When I was growing up in Winnipeg, I played in a few bands along with the likes of Burton Cummings of The Guess Who, Randy Bachman of BTO, and the legendary Neil Young. At first, though, I started out with a vocal group in Transcona called Shayne and The Devines. However, not being much of a singer, I began recruiting some pretty good players like Pete Proskurnik on sax, Gordy Duke on drums, Rolly Blaquiere on bass, his brother Lawrence on piano, and we became The Rebel Raiders. (see below left)Then after the realizing that our name was a little too southern for a northern band, we changed it to The Phantoms. (see the Phantoms below middle) The Phantoms were a great band, but because we partied too much so to get a fresh start, we morphed into The Jury.
When we lost our singer Donny Burns to Toronto, (see below right) we decided to cut a demo tape of our new sound that was good enough to send to the local dance promoters. Luckily two of CKY’s big Dee-Jays, Daryl ‘B’ and Chuck Dann had offered to help. We’d recruited Bruce Walker as our new singer, but because he was still a few more rehearsals away from being ready, we were only there to cut some instrumentals like “Not Guilty.”
While we were waiting for Chuck and Daryl to set up, Bruce asked Terry and me to help him finish up a song he was writing called “Until You Do.” After doing so, we planned to tack it on the end of the session if time allowed.
We’d gone into that session sounding like the Phantoms, but when we came out of it as The Jury with a whole new sound. The weird part about my recording career is that I can remember every detail of that recording session, but very little of the ones that followed. When Hal Ross of London Records heard, “Until You Do,” he said those memorable words that I’ll never forget, “Hell I’ll release that,” and just like that, we became London Recording Artists.
However, the best part was while getting ready to leave home for a gig a box of our record showed up, so we dropped a few off at CKY on our way out of town. As we left the outskirts of Winnipeg behind, all of a sudden we heard Jimmy Darin say, “Here’s a CKY exclusive” and he played “Until You Do” and we almost blew the speakers out of the car. The only way to explain what it feels like to hear your record on the air for the first time was that it was better than sex.
When “Until You Do” started to slip down the charts, back into the studio we went and recorded my personal favorite, “I Tried To Tell Her.”
When we recorded “Back In My World” everything was changing, and before long, so would we.
When “Back In My World” fell off the charts, we decided not only to change recording studios but record companies and our look. When we recorded “Please Forget Her” in Minneapolis, it became the #1 Canadian record in Canada which got us an American release on Port.
On the flip side of “Please Forget her was a tune called “Who Dat?” which was a very different sound for us. It became a cult favorite that was even covered by a punk band some twenty-five years later, and a recent magazine article claimed that “Who Dat?” was fifty years ahead of its time.
Playing with The Jury was a wonderful experience, but I turned out to be much better at radio. I was so busy doing radio that I never thought about my band days much, but when I got the call twenty years later that John Einarson, the author of the book “Shakin’ All Over,” was putting a sixties band reunion together, I must admit that I got very excited.
I hadn’t seen my bandmates since I left the band, so I was looking forward to our own reunion at the 60’s reunion thing which was being held at the Winnipeg Convention Center. Not only was the event sold out, but it was also being shown on TV. Hey, when you’ve got Neil, Randy, and Burton on stage together, TV is always there.
The whole night was mind-boggling, but what I’m happiest about is that we’re all still alive. Although I must admit that our look has changed somewhat as you can see in the pictures from the reunion below.
The story of making records and playing with the likes of #NeilYoung, #RandyBachman, and #BurtonCummings is above. For a sneak peek at upcoming Geo’s Media Blogs go to GeorgeJohns.com. On Twitter@GeoOfTheRadio. Sharing and commenting is appreciated.