Dr Hook frontman Dennis Locorriere is relishing playing live again after his longest spell on the sidelines in over half a century.
The songsmith is out on the road to belatedly celebrate the legendary band’s 50th anniversary almost three years after the death of the New Jersey hit-makers’ eye patch-wearing founder, Ray Sawyer.
Serious health issues put paid to Locorriere’s original 2019 tour dates, before plans for rescheduled shows with his seven-piece line-up were blitzed by the pandemic.
“We’ve been playing together for about six or seven years and we’ve been all round the world,” says the singer.
Lockdown and beyond
“Two shows we did in Denmark last month were the first we’ve done in almost two years. The first one was like an out-of-body experience, but next day it was like we’d never been away and I need that at this point in life.
“The lockdown was strange. At first it felt like it was something that was imposed on you, but the more you lived with it the more you started thinking, ‘S***, what am I going to do when this goes away? I have to get back out there’.
“I hadn’t been anywhere but infrequent supermarket trips so my reintroduction to the real world on a stage was a little surreal.”
Union City-born Dennis, 72, set up home on England’s South Coast over 15 years ago.
He revived Hook’s back catalogue in UK concert halls in 2007, had a stint in Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, and released a solo album in 2010.
In recent years he’s played one-man acoustic tours taking in such locations as Kinross.
“I enjoyed that because it was truly just me and the audience and the show could go anywhere,” he declares.
“I sang songs and talked to people, and if I had an idea of what I was going to play that idea could change depending on the response.
“It did me a lot of good to just get out there on my own and come at it from my gut.”
Despite scoring a brace of American top 10 hits in 1972, Dr Hook And The Medicine Show went bankrupt two years later.
“The first thing we ever did was go out as support for stars like Alice Cooper and Emerson, Lake And Palmer,” Locorriere recalls.
The dangers of the big league
“These guys could travel to Miami or Dallas in a Lear jet. We had to drive all the way so we started to spend on travel like the big boys – but you only make enough money to eat and to get to the next f****** gig as a support act.”
Following some modest sales, fortunes changed when Dr Hook’s cover of Sam Cooke’s Only Sixteen hit No 6 in the US in Spring 1976, with A Little Bit More and If Not You also going big.
Punk’s arrival could have undone the MOR exponents, but in 1979 their disco-friendly signature tune When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman soared to No1.
“We took some s*** for that, but Rod Stewart had Da Ya Think I’m Sexy and the Rolling Stones had Miss You,” the troubadour adds.
From a ragtag bar band
“People don’t want you to change, but I’m proud that Hook, who started off as this ragtag bar band people thought would fall off the stage, was able to adapt.”
Thrown out of high school in the 1960s for having long hair, the former hippie admits he “didn’t really have any aspirations” other than to avoid any jobs that forced him to feel like a fake.
Dennis insists he’s applied that principle throughout his music career, reaching the point now where he can enjoy maximum freedom performing narrative songs like The Ballad Of Lucy Jordon and Carry Me, Carrie.
“They’re stories that I can invest in every night,” he says.
“It’s a little more personal to me and it’s open to interpretation, and I like the challenge of that. Even Sylvia’s Mother – our album was done and we had to literally beg the record company to let us go into a studio and record one more song.
“It looks now like we had a brilliant plan and we pulled everything off, but the truth is we were stumbling forward and trying not to break too many things along the way.
You only give it reason later on.”
- Dr Hook Starring Dennis Locorriere play Perth Concert Hall on Tuesday. See horsecross.co.uk for tickets.