SUNNY DAYS: THE SKIP PROKOP STORY (PART 3) by Jaimie Vernon

Skip Prokop (drums), Bill Misener (guitar vocals), Chuck Beal (guitar), and Denny Gerrard (bass)  formed The Paupers on December 10, 1964. Skip picks up the story from here.

Bill moved to our house in Alderwood (south of the QEW near Browns Line) to stay with us, and he went home on the weekends. We would drive from Alderwood, New Toronto, over to Scarborough and we would practice in Chuck Beal’s basement because we could set up our equipment there. That’s where we really began to put the band together.

I actually think that, chronologically, this was before The Byrds, and I got this idea about what could happen if we had two 12-string guitars. At that time, you couldn’t find a solid body 12-string guitar, so we bought these cheaper acoustic ones with the DeArmond pickups you could put in yourself, and plugged-in. They just had such a big sound, so we based our sound around that. This is when Bill and I wrote “Never Send You Flowers,” and it got us some attention. We got the Jim Burns Double Six string guitars a little later.

FIRST RECORD DEAL

I don’t know how we came to his attention, but we were discovered, as it were, on January 11, 1965 by David Mostoway Productions and Red Leaf Records man and CHUM DJ Duff Roman – whose real name is David Mostoway. I think we’d been together less than a month, and he was really digging “Never Send You Flowers.” He played a tape of one of our rehearsals on his radio show and people were digging it.

After signing with Red Leaf, we recorded at Hallmark Recording Studio – a famous studio on Grenville Street which had four-tracks. At that point, we put together “Never Send You Flowers,” and the B-side “Sooner Than Soon.” I think we also worked on another song called “Free As a Bird.” That was way before the Beatles song!

It was an amazing thing to actually hear yourself in the studio, properly recorded, and then listening to the playback. We were so well rehearsed, and the band was like a machine, so it sounded fantastic.

“NEVER SEND YOU FLOWERS” – THE SINGLE
Red Leaf released the single “Never Send You Flowers” b/w “Sooner Than Soon” across Canada on March 1, 1965 and it started getting airplay in little pockets around the country almost immediately, but some of the programmers were reluctant. You have to remember that this was long before CanCon, and everyone had to fight to get Canadian songs on the radio.

Anybody that had the Beatle suits and the long hair had all these young girls screaming, and crying, and trying to tear their clothes off. It was crazy. Where we got the first break-out was on the Big G. Walters Show on CKEY. We started getting airplay, and Big G would have this ‘Battle of the New Sounds’ competition where we kept knocking other artists off. He’d play the song and would wait for phone responses for votes. More people would phone in saying, “I want this song” or “I want that song.” That’s how Big G would decide who to keep playing.

We had all my relatives and people from all over the place we knew phoning in every night to say, “I want to hear The Paupers” or “I want to hear you play ‘Never Send You Flowers’.” My Dad would call in, and he had this little bit of an accent. So, he would call in and go, “I vant to ‘ear ‘Never Send You Flowers’.” Walters would then put it on.

My Dad would call in and request the song, hang up, then call again, and change up his voice. Then he’d hang up, and he’d do it again, and hang up. He did this every night. About three or four months go by, and we were still getting airplay, and The Paupers are starting to play around and get a little bit of work out of Yorkville Village. We were playing places like Burlington and different events. We had this big barbeque, and by then we had become really good friends with Big G. Walters. So, we asked him to come out to my mom and dad’s house.  I was living with my first wife, Marsha, and my first girl, Shannon who had been born by then, and we were living with them because no one had any money, despite working professionally.

Anyway, at the barbeque, we were all standing around outside talking, having a beer, and my Dad’s working on the barbeque and talking away to Big G. Walters. All of a sudden, Big G says, “Hold it! I just put it together.”

My Dad says, “What did you put together?”
And with this big brogue, he imitates my Dad’s accent and says, “I vant to ‘ear ‘Never Send You Flowers’!” We almost peed our pants.

What I noticed was by the time the song started getting airplay, we started getting calls to play out of town.  Wherever the broadcast area was geographically for CKEY, there were people out there listening and hearing about this group called The Paupers, and a song called “Never Send You Flowers.” Next thing you know, we were getting calls asking if we could play their high school up in Barrie and other places.

We finally got knocked out of the first position on CKEY by Diana Ross & The Supremes. Big G. Walters was probably more responsible for breaking and bringing awareness to the groups that were playing the Village more than anybody.

We also rehearsed for awhile at my parents’ house on Lunness Road in Alderwood (now Etobicoke), and that got crazy. It was really silly in those days. Once the Paupers started to get airplay on CKEY, we got screaming teenies looking in the basement windows, and you couldn’t get in and out of the house. My Dad came home from work one day and said, “What the hell’s going on here?” He’d try and wave them off the driveway so he could pull his car in.



THE ROLLING STONES – Maple Leaf Gardens – April 25, 1965
(photos: Bev Davies]

Now we were in a panic, because we didn’t really have any other songs, and Duff wanted us to play out. After getting signed, we practiced our asses off for months in the basement, so we eventually had a full set of original tunes. I think we did one or two small shows just to test the water, but it was rough, so we just kept practicing.  The radio play from “Never Send You Flowers” also gave us a foot in the door playing for bigger name bands.


That’s when The Paupers opened for The Rolling Stones at Maple Leaf Gardens. It was our third live show. It was all too much. My mind was blown. I gotta tell you, it was still like a dream come true. I’d been there performing at the Hatari Drum Corp Championship with the Optimists Club years before, but this was different. This is where all the hockey greats played, and so many big name artists at the time. And here was a bunch of young kids from Toronto, just starting out, you know, playing on a show with some serious heavy hitters called THE ROLLING STONES!  It was insane.
Everything went really fast after that.

“IF I TOLD MY BABY” – THE SINGLE
On March 31, 1965 we were back in the studio recording what we thought would be a whole album. We did, like, seven more songs, plus the three songs from our first session at Hallmark, which made ten.

Duff wanted us to focus on completing the next single first. It was another song Bill Marion and I wrote called “If I Told My Baby.” The flipside was “Like You Like Me,” which was the first collaboration with Chuck Beal and me.

The single was released on Red Leaf across the country on May 1. It sort of broke through in the East first, I seem to recall. Then Big G at CKEY put it on “The Battle of the New Sounds Show” like he had done before, and we beat out songs by Tom Jones (“It’s Not Unusual”), and Petula Clark (“I Know A Place). It was unreal. From there, it got on the station’s “Wingding Show,” and then went Top 20. We became the hottest band in Toronto, and the gigs got better right away.

EL PATIO – FIRST SHOW
On July 29, we did a show with our friends in the scene at Varsity Stadium in Toronto for the Red Cross, who were trying to get people out to donate blood. It was an all-day show with Jon & Lee & The Checkmates, The Big Town Boys (I can’t remember if the great Shirley Mathews was with them or not), and J.B. & The Playboys from Montreal.

We were pretty versatile in switching up between folk and pop, and we knew lots of cover tunes, so somehow we ended up playing to 20,000 people or more warming up the crowds at the Mariposa Folk Festival (August 6 & 7, 1965).


With Duff acting as label guy, and our manager, he got us what I consider our first, real gig in Yorkville at El Patio. It was a week-long gig, which bands just don’t do in clubs anymore, but it was pretty common back then.  That was August 9th through the 15th, 1965. There would be plenty more where that gig came from.

=JV=

Skip Prokop’s “Sunny Days” is available is available as a 325 page book from Bullseye Publishing
http://gwntertainment.wixsite.com/bullseye-records
Or Amazon
https://www.amazon.com/Sunny-Days-Skip-Prokop-Story/dp/1698098464

Jaimie “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 41 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 24 years. He is also the author of The Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and editor of “Sunny Days: The Skip Prokop Story.” Available through Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Jaimie+Vernon

2 Responses to “SUNNY DAYS: THE SKIP PROKOP STORY (PART 3) by Jaimie Vernon”

  1. Doug Thompson Says:

    Jaimie, Hallmark recording studios were at 22 Sackville Street, not Grenville. Skip was mistaken on that. I attended a few sessions there with Duff Roman. Sadly none of them was The Paupers, although I worked with Bill Misener practically every week in the late 1970’s when he was with the Laurie Bower singers.

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