If you’re in the midst of the hell-on-Earth known as choosing a band name, let me give you some advice: Nothing that starts with Doctor or Dr.
I recently went down a swampy, fun Dr. John rabbit hole. The album he made with Dan Auerbach a few years before his death is absolutely awesome. There are killer gems throughout his career — both sticking out and hidden.
Anyway, I got to wondering if Dr. Teeth, leader of the Muppet band The Electric Mayhem, was inspired by Dr. John. He was — and was one of the Muppets actually performed by Jim Henson. His full name, by the way, is Dr. Gerald Teeth Jr. His inspiration, Dr. John, was also a junior, Malcolm John Rebennack Jr. to be specific. I’ve heard people mix up Dr. John with Dr. Hook before, and I suppose that’s not surprising considering their resemblances. I always mixed them up, even though the latter was a ’70s band rather than a solo artist and their music wasn’t terribly similar at all.
So, I thought I’d examine just how many other rock ’n’ roll doctors (nod to Lowell George & Little Feat) there were out there. The answer is positively shocking. Discogs lists more than 3,000 artists containing “doctor” and 65,000 with “Dr.” Even though there’s definitely some duplication and names which exist in both lists, that’s still a staggering number. An educated guess — I’d say there’s around 20,000 bands with Dr. or Doctor in their name.
Let’s look at a few of them, starting with stupid Dr. Hook. The band started in 1968 as Dr. Hook And The Medicine Show and had a big hit with Sylvia’s Mother on their 1972 debut. They scored again on the followup, Sloppy Seconds, with The Cover Of “Rolling Stone.” One of the reasons I got confused about Dr. Hook vs. Dr. John is the band opted to drop the Medicine Show part of its name in the ’70s and then had two more hits with Sharing The NIght Together and When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman. As a kid, the name also made me think of Captain Hook from Peter Pan. Not helping matters: Dr. Hook percussionist/vocalist Ray Sawyer had an eyepatch — the result of a near-fatal car crash in 1967. I can’t be the only person who thought Ray WAS Dr. Hook, particularly when it was him who sang lead on The Cover Of “Rolling Stone.”
The singer of U.K. ’80s neo-psychedelic pop band Doctor And The Medics, Clive Jackson, wasn’t Doctor (something), he was just The Doctor like in Doctor Who. Not only were they a one-hit wonder, but that hit was a cover of one-hit wonder Norman Greenbaum’s 1969 single Spirit In The Sky.
As I’ve already told you I mix bands up all the time, you should know I always got Doctor And The Medics mixed up with Dead Or Alive. It doesn’t help that the former actually did a cover of the latter’s big hit You Spin Me Round (Like A Record). Dead Or Alive frontman Pete Burns wasn’t a “doctor” but he did wear an eyepatch sometimes. Unlike the one on Dr. Hook’s Sawyer, though, it was just for show. What I’ve also discovered, however, is that Doctor And The Medics also did a cover of Hawkwind’s Silver Machine, which actually got to No. 2 on the college charts. What the…?
Philly rock band Dr. Dog have no doctor in the band at all, meaning they follow the Dr. Hook formula rather than Doctor And The Medics. They’ve made 10 studio albums since 2002, but only a Christmas EP since their last one in 2018. They retired from touring in 2021.
Dr. Dre might be the name on most people’s lips when asked to think of a musical doctor. Andre Romell Young first came to prominence as a founding member of N.W.A with Ice Cube and Eazy-E in 1986, but by that time he’d already been on the scene with World Class Wreckin’ Cru. N.W.A’s album Straight Outta Compton is a bonafide classic. Even without almost any radio play, it was a huge hit, due in part to the anthem Fuck Tha Police — which earned them a warning letter from the FBI. Dre’s solo debut The Chronic was also a monster hit — and was just re-released for Record Store Day Black Friday. He had just as much success transitioning to a producer role, working with Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and signing 50 Cent to his label. Then he also launched Beats Electronics. Everything the man touches, eh? He also gives millions away to worthwhile projects and causes.
Sometimes musicians aren’t really known as Doctor, but they use the title as an alias or for a side hustle. For instance, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke does a lot of the sleeve artwork for the band’s albums under the name Dr. Tchock. And John Lennon had a ludicrous number of aliases — four of them had doctor prefixes: Dr. Winston O’Boogie, Dr. Dream, Dr. Winston O’Ghurkin and Dr. Winston O’Reggae. Before legally changing it to Ono, Lennon’s middle name was Winston.
Another classic doctor alias is Dr. Funkenstein, a character from the Parliament-Funkadelic universe, aka the P-Funk Mythology. There was a song called Dr. Funkenstein on the 1976 Parliament album The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein. But the character was also an alter-ego of Parliament-Funkadelic founder and central figure George Clinton. There was also a stage show and an offshoot girl-group called The Brides of Funkenstein.
Meanwhile, in white America, DJ Dr. Demento was busy launching the career of “Weird Al” Yankovic. While not a musician, Dr. Demento assembled a lot of compilation records and apparently had a mind-boggling personal collection of odd music. Born Barret Eugene Hansen, he adopted the Dr. Demento persona in 1970 and focused on novelty songs and other weird, quirky, bizarre or funny tracks. Yankovic might not have a career without him. Dr. Demento’s show was in syndication from 1978 to 1992.
There are loads more rocking docs, so I’ll pile a bunch of them into a catheter-like playlist for your aural emergencies — until the doctor gets here.
• • •
Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.