Johnny and the Hurricanes were an instrumental rock and roll band hailing from Ohio. They were particularly active during the 50s and 60s music scene. When they started out in 1958, they were billed as The Orbits. They scored a hit with “Red River Rock” and other instrumental smashes. They mixed the rock and roll beat with old, traditional harmonies that clicked with the audiences at that time. The Beatles, then a little-known group, once opened for the Hurricanes when they performed at Star Club in Hamburg, Germany. Until 2005, the group continued touring, particularly around Europe. Founder, leader and saxophonist Johnny Paris died the following year.
Johnnie and the Hurricanes’ early years
Initially starting as school mates, American instrumental rock and roll band Johnny and the Hurricanes formed in Toledo, Ohio in 1957. The band was led by saxophonist Johnny Paris (John Pocisk, b. 1940 – d. May 1, 2006) and had played in some recordings with a local rockabilly singer Mack Vickery in their early years.
Johnny and the Hurricanes’ heyday and disbandment
Now called Johnny and the Hurricanes, the band started to get attention by numerous record executives and eventually were signed to Twirl Records in 1959. Their first single on Twirl called “Crossfire” was recorded inside a vacant cinema to achieve an echo effect. It later became a big hit nationwide, peaking at #23 on the pop chart.
In the summer of 1959, a bigger success came in with their sophomore single “Red River Rock.” Released on Warwick Records, the instrumental version of “Red River Valley” peaked at #5 in the US while it was #3 on the U.K. charts and sold over a million copies. “Red River Rock” was also followed by two old tunes which were made into rock and roll pieces and became nationwide hits as well: “Reveille” as “Reveille Rock” and “Blue Tail Fly” as “Beatnik Fly.” The former peaked at #15 while the latter reached #25 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In the summer of 1960, the band switched to Big Top Records where they issued “Down Yonder,” “Rocking Goose,” “Revival” and “You Are My Sunshine.” But unfortunately all of these singles made no significant impression on the pop chart.
Johnny and the Hurricanes embarked on a European tour in 1962. During the course of their tour, a then-little-known band called the Beatles opened for them on their gig at Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany. Between 1963 to 1964, they jumped from label to label with little success. With only Paris as the remaining original Hurricane, they recorded their last singles on Mala Records in 1965 and continued to tour across Europe and the U.S. In Paris’ remaining years, he was still engaged on touring occasionally, mostly in Europe up to 2005. A year later, Paris died due to hospital-borne infections after undergoing surgery. He was 66 years old.