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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
News
Tangerine Dream Edgar Froese
people
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us