Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hang On, Sloopy

Dottie Sloop, from the family archives
Before I opened the store in 2010, I was working on a documentary about my great aunt & sister of the mother of my dad, Fred Sloop Ruland, Dorothy "Dottie" Sloop, who was the well-known "Sloopy" of the McCoy's hit song.  People often write to inquire about her, so I thought I would add this to the blog.

Dorothy "Dottie" Sloop (1913 - 1998) was born in Steubenville, OH, and became a well-known local piano player. She learned piano from her father, Frederick Sloop, who played organ for the silent films in town, and on occasion filled in.  Out of high school, she toured the country with an all-girl group called The Southland Rhythm Girls. In the late 1930's the lead singer, Dixie Fasnacht, opened her own club, Dixie's House of Music, which moved later to Bourbon Street in New Orleans.  Dixie brought in "Sloopy," as she was known professionally, as her house pianist.  It was there that acquaintance & songwriter Bert Berns Russell found inspiration for the song. During problems with the sound equipment and a crowd growing rowdy, he heard a regular call out to her, "Hang on, Sloopy!"  He incorporated the phrase into the song for The Vibrations, "My Girl Sloopy," (1964).  He worked with Wes Ferrell to rewrite the song and they came up with "Hang On, Sloopy" (1965). It was recorded by the Strangeloves, but in a rush to get the song out, they gave the song to Dayton, Ohio band Rick and the Raiders (who changed their name to The McCoys to avoid confusion with Paul Revere and the Raiders), and it was released then as the version that most people are familiar with, with music by the Strangeloves and Rick Derringer's lead guitar and vocals. "Hang On, Sloopy" became a #1 Billboard Pop Hit in  early October of 1965.

A little bit of how "Hang On, Sloopy" became the Ohio State University's theme song:

On October 9, 1965 Hang On Sloopy became the first rock-n-roll song played by the OSU Marching Band.  

After more than two weeks of pestering his former percussion instructor and close friend OSUMB Director Dr. Charles Spohn, arranger John Tatgenhorst got a call one Thursday evening.  Dr. Spohn talked to John and John felt Hang on Sloopy exploited basic rock-n-roll chord patterns.  Dr. Spohn agreed and asked John to arrange the tune.  He began at 9:30 PM and after four hours of work, he was finished. The next morning he changed only one detail; he added modulation for the ending to be in the key of G flat major, while the rest of the song was in F major.  “It would only make it better,” John said, “and I figured they would only use the thing once anyway.”  The very same arrangement has been a tradition ever since.

On Saturday, October 9 at the OSU/Illinois game, the halftime show and about-to-be tradition were almost rained out.  During the second quarter, such a heavy downpour drenched the fans and the field that the band considered canceling its performance to avoid making an even muddier mess of the gridiron, which was grass.  But, Head Coach Woody Hayes had grown to appreciate the band more than he did ten years earlier when he ordered the marchers off a soaked field during the 1955 Rose Bowl.  So the 120 band members performed before a drenched but enthusiastic crowd.  The OSUMB, in the form of a giant ballerina, stepped gracefully in the mud to Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers – then suddenly began to gyrate in a wild Watusi as it played Hang On Sloopy.  There are conflicting reports as to the crowd response--some say the crowd went wild, some say the reaction was a little cool, due to the weather.  However: 

Before the next game, against an unbeaten Michigan State up north, a nervous Coach Hayes took an unprecedented walk to speak to the band.  With only 38 players on the bench and a mere 3,500 Buckeye fans in the Spartan stands, Hayes needed all the help he could get.  When the Buckeyes fell behind by 18 points in the second half, the band, from its seats, played Hang On Sloopy.  The crowd went crazy and kept yelling "Sloopy, Sloopy!"  The call-to-rally role had been cast.  From then on, Hang On Sloopy would be a catalyst for comeback, a starting gun to celebrate a foreseeable victory, or a summons to change the status quo for the better.  Sad to say, the Buckeyes didn’t come back that afternoon, losing 32 – 7.  But they were undefeated the rest of the season.  It has been an OSU tradition ever since.

On November 20, 1985, HangOn Sloopy became the Official State Rock Song of the State of Ohio.