From teenage star to guitar wizard
When Rick Derringer, about to turn 26, went into the studio to record his debut solo, All American Boy, he was already a veteran of the music scene who had lived it all. Before he was 18 he had sung and recorded one of the biggest hits of the 60's with his band The McCoys, Hang On Sloopy, he had also seen his band move away from the bubblegum sound - and success - seeking greater credibility, he had also, along with his McCoy bandmates, accompanied the Winter brothers, Johnny and Edgar, in several of their incarnations, forming Johnny Winter And, with the former, and White Trash and Edgar Winter Group, with the latter. His song Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo had become something of a classic and had been recorded in 1970 with Johnny Winter and again, in 1972, on a record by Edgar's White Trash.
So he decided to try his luck on his own and did so by relying on his trump card, Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo. The song became a hit, approaching the Top 20 in the U.S., however the album on which it appeared, this All American Boy, did not have the same luck and Derringer remained affiliated with Winter for much of the decade. It's a shame because the album was not bad at all and the version of his best known song is true apotheosis - with a Derringer unleashed in the solo, demonstrating that the former teenage star had become a guitar ace.
Joy Ride is an instrumental in the manner of the Allman Brothers, although the production seems a bit overdone. Cheap Tequila sees him approaching the country and honky tonk sound, showing that he's not bad on slide either. Uncomplicated is another of the album's big moments, a very typical hard rocker of the era that could have become his second hit. While Teenage Love Affair anticipates the sound with which Kiss would triumph a couple of years later - and also includes a solo with a Talk Box, shortly before Peter Frampton turned the gadget into a sensation. Derringer used to play it in his live appearances with Edgar Winter's band using his rare Gibson Explorer, although the most iconic guitar on the album is the Stratocaster on the cover, an instrument that had belonged to John Hammond and that he gave to Bob Dylan, who gave it to Mike Bloomfield during the recording of Highway 61 Revisited. The legendary guitarist gave this '59 model to the no less legendary Johnny Winter from whom Derringer decided to borrow it to put it on the cover of his first album, despite being known more for his preference for Gibson models, such as Les Paul or 335.
Hold is a ballad with strings and backing vocalists, closer to Elton John than Johnny Winter; the most interesting thing about it is a lyric composed by a then unknown Patti Smith. Slide On Over Slinky is another powerful rocker with an interesting riff and, again, great slide work from the guy who was once told by Duane Allman that he had been one of his inspirations for putting the Coricidin tube on his finger. Jump, Jump, Jump, Jump closes the album with a ballad sung in falsetto that serves as a vehicle for his six-string prowess, with the second best solo on the album, behind the portentous Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo.
Evidently All American Boy is not a classic, but it is a very attractive album for all those in love with the sounds of seventies rock. There are no other songs on the level of Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo, but it is proof that Derringer was an interesting composer and a fabulous musician.