Inspiration for 'Hang On Sloopy' Would Have Turned 100 Today

In between gulps of Bud Light and few emotive cheers toward the big-screen, we Ohioans are known to engage in a little ritualistic love known as "Hang On Sloopy." The song goes hand-in-hand with Ohio State football, though it's made its way around the entire state over the years.

O! H! I! O!

But even without our beer-addled minds being whisked away by the glow of buffalo wings and The Big Game, the very subject of the song - "Sloopy" - remains a bit of a mystery to many. Kevin Joy at the Columbus Dispatch took the time to uncover this character's past and shine a light on an unsung hero in Ohio lore.

As legend has it, the song’s namesake is tied to Steubenville native Dorothy Sloop, who — depending on the story you hear — either struck up a conversation about her name with young men at Dixie’s Bar of Music in New Orleans or, during a difficult moment there onstage, was cheered from the crowd with a kindly “Hang on, Sloopy!”

In 1964, her name would be cemented in history by songwriters Wes Farrell and Bert Russell Berns — the latter a co-author of the Beatles hit "Twist and Shout." Both are dead but are thought to have been Dixie’s regulars.

Sloop, who died at age 85 in 1998, would have turned 100 today.

It all started with a Buckeyes game in 1965. The team was playing the University of Illinois and, much to the chagrin of the rock 'n' roll-wary band director, "Hang on Sloopy" made its first appearance.

As time wore on, Sloop certainly learned over her inadvertent fame at OSU. Friends and relatives would send press clippings of the marching band.

Sloop herself remains a shadow. She has few surviving relatives with no monuments or other public tributes.

“It’s always been an interesting story in the family,” said her great-nephew Brett Ruland, the 41-year-old owner of the Downtown shop Spoonful Records — who, like many others, grew up thinking the lyrics pertained to the cartoon dog Snoopy.

Ruland has spent several years collecting Sloop’s old photos, articles and vinyl albums recorded at Dixie’s.

Still, he said, gaps remain.

“The mystery is part of the allure.”

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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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