By Keith Sharp
Skip Prokop, drummer/vocalist with seminal rock/jazz ensemble Lighthouse, passed away Wednesday at the age of 73. Formerly with The Paupers, the Hamilton native , (born Ronald Harry Prokop) went on to be the band leader with Lighthouse in 1968 along with keyboardist Paul Hoffert and guitarist Ralph Cole.
Known as Canada’s answer to Chicago, Lighthouse launched as a 13-piece, rock/funk/jazz group making their debut at Toronto’s Rockpile on May 14th 1969. One of their first gigs was at New York’s Carnegie Hall and they also played Bill Graham’s Fillmore East and Filmore West during that first year. They won the Juno Award for Top Canadian Group three consecutive years in 1972-73 and 74.
After three relatively unsuccessful albums on RCA, Lighthouse finally clicked as a recording group when, after enlisting Bob McBride as lead vocalist, they recorded `One Fine Day’ in 1971 on GRT earning North American radio exposure for the title track (No 24 on the U.S Billboard charts) and enjoyed equal exposure with“Hats Off To The Stranger” They enjoyed further success with “Sunny Days” but when McBride failed to show up for recording sessions for their 1972 release, Can You Feel It”, producer Jimmy Ienner convinced both Prokop and Cole to split the vocals and the album was released with “Pretty Lady” charting as a hit single.
After splitting up in 1976, Lighthouse staged a number of reunions with Prokop also venturing out to be a deejay at CFNY Radio and also formed a Christian rock/funk band called Mercy Train. Prokop, Hoffert and Cole relaunched Lighthouse in 1992 as a 10-member unit and have continued to tour, appearing on The Moody Blues’ Cruise Ship event in 2014.
Aside from performing with Lighthouse and The Paupers, Prokop was also a noted studio musician and songwriter, performing on `The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper’ album, recording with Janis Joplin and writing “I’d Be So Happy” for Three Dog Night.