You're a 16 year old guitarist that knocked The Beatles' Yesterday
off the charts with your group's hit Hang on Sloopy
. In the 70's, you helped produce legendary guitarist Johnny Winter and traveled with his group "White Trash." You had your own solo rock career while also playing with such legends as Alice Cooper, Ritchie Havens, Todd Rundgren and Steely Dan.
In the 80's, you also had a chance to perform with Cyndi Lauper and Barbra Streisand, and produced song parodies with Weird Al Yankovic. Then in the 90's, you recorded four blues albums, toured with Edgar Winter and wrote Hulk Hogan's theme song I Am a Real American
. You wonder what you're going to do next. If you're guitarist Rick Derringer, you say, "I'm going to play smooth jazz."
Derringer says he has wanted to play smooth jazz for a long time. At an early age, his family had a big record collection and he says, "It included all kinds of music, including jazz. So I grew up listening to Wes Montgomery, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane and Les Paul." When Derringer recorded Hang on Sloopy
with the McCoys in 1965, his success was assured. "I was almost kind of trapped by my own success into only doing rock," said Derringer. "Because I was successful over the years, I never had the opportunity to do the stuff I really wanted. I wanted to play some more grown-up music - jazz."
If you have a successful record, the record company "tries to maintain that success by just trying to create everything you did in the past," said Derringer. "If you want to feel like you're moving on, you have to listen to your own heart and do what you really want to do." He also states it isn't just trying to recreate what you did earlier in your career. "I just really longed to do music that reflected me as an adult and music that I thought was for other adults," said Derringer.
In the last couple of years, his wife Brenda encouraged Rick to record jazz. So Rick recorded a demo record featuring a jazzy version of his hit Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo
called Jazzy Koo
. "The first person that heard it, a record company called Big Three, said we would love to release this. So, they gave us a three record smooth jazz CD deal," said Rick. "I couldn't wait to do this and since I've done it, I'm really looking forward to continuing it."
Rick's debut smooth jazz release is called Rick Derringer Free Ride
. It not only contains three songs from his rock and roll career, Jazzy Coo
, Free Ride
, but also new songs that he and his wife co-wrote. Rick says he and Brenda have been writing music for five years and have been married for about four years. "We started writing together immediately and that has just blossomed," says Derringer. "Brenda did some little vocal arrangements for us and she got to sing as well. So, we're happy to be able to work together and that's another reason why we look forward to doing more of these. It's a great relationship when you can work with the person who you consider to be your soul mate."
Derringer feels that the musical taste of his audience has matured along with his own musical taste. "If my musical tastes are continuing to grow up, and I am not really too interested in the music that my kids listen to, then I assume that the audience is doing the same. I’m hoping that the audience that's out there is not only the new people, but that they’re a lot of the people that like my stuff from the past as well." Some people may think this might be a gimmick for Derringer to expand his audience, but Rick says his only nervousness is that people think that way. "That's why I'm really happy that the second single is going to be one of the originals songs called Hot and Cool
," he says.
Rick Derringer has come a long way from Hang on Sloopy
. He is demonstrating that you can show your audience that it’s okay to grow up and not hang on to the memories of the past. Unlike other performers who travel the country only to keep a crutch to the past, Rick Derringer has matured with a smooth jazz mentality. Just like other performers such as former Starship guitarist Craig Chaquico, and even Guns and Roses’ guitarist Slash, you can still hang on to your audience while you mature, and as they mature as well.