There aren’t many bands that have featured three hundred musicians. That was the case with Johnny and The Hurricanes. They were formed by Johnny Paris in 1958, and were together forty-eight years. It was only after Johnny Paris’ death on 1st  May 2006 that the Johnny and The Hurricanes’ story was over. By then, an estimated three hundred musicians had been in the various lineups of Johnny and The Hurricanes. Not many bands had enjoyed the same longevity as Johnny and The Hurricanes, whose music is celebrated on Hurricane Force-Rare and Unissued, which was released by Ace Records on 27th April 2015.

They were formed in 1958 by saxophonist Johnny Paris. He was still a high school student, in Ohio, Toledo. Johnny and four of his fellow high school students, Dave Yorko, Tony Kaye, Tommy Curran and Paul Tesiuk  became Johnny and The Hurricanes. 

Johnny and The Hurricanes’ origins can be traced back to the eighth grade at Rossford High School. Some of the eighth-graders decided to form a band. This included Paul Tesiuk and Johnny Poscick, who arrived at Rossford High School. 

Johnny’s mother was from a Ukrainian family, and his father was Polish. So, they lived in the Polish quarter of town. Money was constantly tight, and the Poscick family struggled to make ends meet. Then in 1954, Johnny’s father got a job in Libbey Owens Ford, a glass manufacturer. The Poscick family moved to the outskirts of town. It’s at that point, Johnny who was then fourteen, joined the Rossford High School Marching Band.

Initially, Johnny Poscick played the tuba. He didn’t find that easy. So, he switched to the baritone saxophone. It was the saxophone that Johnny Poscick would make his name playing in Johnny and The Hurricanes.

With the Rossford High School junior years students keen to form a dance band, it’s no surprise that Johnny was one of the earliest members. Recently, he had become much more involved in music. Soon, the band took shape. Joining Johnny and trumpeter Paul Tesiuk were joined by guitarist Lionel “Butch” Mattice, drummer Don Staczek and trumpeter Mike Woods. However, Paul was the nascent dance band’s trumpeter. 

This could’ve presented a problem. It didn’t. Paul decided he would switch to piano accordion. Johnny, meanwhile, switched from baritone to tenor saxophone. Gradually, Johnny’s band begin to take shape. However, this wasn’t the only band Johnny and Paul played in.

Paul’s brother had a polka band called The Silver Tones. When Johnny and Paul weren’t busy with Johnny’s band, they played with The Silver Tones. This only lasted a short time. Before long, Johnny’s began to make a name for themselves.

Before that, Johnny’s band spent time practising, and honing their sound. It was during this period, that guitarist Dave Yorko joined the band. He was a couple of years older than the rest of the band. Despite the age gap, Dave fitted into the band. However, Dave’s joining the band lead to a few changes in lineup.

Lionel “Butch” Mattice, switched from guitar to bass. Trumpeter Mike Woods left the band. If a trumpet part was needed, Paul Tesluk could play it. With the lineup settled, the next thing the band needed was a name.

That was vital. The senior carnival wasn’t far away. So, the unnamed group had to settle on a name. Eventually, they settled on The Black Cats. 

As the big day approached, someone suggested The Black Cats charge an entrance fee. While it might seem somewhat risky, a new band charging an entrance fee, it worked, and worked well. By the end of the day, The Black Cats had made more than the rest of the carnival had. This left The Black Cats with a decision to make.

The Black Cats could either market themselves as a dance or a polka band. After some thought, The Black Cats decided to become a rock ’n’ roll band. They had made the right choice. Rock ’n’ roll was about to explode in popularity.

Soon, The Black Cats were a familiar face on the local rock ’n’ roll circuit. That’s where they honed their sound. Before long The Black Cats were one of the biggest names on the Toledo circuit. Despite this, The Black Cats decided to change their name.

The space race was in its infancy. There was much speculation about satellites and moon landings. This captured a generation’s imagination. So, it was no surprise when The Black Cats became The Orbits. This wasn’t the only change that was about to happen.

Paul decided to switch from piano-accordion to Hammond organ. His parents agreed to help him buy a Hammond organ. It was a much more versatile instrument. Inspired by Johnny Rank, Paul was soon taking The Orbits’ sound in a new direction. The crowd loved the new sound.

Soon, The Orbits were being asked to play in ballrooms and nightclubs. This included Sylvia’s nightclub, where The Orbits secured a residency. Playing the club on Toledo’s south side was just a stepping stone. Before long, The Orbits were asked to play at Kathie’s Colonial five nights a week. While this was a huge opportunity, for one member of The Orbits, it was a step too far.

Most of the members of The Orbits were still at high school. Playing five nights a week could affect their education. This worried drummer Don Staczek. So he quit The Orbits, to be replaced by Tony Kaye, a regular on the Toledo club circuit. Next to go was guitarist Lionel Mattice. Ostensibly, Lionel was having a sabbatical. His replacement was Tommy Curran, of The Raging Storms. This new lineup of The Orbits was about to make a breakthrough.

Whilst playing the Toledo club circuit, The Orbits got to know Freddie and The Parliaments. They were managed by Harry Balk and Irving Micahnik, who ran an agency in Detroit. Harry Balk and Irving Micahnik were always on the lookout for new bands. So, an audition was arranged with Harry and Irving.

Before the audition, The Orbits learnt to play a number of Freddie and The Parliaments’ songs. That’s what they played at the audition. After than, they were asked to play some of their usual numbers. Having done so, Harry Balk and Irving Micahnik signed The Orbits to their Artists Inc. agency. It looked like skies the limits for The Orbits.

Now signed to Artists Inc., The Orbits would practice and rehearse at their offices. Sometimes, The Orbits accompanied other artists signed to the Artists Inc. agency. Soon, this would include accompanying artists when they recorded a single.

Previously, Harry Balk had run cinemas and theatres. He decided to return to the world of the theatre. So, Harry and his son Stuart bought the disused Carmen Towers Theatre. Rather than use it as a theatre, the pair transformed it into a recording studio. This would be where artists signed to the Artists Inc. agency recorded their singles.

One of the first groups to make their recording debut at  the Carmen Towers Theatre studio, was Freddie and The Parliaments. Soon, Freddie Kelly, Harold “Chops” Hedges, Ray Hunt and Fred Kuntze made their recording debut at the Carmen Towers Theatre studio. Soon, it was time for The Orbits to record their debut single.

A year later, in 1959,  Harry Balk and Irving Micahnik of Twirl Records singed Johnny and The Hurricanes. They sent the group out on tour. Ostensibly, this was to allow the group to hone their sound. Then when Johnny and The Hurricanes returned, they were ready to cut their first single.

Recording of Crossfire took place in February 1959. They had just finishing backing The Dream Girls at a session at the Carmen Towers Theatre studio. The recording of Crossfire didn’t exactly go smoothly. It took around thirty takes. Eventually, The Orbits recorded Crossfire and it was ready for release.

Harry Balk thought Crossfire was going to be a hit single. So he headed to New York, looking for a record company to release the single. He was out of luck. His only alternative was to release Crossfire via his own record company.

So, Harry went ahead and formed his own record company Twirl. It was then that Harry decided that The Orbits should become Johnny and The Hurricanes. Johnny, Harry decided, should become Johnny Paris. Given that The Orbits was already well known in Ohio, this was a risky move. However, it was one he was willing to take, and one that paid off.

When Crossfire was released, later in 1959, it reached number twenty-three in the US Billboard 100 charts. Crossfire spent fourteen weeks in the charts. Johnny and The Hurricanes career was off and running. They were about to sign to Warwick Records.

Following the success of Crossfire, Harry Balk’s partner Irving Micahnik, started negotiating with Warwick Records. By then he had setup EmBee Productions. It owned the masters, and licensed them to Warwick Records. After a short period, the licenses reverted back to EmBee Productions. Irving and Harry set up publishing companies. Harry’s was Vicki Music and Irving’s Melanie Music. Both companies were named after their daughters. Irving and Harry managed the artists. So every time they played live, they were making money. So, were artists like Johnny and The Hurricanes.

For the followup to Crossfire, Johnny and The Hurricanes were sent to Bell Studios, New York. It was one of the city’s finest studios. That’s where Red River Rock was recorded. It became Johnny and The Hurricanes’ sophomore single.

Red River Rock was released later in 1959.reached number twenty-five in the US Billboard 100 and US R&B charts. Over the Atlantic, Red River Rock reached number three in Britain. Little did Johnny and The Hurricanes realise it, but Red River Rock was Johnny and The Hurricanes’ biggest selling single. This was proving to be a somewhat bittersweet success. 

There was a controversy about who wrote Red River Rock? T.J. Fowler cowrote Crossfire, Johnny and The Hurricanes’ debut single. However, he was under contract to Fred Mendelson. So, to avoid an expensive writ, Fred received a share of Red River Rock’s royalties. Meanwhile, all wasn’t well within the band.

Johnny and The Hurricanes had embarked upon a tour after the release of Red River Rock. They got as far as Indiana, when Tony Kaye quit. That’s when Don Staczek got the call to rejoin Johnny and The Hurricanes. There was a problem though. Don was in a new band. He couldn’t rejoin Johnny and The Hurricanes for another week. 

Meanwhile, Bill Savich was drafted in to play drums. Then Don rejoined, just in time to  play a few live dates, and then the Dick Clark and Alan Freed television shows. Don even played on some of the tracks for Johnny and The Hurricanes’ debut album, Beatnick Fly. The sessions were hard going. Johnny and The Hurricanes were packed into a small studio, and had to do countless takes of the tracks. Thunderbolt, took twenty-three takes. Throughout the recording, Don gave his all. However, he was in for a shock.

After playing on the album tracks at Bell Studio, Don Savich played a few more live dates. The tour ended in Toledo, Ohio. Once the show was over, and Don was packing up his drums, he was unceremoniously sacked by Johhny. 

Unbeknown to Don, Bill Savich was due to join as Johnny and The Hurricanes’ new drummer. For Don, this came as a huge blow. Johnny and The Hurricanes’ debut album Beatnick Fly was just about to be released. Don never received any royalties, never mind any promotional copies of the album. Johnny Paris it seemed, was ruling his group with an iron fist. However, the success kept on coming.

Reveille Rock would become Johnny and The Hurricanes’ third single. It was released late in 1959, reaching number twenty-five in the US Billboard 100 and number seventeen in the US R&B charts. Over the Atlantic, Reveille Rock reached number fourteen in Britain. This meant Johnny and The Hurricanes had enjoyed three singles in America, and two in Britain. With a new decade about to dawn, would Johnny and The Hurricanes take the sixties by storm?

As the sixties dawned, Johnny and The Hurricanes embarked upon the six week The Biggest Show Of Stars Show. For the next six weeks, Johnny and The Hurricanes rubbed shoulders with Frankie Avalon, The Shadows, The Isley Brothers, Clyde McPhatter and Bobby Rydell. For Johnny and The Hurricanes this was a huge learning experience. After the tour, Johnny and The Hurricanes released the first of five singles during 1960. 

Their first single of 1960, was Beatnik Fly, which reached number fifteen in the US Billboard 100 and number eight in Britain. Beatnik Fly was the final single Johnny and The Hurricanes released on Warwick Records. Ironically, that was as good as it got for Johnny and The Hurricanes.

It was downhill all the way after Beatnik Fly. Down Yonder was Johnny and The Hurricanes’ first single for Big Top Records. It stalled at number forty-eight in the US Billboard 100, but reached number eight in Britain. Revival sneaked briefly into the US Billboard at number ninety-seven. Rocking Goose fared better, reaching number sixty in the US Billboard 100, but reached number three in Britain. By then, Bill Savich had left Johnny and The Hurricanes. 

For some time, Bill was getting tired of the continual touring. What didn’t help was the way Johnny conducted himself. Eventually, things came to a head. Luckily, Bill got the opportunity to join Joe Coe and The Gigoloes. Their former drummer Lynn Cole joined Johnny and The Hurricanes, and played on their final single of 1960, You Are My Sunshine.

Before the recording of You Are My Sunshine, Harry Balk decided to add string and horn players. The session players that played on You Are My Sunshine were vastly experienced. Johnny and The Hurricanes were still teenagers. They were in the studio with veteran professional musicians. So, it’s no surprise that some of Johnny and The Hurricanes were slightly nervous. Despite this, the You Are Mt Sunshine session went well. Sadly, the single stalled at number ninety-one in the US Billboard 100. 1960 had been a roller coaster year for Johnny and The Hurricanes. 1961 didn’t get any better.

Ja-Da was Johnny and The Hurricanes’ first single of 1961. It reached number eighty-six in the US Billboard 100. That proved to be Johnny and The Hurricanes’ last US hit single. They had enjoyed two years of hit singles. Meanwhile, Ja-Da fared better in Britain, reaching number fourteen. So did Old Smokie. While it failed to chart in America, it reached number twenty-four in Britain. That was Johnny and The Hurricanes’ final hit single. 1961 hadn’t been a good year for Johnny and The Hurricanes in more ways then one.

With the hits running dry, all wasn’t well within Johnny and The Hurricanes. Some members of the group tired of Johnny’s arrogance. When introduced to Connie Francis’ father, he blew smoke in Mr. Francis’ face. Other members of the band were shocked. However, Johnny had always in charge. From the early days, he lead the band. Some members joked that he was a dictator. Now that the hits had run dry, it was no longer a laughing matter. 

Dave Yorko left in July 1961. A couple of weeks later, Lionel Mattice left. This left Paul Tesluk as the only other original member of Johnny and The Hurricanes. He left shortly afterwards. Not long after this Lynn Cole quit. That was the end of an era. However, it wasn’t the end of Johnny and The Hurricanes.

New lineups of Johnny and The Hurricanes continued to release singles through the sixties, and into the seventies. Similarly, Johnny and The Hurricanes played live for the next four decades. While they were still a popular draw live, Johnny and The Hurricanes

never again enjoyed the commercial success that original and classic lineup of Johnny and The Hurricanes enjoyed between 1959 and 1961.  That was Johnny and The Hurricanes’ golden age. However, there’s more to the Johnny and The Hurricanes than three years of music.

Hurricane Force-Rare and Unissued, which was released by Ace Records on 27th April 2015, is proof of this. This two disc, fifty-two track compilation features a disc of studio recordings, and a disc of live tracks. There’s rarities aplenty on Hurricane Force-Rare and Unissued.

Disc One.

Disc one of Hurricane Force-Rare and Unissued, features twenty-six tracks. This includes a trio of tracks from 1967. They’re among the highlights of disc one. The Psychedelic Worm, which opens disc one, is one of the best tracks from the new lineup of Johnny and The Hurricanes. Their cover of The Beatles’ Because I Love Her and Judy’s Moody see Johnny and The Hurricanes try to become America’s answer to The Beatles. While this didn’t transform their fortunes, it shows that Johnny and The Hurricanes weren’t going to stand still.

That was the case with the other members of the original lineup of Johnny and The Hurricanes. This includes The Fascinators, which features Dave Yorko, Paul Tesluk, Lionel Mattice and Lynn Bruce. Back in Toledo, they became The Fascinators. Tracks like 

You’re To Blame, Survived and The Charmer show that they were a group who should’ve reached greater heights. That’s also the case with Dave and The Orbits, contribute Cheetah’s Uncle and Chilli Beans. Sadly, these bands didn’t enjoy the longevity or success of Johnny and The Hurricanes.

Twenty-six years after the original lineup of Johnny and The Hurricanes split-up, a new lineup was still recording new music. This includes Home Baby and Strange and from a 1987 album. Twelve years later, and Johnny and The Hurricanes are still going strong. Ten Little Indians is a track from a  CD released on Repertoire in 1999. However, what will really interest fans of Johnny and The Hurricanes are the unreleased tracks.

Among the unreleased tracks on disc one are Hurricane Force-Rare and Unissued are Home Baby and Night Train. Then there’s Cannon Blast, Um Um Um, Jamaican Moon and Sax Man. Alternate versions include Rockin’ T and Sand Storm. These tracks have never been released before and are a reminder of what Johnny and The Hurricanes in full flight, sounds like.

We hear another side to Johnny and The Hurricanes when they’re accompanying other artists from the Artists Inc. agency. This includes Freddie and The Parliaments and The Dream Girls. The Freddie and The Parliaments tracks chosen, are That Girl and Darlene. Crying In The Night is the only track from The Dream Girls included. However, it’s a very welcome inclusion to disc one of Hurricane Force-Rare and Unissued. What about disc two?

Disc Two.

On disc two of Hurricane Force-Rare and Unissued, there’s twenty-six tracks from Johnny and The Hurricanes. They were recorded between 1962 and 1990. This means that several lineups of Johnny and The Hurricanes feature. Sadly, there’s no tracks from the original, and classic lineup of Johnny and The Hurricanes. At least all their best known tracks are there.

This includes all the singles. From Crossfire, Red River Rock, Reveille Rock and Beatnik Fly, right through to Down Yonder, Rocking Goose, You Are My Sunshine, Ja-Da and Old Smokie. Other highlights include Honky Tonk, Come On Train, The Hurricane and Sand Storm. These tracks feature various lineups of Johnny and The Hurricanes rolling back the years, as they combine their unique blend of rock ’n’ roll and surf. 

For  forty-eight years, Johnny and The Hurricanes, with its various lineups, proved a popular draw. Even after the classic lineup of Johnny and The Hurricanes split-up, the group carried on. Johnny Paris drafted in around three hundred musicians over the next four decades. It was as if his motto was “the show must go on.” Go on it did.

Right through the rest of the sixties, into the seventies, Johnny and The Hurricanes continued to release singles and albums. Once they stopped releasing singles so regularly, Johnny and The Hurricanes continued to release albums. Sadly, never again did the original members of Johnny and The Hurricanes record with Johnny.

They came close. In 1991, Johnny tried to get the original band back together. By then, Johnny was living in Germany. Dave Yorko flew to Germany, but sadly, Johnny couldn’t interest a record label. His time had passed.

Despite this, Johnny and The Hurricanes continued to play live. Right through until six months before his death on Mayday 2006, Johnny and The Hurricanes were playing live. By then, Johnny and The Hurricanes had received the recognition they so richly deserved. 

For some time, Johnny and The Hurricanes’ role in the history of rock ’n’ roll was overlooked by some. Gradually, though, critics and cultural commentators recognised the part that Johnny and The Hurricanes played. They were a pioneering band, whose genre-melting music was way ahead of its time. That’s why several generations of musicians have been influenced by Johnny and The Hurricanes. Even to this day, a new generation of musicians cite Johnny and The Hurricanes an influence. So, it’s fitting that Ace Records will release the Johnny and The Hurricanes’ compilation, Hurricane Force-Rare and Unissued on 27th April 2015. Hurricane Force-Rare and Unissued, is a reminder of Johnny and The Hurricanes, the long lamented, musical pioneers.









  1. Pauline

    Thank you for all the detail in this article! I am curious, do you know what year the second picture listed was taken? Just wondering if it is a picture of all the original members?

    • Hi Pauline,

      Thanks for your comment and I’m glad that you liked the article. I’ll try and find out when the photo was taken and if it features the all the original band members. Leave it with me.

      Kind Regards,

    • Klaus

      Hi Pauline,
      we see Lynn Bruce , the bus with Bigtop. The photo must taken 1960/1961.

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