Dennis Locorriere, singer songwriter and front man of American band Dr. Hook chats with Kevin cooper about the woman behind their hit song Sylvia’s Mother, going to a Sam Cooke concert with his mother, Dr Hook’s latest album Timeless and their forthcoming tour of the UK.

Dennis Locorriere, singer and songwriter, was a member of Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show, an American rock band which shortened its name to Dr. Hook in 1975. During the course of his career he was the recipient of more than 60 gold and platinum albums and gained number one chart status in more than 42 countries. As a songwriter, he has also had his songs recorded by Bob Dylan, Crystal Gayle, Helen Reddy, Willie Nelson and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Dr. Hook enjoyed considerable commercial success in the 70s, with hit singles including Sylvia’s Mother, The Cover Of Rolling Stone, A Little Bit More, Sharing The Night Together, and When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman. In addition to their own material, Dr. Hook also performed songs written by the poet Shel Silverstein.

Founder member of the band, Ray Sawyer, left the band in 1983 to pursue a solo career, leaving Dr. Hook to continue to tour successfully for another couple of years, ending with Dr. Hook’s One And Only Farewell Tour, with Locorriere as the sole front man. He retains the rights to the trademark name, Dr. Hook, although it is licensed to Sawyer for touring purposes.

He has released three solo albums, Out Of The Dark, One Of The Lucky Ones and Post Cool. In 2014 he toured Australia for the first time in nearly fifteen years.

Whilst busy putting the final touches to Dr. Hook’s Timeless Tour, Dennis Locorriere took some time out to have a chat with Kevin cooper and this is what he had to say.

Good morning Dennis how are you today?

I’m great Kevin thank you for asking. More to the point how are you man, is everything alright?

I have to say that I am very well thank you, and just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Life at the moment is okay man, it really couldn’t be any better.

Before we move on let me firstly take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No thank you man. I have now been doing this for so long that I am truly amazed that anyone still actually gives a shit about me or Dr. Hook (laughter). It makes me smile whenever I get a few interviews lined up because if the tables were turned and I was doing the interview I would be constantly thinking to myself ‘what is there left for this guy to say’ (laughter). But anyway, joking aside thank you for wanting to speak to me today; it really is my pleasure. However, you will have to forgive me if I don’t respond immediately. And no it’s not down to my age it’s just that I seem to be in a constant state of jet lag recently (laughter).

That is not a problem as I can fully understand that having looked at your recent tour schedule.

That’s right, this year alone we have already toured Australia, then we headed up Scotland to play a couple of amphitheatre gigs, and then we found ourselves in Iceland so we have already covered many, many miles (laughter).

Would I be correct in saying that being asked to select the tracks for the recent Timeless album was the catalyst for you getting back out on the road?

Yes you would, I have no idea just who you have been talking to but yes that is perfectly correct (laughter). A couple of years ago now, no a few years ago, you will have to forgive me because I always say that everything was a couple of years ago even if I am taking about my fifteenth birthday (laughter). Two years ago now Universal Records asked me to put together the Timeless compilation which they wanted to put out. In order for me to do that I had to sit down and listen to every track that Dr. Hook had ever recorded in order to put together two discs of forty tracks. And whilst sequencing the CD’s and listening to all of this music, a lot of what I had never heard before, I was totally surprised and amazed that Dr. Hook simply didn’t record the same song over and over.

We really did delve into lots of kinds of music whether it was dance, poignant ballads, really weird funny stuff like The Cover Of Rolling Stone, straight up country music, rock and roll; there were so many different kinds of music that whilst I was sequencing the discs I also had it in the back of my mind that this would make a great live show. You could take people through the whole history of Dr. Hook and not play them the same thing over and over. So I started thinking about that but I really wasn’t too sure that I wanted to go back out on the road and do the whole Dr. Hook thing again simply because so much time had passed by now. However, whilst I was promoting the Timeless album I kept getting such great comments from people and I began to realise just how much the music had meant to them and their families.

It is this warmth and love from the fans that has really kept Dr. Hook alive. The original fans have passed our music on to their kids who have in turn passed it on to their kids and so forth. So whenever we play now it is absolutely brilliant. I can go to Facebook or Twitter and I always see someone writing about just how excited they are to have just got tickets for their mom and dad for a Dr. Hook show (laughter). I really do love that. We spent so much time in our lives beating ourselves up for all of the mistakes that we made which makes this for me a really special moment, for me to be able to take this one thing that I obviously did right and be able to celebrate it. You tend to look at things in that way when you get older.

When we were younger and we had a hit record we would always say “oh my god we have to have another one” and from that point it was all panic, it was all promotion, it was all stumbling in the dark and it’s funny how you stumble through the whole thing. And then one day if you are lucky enough you just might have a body of work that looks like it was all planned (laughter).

On the subject of the Timeless album are there any tracks that missed the cut that you now wish were on there?

Oh man, there were things that I wish were in the show that aren’t there. In a regular Dr. Hook show we don’t have any support acts opening for us simply because I can’t give up the time to anyone else; there are just so many songs that I want to get in there. So we will do a set of about fifty minutes long, then there is the obligatory twenty minute interval, and then we will come back and do a second set of about one hour twenty minutes. So as you can see it is a pretty healthy show being on average two hours ten minutes depending upon the evening really. It’s a long show and there are still things that I wished were in there.

I see that you are playing a number of festivals this summer. How do you work out the set list for those?

(Laughter) that’s a very good question. We have been given forty five minute slots for the festivals and I am already losing sleep because I am worrying so much about just what to leave out. There will be a million acts at these festivals and we have been given forty five minutes (laughter). That’s not even as long as the first part of our show (laughter). So when you ask me if anything missed the cut, there was literally tons of stuff that missed the cut. However, you have to try to play the ones that will take the people right from the early days to the later days. We were lucky enough to have Sylvia’s Mother, The Cover Of Rolling Stone, A Little Bit More, If Not You, then we cleaned it up a little bit more and had Sexy Eyes and When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman which really do define periods in time. The interesting thing about Dr. Hook is that we were always kicking ass somewhere in the world and to be honest it is kind of doing that now too.

Perhaps when the tour is finished you might look into the possibility of releasing a Timeless Volume Two.

(Laughter) yes I know what you mean. Man there is so much material still out there that a Volume Two could well be a possibility. All that I will say at this stage is watch this space (laughter).

On the subject of albums are there any thoughts regarding a new Dr. Hook studio album?

I am so pleased that you have asked me that because I am actually thinking about a new Dr. Hook album. We will see what happens. It’s funny because if I didn’t do this I would always wonder if I should have. It’s the same story with everybody. You always regret what you haven’t done, and never what you have. I keep thinking ‘well if I go out and I try the Dr. Hook thing again and I find out that it had a shelf life and I should have checked the date’ then at least I will have found that out (laughter). However, if I don’t do it and I am sitting alone at eighty years old I will be thinking ‘I really should have given it a shot’. Not only that but I would also be saying ‘you know what, it would have been great. We would have had a single out once again and the shows would have all sold out’ (laughter).

So you see that if I didn’t do it again when I finally got to eighty I would be sitting somewhere torturing myself for the rest of my life. If it didn’t seem that any of this mattered to the audience then I simply wouldn’t do it. However, I have to be honest with you and tell you that I simply couldn’t live without celebrity. Don’t get me wrong I am not one of those guys who walks up and down the street, looking over his shoulder to check to see if anybody knows me (laughter). Whenever somebody comes up to me and asks me if they can take my picture my immediate thought is ‘why, am I supposed to be someone’ (laughter).

I am really lucky in that I really did enjoy doing it and it was never about me being a celebrity in particular. I was just a kid who liked The Beatles, loved playing music in bars with different bands and that’s how I found the guys who I formed Dr. Hook with. They came up from down south, asked me if I could play the bass and I thought ‘well I can certainly give it a shot’ because at that time I was playing the drums (laughter). People go into the music business these days like it is the medical profession, expecting to score instantly and always thinking ‘if only I could get onto America’s Got Talent’ or some other reality TV show.

I really wasn’t thinking at all; I just knew that I didn’t want to have a regular job because at that time I was a hippie. I would go to bars at night and play until three in the morning, playing and having fun with my friends and I really wasn’t thinking too much about it. But I have to say that if this was all planed, for me not to have a job, well didn’t that backfire (laughter). Boy didn’t it backfire because I have never worked so hard in my life trying not to have a job.

After so many years out on the road, do you still get a buzz from touring?

I get a buzz form the fact that something that I did way back when means so much to people. I don’t get a buzz from putting the key in the door and wondering what the hotel room looks like because I pretty much know. I don’t really enjoy being on the road. When I was twenty years old everything that I owned was in my shoulder bag and on the road with me. Now I am not a Kindle sort of guy, so don’t ever try to talk me into buying a Kindle. I am not prepared to read something on a metal device, I like books so now I have twenty books that I will take on the road with me. They say that as you get older your comfort zone gets smaller, well let me tell you I am standing like a fucking flamingo on one foot and I want to take everything with me (laughter).

I want my life to be the same everywhere but once you go out on the road you suspend life, you really do. It is a totally different thing. I have just turned sixty-eight and there is not a new rule book for being out on the road when you are sixty-eight (laughter). No one says to you “here is the modified version where you can sit down through the whole thing” (laughter). That simply doesn’t happen and I am doing the same things on stage and off stage that I did when I was twenty-eight. Let me tell you it is not forgiving; you do not get an ambulatory dressing room, it is simply a wooden chair and a mirror. Hopefully not a Fun House mirror where you say “am I really that ugly and I have just sold tickets” (laughter).

So I honestly don’t know man. However, I still get enthusiastic about the fact that I took a gamble on this again. That’s the thing that I love about The Beatles. If you watch old black and white interviews with The Beatles when they were kids and just starting out people asked them the same question all of the time; ‘so how long do you think that this could last’ (laughter). As far as anybody knew, rock and roll was like the hula-hoop, it was a fad. Even Lennon and McCartney would answer by saying “oh I don’t know, perhaps two or three years”. Nobody knew, nobody had any clue and neither did I. There was no masterplan; it was all just so new. There were no rules, you just sort of did it and stumbled forward.

I have been doing my sums and I see that 2019 will be the fiftieth anniversary of you forming Dr. Hook.

That’s right 2019 will be fifty years of Dr. Hook and I am counting from the time that we got together and played those bars. I know that was back in 1969 because during one of the breaks we went across the street to a little diner and we all had a bowl of soup while we watched the guys walk on the moon on a black and white TV. Then we went back to the bar where we had to play a forty-five minute set every night. We were playing six sets per night, seven nights per week and as long as you were onstage they really didn’t care what you played; however, you did because you didn’t want anybody to kill you (laughter). People would come up to you and say “do you know any country music” to which we would always reply “yes or at least I think we can do something. Just stop packing your gun and we will play a little country music for you” (laughter).

It was always like that but yes, we watched them walk on the moon back in 1969 just after we had all got together and were playing the bars in New Jersey. After we had watched that, because it was such an amazing thing, we went back to the bar, got back up onto the stage and played a forty-five minute jam thing which we called A Tribute To The Moon. We kind of just played for forty-five minutes until the jukebox came back on and then we took our break. During the break people would come up to us and say “can you play the Tribute To The Moon again” but the thing was we didn’t know what the hell we had just done, what we had just played (laughter). I don’t know what we played but we got requests for it. So I know that was back in 1969 and so 2019 will be fifty years of Dr. Hook.

I am sixty-eight so thinking about that is like ‘oh my god’ (laughter). That is a hell of a long time to be doing something. Let’s not forget that I took a break there in the middle and did other stuff. I did some acting; I wrote songs for other people, but you know when you do a thing like Dr. Hook you never walk away from it too much. I had helped different labels put out box sets, written liner notes, did the odd gig here and there, and even when I had solo albums out and toured as a solo artist I still included Dr. Hook stuff within the set. I’m not a fool but it wasn’t wall to wall Dr. Hook. It’s a totally different thing man.

So what we can expect from the forthcoming Timeless Tour here in the UK?

Right here goes. This tour that we will be doing here in the UK is literally back by popular demand. We played thirty-four shows here in the UK last year and every single one of them sold out. After that the promoter said that he thought that we could do it all again this year, so we are and the good thing is that we are going to all different places. From my point of view it’s hard to turn down anything by popular demand (laughter). I mean people ask me “what are you still doing this for” and I always tell them “it’s okay, I am not really concerned about being popular”; that really doesn’t seem like much motivation’ (laughter). I have a week’s break from it all coming up and already people are Tweeting me saying ‘another holiday’ and I just reply saying ‘yes that’s right, I am going to book myself into another hotel and sit by the pool’. For me the best holiday that I could take would be to sit quietly on my own in my lounge (laughter).

Who is or was Sylvia?

Well Sylvia was in fact a real person and Shel Silverstein wrote that song about her. The song was loosely based upon a real relationship that he had with Sylvia when he was a younger man. However, the crux of the song where he called and the mother was saying ‘you are not talking to her, you will ruin everything’ was totally true. Years later, almost twenty years ago now, I was appearing on a Dutch TV show who were compiling a documentary about the hundred best singles of all time and happily for me Sylvia’s Mother was in there at number forty-four. Don’t ask me how but one of the Dutch crew actually knew the woman, Sylvia’s mother who was ninety years old and living in Chicago.

They had been over to Chicago to interview her and it was so sweet because I saw the film and she was still disputing the song claiming that she wasn’t as rude as the gentleman who had written the song had made her out to be (laughter). And because it was the holidays Sylvia was there too visiting her mother. And so here I am looking at these two people, Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster as far as I am concerned (laughter).

I understand that you had a lunch date with Sylvia in London?

(Laughter) who told you about that. Well after I had been on the Dutch TV show, I found out a few weeks later that Sylvia was coming over to London and she wanted to have lunch with me. Now I start thinking ‘do I really want to have lunch with the person that I have been singing about for the last thirty-four years. Will it finally blow it by putting a face to the name’ (laughter). Anyway, I finally accepted her invitation and we had lunch together when she was over here in London. She filled me in on some of her early stuff and I told her all about the one man show that I had done that was written by Shel. She told me that she didn’t know that Shel had written a few plays. However, unfortunately Shel has passed away by then. To be totally honest with you the whole experience was so freaky, not only was Sylvia a real person but I sat across the table from her (laughter).

You mention Shel Silverstein, just how big an influence was he on your career?

Before I got the chance to work with Shel I was a huge fan of his. He had released a few albums of his own work and he had a strange gruff voice. His albums contained songs that would break your heart and then the next one would make you piss yourself (laughter). I really did love Shel. I saw him on a street corner in New York one day when I was skipping school and I didn’t have the nerve to go over and talk to him. Then later that year we got an opportunity. Somebody said “here is some film music, that guy wrote it, here’s the cassette, learn these songs” and when they put it on it was Shel singing and I freaked out. So you could say that I started out in the music industry by singing two songs that were used in a film that Shel had written.

I couldn’t believe my luck. So he was an influence on me before I met him because I was such a fan of his. And then for me to be able to work with the guy; he simply wrote some great songs, Sylvia’s Mother, More Like The Movies, Carry Me Carrie; just songs that when I sing them now I don’t feel like I am trying to recapture a period of time, I’m just singing great songs. I remember several years back, which is more probably thirty years ago now, a ten year old boy heard Sylvia’s Mother and said to me “that’s a good song, you should record that” (laughter). It’s just a good song and a good song is a good song. So yes, Shel was a huge influence on me and when I was in my early forties he wrote a one-man play and I performed it at The Lincoln Centre which was something that I had never done before in my entire life.

Shel was one of the loveliest human beings on the planet, and his existence has given my existence pretty much a lot of great opportunities. Just before Shel passed away we were talking about doing another album together, some things we co-wrote, some of his and some of mine and then he passed away. It is always difficult for me to say that because it always sounds as though you are talking about the fish that got away. But it was true and I am sad that we never got to do that. You have to listen to The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan; this really is literally stuff man. You could recite the words to Sylvia’s Mother and still get it, you would get the story. So for there to be songs like that which I get to sing, it’s great, really great.

What was the first record that you bought?

The first record that I ever remember buying was Hey! Baby by Bruce Channel. My mom was very young when I was born, she was just nineteen and her and my dad never really made it so as she was so young I pretty much went on to be raised by my grandmother. My mom was in and out of the picture until she got a little older. However, she was young and she liked music. I remember buying this record, taking it home and putting it on the turntable. I didn’t think that there was anyone else in the house so I played it a few times and then to my surprise my mom walked into the room. She looked at me and said “is that your record” and I immediately thought ‘oh oh’ because music back then was thought upon as being the work of the devil (laughter).

She then said “I love that record” and I just said “oh cool”, but then of course I thought that I didn’t want to know that my mom was cool; who was I going to blame for everything (laughter). But Hey! Baby is the first record that I remember buying. It didn’t stop once it started on a lot of levels (laughter).

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

I went along with my mother to see Sam Cooke. You are not going to believe this but whenever Sam Cooke would appear on TV my mother used to say to me “I know him” and I used to think ‘yeah right’ (laughter). Her and her friends had met Sam when he was still a gospel singer. When he became a pop singer they all used to go along to his shows and my mom kind of got to know him a little bit; I just didn’t believe it. One day he performed at the Palisades Amusement Park, which was a famous amusement park set on top of the cliffs in New Jersey, and we went along to see Sam Cooke. Sam came out in a fabulous electric blue suit singing all of his hits and he totally blew me away. I was probably about ten years old at the time.

When the show was over Sam was kneeling on the lip of the stage signing autographs for a big crowd of people. My mom tried to get us close to Sam but we didn’t quite make it to the stage. So she shouted “hey Sam” and he looked up and he shouted “hey Ruth” and he waved to her and they both laughed. The nice thing for me is that Dr. Hook had a big hit with Only Sixteen which was, as you know, a Sam Cooke song. That came about because Sam’s stuff was always on my mind, and when I used to have a solo section in the Dr. Hook shows where the band would wander off and I would sing a couple of things, I started singing Only Sixteen. The audience really liked it and so we recorded it.

Funnily enough a couple of years ago when I was promoting the Timeless album and I was up at the BBC they asked me what I would like to sing and I suggested Only Sixteen and the lights went out (laughter). It was right in the middle of the whole Jimmy Saville thing and all of a sudden they were telling me that Only Sixteen was not an appropriate song for me to sing on the BBC anymore. I tried to explain to them that the song wasn’t about a fifty year old man singing to a sixteen year old, it was a sixteen year old singing to a sixteen year old. I told them that it was a song about remembrance and was not about what I was going to be doing tomorrow (laughter). They wouldn’t have any of it and simply said that the song would be appropriate on the BBC anymore. I simply thought it was so silly but hey, it’s their station. Then the song seemed to go full circle because when Dr. Hook received a gold record for the Only Sixteen single I gave one to my mom.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

Wow, I can’t remember, but I’m apt to. I know that when I was younger the early Bee Gees stuff used to tear me up. They had such lovely melodies. There are times when I am singing something on stage, and I have always felt this with Dr. Hook, I am never on auto pilot, but I will be pretty much in the moment. There will be a moment when I will be singing a song that I have performed a million times before

At what point in your career did you feel the most musically satisfied?

When I was recording and releasing my solo albums, that period was really cool for me because I did a lot of touring that was just me and my guitar. I became more of a journeyman, singer songwriter during that period and as I have said, I was still doing some of the Dr. Hook things within my solo shows. However, I was also previewing a lot of songs that I was writing at that time. Once the audience liked them I would go into the studio and record them. That always seemed like the right progression to me. It felt like I played these and they liked them, so let’s put them onto a record. My solo albums never sold anything like the Dr. Hook stuff sold but you asked me musically and not commercially. So I liked the process of making the solo albums because of that very thing where I felt like I was creating something that the audience seemed to like.

In the old Dr. Hook days, anything that is a big hit now and the audience can sing every word to, you have to remember that there was always a time when I was singing it live on stage for the very first time, trying to sell it and hoping that the audience liked it. Back then it was all such a big gamble whereas these days whenever I get on the airplane I pretty much know that me and the band are going to deliver a whole bunch of music that the people like. It is now a totally different perspective so on that level there is a lot of satisfaction in it for me now. We beat ourselves up for all of the mistakes that we made, so it is nice to be able to celebrate one of the things that I did right (laughter). So that is really satisfying to me.

In 2010 you released your third solo studio album Post Cool. Am I correct in thinking that you were unhappy with the record company because you thought that they could have done more to promote the album?

That’s right, you are totally right in saying that. The album hardly received any reaction at all from the fans simply because the record label didn’t really do that much to promote it.

Taking the lack of promotion to one side, were you happy with the album?

Yes I was, I truly was. Despite the lack of promotion I really am proud of Post Cool and the people that did get to hear it actually liked it. There are a few songs on that album that will endure I think. I am so pleased that I put that stuff out; it is still out there and it can be discovered. Let’s get this straight, I never released any of my solo albums in an attempt to compete with Dr. Hook. I recorded those solo albums because I was writing songs which other artists recorded, but the main reason was for me to get them out of my head, get them out onto disc and get them out there (laughter). What you have to realise is that there comes a time when you start wondering if any of those things that you have got going around in your head are any good.

Whilst you are writing them you are sitting here on your sofa thinking ‘well I like it’ but sometimes you are not always that willing to throw it out there simply because it can be disappointing. I have had to rally so many times in my life when I have had what I thought was a good idea, I have thrown it out there and it has completely bombed (laughter). I have lost count of the amount of times that I have been left sitting with my head in my hands. I recently told a friend that if I knew what that rallying factor was, I would put it in a bottle, sell it and call it ‘Rowdy. Put a little of this behind your ears and it will make you want to do something that you didn’t want to do half an hour ago’ (laughter).

So as you can see there is an awful lot of disappointment together with an awful lot of rallying. However, I think that now later in life I am taking the luxury of knowing that I can play a few of my solo things in the show and it doesn’t simply have to be wall to wall Dr. Hook. I take the time to explain to the audience that if I continued to write and record as Dr. Hook then all of the songs would most probably be Dr. Hook songs. And on this tour they are and fortunately they appear to go over really well. The tour is going to be a celebration of that past thing.

Are there any thoughts on recording one more Dr. Hook album?

Yes there are but at the moment they are just thoughts (laughter). I simply do not know just how that would go but I think that if I don’t do it I would always be thinking ‘what if’. I just might as well throw it out there and have them all shipped back to me in boxes (laughter). What I will say is that if I do record a new Dr. Hook album then it will have to be new enough to matter or what’s the point. There has to be something Dr. Hook about it. Otherwise I would just be sitting here thinking ‘man here we are and we could be riding high at the top of the charts’ (laughter). Someone recently said to me that whatever I do will stand me in good stead in the long run, and my friend I have done the long run.

What does he expect me to do, sit here saying to myself ‘oh well, it will all work out by the time that I am ninety’ (laughter). This is no longer about the long run, I have done the long run, this is about today. That is the one thing about getting older, I feel fine. I really didn’t feel that sixty-eight was going to be like this, I actually thought that I would be sat somewhere drooling by now (laughter). To tell you the truth I don’t really feel much different to when I was forty-eight and every day I wake up feeling good. However, I can hear my brain saying to me ‘just how long do you think that is going to last’ (laughter). The secret is not to take anything for granted, that is the one thing that you don’t do when you get older. You don’t take things for granted. You simply cannot afford to think ‘I will address that in a few years’.

Whenever we go over to tour Australia and we have finished playing a bunch of shows the promoter will come over to me and say ‘hey, we will see you in a couple of years’. When I was forty I would say okay, whereas now I think ‘okay whatever. I don’t know, I have no idea anymore’ (laughter). I feel fine but the eventuality, the inevitability factor sets in. All that you can say is ‘I hope to see you in two years’ (laughter) or in my case ‘I hope I see you in two hours’ (laughter). I’m not trying to be fatalistic about it because like I said, right now there is no reason for me to suspect that I won’t be here for a while. People will come up to me and say “you look great for your age” and I will always say to them “do you know what that assures me, an open coffin” (laughter).

I’m not going to get away with it. People are not going to say “look he’s dead and he still looks really good; I can still look at him” (laughter). That’s not going to do me any good when I look like a person but I feel like Formica: that will not do me any good at all (laughter). I am so glad that you find my miserable life interesting (laughter). Actually so do I which is good because if I didn’t have a sense of humour I’m telling you, I would be a serial killer (laughter).

Who has musically inspired you?

To be perfectly honest with you my biggest influence were The Beatles. Before I started out in the music business I was a music fan listening to the likes of Sam Cooke, but it was when I actually saw The Beatles playing live that I thought ‘perhaps I could actually do this’. So after seeing The Beatles I started out as a drummer because back then I was lazy. I didn’t like having to set up the drums and then take them down after a gig (laughter). I used to try to put all of the drums on the backseat of the car already setup (laughter). So after a while I quit the drums and bought myself a harmonica which I could fit into my pocket and carry around with me. So I would have to say The Beatles and believe me, that’s not just me.

How many bands do you see today and think to yourself ‘if those four guys from Liverpool had not done what they did, then these guys simply would not be here today’. The Beatles really did change the culture, the way things look, the way things sound, the way they recorded, the way they played, they put so much into the musical vocabulary. What you have to remember is that from 1963 to 1970 The Beatles went from Love Me Do to Sgt Pepper. You simply do not get that latitude anymore. If Dr. Hook had a hit today with Sylvia’s Mother the record company would simply say to us “well do you have any other relatives that you can sing about” (laughter).

And for us we were lucky back then because our first single was Sylvia’s Mother and the second was The Cover Of Rolling Stone and we don’t even sound like the same band, so we had latitude (laughter). So whenever I do play shows there is a hell of a lot of dynamics in there. We had the latitude which gave the band a personality. We didn’t come up in just the disco era where it was a case of ‘okay boys get your white suits out, we are going on tour.’ There is a lot of different music in there and I love that. It keeps me interested for that reason. I would hate to be simply be capturing a period of time where we continue to roll out the disco ball. There is a lot of dynamic there and I think that it’s cool.

Do you have a personal favourite song of Dr. Hook?

No, simply because it changes all of the time. However, I do like Sylvia’s Mother and The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan because they tell a story. Sexy Eyes was a great record but I have never met a girl on a dancefloor in my life (laughter). I like to sing the story songs, the ones that are philosophical and deep. For example, if I ever accidently sang the last verse of Sylvia’s Mother second then the song is over, she is in that taxi. I couldn’t then sing the second verse and get the story and the mood back, it’s gone. She is on the roof, she is not going back in (laughter).

You disbanded Dr. Hook back in 1985. Looking back was that the right time?

Yes it was the right time. Ron Sawyer had left the band in 1983 to pursue a solo career and the rest of us carried on purely as a concert act as we weren’t recording any more. After a while we found that Dr. Hook had started to become a bit of a re-tread and so we decided to call it a day. However, I was still in my early thirties and people were saying to me “I remember you, you were in Dr. Hook” and I thought ‘no, no, no, no I am far too young to be a museum piece’. For me personally, having the luxury of the success of Dr. Hook behind me when I was still young enough to go out there, enabled me to fail at a few things in order to see exactly who I was.

That is more valuable to you sometimes to go out and say “well I tried to be an astronaut but it didn’t work” as opposed to “oh well, I will just sing Sylvia’s Mother again”. That is what people expect from you and it would have been so easy for me to say “okay they like the blue shirt, let me get twenty-five new blue shirts and I will sing Sylvia’s Mother for the rest of my life” (laughter). I needed to get out there and struggle a little bit. My fifteen year old son came out on the road with me which was strange because I wasn’t used to being a full time daddy. So you tend to take on things that kind of broaden who you are. I simply felt far too young for it all to be over so soon. So that was my reasoning as to stopping Dr. Hook.

I know that we have laughed about age and getting older but in 2019 it will be fifty years since you formed Dr. Hook. Will you do anything special to commemorate the anniversary?

Yes we will, and that is something that we are currently talking about. That’s the thing about touring, even though I laugh and say that you don’t know what is going to happen two hours from now, you have to plan years ahead. The forthcoming tour of the UK has been well into the planning stage for over a year now. We are now thinking about touring in 2019 which seems so far ahead. However, I can’t simply wake up one day and say to my tour manage “gee, I really would love to tour the UK next week” (laughter). It really does involve so much planning. Gigs have to be close enough to each other so that you are not travelling from Wales to Glasgow overnight.

That is not only based upon your availability, it is also dependent upon the venue. It really does take a hell of a lot of planning and fortunately it is not me who does the planning, that is down to Adrian my Manager together with the Promoters. So at this moment what I can tell you is that conversations are currently taking place in relation to 2019. And if there were to be a new Dr. Hook studio album then it would make sense to have it ready for then don’t you think (laughter).

We can never stop time unfortunately, but are you growing old gracefully or disgracefully (laughter). Is it getting harder to keep in shape as you get a little older?

(Laughter) well it’s funny that you mention that. The last time that we went over to Australia I said to the promoters “if you are expecting to see a guy who has got older, then you will be pleasantly surprised that I have aged well. However, if you are expecting someone who is thirty-five then you had better call an ambulance as soon as I get off the airplane” (laughter). It all depends upon what perspective you are coming from (laughter). It always makes me laugh whenever I do talk shows and interviews on the TV. They always begin by showing pictures of me when I was a baby, then when I was twenty-five and then the camera pans over to me. I can literally hear all of the studio audience gasp (laughter). I just feel like shouting “come on guys, give me a break” (laughter).

Whenever I see photographs of myself from back then I shout “hey look guys I had cheekbones” (laughter). Having said all of that I am lucky because although I have aged I still look like an older version of the same guy so at least whenever I walk out onto the stage everybody doesn’t say “hey, this must be the support act” (laughter). No unfortunately that’s him. Then you hear ‘how much were these fucking tickets’ (laughter). You have to stay in good shape because you don’t want people buying tickets wondering if you are going to make it through the whole show (laughter). What you don’t want to hear is someone asking “well how was the Dr. Hook show”’ and for someone to reply “well the man managed to stand up for like a whole hour” (laughter). For me there has to simply be more to it than that.

Dennis on that note let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me, it’s been an absolute pleasure.

Thanks Kevin, thanks for your time man, it’s been a blast. Make sure that you come and say hello when we get to Nottingham. You take care and bye for now.