Johnny Paris

Leader of the Hurricanes


John M. Pocisk (Johnny Paris), saxophonist: born Walbridge, Ohio 1940; twice married (one son, two daughters); died Ann Arbor, Michigan 1 May 2006.

There was nothing subtle about Johnny and the Hurricanes' hit singles - they performed cheery, rock'n'roll arrangements of old folk tunes. Johnny Paris led the group and will be best remembered for his squawking saxophone on "Rocking Goose". The group had success in the early Sixties until the tidal wave of the Beatles and the British beat groups swept them away. For all that, Ray Davies of the Kinks showed his affection for Johnny and the Hurricanes when he eulogised them in "One of the Survivors" in 1973.

Of Polish descent, Paris was born John Pocisk in Walbridge, near Toledo, Ohio in 1940. He formed his first band, the Orbits, in Rossford Catholic High School in 1957 and they experimented with rock'n'roll music, sometimes accompanying the rockabilly artist Mack Vickery. In 1959 a vocal group, Fred Kelly and the Parliaments, asked the Orbits to back them on an audition for Talent Inc in Detroit. The partners, Irving Micahnik and Harry Balk, didn't think much of Kelly, but asked Pocisk's group to record instrumentals for their own Twirl label. As Johnny and the Hurricanes, they recorded "Crossfire" in an disused cinema where, in these primitive times, the sound was bounced around the auditorium to create echo. The single was released nationally by Warwick Records and became a US hit.

Micahnik and Balk hit on a scheme for making money. They would seek out tunes which were out of copyright and ask the band to record rock'n'roll versions, whilst they would be listed as composers, under the names Tom King and Ira Mack. The first big single was with the cowboy song "Red River Valley", which was retitled "Red River Rock" and was a Top Ten hit in both the US and UK. Rather than Paris's saxophone, it featured Paul Tesluk's piping organ and Dave Yorko on guitar. This was followed by a rock'n'roll version of the army bugle call, "Reveille Rock", skilfully being promoted in the UK at a time when conscription was being abolished.

The group's second LP, Stormsville (1960), made the UK album charts as did The Big Sound of Johnny and the Hurricanes (1961). The group's B-sides and album tracks have more lasting value as they get away from the gimmicks and there are some good tracks such as the eastern "Sheba", "Time Bomb", "Buckeye" and the evocative "Sand Storm".

In 1960, Johnny and the Hurricanes scored a hit with a rock version of "Bluetail Fly", now called "Beatnik Fly", which at the time was being used for a cornflakes advertisement. When Paris was changing a reed on his saxophone, he blew a squawking sound and Harry Balk said, "That's your next hit record." As a result, Johnny and the Hurricanes then had a major hit with an original tune, "Rocking Goose". They also had hits with "Down Yonder", "Ja-Da", "Old Smokie" and "High Voltage" (based on "Stagger Lee"), but by 1961 the sound was wearing thin. More importantly, the group was dissatisfied with its management and Paris was the only original member left.

Despite the changes in personnel, the group retained popularity in Europe and, in 1962, they headlined over the up-and-coming Beatles at the Star-Club in Hamburg. Another Liverpool musician, Alan Caldwell, based his stage name, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, on the band (and also called his house Stormsville).

In 1961/62, Johnny and the Hurricanes had not been allowed to appear in the UK as, under Musicians' Union rules, the Grade Organisation had been unable to negotiate a reciprocal deal in America with a British group. Eventually, they did tour in January 1963 on an ill-fated package for Don Arden called "Juke Box Doubles", which was compered by Jimmy Savile; the rest of the show consisted of Elvis and Cliff impersonators. Ticket sales were disastrous and the tour was cancelled after a fortnight. The group continued to record and did some bandwaggoning in 1964 with "The Saga of the Beatles".

Paris moved out of music as a full-time occupation, selling both antiques and vending machines in Toledo. He appeared in Sweden last November and in recent years had declined interviews as he was in the process of writing his autobiography.

Spencer Leigh

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker