Johnny and the Hurricanes, the most popular band to come out of Toledo’s ’50s and ’60s rock ‘n’ roll scene, started like most bands — a bunch of kids having fun.
“We just went to school together,” said Paul Tesluck, the band’s original organ player, who now lives in Florida. “We were just musician friends; we were in a high school band.”
Tesluck said the band started out playing dance music, “then rock ‘n’ roll came along.”
“We got rid of the music stands, and instead of suits we put on black shoes, black shirts, black pants and called ourselves the Black Cats.”
Toledo loved the Black Cats so much, venues would book them months in advance. When the members became seniors in high school, they changed their name to the Orbits and started playing in night clubs — with a band member’s parent there to supervise, of course.
The band’s big break came when they were asked to play backup for another band trying to get a record contract. As it turned out, that band didn’t get a contract — but the Hurricanes did.
The band quickly rose to fame, touring all over the world and eventually achieving five Top 100 singles, including “Red River Rock.”
Unfortunately, this success eventually meant a turn for the worse, when leader John “Johnny Paris” Pocisk got “too bigheaded with the managers” and started paying the other members union scale. Tesluck was the last to quit.
Tesluck remembers Johnny calling him after he quit, asking him to play organ with him in Europe at a show The Beatles were opening for them. Tesluck declined.
Ray Whelan, who joined the Hurricanes after the original band broke up, said he understands why the others left.
“I got along with [Johnny] OK,” Whelan said. “But the thing is he was very dictatorial … it was his band, and I think those guys like Paul and them, they more or less started as a group, so I think they thought of themselves as more or less equal partners.”
Tesluck and the band’s original drummer formed their own band called the Fascinators, of which Tesluck was the leader.
“Everybody said if I would’ve been the leader of the [Hurricanes] the band would’ve been different because I’m more passionate. When I formed The Fascinators, that was my thing; every single guy in my band always got paid what I got paid.”
However, Tesluck said he has no hard feelings against Johnny, who died in 2006.
“John, his ego got control of him and it’s too bad,” Tesluck said. “Really, I feel sorry for him. I’m a religious person, by the way. I just look at things and I hope that things will be looked upon him in a nice way somewhere down the line.”
While Tesluck never got rich off of the millions of records the Hurricanes sold, he is proud to “raise one whole family on rock ‘n’ roll.”