Derringer began getting production experience with the McCoys, but they were never able to overcome their bubblegum rock image, and by the end of the 1960s, Derringer and his brother Randy were recruited by Johnny Winter into his band, with Derringer playing guitar and also producing. He emerged as a solo artist in the wake of his playing with Edgar Winter's White Trash. Derringer first became popular in his own right during the early/mid-'70s, beginning with a new version of his own "Rock & Roll, Hoochie Koo" (which Johnny Winter had covered for him a few years earlier) off Derringer's heavy metal-influenced debut album, All American Boy. Derringer soon had his own band, called Derringer, on the road -- although his guitarist and bassist, Danny Johnson and Kenny Aaronson, left in 1977 to form Axis -- and within a couple of years had established himself as a popular favorite. Derringer's recorded history was somewhat spotty, however, as his record sales never matched his favor with concert audiences -- a huge gap also existed between releases, which didn't bother him; even in the late '90s, Derringer played close to 200 shows a year. He spent most of the late '70s and 1980s, however, as a producer, working with artists as diverse as Bette Midler, Kiss, Meat Loaf, Cyndi Lauper, Barbra Streisand, and Weird Al Yankovic.
Derringer is known for his hard-rocking live shows, which don't necessarily translate well to recordings, or lend themselves to much originality. As he neared age 50 in the 1990s, however, he had mellowed, and this showed when he began recording again for Shrapnel Records in 1993 with the albums Back to the Blues and Electra Blues. Years of fair to average rock and adult contemporary albums followed, but in 2002 Derringer did an about-face and tried his hands at jazz with the adventurous Free Ride. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi