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Rick Derringer (born Ricky Dean Zehringer; August 5, 1947) is an American guitarist, vocalist, Grammy Award-winning producer and entertainer. He came to prominence in the 1960s as a member of the McCoys, when he was brought in to record lead vocals for the number-one hit single with "Hang On Sloopy". He then turned to blues rock, scoring a 1974 hit with "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo". He has worked extensively with brothers Edgar and Johnny Winter, and with the group Steely Dan. He also worked with "Weird Al" Yankovic, producing Yankovic's Grammy Award-winning songs "Eat It" and "Fat", and with the World Wrestling Federation, penning entrance songs for Hulk Hogan and Demolition.

Rick Derringer
Derringer playing guitar onstage
Derringer live with Ringo Starr in 2011
Background information
Birth nameRicky Dean Zehringer
Born (1947-08-05) August 5, 1947 (age 72)
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


Life and career

Early life and 1960s

Derringer was born in Celina, Ohio, and grew up in Fort Recovery, the son of Janice Lavine (Thornburg) and John J. Zehringer, a railroad worker.[1] According to Derringer, his first major influence was an uncle in Michigan who played in bars - “a real vague kind of music, more in a real musical way than people learn how to play nowadays.” [2] He started a band in Ohio that was initially known as "the Rick Z Combo", and later known as "Rick and the Raiders". In the summer of 1965, when Derringer was 17, he recorded lead vocals over an already-recorded backing track provided by the Strangeloves for the song "Hang on Sloopy". It was released under the band name the McCoys, to avoid confusion with another popular band of the era, Paul Revere and the Raiders. It became the number one song in America for a week; "Yesterday" by the Beatles succeeded it in the top spot and remained no. 1 for a month. The single was issued by Bang Records. Derringer adopted his stage name at this time, inspired by the Bang Records logo which featured a derringer pistol, foreshadowing his interest in firearms.[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, 1978

Derringer also recorded and played with a version of Johnny Winter's band called "Johnny Winter And ...", and with both Edgar Winter's White Trash and the Edgar Winter Group.[7][8][9]

In 1973, Derringer released his first solo album All-American Boy.[10] As a first single from the album, Derringer released a re-recording of his song "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo",[11] which had previously been recorded on the Johnny Winter And album.[7] 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 did not fare as well. 1977's Sweet Evil was described by critics as "[sounding] like Joe Walsh outtakes and [making] a good case for Derringer to stick with [his] career as a sideman." If I Weren't So Romantic, I'd Shoot You, released in 1978, was lambasted as "full of weak songs that barely get up the energy to rock, ballads that suffer from lame lyrics and thin vocals, and a general feeling of going through the motions."[14][15]

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). Derringer additionally auditioned in 1977 for the famous guitar solo for "Peg" on Aja, but the band was dissatisfied with Derringer's work. Elliot Scheiner, an engineer who worked on Aja, has famously said that the minute Derringer left the studio, "Walter Becker looked at me and said, 'Erase it.' I said, 'OK.' You never questioned it. You didn't say, 'Come on, really?' It was over." [16]

Derringer worked for Todd Rundgren during this time period, playing on 4 of Rundgren's solo albums. Rundgren and Derringer had a contentious relationship. Rundgren was verbally abusive to Derringer, according to Bebe Buell, who questioned why Derringer did not stand up for himself, speculating that Derringer assumed he and Rundgren were friends.[17]

Derringer was also a regular in Andy Warhol's circle and often frequented Warhol's studio, The Factory.[18] Of the period, Derringer has said "Liz (his ex-wife) and I were always on the scene. We were the consummate partiers." [19]

1980s and 1990s

Derringer contributed guitar to "My Rival" on Steely Dan's Gaucho (1980). 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, despite the fact that the song often appears on "worst song ever" lists.[20] 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.[21][22]

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 P. 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.[23][24]

In 1986, he returned to the Meat Loaf fold for Blind Before I Stop. According to Meat Loaf's 1998 biography, the singer initially wanted Steinman to work on material for the album, but was precluded by contractual obligations. Instead, he turned to other songwriters, including Derringer, who received a co-authorship credit on the song "Masculine"; Meat Loaf contends that the credit was a favor to Derringer who was at the time in financial disarray.

Despite this high-profile session work, Derringer was forced to find outside work as his solo career had seemingly reached its nadir. He began writing commercial jingles, including a notable Budweiser commercial that executives demanded be written to "sound like ZZ Top". He worked for several New York City-based "jingle houses" during this period. Unbeknownst at the time, his future wife Brenda Jean was also writing commercial jingles from her home studio. This fallow period in Derringer's career ended once he was hired by "Weird Al" Yankovic to produce his debut album. Derringer ultimately produced six Yankovic albums between 1983 and 1989; for this work, he received his only Grammy Award. However, as Yankovic's music became more sophisticated, the musician felt that he "was wasting his time with [Derringer]" and began to produce his own music. Additionally, Yankovic became concerned about Derringer's drug use at the time. According to Tony Papa, Yankovic's long-time engineer, “[Derringer] would do a line of coke, then mellow it out with a joint and then drink; a lot of times Rick would fall asleep. I think that’s when Al realized he didn’t really need Rick.” [25] Yankovic has subsequently indicated at certain points that he would be open to working with Derringer again; however, such a reunion has not occurred.[26][27]

During the 1990s, Derringer sought to recast himself as a blues rocker in the vein of Johnny Winter. Derringer said "having had the opportunity to do a blues album, it’s obvious that this is the music I should have been doing all along. It’s more grown-up music than people are used to me doing. I’m striving for some kind of honesty here."[28] But by the 2000s, after a lack of audience interest in his blues albums, Derringer would return to rock.

In 1997, Derringer became an evangelical Christian. Since that point, he has consistently aligned himself with conservative causes in the United States.[29][30][better source needed] Derringer describes himself as a "Jesus freak".[19]


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. According to Appice, when it came time for a follow-up album, the record label told Appice that “we don’t want to use Rick, we want you to use somebody else.” Pat Travers then replaced Derringer on the follow-up album.[31]

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".[32]

In May 2009, he self-released the album Knighted by the Blues and its single, "Sometimes", written by Jenda.

Derringer playing with Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band in Paris, June 26, 2011

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."[33][34] Derringer was also listed as defendant in another foreclosure complaint on a separate property in 2014 in Manatee County, Florida.[35]

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.[36] Derringer later pled guilty to the charge, agreeing to pay a $1000 fine, saying it will not happen again, "not even a water pistol."[37]

A re-recording of "Real American" with updated lyrics was released on May 28, 2017, debuting on Alex Jones's radio show.[38] "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."[39] 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.[40]

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".[41]

In other media

"Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo" is featured in the 1993 film Dazed and Confused,[42] 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)


  1. ^ Muise, Dan (2002). Gallagher, Marriott, Derringer & Trower: Their Lives and Music. Hal Leonard Corporation.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo: The Best of Rick Derringer by Rick Derringer: Reviews and Ratings". May 2, 2008. Retrieved November 2, 2011.
  4. ^ "The Story of the McCoys' Trip to the Top of the Charts With 'Hang On Sloopy'". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  5. ^ "The Hot 100 - 1965 Archive | Billboard Charts Archive". Billboard. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b Eder, Bruce. "AllMusic Review of Johnny Winter And". Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  8. ^ Eder, Bruce. "Rick Derringer Biography". Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  9. ^ Smith, Michael B. "AllMusic Review of The Edgar WInter Group with Rick Derringer". Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  10. ^ Koda, Cub. "AllMusic Review of All-American Boy". Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  11. ^ Muise, Dan (2002). Gallagher, Marriott, Derringer & Trower: Their Lives and Music. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 185. ISBN 9780634029561. Retrieved April 21, 2017.
  12. ^ "Rick Derringer - Chart history | Billboard". Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Sweet Evil - Rick Derringer | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
  15. ^ "If I Weren't So Romantic, I'd Shoot You - Rick Derringer | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Buell, Bebe. (2001). Rebel heart : an American rock 'n' roll journey. Bockris, Victor, 1949- (1st ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0312266944. OCLC 45917105.
  18. ^ "Neil Ratner Rock Doc - My Offbeat Rock & Roll Journey". Cuepoint. October 24, 2014.
  19. ^ a b "Rick and Jenda Derringer". Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  20. ^ "Making Love Out of Nothing At All: World's Worst iPod". May 25, 2016. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  21. ^ Newt, The (August 10, 2014). "Guitar legend Rick Derringer has soloed for everyone from Alice Cooper to Air Supply". Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  22. ^ Newt, The (September 25, 2016). "That time Rick Derringer told me that one of the favourite solos he ever played was for Air Supply". Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  23. ^ Post, AP/The Huffington (May 1, 2011). "White House Correspondents Dinner: Obama Takes On Trump, Birthers, The Media, And More (VIDEO)". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  24. ^ "The History of Hulk Hogan's Entrance Music". January 15, 2010. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  25. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  26. ^ Dan, Muise (January 1, 2002). Gallagher, Marriott, Derringer & Trower: Their Lives and Music. Hal Leonard. ISBN 9780634029561. OCLC 971719169.
  27. ^ "Rick and Jenda Derringer". Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  28. ^
  29. ^ "Rick Derringer - Testimony". Rick Derringer. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  30. ^ "Roger Stone tangos in Austin. Will anchor Infowars by night. May let a flat. - First Reading". Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  31. ^ ://
  32. ^ "Rick Derringer Biography". Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  33. ^ "Manatee rock icon facing foreclosure". Retrieved June 27, 2016.
  34. ^ "Court Records Document Viewer". Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  35. ^ "Court Records Document Viewer". Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  36. ^ Associated Press. "Rock musician Rick Derringer charged with having loaded gun on Delta flight". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  37. ^ Fox News. "Rick Derringer pleads guilty to carrying loaded pistol on plane, in airport". Fox News. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  38. ^ "Exclusive Interview: Rick Derringer Talks Remarkable Career as he Plays Through the Work - California Rocker". May 28, 2017. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  39. ^ The INFOWAR Armory (May 30, 2017). "Rick Derringer - New Version of Real American For President Trump". Retrieved April 16, 2018 – via YouTube.[dead link]
  40. ^ OpenMind (December 7, 2016), Roger Stone Speaks With Rock Icon Rick Derringer About His Support For Donald Trump, retrieved March 18, 2019
  41. ^ "'HippieFest 2018' to trip down memory lane with Vanilla Fudge, Mitch Ryder, Rick Derringer". The San Diego Union-Tribune. August 3, 2018. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  42. ^ "Rick Derringer – Filmography". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 18, 2016.

External links