Maybe it was time to grow up
and be a man
But I still sorta miss
being a kid in a rock&roll band.
Getting ready to hit the road, the postman dropped off a box of our first release, “Until You Do.” We had to go right by CKY on our way out of town, so I dropped off a few for Jimmy Darin and the rest of the KY Good Guys. With Winnipeg in our rear view mirror all of a sudden we hear Jimmy Darin say, “Ladies and Gentleman, a KY exclusive Until You Do by The Jury.” We almost blew the speakers out of the car radio when we cranked it up and sang along.
There’s no way to describe the feeling you get when you first hear your record on the radio other than to say that it may better than sex. I would venture a guess that even the biggest recording stars in the world can tell you what they were doing when they first heard theirs.
I used to sit in my room for hours practicing my guitar and dreaming about that moment. I mistakenly thought that when you had a record out; you became a member of a very exclusive club. Your only problems were trying to figure out what you were gonna buy next. Unfortunately, dreams and reality have little in common.It was while doing a short tour with Ral Donner, Troy Shondel, and Ernie Maresca that I began to realize that the music world had a tier system. It was after our last show in Regina while we were all sitting around Ral’s room having a beer, when the light began to come on.Ral was telling us how excited he was about seeing Bobby Darin at the “Copa” the next night in Chicago. That’s when it began to dawn on me that all stars are not created equal. I could tell that Ral didn’t think that he was in Bobby Darin’s league just as Bobby probably didn’t think he was equal to Sinatra. Thinking about this for a few years now I’ve finally come up with how I think the system works.
You have to imagine a pyramid with seven levels. At the very top, you have the legends like Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, Michael Jackson, Elton John, etc. One floor down is all the HOF artists like Neil Young, Rod Stewart, Johnny Cash, Dion, Roy Orbison, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, the Beach Boys, Chicago, and Bobby Darin, although Neil by now has probably moved up to the legend level. On level #5 you have The Guess Who, BTO, Burton Cummings, Freddy Cannon, Tommy Roe, Bobby Vee, Bruno Mars, The Moody Blues, Ral Donner, Del Shannon, Maroon 5, only to mention a few. One floor below is where you find all the local groups (Winnipeg) who have records out like the Devrons, the Galaxies, the Jury, the Quid, the Shondells, Sugar & Spice, the Fifth and many others. Level #3 is full of the hopefuls, you know the acts who deserve to be signed but for whatever reason aren’t yet. Level #2 contains the folks who’ve just learned how to play Louie Louie on their guitar or whatever the entry level tune is today and are thinking about starting a band. On the first level, you have your dreamers; these are the people who are considering buying a guitar just as I did many years before after seeing Elvis on TV for the first time. The reality of the situation is that there is no money until you get at least to level #5.Even though “Until You Do” did well it didn’t change our lives so we were anxious to get back in the studio to record our new tune, “I Tried To Tell Her” hoping that it would move us one step closer to stardom. Unfortunately, the only thing rising faster though than our records on the charts were our expenses and oh yeah where the f**k was the call from Dick Clark inviting us to appear on American Bandstand. When “I Tried To Tell Her” slipped off the charts back into the studio we go to cut “Back In My World” but once again nothing much changed except for our frustration which was now causing some tension within the band.
Ok. let’s give it one last big push. We booked Kay-Bank studios in Minneapolis plus change record companies hoping that maybe a smaller label would have more time to promote us. Out of our Kay- Bank session came “Please Forget Her” which went on to become the #1 Canadian record in Canada backed with, “Who Dat?” which became a cult favorite and was listed in a recent publication as being 50 years ahead of its time. I also saw it on E-Bay the other day for $125.00, where the hell is that box of them I used to have? Would you like the American or Canadian version of that sir?
Before every performance, I used to get butterflies in my stomach, and when those began to disappear, I knew my band days were numbered. It was still fun opening for legends like Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash, but I had to laugh after seeing the movie “I Walk The Line.” The movie portrayed June Carter as rather saintly and the one who straightened Johnny out which may be true but the saintly part, not so much.
After opening the show, I was standing on the side of the stage along with the Statler Brothers watching Mother Maybelle and the Carter Family perform. The way the Johnny Cash Review worked was after we opened then Mother Maybelle came on to do a few tunes followed by the Statler’s and when Johnny came out they all stayed out there to sing backup. While standing there, it became very obvious that the Statler Brothers were very upset and were bitching about how much things had changed since June who sang with the Carter family had moved into Johnny’s suite. According to them, shortly after that move down the hall, she’d appointed herself the leader of the band, and I guess the Statlers didn’t appreciate being told by a backup singer how they should sing. In fact were using the “C” word to not so affectionately describe her.
I must have been destined
to be a radio guy
And most of what I do
I learned at old CKY.
Had a boss named Jimmy
who let me run
And to this day
I’m still having fun.
To play or not to play that was the burning question which may have been answered the night I was having my birthday dinner with my parents and my wife, Lana. During dinner, Lana went into labor, so it was off to St. Boniface Hospital we go where upon our arrival I’m relegated to the waiting room. In those days expectant fathers weren’t allowed in the birthing rooms so as I waited and waited and waited I was getting very excited about the arrival of my son Curtis. I’d put a plan together listing all the stuff we were gonna do, and my only question about it all was how old should he be before I first take him to see the Blue Bombers. After what already seemed like forever they said that it looked like it was gonna be a long night, so they suggested I leave and check back in every hour or so.
Thankfully Jim Coghill from CKY lived nearby so invited me over for a few tastes. We had a great time sitting around toasting the pending arrival of my son whom I continued checking in about with the hospital. Finally told me that it was getting close so I should return but when I got back there it turned out to be a false alarm. Time to head back to the waiting room to grab a little nap and while lying there I was thinking about how much CKY had changed since Jimmy Darin and all the Americans had left.
I guess I lucked out by getting into radio when I did because I got to learn the exciting American style of radio from the likes of Jimmy Darin, Chuck Riley, Gary Todd and Dean Scott.(pictured above with the Everly Brothers).
From almost my first day in radio, my boss Jimmy Darin (pictured) took me under his wing. He challenged me with all kinds of projects which quickly brought me up to speed, and one of the more memorable ones was producing a Sunday night show called “Ask The Pastor.” Ask The Pastor was like a Dear Abby show but with a religious twist and was very popular but Jim thought with my help it could become even bigger with.
He explained at our first meeting about the show that a few people only listened to the show so they could call the Pastor up and “punk” him. They’d begin with a sob story about how losing their girlfriend and needed his help to get her back. When he would begin to offer up his advice they’d interrupt him and say … No, no no, here’s what I think she really needs and go into a long filthy tirade. Ahhh I said, I get it, you want me to anticipate which of the callers are those people and have my hand on the trigger so I can take ’em out. Not so fast squirrel Jim says! You and I are in programming and programming is about getting ratings, and the way you get ratings is by giving the people what they want. What they want is for you to leave that filthy caller on the air for as long as possible, so your job is to fade the phone down as slowly as humanly possible. The slower the phone goes down, the faster the ratings will go up.
Jim who is now a radio station owner denies to this day denies that his meeting with me about that show ever took place. Right, Jimmy!
Meanwhile, back in the waiting room where I must have dozed off, I’m startled awake by somebody calling my name. As I sit up and shake the cobwebs out, I notice that the person who is saying my name a is a nurse who is holding what looks like a wee alien in her arms. It’s covered with a slimy goop, and its head appears to be a little misshapen, and while still trying to clear my head I hear her say, congratulations Mr. Johns you are now the proud Father of a… and this is where it gets a little fuzzy. I remember at the time thinking that the way she said son was weird until I realized that she hadn’t said son at all, she said daughter. A daughter! What the hell do you do with them???