Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show were a country-flavored rock band formed in Union City, New Jersey
. The original lineup was Ray Sawyer, Dennis Locorriere, Bill Francis, John David, and George Cummings. Sawyer was particularly noticeable due to his trademark cowboy hat
and the eyepatch
he wore due to a car accident in 1967
-- in fact the original name proposed for the band was "Captain Hook
and the Medicine Show" after the eyepatch-wearing villain. He and Locorriere formed the core of the group.
The band hooked up with composer Shel Silverstein when their manager sent in a demo tape to Ron Haffkine, who was in charge of doing the music for the movie Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying All Those Terrible Things About Me? Silverstein was writing songs for the film, and he and Haffkine both liked the demo enough to get the band to do all the songs for the movie -- Haffkine also became their new manager and got the band a record deal. Silverstein composed most of the songs on their first few albums.
"Sylvia's Mother," a ballad from their first album, became a big hit, and "Cover of the Rolling Stone" from the followup, Sloppy Seconds attracted the attention of those who would like their silly stage show and its monologues done as fictional characters. It also got the band on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, although as a caricature rather than a photograph.
The band toured constantly but spent all the money they earned on partying -- their fifh album was aptly called Bankrupt. Eventually they shortened the band's name to Dr. Hook, and their chart hits became mostly ballads (including "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan"). They totaled over thirty-five gold and platinum records, but they were getting tired of their own music by the early 1980s. "We were on Solid Gold until you wanted to puke," remarked Locorriere.
Sawyer left in 1983, and the band continued to tour for two more years before completely splitting up in 1985. In the 1990s Sawyer went back on the road as "Dr. Hook featuring Ray Sawyer" after doing a few country records under his own name. Locorriere spent a few years relaxing, and then in 1989 performed a one-man show written by Shel Silverstein, The Devil and Billy Markham, which made him enthusiastic to be on stage again. Since then he's released a few solo albums and toured, promoting himself as "the voice of Dr. Hook."