"Hang On Sloopy” is a rock classic. But few know the long and winding road it took before becoming a big hit for the McCoys in 1965.
The song began with the title “My Girl Sloopy.” It’s credited to Wes Ferrell and Bert Russell (a.k.a. Bert Berns). However, Rick Derringer claims the song was really written by a St. Louis high school student who sold the rights to Russell. If that’s true, then Sloopy might be Dorothy Sloop, a jazz singer from the same area.
The song was first recorded by an L.A.-based R&B group called the Vibrations. That version reached #10 on the R&B charts and #26 on the pop charts.
The Strangeloves were looking for a follow-up to their hit “I Want Candy” and thought “My Girl Sloopy” might do the trick. Pay attention now because from here, the story gets a little twisted.
The Strangeloves were touring with the Dave Clark Five and playing “Sloopy” as part of their live show. The DC5 liked the tune so much they informed the Strangeloves that Clark and the boys had decided to make it their next single.
What to do? The Strangeloves knew it was too soon to release their next single. “Candy” was still high in the charts, but they didn’t want the Brits to beat them to the punch. Fortunately, the Strangeloves also had secret identities. In reality, they were record producers Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein, and Richard Gottehrer, who were pretending to be an Australian rock band.
Feldman, Goldstein and Gotteher decided to use a Dayton, Ohio band that had once opened for the Strangeloves. That band was Rick and the Raiders. Still with us?
First, the Strangeloves decided to rename the song “Hang On Sloopy.” Then, they decided that Rick and the Raiders needed to change their name to avoid confusion with the already popular Paul Revere and the Raiders. So Rick and the Raiders became the McCoys. Finally, the McCoys lead singer, Rick Zehringer changed his name to Rick Derringer.
Feldman, Goldstein and Gotteher then flew Derringer to New York and had him record the lead vocal track over already-recorded backing tracks. Got all that?
That version was then rush-released to get it onto radio station and into record stores ahead of the Dave Clark Five.
It worked. “Hang On Sloopy” was released in August of 1965 and by Halloween every garage band in the country had added it to their repertoire. Dave Clark shelved their plans and never recorded the song.
Unfortunately, the Strangeloves never could find another song as good and their attempts to follow-up “I Want Candy” fizzled.
Rick Derringer, however, went on to a long and successful career.