Our Top 10 Dr Hook and the Medicine Show songs list looks back at a New Jersey band formed in the 1960s. The founding members were George Cummings, Ray Sawyer and Billy Francis who had all previously been in a band together called the Chocolate Papers. They then recruited Dennis Locorriere on bass, who would later become the vocalist. For the first few years the drummer was Popeye Philips who later got replaced by Joseph Oliver. However, he left during the recording of the band’s first album and was replaced by John David. In 1970, their demo tapes were heard by Ron Haffkine who was the musical director of the movie “Who is Harry Kellerman and Why is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? Haffkine decided that the bad were the ideal group to record the soundtrack. They recorded two songs for it: “The Last Morning” which was its main theme and “Bunky and Lucille” which they performed in a cameo performance in the film. Although the film was not a massive success, it did help the band secure their first recording contract.
They released their first album Doctor Hook in 1972. It sold over a million copies and was awarded a gold disc on the year of its release. They released the single “Sylvia’s Mother” which was not instantly successful but after some further promotion entered the top five in the summer of ’72. The poet and songwriter Shel Silverstein was a frequent collaborator with the band, writing many songs on the second album released later the same year titled Sloppy Seconds.
However, the band would soon encounter a slight setback in their path to success after they failed to live up to the success of Sloppy Seconds with the next album Belly Up! During this time, the band became bankrupt but still continued to tour consistently. In 1974, the band recorded an album titled Fried Face that was never released.
In 1975, the band shortened their name to just Dr Hook. The same year they signed with Capitol Records and released an aptly titled album called Bankrupt. For the first time in the band’s career, this album included material that did not have involvement from outside sources contributing to the writing. However, the hit from this album that got their career back on track was a cover of Sam Cooke’s “Only Sixteen” which reached the top ten. They had further success with several more hit singles and despite touring heavily, they were still not managing to have the same kind of success with their albums. This changed in 1978 when they achieved their first gold album with Pleasure and Pain. Ron Sawyer, however, was unhappy with the commercial direction that the band’s music had taken. They changed labels again in 1980 but were unable to replicate previous success. They had their final top forty hit in 1982 with “Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk.” Sawyer left in 1983 to pursue a solo career and the band continued to tour for the next couple of years ending with Dr Hook’s One and Only Farewell tour in 1985.
After the band’s split, Dennis Locorriere retained ownership of the name and continued to tour as Dr Hook. He released several albums and undertook several tours with various monikers containing the name. A fifty-year anniversary tour was planned in 2019 but had to be postponed due to Locorriere having to undergo a prostate procedure. In 1988 Sawyer gained permission to tour as “Ray Sawyer of Dr Hook” and at one point in 2001 was joined by Billy Francis. Sawyer went on his last tour in 2015 before his death three years later. Francis had died earlier in 2010.
# 10 – Sylvia’s Mother
Kicking off this Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show Songs list is a single released in 1972 that was the group’s first hit song and is taken from their debut . It was written by Shel Silverstein, produced by Ron Haffkine reached number five on the US Billboard charts as well as topping the charts in Ireland and reaching number two in the United Kingdom. The song is an autobiographical tale of how Silverstein failed to revive a failed relationship that he had been in.
# 9 – The Cover of Rolling Stone
Next up on this Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show Songs list is a song that was also written by Silverstein taken from Sloppy Seconds. Also produced by Haffkine, it was also released in 1972 and was the band’s third single, peaking at number six on the pop chart where it remained for two weeks. The song is a satire of the music business, particularly the idea that if a band makes it on to the cover of “Rolling Stone” magazine then they are officially a success.
# 8- The Ballad of Lucy Jordan
Continuing with our Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show Songs list is yet another song that was written by Silverstein. It is about the deteriorating mental state of a suburban housewife who reaches breaking point after becoming frustrated with her dissatisfaction with her life. In 1979, Marianne Faithful released a cover that became one of her highest charting hits.
# 7 – Only Sixteen
Next on this Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show Songs list at number 7 is a cover of a Sam Cooke song that was released in 1959. This version was released in 1975 and included on Bankrupt. This version of the song is the most commercially successful. It reached number six on the Billboard Hot 100 and number five on the Cash Box Top 100. It spent twenty-two weeks on the charts and was certified gold.
# 6 – A Little Bit More
Here is another cover that was originally recorded by Bobby Moore and was released in 1973. However, this version was a bigger hit when it was released in 1976. It reached number eleven on the Billboard Hit 100 and number nine on the Cashbox 100. It was even more successful in the Uk where it got to number two. It holds the title of being the band’s second-best biggest hit in the UK alongside “Sylvia’s Mother.”
# 5 – Sharing the Night Together
Kicking off the second half of this Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show Songs list is a track taken from the album Pleasure and Pain, their first after renaming themselves as simply Dr Hook. Here, the band are delving very much into love ballad territory. Once again, this song was not actually originally by the band, being recorded originally by both Lenny Leblanc and Arthur Alexander.
# 4 – Walk Right In
Whilst it may seem a little extreme to include a fourth song on this list that is a cover, performing covers was something that the band were ultimately particularly good at, so here is yet another that this time was originally by Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers in 1929. This version was released in 1977 and managed to chart high on several different charts.
# 3 – Sexy Eyes
At number three is a single that was released in 1980 and was the second of three singles to be taken from the album Sometimes You Win. In the United States it holds a tie with “Sylvia’s Eyes” as the band’s highest charting song on the Billboard. Certified gold, it was also a big hit in Canada where it reached number eight and the United Kingdom where it reached number four.
# 2 – Better Love Next Time
Just off the top spot is a single that was released in 1979. It was the first single to be taken from the Sometimes You Win LP. One thing that is clearly evident here is that the band were capitalizing on the disco trend that was a very prevalent force in the music scene at the time. It reached number twelve on the Billboard Hot 100 and number eight on the UK charts.
# 1 – When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman
At the top spot is the band’s most internationally successful song released in 1979 and taken from the album Pleasure and Pain. It is another disco hit for the band, reaching number six on the Billboard Hot 100 and topping the charts in the United Kingdom. It was such a massive success that the band decided to add it to Sometimes You Win.