Dr. Hook singer Ray Sawyer dead at 81

Dr Hook's Ray Sawyer
(Image credit: Michael Putland / Getty Images)

Former Dr Hook & The Medicine Show singer Ray Sawyer has died at the age of 81, after a short illness. The news was announced on the band's Facebook page.

The short statement read: "Ray Sawyer, an original member of Dr Hook from 1969-1981, passed away this morning. We send our condolences to his family at this difficult time." 

Sawyer, who served as the band's percussionist and second singer alongside lead vocalist Dennis Locorriere, was most recognisable for his eye-patch, the result of a 1967 car accident. 

"I must have played all the clubs from Houston to Charleston until I decided I was going insane from too much beans and music, and I gave it up," Sawyer said in an interview. "I saw a John Wayne movie and proceeded to Portland, Oregon, to be a logger complete with plaid shirt, caulk boots, and pike pole. 

"On the way my car slipped on the road and the accident left me with the eye patch I now wear. When I recovered I ran straight back to the beans and music and vowed, 'here I'll stay'." 

The eye patch, with its similarity to that worn by fictional Peter Pan character Captain Hook, went on to inspire the band's name. 

Dr Hook spent three weeks at the top of the UK chart in 1979 with their song When You're In Love With A Beautiful Woman, and scored other hits with Sylvia's Mother, Better Love Next Time, Sexy Eyes, A Little Bit More, and If Not You. In the US, they had a hit with The Cover of Rolling Stone, a song that was banned by The BBC as the title contained the name of a commercial entity and was therefore deemed as advertising.

Ray Sawyer left Dr Hook 1983 to pursue a solo career, and five years later was granted a licence to perform as "Dr. Hook featuring Ray Sawyer" or "Ray Sawyer of Dr. Hook" by Locorriere, who retains the band's copyright. 

In a statement to Rolling Stone, Locorriere said, "Although I hadn’t been in contact with Ray for many, many years it does not erase the fact that we were once close friends and shared an important time in both our lives."

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.