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Who's Sloopy?

The story behind The McCoys' number 1 hit single Hang On Sloopy
Who's Sloopy?

Words by Jonathan Beckitt
6 years ago

Hang On Sloopy is a 1964 song written by Wes Farrell and Bert Berns.  Originally titled "My Girl Sloopy" it was recorded by The McCoys and reached number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 5 on the UK Singles Chart in 1965. 

In early 1965, The Strangeloves, a New York City rock band, wanted to record the song as a follow-up to their hit single "I Want Candy" and began performing the song in their shows.  However, the Dave Clark Five, with whom they were touring, told them that they were going to record their own version of the song when they returned to the UK so The Strangeloves recruited another band, Rick and The Raiders, to record the song using The Strangeloves' backing tracks.  It was decided to change the name of the band to The McCoys to avoid confusion with another popular band of the era, Paul Revere & the Raiders.  The band’s singer Rick Zehringer also began using the stage name Rick Derringer.

Originally written and recorded with three verses, "Hang On Sloopy" was edited down to two verses for the single and Hang On Sloopy album.  The three-verse version first appeared on the 1970 Bang  compilation Bang & Shout Super Hits and is included on the the Floating World Records re-issue compilation Hang On Sloopy - The Best Of The McCoys

The song gained an association with Ohio State University after its marching band began playing it at football games.  Pleased with the crowd reaction, the band began to play it at every game and now it is a Saturday tradition to play the song before the start of the fourth quarter of every game.

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band played the song live at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus in 1999 and in Greensboro, North Carolina in May 2009.  Rick Derringer was still playing the song live with Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band in November 2011 and The Rolling Stones included the song on the set list when they played Ohio Stadium in May 2015 as a tribute to the local Ohio State fans.  It has been designated as Ohio's official rock tune.

So, who’s Sloopy?  According to Rick Derringer, the original version of Sloopy was written by a "high school kid in St. Louis" and sold to the attributed co-writer, Bert Berns.  But there was also a jazz singer from Steubenville called Dorothy Sloop who was a student at Ohio University and it is suggested she was the true inspiration for the song.  We may never know who Sloopy really was.

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