Rick Derringer

Rick Derringer (born Ricky Dean Zehringer; August 5, 1947) is an American guitarist, vocalist, Grammy Award-winning producer and writer of multiple hit songs. He came to prominence in the 1960s as founding member of his band, the McCoys. At that time, they were brought to New York City to record what became the number-one hit song, "Hang On Sloopy". The McCoys at seven more songs to chart in the Top 100, including their versions of "Come on, Let's Go" and "Fever."

Rick Derringer
Derringer live with Ringo Starr in 2011
Background information
Birth nameRicky Dean Zehringer
Born (1947-08-05) August 5, 1947
Fort Recovery, Ohio, United States
GenresHard rock, blues-rock, funk rock, pop rock, Christian rock, blues, jazz fusion
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, producer
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals
Years active1965–present
Associated actsThe McCoys, Edgar Winter, Johnny Winter, Steely Dan, Todd Rundgren, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Ringo Starr's 11th All-Starr Band

Later, in the 1970s, Derringer had another major hit with his self-written song, "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo". He has worked extensively with brothers Edgar and Johnny Winter, and also producing all of their gold and platinum disc earning recordings. He has worked with Steely Dan, then discovered Cyndi Lauper and "Weird Al" Yankovic, producing Yankovic's Grammy Award-winning songs "Eat It" and "Who's Fat". "Eat It" included Derringer's guitar solo, which emulated Eddie Van Halen's solo on Michael Jackson's "Beat It". The work he did with Weird Al convinced Vince McMahon, president of the World Wrestling Federation that Derringer should be the producer of The Wrestling Album and then the follow up Pile Driver. The albums included the entrance song for Hulk Hogan, "Real American" and the tag team's eponymously's titled Demolition.

Life and career

Early life and 1960s

Derringer was born in Celina, Ohio, United States, and grew up in Fort Recovery, the son of Janice Lavine (Thornburg) and John Otto Zehringer, a Section Foreman on the Nichol Plate Railroad.[1] According to Derringer, other than his parent's extensive record collection, his first major influence was an uncle, Jim Thornburg, a popular guitarist and singer in Ohio. Derringer has related first hearing him play guitar in the kitchen of his parents' home, and knew immediately that he wanted to play guitar. He was then eight years old, and his parents gave him his first electric guitar for his ninth birthday. [2] It was not long before he and his brother, Randy were playing music together.

After the eighth grade, the family moved to Union City, Indiana, and it was there that he formed his band that he called The McCoys. He later changed the name to the Rick Z Combo and then Rick and the Raiders before going back to the band's original name.

In the summer of 1965, when Derringer was 17, the band was hired to backup a band called the Strangeloves in concert. When not in Strangelove garb, they were three record producers from New York City, looking for a band (in the mold of The Beatles) to record "My Girl Sloopy," which Derringer later convinced them to call the more appropriate title "Hang On Sloopy." After playing all the guitar parts, he and The McCoys sang the recording that we've all heard since. The song was an instant success, reaching number one in every country that sold records. It was the first record played in Moscow's Red Square when the government decided to play Rock and Roll for the proletariat. It stayed in the number one slot while Yesterday (Beatles song) was number two. [3][4][5]

Derringer has admitted of the time that “My parents never thought that I’d be able to make a living playing music; but instead of going to school, I went to New York City to do what my parents dreamed was impossible.”[6]


Derringer, with his band, The McCoys, joined Johnny Winter in a band that they called "Johnny Winter And"; the "And" referring to The McCoys. Derringer joined Edgar Winter's White Trash and then, the Edgar Winter Group.[7][8][9]

In 1973, Derringer released his first solo album All-American Boy.[10], which included his song "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo".[11]. By that time the song had appeared on the Johnny Winter And album.[7], "Johnny Winter And Live," and also the White Trash album "Roadwork." Derringer's version rose to No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, becoming his highest-charting single.[12] Critics have described the album as a "sadly neglected album of great merit." [13]

Derringer's later albums, both solo and with his eponymous band Derringer included 1977's Sweet Evil" included co-writes with legendary songwriter Cynthia Weil and Rolling Thunder Revue author Larry Sloman "[14][15], and the critically acclaimed Guitars And Women, which was re-released with liner notes by Razor & Tie in 1998.

Around this time he contributed guitar to two Steely Dan tracks, "Show Biz Kids" on Countdown to Ecstasy (1973) and "Chain Lightning" on Katy Lied (1975). In 1977, Derringer worked hours on the recording of the guitar solo for "Peg" on Aja, with'Donald Fagan, producer Gary Katz, and engineer Roger Nichols[16] Derrringer is credited with helping Steely Dan gain a record deal in 1972.[17]

Derringer worked with his neighbor Todd Rundgren during this time period, playing on 4 of Rundgren's solo albums. Derringer was also a regular in Andy Warhol [18]'s circle, and he often frequented Warhol's studio The Factory.[19] Of the period, Derringer has said "Liz [his wife at the time] and I were always on the scene. We were the consummate partiers." [20]

1980s and 1990s

Derringer contributed guitar to "My Rival" on Steely Dan's Gaucho (1980) and also Donald Fagen's solo album, The Nightfly. In 1983, he played guitar on two songs written and produced by Jim Steinman: Air Supply's hit power ballad "Making Love Out of Nothing at All" and Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart". He has publicly stated that his guitar solo in "Making Love Out of Nothing at All" is his favorite guitar solo out of the many he has recorded.[21] That same year, he also recorded guitar parts for Meat Loaf's poorly received album Midnight at the Lost and Found. Both "Making Love Out of Nothing at All" and "Total Eclipse of the Heart" were originally offered to Meat Loaf by Steinman for that album, but Meat Loaf's record company refused to pay Steinman for the compositions.[22][23]

1984 saw Derringer playing guitar on Barbra Streisand's cover of Steinman's "Left in the Dark", which was released as the lead single of Emotion. A year later, he and Steinman collaborated again on The Wrestling Album, an album consisting mostly of wrestlers' theme songs. Derringer performed production duties on the album, and helped write the song "Real American" with Bernard Kenny. That song is known for its use as Hulk Hogan's entrance theme, and famously for its use by US President Barack Obama at the 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner, where he played the song while unveiling his birth certificate.[24][25] It was also used as a campaign song by Hillary Clinton, a victory song by Newt Gingrich, and then in four videos during the campaign of Donald Trump.[26]

In 1986, he returned to the Meat Loaf fold for Blind Before I Stop. Derringer co-wrote the song "Masculine".

In 1987 Meat Loaf guested on Way Off Broadway, a nationally distributed cable TV show that featured Derringer has music director will the show's host, comedienne/interviewer Joy Behar. Other guests on the show included Robbie Dupree, Edgar Winter.[27][28]

He worked for several New York City-based jingle houses in the 1980s. Unbeknownst to him, his future wife Brenda Jean was also writing commercial jingles from her commercial recording studio, MusiCraft Productions. This fallow period in Derringer's career ended once he discovered "Weird Al" Yankovic and produced his debut album, believing that Yankovic was going to be a success and not waiting for record company involvement. Derringer ultimately produced six Yankovic albums between 1983 and 1989; for this work, he received his only Grammy Award. [29] Yankovic has subsequently indicated at certain points that he would be open to working with Derringer again; however, such a reunion has not occurred.[30][31]

In 1997 Derringer became an Evangelical Christian.[32] Since that point, he has consistently aligned himself with conservative causes in the United States. [33][34] Derringer describes himself as a "Jesus freak".[20]


In 2001, Derringer, along with Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice, released the album Doin' Business As Derringer Bogert Appice on the German label Steamhammer Records. Derringer had, previously, worked with Carmine Appice on an album, Party Tested by DNA (Derringer'n'Appice).

In 2002, Derringer was featured in a book, written by Dan Muise, called Gallagher, Marriott, Derringer & Trower - Their Lives and Music.[35]

He released Free Ride Smooth Jazz (2002), which featured vocals by his wife Jenda (née Brenda Jean), who sang the title song "Free Ride" and wrote the song "Hot & Cool".[36]

In May 2009, he self-released the album Knighted by the Blues and its popular song, "Sometimes", written by Jenda. Rick followed up with the release of "Three Kings of Blues" (Freddie King, B.B. King, Albert King) on Mike Varney's Blues Bureau International Records.[37]

Derringer and a range of hitmakers are part of Voices, a company that finds private events many times a year. Some of the artists involved with Voices are Tone-Loc, Wally Palmar, Kim Carnes, Belinda Carlisle, Tommy Tutone, Mark McGrath, Fastball, Skip Martin, Jakob Dylan, Natasha Bedingfield, Coolio, John Rzeznik, Martha Davis, Silverchair, Steve Augeri, John Elefante, Alex Ligertwood, and the Rembrandts.[38]

In 2010, two of Derringer's homes in Florida were foreclosed upon when he defaulted on a $46,000 line of credit that his wife Brenda J. Hall obtained in 2004 from Branch Banking & Trust Co. The loan was secured by Derringer's Florida property. He was also sued by BAC Home Loans Servicing, a mortgage company servicing another loan on behalf of Fannie Mae. According to BAC, Derringer made no monthly payments in 2010 and owed $242,366 in principal and interest as of October 2010. Derringer blamed the circumstances on society, saying "Anybody can be affected by this huge problem, even us."[39][40] Derringer was also listed as defendant in another foreclosure complaint on a separate property in 2014 in Manatee County, Florida.[41]

Derringer went on three world tours with Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. Rehearsals started in June 2010. He toured with Starr from 2011 to 2014. They traveled all of Europe, Russia, South America, Mexico and the USA. His tour featured Wally Palmar, Edgar Winter, Gary Wright, Richard Page, and Gregg Bissonette.[42] Derringer has long been fascinated by Asian music. In the 1980s he produced the Kodomo Band. He has toured Asia quite a bit, including with Edgar Winter, the 1990 White Lightning Tour in both Japan and Germany.[43]

In 2013, Rick and Jenda created the Asia Project after Jenda discovered that the two largest-selling songs in history are Chinese. The Derringers recorded their versions after taking great pains to make sure the English translation was what the Chinese were trying to convey. The songs are Wang Qiwen and Yang Chengang’s 2004 song “Mouse Loves Rice”[44], and actress Lui Shi Shi's “Season of Waiting.”[45]

In 2014, Derringer performed on Peter Frampton's Guitar Circus tour along with other notable guitarists, including B.B. King, Roger McGuinn, Don Felder, Leslie West, Cheap Trick 's Rick Nielsen, Steve Lukather, David Hidalgo, and Mike McCready.[46]

In 2017, Derringer was charged with carrying a loaded gun on a Delta Air Lines flight from Cancún, Mexico to Atlanta, Georgia. According to his manager, Derringer thought he was permitted to carry the gun, based on his possession of a valid Florida concealed weapon permit. Derringer said that he flew between 30 and 50 times a year.[47] Derringer later pled guilty to the charge, agreeing to pay a $1000 fine, saying it will not happen again, "not even a water pistol."[48]

A re-recording of "Real American" with updated lyrics was released on May 28, 2017, debuting on Alex Jones's radio show.[49] "I gotta be a man, I can't let it slide" was changed to "I gotta lend a hand, I can't let it slide" and "fight for the right of every man" became "fight for the rights of everyone". "Best not mess with my US" is interjected before the second verse, and a new line says "Ours is a cause that's right and just, we're built on truth, in God we trust."[50] The same year, Derringer appeared on Alex Jones' show where he was interviewed by political consultant Roger Stone about Derringer's support for Donald Trump.[51]

In 2017, Derringer collaborated with baseball players Tom Seaver and Gary Redus to release a version of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame", honoring his lifelong love of baseball.

In 2018, Derringer embarked on a tour with Vanilla Fudge, Mitch Ryder, and Badfinger under the moniker "Hippiefest".[52]

In early 2019, he started an “uncomplicated” crowdfunding page at Patreon. Derringer asks his fans for $10 a month in which he gives them exclusive content including new music premieres, “I’ve been able to post quite a bit of stuff there.”[53]

In 2019, he contributed the guitar solo to an anti-bullying campaign version of "Hang on Sloopy" by The Love Love Kids.[54]

In other media

"Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo" is featured in the 1993 film Dazed and Confused,[55] as well as in the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero II in 2007 and Rock Band 4 in 2015. The song was also made available as downloadable content (DLC) for guitar learning software/game Rocksmith 2014 in January 2015.


Rick Derringer




  • Doin' Business As Derringer Bogert Appice (2001)


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