Rick Derringer turns 73 today. His big hit: “Rock ‘n Roll Hoochie Koo” was written for somebody else. Written with the idea of giving a blues rocker Johnny Winter a shot at a pop hit, it didn’t become a hit until its writer recorded it on his own. (Hit version on Derringer’s All American Boy, original Johnny Winter recording on Johnny Winter And.) Peaked at number-23 on the Billboard Hot 100, Derringer’s biggest hit as a songwriter and as a solo artist.
In 1970, he and his band The McCoys combined forces with blues rocker Johnny Winter. It was going to be Johnny Winter and The McCoys, but that band had a bubblegum reputation they wanted to shake and felt it better to leave The McCoys’ name out of it entirely. Derringer explains the idea behind writing “Rock ‘n Roll Hoochie Koo.”
“The first thing I wanted to do was bring more of a rock ‘n roll way of thinking to Johnny, but Johnny didn’t want to change and become in any way bubblegum. So I wanted to write a song specifically for Johnny that he would be able to speak the lyrics in his vernacular and feel comfortable about saying the words he was saying, but I also wanted to bring a little more of a pop kind of sensibility to the whole thing. So I wrote ‘Rock ‘n Roll Hoochie Koo’ trying to follow those guidelines and it came out like it is.”