Written by the songwriters Bert Berns and Wes Farrell, "Hang On Sloopy" was originally recorded by the R&B group The Vibrations as "My Girl Sloopy" in 1964, reaching #26 on the US charts.
The name "Sloopy" most likely came from Dorothy Sloop, who was a jazz singer from Steubenville, Ohio. Sloop, who died in 1998 at age 85, performed in the New Orleans area using the name "Sloopy."
The McCoys began as the Rick Z Combo (named after lead guitarist Rick Zehringer, who later became Rick Derringer) in Union City, Indiana. They developed a following playing at Forest Park Plaza in Dayton, Ohio. They later became Rick And The Raiders, a group led by guitarist and lead singer Derringer. In 1965, Rick And The Raiders played a Dayton, Ohio concert as the backup band for The Strangeloves, who were a group of producers who wrote the song "I Want Candy
" and made up a group for it. In a strange and brilliant marketing move, The Strangeloves claimed they were from Australia and said they were shepherds who got rich by crossbreeding sheep. The Strangeloves - Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer - arranged a recording session with Rick And The Raiders, who changed their name to The McCoys (after a Ventures song), and had them record a version of "My Girl Sloopy" as "Hang On Sloopy."
Kevin - Port Orchard, WA
The Strangeloves planned to record this song as the follow-up to their hit "I Want Candy
," and began performing it on their tour. Another group on that tour, The Dave Clark Five, hear them doing the song and acquired a taste for Sloopy, realizing it could be a big hit. Dave Clark
taped The Strangeloves performing the song and planned to record it with his group when they got back to England. The Strangeloves were in a tough spot because "Candy" was still climbing the charts, and they didn't want to release another single until it was on its way down.
Lucky for The Strangeloves, group member Bob Feldman was afraid to fly, and on their drive back to New York, they stopped in Ohio and played the gig in Dayton where they met Rick And The Raiders, which was led by the 16-year-old Zehringer. The Strangeloves convinced the Raiders' parents to let them take the boys to New York (with Zehringer's parents along for the ride), where they sang over the already-recorded tracks. Said Derringer: "They gave us a small record player and a copy of the musical track and told us exactly what they wanted us to sing. We went out into the park for a few days, practiced singing it, and put the vocal on. They jumped up and down in the control room and yelled, 'Number One!' And a few weeks later, it was."
Most of the group joined Johnny Winter's backup band in the early '70s, and in 1973 Rick Derringer joined the Edgar Winter group as lead guitarist and vocalist, after which he had a successful hard rock solo career.
The song is wildly popular in Ohio, especially at Ohio State University, where it is the signature song of their marching band.
In 1985, "Hang On Sloopy" was named the official rock song of the state of Ohio. According to the resolution, John Tagenhorst, then an arranger for the Ohio State University marching band, created the now-famous arrangement of "Sloopy," which was first performed at the Ohio State vs. Illinois football game on October 9, 1965.
The resolution continues: WHEREAS, "Hang On Sloopy" is of particular relevance to members of the Baby Boom Generation, who were once dismissed as a bunch of long-haired, crazy kids, but who now are old enough and vote in sufficient numbers to be taken quite seriously; and
WHEREAS, Adoption of this resolution will not take too long, cost the state anything, or affect the quality of life in this state to any appreciable degree, and if we in the legislature just go ahead and pass the darn thing, we can get on with more important stuff; and
WHEREAS, Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town, and everybody, yeah, tries to put my Sloopy down; and
WHEREAS, Sloopy, I don't care what your daddy do, 'cause you know, Sloopy girl, I'm in love with you; therefore be it resolved, that we, the members of the 116th General Assembly of Ohio, in adopting this Resolution, name "Hang On Sloopy" as the official rock song of the State of Ohio.
This song was released on Bang Records, which had a Derringer gun for a logo. That's what gave Rick Zehringer the idea for his new name.
Solomon Burke told Mojo magazine August 2008 that Berns, who at the time was his designated producer/writer, originally wrote an earlier version of this song for him, but the soul legend turned it down.
Rich Derringer, often asked about this song, has no knowlege of the girl who inspired it, but has claimed that the McCoys version was an attempt to make a "white song" out of it (The Vibrations were a black band). According to Derringer, Bert Berns told him that he wrote the lyric while visiting Cuba, and that "sloopy" was a colloquialism for girls in that country.
Johnny Thunder recorded a follow-up, also written by Bert Berns and Wes Farrell, called "Everybody Do The Sloopy," which reached #67 US in December 1965.
Here are the versions of "Sloopy" that charted in America:
1964 - The Vibrations (as "My Girl Sloopy"), #26
1965 - The McCoys, #1
1965 - The Ramsey Lewis Trio, #11
1965 - Little Caesar & The Consuls (as "My Girl Sloopy"), #50
1970 - The Lettermen, #93
1975 - Rick Derringer, #94