Born William R. Savich, 2 August 1939, Michigan
Died 4 January 2002, Simi Valley, Ventura, California Bill Savich was the drummer of the Royaltones (1958-59) and then Johnny and the Hurricanes (1959-63). Since I have not been able to find the exact date of birth of Johnny Paris, I will use Savich as an excuse to include Johnny and the Hurricanes in this feature.

The Royaltones were an R&R instrumental group from Dearborn, Michigan, led by guitarist David ("Bob") Sanderson. They had a # 17 hit with the excellent "Poor Boy" in 1958. The follow-up "See-Saw"/ "Little Bo" (Jubilee 5362) was almost as good, but inexplicably failed to chart. "Little Bo" is a significant track , in being - rarely for this pre-Sandy Nelson era - largely a rock drumming showcase for Bill Savich, who got his nickname from it. More about the Royaltones when we get to the late Bob Sanderson in November.

Along with Duane Eddy and the Champs, Johnny and the Hurricanes were the principal act to put instrumental rock 'n' roll on the chart map. The group was formed by tenor saxophonist Johnny Paris (born John Pocisk, 1940, Walbridge, Ohio) in 1957, at his high school in Toledo, Ohio. When they recorded their first single, "Crossfire", in February 1959, the group was still called the Orbits, but the record was released by Warwick Records under the name Johnny and the Hurricanes and shot to # 23 on the Billboard charts. "Crossfire" was different to most of their subsequent singles, with guitar (Dave Yorko) and sax (Johnny Paris) the predominant instruments. It was their second single, "Red River Rock" (adapted from the cowboy song "Red River Valley") that set the typical pattern for Johnny and the Hurricanes releases, with a prominent role for Paul Tesluk's hammond organ. Their only million seller, this record was their biggest US hit, peaking at # 5, and scored in many other countries all over the world (peak position in the UK was # 3). By the time they recorded their third single, "Reveille Rock" (September 1959), Bill Savich had joined the group. The drummer on their first LP is Don Staczek, with the exception of "Crossfire" and "Lazy", where Tony Kaye occupied the spot behind the drum kit. The fifth member was Lionel "Butch" Mattice, the bass player. The boys acquired a Volkswagen bus, pictured on the cover of their first album, which transported them around the country from gig to gig. Further hits followed : Beatnik Fly, Down Yonder (these two had exceptionally good B-sides in the shape of "Sand Storm and "Sheba"), Rocking Goose, but then the quality and the chart success began to go downhill. "High Voltage"/"Old Smokie" (1961) was another strong coupling, but flopped in the US, though it did achieve chart status in the UK, where they were even more popular than in their home country. But even there it was their chart swan song, in spite of later quality singles like "Salvation", "The Sheik Of Araby" (which wasn't even released in the UK) and "Du, Du Liegst Mir Im Herzen" (for the German market, released on the Heliodor label). In 1963, an entirely new group of Johnny Paris-led Hurricanes toured the UK, comprising Eddie Wagenfield (organ), Billy Marsh (guitar), Bobby Cantrell (bass) and Jay Drake (drums). By this time, however, their instru- mental sound was becoming anachronistic and they were soon consumed by the beat boom, which swept the UK and USA. The group tried to adapt by growing Beatle haircuts and by recording a live LP at the Star Club in Hamburg, but all to no avail. At a time when instrumental remakes were all the rage (Walk Don't Run '64, Raunchy '65, Teen Beat '65), my good buddy Henk Gorter suggested to Johnny Paris that he would have another go at "Red River Rock". Allegedly, "Red River Rock '67"/"The Psychedelic Worm" was recorded for Johnny's own Atila label, but never released. Johnny still plays and has probably gone through about 300 musicians by now, all Hurricanes. After his career in music, Bill Savich had a job at Crown Packing Company in Detroit, where his father was the manager of the plant. He died early last year from cancer.

Website: CD recommendations : Those who want it all are advised to look out for the three Repertoire CD's : Red River Rock (REP 4739), Stormsville (REP 4740) and The Big Sound of Johnny and the Hurricanes (REP 4741). The original LP's, digitally remastered and all with 10 or more bonus tracks. The Charly 2 CD-set "The Definitive Johnny and the Hurricanes" from 1996 is marred by incompleteness, varying sound quality and defective liner notes by Adam Komorowski. But there are also several good single-CD compilations, like "The EP Collection" on See For Miles.

These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
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please contact Dik de Heer at

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