I’ve been listening to this song for the past fifty years and did not know that Sloopy was a real person. At least, that is the rumor. The song was written in 1964 and was first called “My Girl Sloopy.” It was originally recorded by an R&B group called the Vibrations. Their version of the song reached number ten on the R&B charts and number 26 on the pop charts. It is reported that Sloopy is based on Dorothy Sloop, a jazz singer from Steubenville, Ohio. Bert Russell (known as Bert Berns in the business) wrote many songs during the early Sixties and “My Girl Sloopy” was one of them. He started Bang Records and signed a group called The Strangeloves to the label. He told the group he needed someone to sing “My Girl Sloopy” and to be on the lookout. The Strangeloves had three Top 40 hits in 1965, the biggest was “I Want Candy” (#11.)
The McCoys come from Union City, Indiana and Fort Recovery, Ohio. They started out as The Rick Z Combo, but settled on Rick and the Raiders in 1964 when their four man group led by Rick Zehringer began making the rounds trying to catch a break. They got a gig opening for the Strangeloves in Dayton, Ohio and when the Strangeloves heard them sing , they thought of what Bert Berns had said earlier and so, Rick and the Raiders were introduced to Bang Records.
It was just about this time that a American group, Paul Revere and the Raiders were hitting the national scene. Well, we can’t have two groups with Raiders in their name, so Rick and the Raiders had to change. They had used The McCoys a couple years earlier, so they went with that. Berns jokingly remarked, “Now, we need a girl group called The Hatfields.” (It never happened.)
Other name changes soon occurred. They changed the name of the song from “My Girl Sloopy” to “Hang on Sloopy” and Rick Zehringer changed his last name to Derringer, so people could recognize ii easier. “Hang on Sloopy” was a great success, but the McCoys could not do much else after that. They had one other Top 10 song, “Fever” (#7) and a couple other hits that didn’t do much, before disappearing from the scene. In 1974, Rick Derringer went solo and had a moderate hit, “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” (#23.) That was the end of the McCoys.
“Hang on Sloopy” debuted on the pop charts on September 4, 1965 and spent one week at number one.