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‘Sloopy’ may continue to hang on

November 10, 2013
By BETTY J. POKAS - Area Editor , Times Leader

IF SOME state legislators are successful, "Hang on Sloopy" will hang on to become part of the Ohio Revised Code.

A tradition for The Ohio State University Marching Band, the song inspired by a former Steubenville woman was recognized as the state rock song in 1985, but that joint resolution approved then by the Ohio General Assembly falls short of becoming official law, according to state Rep. Michael Stinziano. He and Rep. Cheryl Grossman introduced the new legislation.

The 1985 legislation hadn't been signed by the governor, and Stinziano noted the song needs to be included in the ORC so it can continue in perpetuity.

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Sloopy was the nickname for Dorothy Sloop, described by her nephew, Fred Ruland, as "a terrific musician."

Her great-nephew, Brett Ruland, who operates Spoonful Records in Columbus, said he had been told she had absolute pitch and could hear a note and know what it was.

"She played for the Southland Rhythm Girls, and a lot of gigs brought them into the spotlight," he added. Leader of that group was Yvonne "Dixie" Fasnacht, who later operated Dixie's Bar of Music in New Orleans.

The group played in several cities including New York and later in New Orleans. They also performed at William Randolph Hearst's Manhattan apartment.

Brett Ruland added there were different theories about how Sloopy ended up in a song. "The closest thing I can come up with was that she was playing the piano one day and had a problem with the sound or the mike. She was getting frustrated, and one of the regulars yelled out, 'Hang on, Sloopy.'"

He thinks that Bert Berns, a co-composer of the song, might have been in Dixie's Bar of Music at the time and heard that comment which sparked the idea for the song. It first was known as "My Gal Sloopy." The other co-composer was Wes Farrell.

The song eventually was recorded by Rick Derringer's band, The McCoys, and it became a No. 1 hit.

Fred Ruland, a Westerville resident, said the lyrics in the song had nothing to do with his aunt. The song contains the words, "Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town," and he said she wasn't from a bad part of Steubenville.

"Dotty's father grew up during the silent movies," he said. Sloop's father had played for silent movies, and after suffering a stroke at age 27, he would tell his daughter which stops to pull on the piano for the movies when she was very young.

Her nephew also mentioned the family name originally wasn't Sloop, but it had been Schlupe in Switzerland. It was changed by a paymaster during the Civil War so the family, which lived in Findlay before moving to Steubenville, continued with the misspelling.

Not only did Sloop play the piano in other locations, but she was pianist for Dean Martin when he sang at the High Hat in Steubenville.

Sloop attended Ohio University at Athens before going into the music business, and she eventually earned a master's degree and taught special needs children in Florida. She sometimes played the piano to soothe them. She was married once and later assumed the last name, Heflick.

Both Rulands are pleased about the proposed legislation for the song.

"We're happy about that, especially in Columbus with Ohio State University," said Brett. "It's such a staple at OSU Buckeye games."

As to the legislation, Stinziano a few days ago said those favoring the legislation are waiting for it to be introduced so sponsor testimony can be provided.

He indicated it isn't known if the legislation would have musical accompaniment. A graduate of the OSU's College of Law, the legislator said he didn't sing well but pointed out a small musical delegation from Ohio State played during the earlier approval of the song. If too large a group had appeared, music might have echoed through the stately Statehouse.

After all, the band reportedly was asked "to refrain from playing another chorus of 'Hang on Sloopy' during the OSU-Syracuse game in 1988. The ... press box, it seems, was shaking from thousands of feet stomping in unison to the music. Stadium officials were concerned about the structure's integrity."

The 1985 resolution noted, in part, that in 1965, an Ohio-based rock group known as The McCoys reached the top of the national record charts with "Hang on Sloopy," and that same year, John Tagenhorst, then an arranger for The Ohio State University Marching Band, created the band's now-famous arrangement of "Sloopy," first performed at the Ohio State-Illinois football game on October 9, 1965."

It also pointed that "adoption of this resolution will not take too long, cost the state anything, or affect the quality of life in this state to any appreciable degree, and if we in the legislature just go ahead and pass the darn thing, we can get on with more important stuff."

Stinziano's father, then-Rep. Mike Stinziano and former state Sen. Gene Watts, sponsored the 1985 resolution.

The current legislator indicated the song captures the spirit and fun for which rock 'n' roll and Ohio are known.

Emphasizing the need to put the song in the proper place in Ohio law, he said, "We don't want to let Sloopy down."

Pokas can be reached at bettypokas@yahoo.com.

 
 

 

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