Skip to content

The Doctor's in the house

Well, we big rock singers, we got golden fingers, and we’re loved everywhere we go.We sing about beauty and we sing about truth at $10,000 a…

Well, we big rock singers, we got golden fingers, and we’re loved everywhere we go.

We sing about beauty and we sing about truth at $10,000 a show.

We take all kind of pills to give us all kind of thrills but the thrill we’ve never known

Is the thrill that’ll getcha’ when you get your picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone…

Just hearing the opening lines to Dr. Hook’s classic tongue-in-cheek anthem The Cover of the Rolling Stone makes me smile.

My father was fan; he had a stock of albums from Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show he’d throw on the family record player occasionally when I was really young.

And he used to murmur verses from the Cover of the Rolling Stone to me as a sort of rock ’n’ roll lullaby — minus the drug references, of course.

So, my jaw dropped when I saw Dr. Hook displayed in foot-high letters on the Yukon Convention Centre marquee.

I touched base with Ray Sawyer, the eye-patched, white-bearded rocker who still calls himself Dr. Hook, on Thursday while he sat in his Florida home just north of Daytona Beach.

He was prepping for his 2006 Canadian tour — 15 shows throughout BC and Alberta, including a swing through Whitehorse to play the Yukon Convention Centre on Monday.

Histories of Dr. Hook vary depending on whom you talk to and what you believe on the internet.

The band played its first concert together in San Francisco, opening for Van Morrison in 1971, says Saywer.

The Dr. Hook moniker stems from Saywer’s trademark eye patch.

“Like Captain Hook,” he explains.

“I got into a car wreak in 1967, and opted to wear the patch rather than get a artificial eye.

“I realized, later on, that Captain Hook had two eyes and an artificial arm, so I messed that up, but it don’t matter,” he adds with a laugh.

Like me, most of the band’s audiences are now the kids and grandkids of its original fans.

“At one concert not too long ago, we had this woman come up with her daughter and her daughter’s daughter,” remembers Sawyer.

“She was seven years old and, of course, her favourite song was Freakin’ at the Freaker’s Ball,” Saywer says with a laugh.

 “I guess they listen to their parent’s records and like them better than the stuff they’re hearing now. It’s more music than the music that’s out there today.

“I can’t understand half the rap-stuff, I don’t know what they’re saying and I don’t really care.”

Although Sawyer has probably done thousands of interviews, he still manages to come up with a few interesting stories from his years on the road.

“Oh God, yes, there’s a lot of memories,” he says. The band worked with Stevie Wonder, Joe Cocker and countless others.

But the concert burned in Sawyer’s head is when the band was filming Sylvia’s Mother on American Bandstand with Dick Clark.

The band started playing the song and all of a sudden the sound cut out.

“Dick Clark jumped up and started running and I started chasing him and hitting him in the head and the kids were yelling, ‘Get him! Get him!’ Saywer remembers with a laugh.

“I wasn’t really mad at him, it was a joke … he loved it.

“I went to the producer right after that and tried to get a copy of it, but she told me they just ran over it and they were really embarrassed with it, that had never happened before.”

None of the original members of Dr. Hook still tour with Sawyer; he’s bringing a band of new musicians on guitar, bass and keyboards. Including his 26-year-old son Cayce on drums.

“He’s been with me now since he was 13,” says Saywer. They’d let him out of school to tour with Dad when he went to Scandinavia.

“He asked his teacher if he could get out (of school) for those two weeks and the teacher said, ‘Of course, you’ll learn more there than you will here in the whole year.’”

When he got out of school he started touring with his dad full time.

What keeps Saywer on the road 35 years later?

“It’s my life, it’s just what I do,” says Sawyer.

At the Whitehorse stop he plans to play a lot of the old favourites with a few new ones mixed in.

“I’ve got to,” says Saywer. “If I don’t play the old favourites the audience will beat me up like I beat up Dick Clark.”

Back home, Sawyer has been spending time in the recording studio working on a new album.

All the songs are new except for one surprise, says Saywer. And that surprise will stay a surprise until the album comes out, hopefully some time this year.

By the way, Dr. Hook did get its picture on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1973.