Rick Derringer Extended Interview
Derringer was born in Fort Recovery, Ohio, the son of Janice Lavine (Thornburg) and John J. Zehringer, a railroad worker. When he was 17, his band The McCoys recorded “Hang on Sloopy” in the summer of 1965, which became the number one song in America before “Yesterday” by The Beatles knocked it out of the top spot. The song was issued by Bang Records. He adopted the Derringer stage name which was inspired by the Bang Records logo which featured a derringer pistol.
After starting The McCoys, he changed the band’s name to “The Rick Z Combo”, and then “Rick and the Raiders”. After recording “Hang on Sloopy”, it was decided that the original name was best, and The McCoys were reborn.
One of the first opportunities to see them play live came when they opened for The Rolling Stones on the entire 1966 American tour. Before “Hang on Sloopy”, they were seen often at LeSourdsville Lake Amusement Park in southwest Ohio at Friday night WSAI (Cincinnati, Ohio) radio-sponsored dances. They were a part of the local summer dance experience along with Ivan and the Sabers on WING (Dayton, Ohio) radio Monday night dances.
Derringer also recorded and played with a version of Johnny Winter’s band called “Johnny Winter And …” and both Edgar Winter’s White Trash and The Edgar Winter Group.
Derringer also had a successful solo career, and his solo version of “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” was a hit single in 1973. The years 2013–2014 mark the 40th anniversary of Derringer’s first solo tracks on All American Boy released October 15, 1973. The album’s success was rated by its record company, “Blue Sky Records”, that stated that every college dorm room in America had one. He also recorded extensively with Steely Dan, playing slide guitar on songs including “Show Biz Kids” and “Chain Lightning”.
Derringer appeared on Alice Cooper’s Killer album in 1971, playing the solo on “Under My Wheels.”
In late 1974, Derringer played guitar on Joe Vitale’s debut solo album Roller Coaster Weekend produced by The Albert Brothers (Ron, and Howard). The album featured other famous guitarists Joe Walsh and Phil Keaggy.
Derringer opened for Led Zeppelin in Oakland, California on their last American tour in 1977. Derringer was also a featured guitarist on several Todd Rundgren albums in the 1970s, including Something/Anything? (1972), A Wizard, a True Star (1973), Initiation (1975) and the live album Back to the Bars (1978).
Derringer was also a regular in Andy Warhol’s circle and often frequented Warhol’s studio, The Factory.
Derringer also performed a track for the World Wrestling Federation on The Wrestling Album. “Real American” would later be used as Hulk Hogan’s entrance music (and was associated before with the tag team, The U.S. Express). Derringer also performed the entrance theme for WWF Tag Team Demolition on Piledriver:The Wrestling Album 2, as well as a duet version of “Rock ‘n Roll Hoochie Koo” with Gene Okerlund.
See also: Music in professional wrestling
In the 1980s, Derringer expanded his producing skills, by producing for Mason Ruffner as well as the first 6 “Weird Al” Yankovic albums. He also played on the second Silver Condor album on the track “Thank God For Rock and Roll”, produced and sung by Joe Cerisano. He has played for “Weird Al” on many of his albums, playing guitar and mandolin; on the track “Eat It”, Derringer played the guitar solo, an homage/parody to Eddie Van Halen’s solo on the Michael Jackson song “Beat It”.
In the summer of 1983, at Right Tracks studio in NYC, Derringer guested on the Kiss album Lick It Up (their first record without make-up and first Platinum seller in four years), playing the solo on the opening track, “Exciter”. Derringer was not credited, per Kiss’ usual practice of masking guest musicians appearing on their albums over the years. Derringer commented about Kiss’ Paul Stanley, “Paul’s a much better guitarist than I would have thought.”
In 1986, he co-wrote and sang back-up vocals on “Calm Inside The Storm” on Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors album. He served as one of her tour musicians from 1986–1992, prompting him to compare Cyndi to Barbra Streisand: “She’s better live than Barbra.”
Derringer was once again sought after by Edgar Winter and in 1990 performed on the album Edgar Winter and Rick Derringer Live in Japan. In 1999 Derringer and Winter were back together again for their collaboration on his Winter Blues CD.
Derringer also recorded four blues CDs, starting in 1993 with Back to the Blues followed by Electra Blues, Blues Deluxe and his 2000 release Jackhammer Blues.
In 2012 Derringer toured the world with The Ringo Starr All Star Band
Rick Derringer’s Tend The Fire was released in Europe and UK (1997), DBA-Derringer, Bogert & Appice (2001).
Free Ride Smooth Jazz (2002) with Rick’s wife, singer-songwriter Jenda Derringer Hall, who sang the title song “Free Ride”. Jenda also wrote the album’s Top Twenty Hit “Hot & Cool”, which charted at #16. “Hot & Cool” was written by Jenda in 1998.
“Aiming 4 Heaven” launched Derringer’s gospel rock career, with wife Jenda, their eight-year-old son, Marn and nine-year-old daughter, Loving. The Derringers We Live CD was released in fall of 2008.
Derringer guested on the Tom Guerra project Mambo Sons (1999) and Damon Fowler’s Riverview Drive (2000). He also appears on the Les Paul album American Made World Played (2005), on the track “Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl”.
Derringer strongly proclaimed his Christianity during this period. The old lyric of “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo” was rewritten into “Read the Word Live It Too” and his new life was breathed into “Still Alive And Well”. Both lyrics were written by Rick’s co-writer wife, Jenda Derringer.
In 2006, he appeared in a Fidelity Investments television commercial, with Derringer playing “Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo”.
In May 2009, he released the album Knighted by the Blues and its single, “Sometimes”, that was also written by song writer, Jenda Derringer.
Rick Derringer toured with Ringo Starr’s 11th All-Starr Band in the summer of 2010 and 2011, a band that included long-time friend and musician partner Edgar Winter, Gary Wright, Richard Paige, Gregg Bissonette, Wally Palmer and Ringo Starr. Rick’s current trio consists of longtime bassist-vocalist Charlie Torres and drummer-vocalist-global tour manager Kenn Moutenot of song3.com
In other media
“Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” is featured in the 1993 film Dazed and Confused, as well as in the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II in 2007. The song was also made available as downloadable content (DLC) for guitar learning software/game Rocksmith 2014 in January 2015.
“Real American” is featured in the original broadcast of the episode “Gumball Special” of Jackass (it has since been replaced by another song for subsequent TV broadcasts and DVD releases). The song is featured in an episode of Eastbound & Down (Chapter 8) as Kenny Powers’ entrance song to his return to baseball playing for The Charros (a Mexican baseball team). The song is also featured on Episode 20 of TeamFourStar’s Dragonball Z: Abridged as Goku’s arrival to Namek music, and was used to comedic effect by President Barack Obama at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner.
Rick & Jenda Derringer do The Beatles, released just before Spring, 2014, is their Beatles tribute album, for the Beatles 50th Anniversary. It features their fresh, upbeat tracks of “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Here Comes the Sun”, “Got to Get You into My Life”, “The Word”, “In My Life”, “Eight Days a Week”, “Something”, “And I Love Her”, “Here, There and Everywhere” and “Do You Want To Know A Secret”. All ten of these tracks were the first to be both produced and engineered by Rick & Jenda Derringer.