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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable