Weekender entertainment Dr Hook September 19
Nanjing Night Net

WHEN Dr Hook started out as a bar band in New Jersey in the late ’60s, the goal was to play songs that would keep them on side with their audience. “When you’re a bar band, the way you pick your material is you pick songs that you think will prevent you from being killed,” founding member and singer Dennis Locorriere laughs.

It remained the rule of thumb for the band throughout their career.

From playing small dive bars to touring the world, Dr Hook’s musical output during their 17-year lifespan was nothing short of eclectic, spanning Southern-fried pop and rock to disco.

They played the music people wanted to hear.

“We were recording in the last era where they weren’t telling us what we weren’t allowed to do,” Locorriere says.

“Our first two hit records were Sylvia’s Mother, which is a very weepy ballad, and the next one was Cover of The Rolling Stone, which is totally ridiculous.

“Right out of the box we weren’t particularly trying to do anything but make records people liked.

“We just figured if we could pull it off, we should do it.”

When the band faced bankruptcy in the mid-70s, they reacted by adopting a commercial sound that they knew would translate into high record sales.

And it worked.

“In order to keep our families fed – because it was scary to end up with nothing for a while there – we went for more mainstream music like Sharing the Night Together, Better Love Next Time and Sexy Eyes,” Locorriere says.

“But, again, we pulled it off, so there you go.”

At the height of the band’s success, Locorriere says they were on the road “300 days per year” which meant he missed out on a lot of his son’s childhood.

He began to question what was important in life.

Dr Hook officially split in 1985, bowing out with a farewell tour across Australia, the UK, Canada and the US.

Four members of the band are no longer alive (“I often say any Dr Hook reunion would have to start with a seance,” Locorriere says) and the band’s second vocalist, the cowboy hat and eye patch-wearing Ray Sawyer, left in 1982.

Locorriere, who owns the rights to the band’s name, has released solo albums over the years and continues to tour, including the band’s music in his sets.

But it has only been in recent years, he says, that he has begun to appreciate the legacy of Dr Hook.

“I can’t even tell you this without sounding corny, but I can’t believe how much I am realising that people like this stuff,” Locorriere says.

“I knew they liked it, obviously, but I’m talking about an appreciation of it that comes with distance.

“People like the music, so these days Dr Hook is a sound more than it’s anything else.

“I’m lucky because I sang most of that stuff and I can recreate that stuff with a good band. So that’s what I’m hell-bent on doing right now.”

After embarking on a 26-date solo tour across Australia in 2014, Locorriere is returning with his band for a 15-date national run in October.

“My job is to come down there and represent the Hook catalogue – that body of work – the best I can, play those things the way people want to hear them played.

“Not only is it a great band but everything is in there – all the vocals, all the things that are in those records that I want to hear – are in there.”

Dennis Locorriere presents Dr Hook at Civic Theatre Newcastle on October 28. Bookings through Ticketek.