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
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on