Weird Al Was One of Many Beneficiaries of Rick Derringer's Talents
In his biggest hit song, he says “Lordy mama, light my fuse.” He turned 75 last week, so the latter part of the lyric might have been changed to “Light my candles.
Rick Derringer was born on August 5, 1947 in Celina, Ohio, even though his birth name was Zehringer. “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo,” from which the aforementioned lyrics stemmed, was Derringer's biggest hit as a solo artist.
He has, however, created a much larger legacy than that one hit, including a classic that has become a state song. As a teenage member of the McCoys, Derringer recorded “Hang on Sloopy” and saw it eventually become part of the soundtrack of the Buckeye State.
“The song was an instant success, reaching number one in every country that sold records,” stated Ultimate Classic Rock on January 5, 2007. “It was the first record played in Moscow's Red Square when the government decided to play rock and roll, and It stayed at number one while The Beatles's Yesterday was number two."
Next for Derringer came his solo work, highlighted by “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo.” It reached the Top Ten at nearly the same time as another band Derringer had joined, the Edgar Winter Group.
Not only did Derringer play electric guitar on Winter's breakthrough album, but he also produced it. They Only Come Out at Night spawned several singles in “Free Ride” and “Frankenstein,” as well as introducing the music world to future band leader Ronnie Montrose.
Shortly after charting with the Edgar Winter Group, Derringer branched out even more by contributing guitar work for Steely Dan. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker selected several pieces of Derringer's playing on three of their most successful albums, Katy Lied, Countdown To Ecstasy and Gaucho.
He also played on four Todd Rundgren albums during the late Seventies, and Derringer remained a popular studio guitarist even into the Eighties. He can be heard on several of Air Supply's biggest hits, as well as on the smash number one hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler.
Also in the Eighties he worked with such varied artists as Barbra Streisand, Meat Loaf and Cyndi Lauper, but his most renown contribution was for a novelty act. Derringer was the guitar player on Weird Al Yankovic's In 3-D record, which he also produced.
In the Nineties Derringer took part in several touring super groups, most noteworthy of which was Ringo and His All-Star Band. When that ensemble was on hiatus, Derringer traveled with a similar super group fronted by Peter Frampton.
With a bio that illustrates he has never slowed down, Derringer's adopted name seems to be apt. Like the short-barreled firearm of the same name, the just tuned 75 rock legend has certainly been a pistol.