of the crowd. “It’s going to be tough after this one’s over,” he gritted, eyes glazed with hysteria praecox.
“Think it will be rough as the Grass Roots?”
“Rough as the Grass Roots!” he snorted. “This is going to be ten times as rough as the Grass Roots!”
History had gone down.
* * *
Dr. Hook has been on the road for nearly 18 months, which means a year and a half propped up on pillows against Holiday Inn bedboards, chain-smoking and choking on cigarettes and watching one inane television program after another: family shows where a lovable but mischievous raccoon knocks over Aunt Bea’s priceless vase, precipitating a family crisis which is eventually ironed out and teaches one and all the value of animal tolerance, ending in a scene at the dinner table where the lost raccoon walked proudly in through the back door followed by a lot of little raccoons and Dad decides that its name will have to be changed from Fred to Frieda and everyone laughs insanely until fade-out and titles.
Touring, then, is a lonely highway, and there are those young ladies even in the Bible Belt states who know this and offer the entourage the Christian solace of spiritual conversation. In the private shop talk of the Hook band, if she stayed with you one night, you fell in love with her. If she stayed longer, or followed you to the next town, you got married. This leads to conversations in dining rooms that have endangered the hard-won sanity of waitresses the country over:
“Remember that big tall girl you fell in love with in Asheville?”
“Fell in love? I married her.”
“Well, she’s got a big funny lump on her left breast.”
* * *
The Ibogaine-Adrenochrome plexi-tab began to take hold somewhere near South Hill, Virginia. Vanadium-taloned pterodactyls wheeled and shrieked above the sea-green impala: gruesome madness inside a snot-colored car fish-tailing at 100 miles an hour towards New York and a taping for ABC’s In Concert series.
It had started as an ordinary enough day. I had downed the plexi-tab with my morning pint of avocado juice, and was feeling pleasantly fucked-up and not at all delirious as we left the Charlotte Holiday Inn. Producer-manager Ron Haffkine sat in the back seat along with Dennis and Ray. Drummer Jay David drove. At the freeway entrance we passed two familiar female faces hitching north. “We’ll be in Fayetteville next week,” someone yelled and the two smiled and waved.
The instruments were on their way to New York in a van driven by roadie Robert Woolridge who had long since legally changed his name to Nine Year, for impenetrable reasons. We pulled into a Charlotte pawnshop, Reliable Loan, and waited edgily in line behind a crowd of junkies who were selling their color TVs. Dennis picked up an inexpensive Japanese nylon string guitar. He and Ray were going to work on songs 650 miles straight through to New York.
I listened to the new song written for the group by Shel Silverstein, a chorus of which goes:
Some folks love ham hocks
And some folks love pork chops
And some folks love vegetable soups.
Roland the Roadie loves Gertrude the Groupie
And Gertrude the Groupie loves Groups.
There was a spoken fade-out: “Come on in here baby, there’s only about ten of us …”