Tenor saxophonist Johnny Paris formed the group and they became one of the most vibrant of the instrumental rock ‘n’ roll acts of the era. Their unique sound was characterised by the rinky-dink Hammond organ of Paul Tesluk and the rasping sax of Johnny Paris. The line up of the band went through a series of changes from 1957 to 1963. Their first hit ‘Crossfire’ was recorded as The Orbits in February 1959 and signed to Twirl Records, an exciting, reverb-laden dance number written by pianist T.J.Fowler and released on Monty Craft’s newly formed Warwick label. The Orbits by now were renamed Johnny And The Hurricanes and ‘Crossfire’ shot up the American charts for a fourteen week reign peaking at No.23 in Billboard’s pop Hot 100.
‘Crossfire’ was different from subsequent Johnny And The Hurricanes recordings with guitar and rasping sax dominating the front line. It was their follow-up, the riveting ‘Red River Rock’ that introduced the trademark Johnny And The Hurricanes sound featuring Paul Tesluk’s prominent Hammond organ. Don Staczek had replaced drummer Tony Kaye when the band went to New York’s Bell Sound studio to record ‘Red River Rock’ an adaptation of an old folk song ‘Red River Valley’. This was to form a pattern for most of their future releases choosing traditional songs and giving them the rocking Hurricanes treatment. This allowed the label owners Harry Balk and Irving Micahnik to claim composer royalties by putting their songwriters names Ira Mack and Tom King on the label, scooping the publisher’s income through their Vicky Publishing Company.
‘Red River Rock’ was a sensation in the late summer of 1959 entering Billboard’s Hot 100 and reaching No.5 during a seventeen week run on the chart. ‘Red River Rock’ was also a top 5 hit in the U.K., Germany, Sweden, Holland and Australia. On the next hit ‘Reveille Rock’ former Royaltones Bill ‘Little Bo’ Savich took over on drums and it charted in the U.S. during November 1959 and a month later in the U.K.
The band were now taking the show on the road travelling around the country in their Volkswagen bus and also appearing on numerous prestigious shows including Dick Dale’s American Bandstand and The Alan Freed show.
‘Beatnik Fly’ was the band’s last hit on the Warwick label in February 1960, a number 15 hit in the U.S. and a number 8 a month later March in the U.K. In May 1960 Balk and Micahnik moved their licensing arrangements to the Big Top label. ‘Down Yonder’ followed the pattern of a song from the past to get the Hurricanes treatment
and clocking up another Top 50 chart placing in the U.S. And a very respectable No.8 in the U.K. in June 1960 on the London American label. The band’s next big hit was ‘Rocking Goose’ and gave them their biggest hit in the U.K. Peaking at No.3 in September 1960 during a lengthy 20 week run. The instrumental hits continued with ‘You Are My Sunshine’ a U.S. Top 100 hit in December 1960 followed by ‘Ja-Da’ which was their last U.S. Hit in February 1961. ‘Ja-Da’ was also a U.K. Top twenty hit peaking at 14 in March 1961. Their last chart hit in the U.K. Was ‘High Voltage’ and double A side coupled with ‘Old Smokey’ reaching the top 30 in March 1961. ‘High Voltage’ was an adaptation of ‘Stack-O-Lee’ a black folklore standard
An entirely new group of Johnny Paris led Hurricanes were to tour the U.K in 1963 comprising of Eddie Wagenfield (organ), Billy Marsh (guitar), Bobby Cantrall (bass) and Jake Drake (drums). But the time was running out for the rock ‘n’ roll instrumentalist and the beat boom was soon to sweep the U.K. and the U.S.A. The group temporarily moved to Hamburg, where they held a residency at The Star Club, topping the bill over the The Beatles and King Size Taylor And The Dominoes. Various line-ups of Johnny And The Hurricanes continued for live performances and cabaret.