When I finally speak with Rick Derringer, he's standing in a late-night Wal-Mart line, buying ingredients to make a vegan salad.
"I'm vegetarian or whatever you want to call it," the guitarist says apologetically, like I might have expected better of him. Or maybe he feels bad for flaking out on me all week, and his eat-no-meat confession to an alternative paper is his means of reparation.
Derringer, best known for co-writing the Hulk Hogan anthem, "Real American," and recording the 1965 hit, "Hang on Sloopy," performs tonight at The Thirsty Parrot.
During the '70s and '80s, Derringer successfully collaborated with everyone from Alice Cooper, Richie Havens, Todd Rundgren and Steely Dan to Cyndi Lauper, Barbra Streisand, KISS and Weird Al Yankovic. (As noted in Reverb last week, Derringer's responsible for producing "Eat It" and "Fat," for which he won two Grammys.) His rising star, though, took the usual rock 'n roll trajectory through drugs, alcohol and divorce.
Derringer predictably plummeted, then discovered Jesus, true love (with wife and creative partner Jenda Hall) and smooth jazz. These days, now sober, he's writing music that will "affect people in positive ways." I decide I like him even if he is a bit of a nut living a clich.
"I try to be very aware of my music, because I want it to mean something important now," he says. "I want to send people to heaven."
To this end, Derringer's launched two Christian albums for the evangelical crowd: the first is an offering of original songs recorded with "top Christian artists," and the second is an album of "big Christian hits."
But Derringer resists the label "Christian rocker." Thursday's performance will showcase a mix of both old and new road-tested songs.
"All music is good," he says. "Everybody speaks music. It's a way to communicate the real part of you words can't convey."