Rick Derringer. Courtesy photo.
Rick Derringer. Courtesy photo.

UPDATED on Wednesday, July 8: Hippiefest – featuring Rick Derringer, the Family Stone, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, and Badfinger – scheduled for July 12 at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, has been canceled. At this time, it has not been rescheduled. Contact the box office at 210-223-8624 for refunds or exchanges.  

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Originally published on Saturday, July 4:

Rick Derringer has been rocking and rolling for 50 years. Originally from Ohio, he had his first hit as a teenager and has played every kind of rock and roll from bubble gum to blues. He (was going to perform) during Hippiefest at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, July 12. I caught up with Rick, who lived in Florida, for an interview.

Don Mathis: Rick Derringer, cool name. How did you get it?

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Rick Derringer: I was born Ricky Zehringer, but that was hard for people to pronounce, even harder for them to remember. My first band, the McCoys, were on Bang Records which had a pistol on the label. So I dropped the Z and added a D and changed my name to Rick Derringer. And I was right: it’s easier for people to remember.

DM: As a teen in the ’60s, I remember “Hang On Sloopy” coming on the radio about three times every hour. What’s the backstory on that?

RD: It was a rhythm and blues hit by The Vibrations, originally called “My Girl Sloopy.” Within weeks after we released it, it was on the charts. It was a number one hit around the world. It has since become Ohio’s official rock song. When the Rolling Stones gave a concert in Ohio recently, they played “Hang On Sloopy.”

DM: Johnny Winter, the great Texas guitarist, died about a year ago (July 16, 2014). You toured with him a lot. What was he like?

RD: I met Johnny Winter when I was in the McCoys in our bubble gum era and he came to our rescue. He was known primarily as a blues artist and he was afraid of being pigeonholed in that. He said, “I can help you not to be stuck on bubble gum and you can help me not to be stuck in the blues.” My first album with him was called “Johnny Winter And…” and the rest is history.

DM: That was a great album! “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” has become another rock classic. But I’ve always wondered, what does Hoochie Koo mean?

RD: It was an intellectual exercise. I wanted to write a song to help Johnny Winter break into the rock scene but still paying homage to the blues. It was an early musical experiment that conjures a different image for everyone. And it worked out great!

DM: When did you get a Grammy?

RD: I got a Grammy for producing “Weird Al” Yankovic back in the ’80s. I did six albums for him in the ’70s and ’80s. We received a Grammy for Best Comedy Recording (1984) and for Best Concept Music Video (1988).

DM: In the ’90s, you cut records with Edgar Winter, Ian Hunter, Dr. John, Lorna Luft, Hall & Oates, and others. What have you done since then?

RD: I wrote a lot of songs and played a lot of concerts. You can find a lot of my music on YouTube with Jenda, my wife. In 2012, I toured with Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band; we did about a hundred shows. I release CDs all the time. In 2009, I released the album, “Knighted by the Blues” and last year, my wife and I did a tribute album for the Beatles 50th Anniversary.

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Don Mathis

Don’s life revolves around the many poetry circles in San Antonio. His poems have been published in many anthologies and periodicals and broadcasted on local TV and national radio. In addition to poetry,...