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Johnny and the Hurricanes

John Laughter

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Johnny and the Hurricanes comprised a rock ‘n’ roll group of the late 1950s and early 1960s that had its own unique sound and produced a number of instrumental hits, one of which made the top ten and is closely associated with the group. The group was formed in Toledo, Ohio, in 1958, and was at first known as the Orbits. The original members were saxophonist Johnny Paris (real name: John Pocisk), Paul Tesluk on organ, Tony Kaye on drums, Dave Yorko on guitar, and Lionel “Butch” Mattice on bass. The group started off recording with rockabilly artist Mack Vickery.

They soon went to Detroit to look for work as a back-up band for aspiring recording artists. Two music promoters there, Harry Balk and Irving Micahnik, signed the group to a recording contract of their own. (Micahnik later worked as Del Shannon’s manager.) In 1959 they made their first recording on the Twirl label, which was owned by Balk and Micahnik. It was a dance song that had been written by pianist T. J. Fowler called “Crossfire.” Loaded with reverb, the recording was leased to the Warwick label and reached number 23 on the charts in 1959. Johnny and the Hurricanes were on their way.

The group’s leader was nineteen-year-old Johnny Paris, and his hard-driving saxophone playing was prominent on a number of the group’s recordings. Their next record, however, would feature Tesluk’s Hammond organ and would become the group’s biggest hit ever: “Red River Rock,” a reworking of the old standard “Red River Valley” that the group had transformed into pure rock ‘n’ roll. It was a huge success, reaching number five on the national charts. Don Staczek sat in for regular drummer Tony Kaye on “Red River Rock” and drummer Bo Savich took Kaye’s regular spot in the band late in 1959.

The group continued to use rocking versions of familiar old songs as its formula. The Army bugle call of Reveille became “Reveille Rock.” In 1960, Burl Ives’ “Blue Tail Fly” was turned into “Beatnik Fly” by the group. Both songs made the Top 40. “When The Saints Go Marchin’ In” became “Revival.” Another song that was an original composition by Fowler called “Rockin’ Goose” featured Paris’ honking sax. All were instrumentals on the Warwick label.

A lot of the material they had used was out of copyright. Balk and Micahnik claimed credit as having written many of their songs, using the names Tom King and Ira Mack. Johnny and the Hurricanes had a total of nine chart entries from 1959 to 1961. They toured extensively. Eventually, the hits were not coming anymore, there were rumors that they were unhappy with the way the band was managed, and they became fatigued from being on the road so much. The band split up in 1961.

Johnny Paris went to Europe and settled in Hamburg. He played there at the same time as the Beatles, just before the Beatles became international superstars. In 1965 he started his own label which he called Attila, and for which he recorded the album Live At The Star Club. In 1970 he closed Attila. Paris formed a new Hurricanes group and toured in the 1970s and 1980s.

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8/5/2008

“Dear John.

Thanks so much for you kind words and for contributing to our book about my late husband!!!

Sincerely,

Sonja”

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EMAIL FROM A CLASSMATE;

“If you’re not already aware, John Pocisk, a.k.a. Johnny Paris, died May 1, 2006 in a Michigan hospital. Johnny and I grew up in the same town, went to school together, and played in the high school band together. If memory serves me, one of the smallest genesis for Johnny and the Hurricanes was a Dixieland band we put together for a high school football game halftime show. Three of the founding members of the Hurricanes were part of it – Johnny, Paul Tesluk (organ, but trumpet back then), and Don Staczek (drums). The rest of that little group was Mike Wood (trumpet), Roland Lehr (E-flat bass), and myself on trombone. I still have his original 33rpm and 45rpm records in a closet.

I forgot to mention --- I’d dispute the contention that Tony Kaye was the original drummer for Johnny and the Hurricanes. I think if you look on the back of their first album, you’ll find the drummer is Don “Butch” Staczek, a neighbor of Johnny’s, and also a member of our high school band, as was keyboardist Paul Tesluk, who played trumpet in the band. Nobody knew he could do keyboards, but his melodies were so simple anybody could have played them one-handed with two days training. And that’s fine – it was his organ lead that carried the tune. Johnny’s raspy sax was just the filler. I really don’t remember the name Tony Kaye, but I’d suspect he didn’t join the band until maybe 1961, when Staczek quit to (I think) go to college.

Johnny was really a nice guy. He was also a very bright student in school and earned a four-year college scholarship, all expenses paid by his father’s employer, Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass (later Pilkington glass), but elected to go into rock ‘n roll instead.

As a musician in The Rossford High School band, (a 3,000 population suburb of Toledo, Ohio), he was a very competent musician. He knew what he was doing with a tenor or baritone sax. And he was confident enough in his abilities to improvise sometimes, as we all did.

By the way, some websites, and the Manchester Guardian’s obituary on Johnny say he went to Rossford Catholic High School. It was a public school, not a Catholic one, except by default since about 90% of the residents of our village were Catholic.”

Dave Arnold

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“John: Here’s a reply I just got from my old friend, Dr. Mike Wood, re. the earliest history of Johnny and the Hurricanes.”
Dave Arnold

“We were the Black Cats (how trite that now sounds) and wore all black. In addition to RHS assemblies, we played Friday and Saturday night sock hop gigs around the Toledo area, mostly east and north Toledo as I recall. My “signature” trumpet piece was the slow dance to “Blue Moon,” which I might even remember if I was pressed and still had an embouchure. I think I was making something on the order of 8-10 bucks a job (band usually split $30-$50 for the night, which was typically about three hours with a twenty minute break). It was Johnny, Donny Staczek, Paul Tesluk, Dave Yorko and I. That, plus the Blade paper route, basically put me through college.”

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Hello John.
Johnny Paris passed away last year around this time. Any chance we here at his Hurricane Shelter Office can get a copy of that Vol 2 of yours? We have an autobiography of him coming out soon as well. Thanks for citing him as a favorite. Contact me anytime at the ad’s below.

Thanks John, and God Bless.

“Hurricane” Duane Thomas, Lead Guitar-Johnny and The Hurricanes/Atila Records
4/7/07

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#23 (6/1959) CROSSFIRE— JOHNNY & THE HURRICANES
JOHNNY PARIS - TENOR

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9nWZL_QSW4


“One of my early inspirations was “Crossfire” by Johnny & the Hurricanes.” David Leibman 1999

#5 (8,1959) (U.S.), #3 (U.K.), #5 (U.S. R&B), #18 (GER)
RED RIVER ROCK— JOHNNY & THE HURRICANES
JOHNNY PARIS – TENOR

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qp5H-Ks0W8


#25 (11/1959) (U.S.), #17 (U.S. R&B), #14 (U.K.), #9 (GER)
REVEILLE ROCK— JOHNNY & THE HURRICANES
JOHNNY PARIS – TENOR

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0kY7CUyHtk

#15 (U.S.) (2/1960), #8 (U.K.), #9 (GER)
BEATNICK FLY— JOHNNY & THE HURRICANES
JOHNNY PARIS – TENOR

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5I-dUCKfqk

#8 (U.K.) (1960), #4 (GER)
DOWN YONDER—JOHNNY & THE HURRICANES
JOHNNY PARIS – TENOR

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Qjy-8ysaOE

#3 (U.K.) (1960)
ROCKING GOOSE—JOHNNY AND THE HURRICANES
JOHNNY PARIS – TENOR

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5o_3-GAkas

#14 (UK) (1961) JA-DA—JOHNNY AND THE HURRICANES
JOHNNY PARIS - TENOR

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQtAT-RLXK8


#24 (UK) (1961) OLD SMOKIE—JOHNNY AND THE HURRICANES
JOHNNY PARIS - TENOR

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOMnjmolsFM

JOHNNY AND THE HURRICANES continued to record many more instrumentals through 1967 but none of them made the Top 40 charts.

Johnny and the Hurricanes - Wikipedia
 
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