Hang On Sloopy

On Friday, while Kim Darnell and I worked on moving plants and cleaning closets (not just routine spring cleaning, but a counter-offensive against a severe moth infestation — more on this in a later posting), for background I called up an iTunes playlist of dance music from the 50s through the 90s, which included “Hang On Sloopy”.

Now, Kim and I both have serious Ohio State connections, so we recognized the song as an OSU anthem, as played by TBDBITL, The Best Damn Band In The Land, aka the OSU Marching Band, which, like OSU football in general, is surrounded by a kind of frenzied irrational devotion. (When I lived in Columbus, I found this truly scary, since it led to crowds torching vehicles, smashing storefronts, and generally behaving like crazed hooligans,)

So Kim asked the obvious question: Who the hell is Sloopy?

We get that it’s a name, here used as an address term. But who is the Sloopy of the song, what do we know about them? And was there an actual Sloopy in the history of the song, or was the name just pulled out of a hat? And what kind of onomastic hat has Sloopy in it? (Related puzzle re: “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” — though in this case, Rikki and Ricky are both reasonably frequent names.).

TBDBITL performing the song in 2009:


And t-shirt evidence of the significance of the song in the state of Ohio:


In scarlet and gray (the OSU colors), with the outline of the state serving as the O of On.

There are any number of rah-rah recordings of the song as a sports anthem, but the crucial dance version is the one by The McCoys in 1965, which you can listen to here.

The Wikipedia story:


“Hang On Sloopy” is a 1964 song by Wes Farrell and Bert Berns, originally titled “My Girl Sloopy”.

According to Rick Derringer, the original version of Sloopy was written by a “high school kid in St. Louis” and sold to Bert Russell, a.k.a. Bert Berns. If true, the answer to the age old question “Just who is Sloopy?” lies with him. Dorothy Sloop, a jazz singer from Steubenville and a student at Ohio University, is said to be the inspiration for the song.

“My Girl Sloopy” was first recorded by L.A.-based The Vibrations in 1964, for Atlantic Records (45-2222), reaching #10 on the R&B chart and #26 on the US pop chart. In April 1965 the song became a local hit in the Pacific Northwest in a cover version by James Henry & The Olympics (Jerden Records), but it was quickly eclipsed in August when the Indiana pop group The McCoys released their iconic retitled version. “Hang On Sloopy” went to #1 in the United States in October 1965.

… The song gained an association with Ohio State University after its marching band began playing it at football games; it first played it October 9, 1965 after a staff arranger, John Tatgenhorst, begged the director to try playing it. After finally convincing the director, Tatgenhorst arranged the song and the band played it in front of the stadium. After the crowd reaction, the band began to play it at every game and now it is a Saturday tradition to play the song before the start of the fourth quarter of every Buckeye game. Since then, “Sloopy” has been appearing on the band’s CDs and is available as a free download on its website.

Note on rocker Rick Derringer in all of this, from Wikipedia:

He came to prominence in the 1960s as a member of The McCoys, when he was brought in to record lead vocals for the number one hit single with “Hang on Sloopy”.

Still good to dance to.

2 Responses to “Hang On Sloopy”

  1. Tim Evanson Says:

    As you know, during the break in the chorus of the song, the crowd shouts “O-H-I-O” and semaphores the letters.

    Here is the crowd at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton singing and doing the actions to “Hang On Sloopy” in October 2016.


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