Union City, IN, 1962-70
The McCoys started out in Union City, Indiana, which straddles the Ohio/Indiana border north of Dayton (There is a part of Union City in Ohio, but most of the population and government sits in Indiana). The band included two brothers, Rick and Randy Zehringer. Rick played guitar and sang, Randy played drums. Although the Zehringers were living in Union City, they had roots in nearby Fort Recovery, Ohio, from where they moved in 1960, a couple years before the band's formation. Dennis Kelly, a kid from the same neighborhood, began playing bass with the Zehringer boys and over a few months time, they decided they were a band and named themselves the McCoys, taken from the title of a Ventures song (the song itself is a parody on actor Walter Brennan, who at the time was starring in a TV show called the Real McCoys), They later changed their name to the Rick Z Combo. Sometime in 1963, they played a show in Greenville, OH and ended up meeting Greenville resident Ronnie Brandon. The group was looking for another instrument - reportedly an accordion! - and Ronnie could play keyboards so he convinced the group they needed a piano player and he joined the band. Together they bought a combo organ.
During 1964 The band played a lot in the general area between Union City and SW Ohio down to Cincinnati. Sometime during that year they contacted the short lived Musicol branch operation in Ft. Recovery (the reported birthplace of Rick Zehringer) about making a 45. That didn't pan out so they ended up going to Magnetic studios in Columbus and recorded a 45 of two original songs - "I Know That I Love You" and "What Can I Do". The band at the time was called Rick and the Raiders. The 45 came out in December of '64 and is suprisingly advanced sounding for the times, with influences of the Beatles and Zombies, a lot more melodic than they would be sounding a few months later. The A side is also a bit reminiscent of the song "Just Let Her Go" by Ivan and the Sabers, a huge local hit a few months earlier. The record label was Sonic, the origin of which is unknown, but the 45 says a 4-R production, taken from the band members 1st names. Prior to the record, in the fall of 1964, Dennis Kelly decided to leave the band. He had started college in the fall and he chose college over the band. The band had been using Randy Hobbs, who was in another Union City band, the Coachmen, as a sub so he joined full time.
So, the story goes that they were playing in Dayton, opening for the Strangeloves, a touring version of the studio group put together by the producers (Bob Feldman, Richard Goetterer, and Jerry Goldstein), and impressed the producers (who were present but not performing) enough to get them interested in signing them to a production deal. The exact circumstances that led to the release of the first 45 - "Hang On Sloopy" - seem to be not 100% clear, so we will repeat the story that is generally given - the Strangeloves had intended to release the song themselves and were in a race with the Dave Clark Five who had filed permission with the puiblishers and songwriters to record the song (originally titled "My Girl Sloopy" and recorded by the Vibrations, a soul vocal group from Los Angeles). The problem with the Strangeloves was that their first hit "! Want Candy" was riding the charts and they did not want to compete against themselves. So when they heard Rick and the Raiders in Dayton, they decided to use them as the front group, since the musical track had already been cut. On the recording of "Hang On Sloopy", only the bands voices were used (claims have been made the Rick plays the guitar solo - certainly likely). The band was renamed the McCoys. Not long after, Ronnie Brandon left. The circumstances behind Brandon's departure are a little hazy - he was kicked out fo the band, but either because he was not up to musical standards, or because F/G/G wanted him out for some other reason. The band played breifly as a trio but through F/G/G they got Robert Peterson, who was not local, to be their keyboard player for the duration of the band.
"Hang On Sloopy" became a huge hit, and a blueprint for several successive 45s on Bang that were issued with regularity every few months, as was the norm in the 1960s. The formuia for the band's sound was pretty consistent, mixing Feldman/Goetterer/Goldstein songs with remakes of older hits such as Fever (Little Willie John/Peggy Lee) and Come On Lets Go (Richie Valens). For the band's sixth 45, they released a Rick Zehringer original - Don't Worry Mother, Your Son's Heart Is Pure - which is a nice 1960s garage pop song with some Beatles' "Revolver" inspired touches. Like just about every McCoys 45 after "Fever" it made the lower Billboard Top 100 or the Bubbling Under. The band's last 45 on Bang "Say Those Magic Words", which had a bit of a Mod/UK feel to it, had been recorded in 1966 on their 2nd LP but not released on 45 until a year or so later. Meanwhile, the UK Birds band (with Ronnie Wood pre-Jeff Beck Group and Rolling Stones) recorded the song in the fall of 1966.
In December of 1967 Bang records suffered a major blow with the death of founder Bert Berns. Before that, the label lost its other major stars, Neil Diamond and Van Morrison, and the McCoys followed them out the door and ended up on Mercury records. Freed from the hitmaking mentality of their production company, the group relocated to New York City and developed a progressive rock sound that appealed to the 'underground'. They made two LPs for Mercury - the first one "Infinite McCoys" was released in July of 1968 and a 45 called "Jesse Brady" got a little action, probably more on the name recognition than the hit potential. In 1969 a second LP called "Human Ball" was released. Both LPs sold some but were not really successful.
In 1970, the Zehringers and Randy Hobbs started backing Johnny Winter, first on the LP "Johnny Winter And" and on live shows. By this time Rick changed his last name to Derringer. Randy Zehringer contracted encephalitis and had to quit. He was replaced by Bobby Caldwell. This band was really popular as a live act and Columbia released a live LP that became a big seller. The studio LP included songs by Rick and Randy, mainly Rick's song "Rock and Roll Hootchie Koo" which he re-recorded a few years later as a solo artist and along with "Hang On Sloopy" is his signature song.
Rick Derringer has played on a lot of classic rock records in addition to fronting different incarnations of his own band. For those stories, we will let them be told elsewhere.
Randy Hobbs and Robert Peterson are deceased.
I Know That I Love You / What Can I Do - Sonic 76234 - 12/64
Hang On Sloopy / I Can't Explain It - Bang 506 - 7/65
Fever / Sorrow - Bang 511 - 12/65
Up And Down / If You Tell A Lie - Bang 516 2/66
Come On Let's Go / Little People - Bang 522 - 4/66
(You Make Me Feel) So Good / Runaway - Bang 527 - 7/66
Don't Worry Mother, Your Son's Heart Is Pure / Ko Ko - Bang 532 - 9/66
I Got To Go Back (And Watch The Little Girl Dance) / Dynamite - Bang 538 - 12/66
Beat The Clock / Like You Do To Me - Bang 543 - 4/67
Say Those Magic Words / I Wonder If She Remembers Me - Bang 549
Jesse Brady / Resurrection - Mercury 72843 - 10/68