Dr. Hook: Sylvia’s Mother was a Bitch


In 1972 Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show made it to Billboard’s #5 with their song Sylvia’s Mother. The song was a hit in many countries including Australia and Ireland. To this day the song regularly pops up on oldies stations, no doubt ensuring the band members “keep gettin’ richer”. The song is about a young man who phones his love, Sylvia Avery, to say goodbye, implying she has dumped him. But we all know if he can talk to her he’ll try to talk her around and see if they can work things out. But her mother, Mrs. Avery, has also figured this out and refuses to put her on the line. Yes, Mrs. Avery was a bitch.

She’s right there, and yet Mrs. Avery won’t put her on the line, won’t pass the phone to her. Bitch!

Mrs. Avery seems to take great joy in telling the caller that Sylvia is heading to Galveston to get married. Importantly, early in the song, it is established that Sylvia has not yet left the house, she’s still busy packing. She’s right there, and yet Mrs. Avery, that stubborn old coot, won’t put her on the line, won’t pass the phone to her. Bitch!

Meanwhile, listeners can imagine our despondent caller frantically pumping coins into the phonebooth as the operator says 40 cents more for the next three minutes. If we assume he started with an initial 40 cents for the long-distance call and ponied up each of the three times he was asked, the total would be $1.60. Interestingly, the call would have been 12 minutes long yet the song only runs 3 minutes and 50 seconds.

… tells Sylvia to take her umbrella as it’s starting to rain. That’s how close Slyvia is to her. GIVE HER THE PHONE YOU MISERABLE BITCH!

As the song winds down and the caller continues to plead with Mrs. Avery to let him talk to Sylvia, stating he’ll only keep her a while. We also learn, from Mrs. Avery herself, that Sylvia isn’t really all that happy, even though she states “Sylvia’s happy” to be going to get married, telling the caller “don’t say nothing to make her start cryin’ and stay”. But he doesn’t get the chance, as the mother, in what is perhaps her most egregious act, won’t pass the phone to her and then tells Sylvia to take her umbrella as it’s starting to rain. That’s how close Sylvia is to her. GIVE HER THE PHONE YOU MISERABLE BITCH!

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