Guitarist and singer Richard Zehringer, his brother Randy on drums, and bass player Dennis Kelly formed the Rick Z Combo in Union City, Indiana in 1962. The group renamed itself Rick and the Raiders. Dennis left the group to go to college and Randy Jo Hobbs replaced him. Sean Michaels on saxophone and Ronnie Brandon on keyboards were added to the group, and it was renamed the McCoys. Rick also changed his name to Rick Derringer.
Rick was only 17 when the McCoys recorded Hang On Sloopy and started their recording career with a number one record. They followed that up with a cover of Little Willie John’s song Fever (you’re more likely to recognize Peggy Lee’s version of the song) and again reached into the top ten.
The group had one more song in the top thirty in 1966, after which they spent another three years recording songs nobody ever heard.
In 1970, Johnny Winter recruited Rick, Randy, and Randy Jo to join his band and named it Johnny Winter and the McCoys. The name didn’t last very long: it was quickly changed to Johnny Winter And. Their first album included a song written by Rick, Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo. A live album followed, but Johnny’s heroin addiction tore the group apart.
Rick joined a group formed by Johnny’s brother, Edgar Winter’s White Trash. He played on their next album and played guitar, sang, and produced the album They Only Come Out At Night for the renamed Edgar Winter Group. That 1973 album contained the chart-topping instrumental, Frankenstein.
Rick released his own solo album in late 1973. In early 1974, his version of Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo was released. The single reached #23 and gave Rick his only top forty solo hit. The record probably doesn’t see much airplay any more thanks to a very offensive line at 2:37 into the record, but at the time nobody seemed to care. The song was used in the film Dazed And Confused in 1993.
Several more solo albums came and went, but Rick’s guitar work and abilities in the production room did not go unnoticed.
Rick played on four of Todd Rundgren’s albums, several Steely Dan songs, a few songs written and produced by Jim Steinman, and a few songs by Meatloaf. He produced two albums for the World Wrestling Federation. He also produced six albums for Weird Al and won two Grammy awards for doing so.
He toured as part of Ringo Starr’s band three times and also went on the HippieFest tour with Vanilla Fudge, Mitch Ryder, and Badfinger in 2018.
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