JAIMIE VERNON – ONE FINE MORNING WITH SKIP PROKOP


Jaimie Vernon_Viletones Sometimes stuff just falls into your lap. Some call it luck. Some call it Karma. I’ve always thought of it as a birthday present from a distant relative halfway around the world who chose to send the parcel by cargo ship rather than airmail. Better late than never.
Quinton_IPO And so it was in October 2012 that I received a phone call from my old musical friend David Quinton-Steinberg – entertainment lawyer by day/punk rocker by night – who thought I might be interested in working with a crusty old Canadian rock star looking to co-write his biography. But he wouldn’t tell me who it was. I had to say yes first, then he’d put the two of us together to see if we could get along.

Travels_With_My_Amp_COVERI had worked on Greg Godovitz’s “Travels With My Amp” in 1999 – editing and financing it to make it into the greatest rock biography best-seller that never made the best seller list. Chalk that up to Goddo fans being loyal and generous to a fault and the book retail business being a complete train wreck. When I got David’s call I had just released “The Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia” Volume One and was frantically editing Volume Two for an early 2013 release.

Hawkins_promo2David was throwing me a lifeline and I was all over the idea mostly because I was grossly underemployed and my sole source of revenue at that time was the Encyclopedias. But who could this crusty old rock star be? David Clayton-Thomas? Gordon Lightfoot? Ronnie Hawkins? I’d had interactions with all three over the last 20 years but I’m not sure invoking my name would ring a bell with any of them; though Hawkins does know me by sight as we’d flirted with signing a record deal together during my first go ‘round with Bullseye Records.

277227_origHis client gave David the go ahead to introduce us and I waited one night by the phone for the call. It was a long-distance ring-ring…ring-ring. I looked at the call display. It said SKIP PROKOP. Are you fucking kidding me? Ring-ring….ring-ring. This guy’s a legend. Possibly THE greatest drummer in Canadian history – and Neil Peart has even said so. Ring-ring…ring-ring. What the hell am I going to say to the guy from Lighthouse and The Paupers? The guy that wrote “One Fine Morning” and “Sunny Days”? What is he expecting from me? Please hold, Jaimie’s therapist is on Line 2….
Skip AfterMe: “Hello?”
Skip: “Hey, man. Is this Jaimie? This is Skip Prokop.”
As if the Sarah Desert had blown a bucket of sand into my throat and sucked all the moisture out of my mouth I squeaked out a “Yep. Speaking to him…”
Skip: “Seems we have a mutual friend in David Steinberg and he speaks very highly of you. I’m looking to write my life story and he thinks you’re the right guy to help me.”

We spoke several times over the phone hashing out how we would tell his story and the mechanism to capture it. Enter Todd Miller. Todd was a frequent musical collaborator of mine and I indirectly helped him launch his online radio station Radio That Doesn’t Suck many years before. The Todd Miller RTDSperk of the station was his wonderful and cosy demo studio in the basement of his house with a pro recording set up. A plan was hatched to record Skip and I in casual Q & A sessions which could be transcribed for the book project and possibly podcast later or even released as an audio book.

In early November Skip had mailed me a book outline he had attempted before. Once upon a time you could go to publishing companies, talk up the people there and pitch them on a book idea.

Printed money

A bidding war would ensue between competing publishers and eventually the high bidder would hand you a large cash advance believing they could make tons of money off your story. You’d spend a year or two tapping out a manuscript, it would become a best seller, and they’d soon beg you for a sequel.

PaupersMuch like those vaunted and legendary million dollar recording contracts of yore, publishing deals don’t happen that way anymore. Skip wasn’t aware of this. He believed that his rejection by the publishers was based on them not believing he had a story to sell and so he abandoned the idea all together. David Quinton-Steinberg and others had convinced him that his story was worth telling and that others would love to read it. To that end I was the designated driver.

AlbumsI read through his notes. The introduction had already been written. It was a heart-rending confessional about how his life had spiraled out of control from years of substance abuse as a touring/recording musician and from his vantage point inside a rehab centre – two weeks before 9/11 – it was time get his collective shit together or punch the clock permanently. It contained the hook of the book: redemption.

I phoned him and told him we needed to leap off from there. Rewind the clock and tell his story from humble beginnings as Ronn Prokop, the son of a working class Hamilton, Ontario family, who perfected his drumming skills as a champion Drum Corp performer right through to his rise as one of the greatest rock drummers of the Boomer generation for Lighthouse.

Ronn Prokop Optimist Club

The story would lead to his stint in rehab. The epilogue would be his comeback after that – which I was, fortunately, going to witness first hand.
Skip_jaimie_March9_2013_TODD MILLER photoThe first interview recording session was November 17, 2012. Todd had the recording gear ready to go. I had my first sets of questions written out. We were going to start at the beginning. I wanted Skip to talk about his family and what it was like growing up at the dawn of Rock and Roll.
Skip arrived punctually with his beautiful wife, Tracy, and quick introductions were made. We got along like a house on fire. Skip and I had crossed paths on several occasions in the past but had never been formally introduced. Lighthouse had played at two fundraisers Bullseye had been involved with back in the 2000s. I knew Skip only by reputation – as a hard-ass.

Skip and Jaimie_cropTurns out he is anything but. The sessions continued through to the end of 2012 with both of us getting more comfortable. Skip’s answers became more confessional. The stories became more insightful and brutally honest. We were getting to the meat of his story. It was apparent from the beginning that he wasn’t sure anyone would care about the life he had led. Often his anecdotes were preceded by “no one’s going to believe this but it’s the honest to God truth.” I believe him. And I think the readers are going to believe him when this thing hits the ground.

The key here is when. When will it be released? Those first sessions at Todd’s were four years ago. For convenience we moved the recording sessions to Skip’s son Jamie’s IAM Studio in Brantford which allowed Skip to meet Todd and I halfway from his place near London, Ontario. That was in early January 2013. My life took a quick turn when real-life required I make money or get evicted from our house. I took a job with a car carrier company at a rail yard in late February 2013.
Filmore East_March 13_1970 Recording sessions with Skip were temporarily suspended as my schedule was turned completely upside down. And then we had a major setback. Skip had a heart attack. We suspended the book for nearly a year while he convalesced. Recording resumed in 2014 and 2015 intermittently and to date we believe we’ve covered all the chapters we need. Skip eventually had to leave Lighthouse as his heart never fully recovered. Jamie has been doing an amazing job taking over the drum seat in the band. Skip’s goal now is to see the book get completed and start a new phase of his life that involves his continuation with his church ministries.

To that end we’ve finally launched a crowd funding campaign. One that allows us both to keep roofs over our heads while we transcribe, edit and assemble what is going to be one hell of a story. Here’s the blurb:

McBride_Hoffert_Prokop_Phil Sheridan (John Rowlands)This is the story of singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Skip Prokop’s rise to fame as a member of celebrated Yorkville Village four-piece The Paupers and internationally renowned jazz rock ensemble Lighthouse.

Take a 65 year journey with the man who penned the Top-20 hits “One Fine Morning”, “Sunny Days”, and “Pretty Lady” and rubbed shoulders with some of popular music’s greatest stars: Jefferson Airplane, Richie Havens, Rick James, Neil Young, Linda McCartney, Steve Miller, Carlos Santana, Mike Bloomfield, Burton Cummings, Al Kooper, Bobby Colomby, Yal Zanovsky and the Lovin’ Spoonful, David Clayton-Thomas, The Mandala, Steppenwolf, Mama Cass, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Duke Ellington, Sly & The tumblr_mcbrehxFcD1qj5lnio1_1280Family Stone, Jimmy Ienner, Peter Paul & Mary, John Denver, Cream, Brian Jones and The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, BB King, The Association, Pozo Seco Singers, Dionne Warwick, Johnny Rivers, Mason Williams, Crowbar, The Youngbloods, Procol Harum, Ronnie Hawkins, MC5 plus managers Bernie Finkelstein and Albert Grossman.
Skip details his experiences playing the world’s most famous stages in Toronto (Maple Leaf Gardens, El Patio, Hawk’s Nest), Montreal (Expo ’67), New York (Carnegie Hall, Cafe Au Go Go, Fillmore East, Electric Circus), San Francisco (Fillmore West), Detroit (Grande Ballroom), The Monterey International Pop Festival, The Monterey International Jazz Festival, Isle of Wight, Atlanta International Pop Music Festival, and Japan (Expo ’70).

He also brings us behind the scenes during the eye-opening account of the Chicago riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., his testimony at the House of Commons study into Canadian Content regulations, his solo works, the ground breaking work in East Village Other_May14_1969helping establish World Vision’s mandate, and his devout work with various Christian Ministries including a performance at Riker’s Island Correctional Facility to help inmates.

“One Fine Morning & Sunny Days – The Skip Prokop Story” is the true story of one man’s drive to make a better world through music. It’s a book you shouldn’t miss. https://kapipal.com/projects/skip-prokop-biography-project/

 

Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA

=JV=

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7Jaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ is now available at Amazon.com http://gwntertainment.wix.com/jaimievernon

One Response to “JAIMIE VERNON – ONE FINE MORNING WITH SKIP PROKOP”

  1. brian everett robertson.. Says:

    GREATTT

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