Search

Susan Jacks – Against All Odds

Susan Jacks – Against All Odds

Ever tune in to one of those classic pop stations that play golden oldies  when they start playing a song from Vancouver’s Poppy Family, either `Which Way You Going Billy’ or `Where Evil Grows’ and you think to yourself, “I wonder what ever happened to Susan Jacks?” Well Susan Jacks is alive and well… barely, and appreciates your concern.

To say the past few years have been unkind to Ms. Jacks would be an understatement. First she lost her husband, former Saskatchewan Roughriders CFL football star, Ted Dushinsky to cancer. This coming after she was diagnose with kidney failure but thankfully, she received a successful donation from one of her brothers, only to lose another brother to cancer in July of this year.

“I’m getting back into things,” informs the Saskatoon native. “The past few years have been a little difficult to say the least. I was a the primary caregiver to my husband Ted when he was stricken with cancer and two months after he died, my brother Bruce was diagnosed with leukaemia so I ended up being the primary caregiver to him. And then I had my kidney transplant, (donated by brother Billy) so I’m just kind of getting back into the swing of things now.”

“I suffered from anaemia from the kidney transplant medication which made me weak for the longest time but I’m rarin to go. I’ve done a few shows around Vancouver that have been well received and I’m dying to get back into the studio to record some new songs as soon as I’ve built up enough stamina.”

[youtube width=”600″ height=”338″ video_id=”hBbmD20FuSE”]

Yes it’s been 45 years since the former Susan Pesklevits, then a regular on national TV show, Music Hop, recruited local Vancouver guitarist, Terry Jacks to accompany her on a couple of songs during a club booking at Hope, B.C. At the time, Pesklevits was in a band called Eternal Triangle with Howie Vickers and Tom Northcott, two talented musicians in their own right. “Terry and I started to work together with Craig McCaw, a lead guitarist and soon we were developing a new band,” reflected Jacks. “At first we called our band Powerline because we played Whistler a lot and they were just installing the ski hill’s first power line. Then we came up with the name The Poppy Family out of a dictionary. It’s kind of trippy which seemed to fit those psychedelic times.

Although only 18 years old when she asked Jacks to join her on stage (in 1966) Susan married Terry one year later and when McCaw brought tabla player Satwan Singh into the band, this unusual group began to take shape. Their debut album, “Which Way You Goin Billy”, released in 1970 went to No.1 in Canada and No 2 on the U.S Billboard charts , selling three million copies, fuelled by the self-titled single, which should have led to scores of television appearances and concert performances. But according to Susan “Terry didn’t want to tour much  or do anything live, he even turned down The Ed Sullivan Show. “I was devastated when he turned that show down. That show was by invitation only, that directive came directly from Ed Sullivan himself- but Terry turned him down. That would have opened up so much more exposure for us in the States”

In retrospect, Susan thinks Terry’s reluctance to do the show stems from his decision to fire both McCaw and Singh, while the band was touring in Japan – reducing The Poppy Family back to just the pair of them. “I couldn’t believe Terry fired Craig and Satwant just like that, no warning. They were an integral part of The Poppy Family. I believe Terry thought that if we all appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show together, our image as a four-piece band would be cemented and he wouldn’t be able to fire Craig and Satwant in the future.

Now reduced to a duet, fronted by Susan’s lead vocals, The Poppy Family were history after just two albums. “The fact is, Terry was not a prolific songwriter,  he was not a lead guitar player and he didn’t sing much, just a couple of duets,” reflected Jacks. “I remember he was going to call our first hit, “Which Way You Goin Buddy”!, sung from a male’s perspective. I said that’s unrealistic, the song should be from a female’s perspective so it was my idea to come up with “Which Way You Goin Billy”. I knew that women would relate to this song and it was women who were buying the majority of the records at that time.”

The Jacks’ home life wasn’t much better than their studio sessions. “Terry was very difficult to work with and very difficult to live with,” revealed Jacks.. “This consequently meant I could only stay with him for five and a half years before we split.” Jacks says all will be revealed in an upcoming autobiography but she did say that Terry used to torment her on stage. “Terry is a strange dude! I’d be on stage singing and he’d walk behind me and say that I was singing like shit or that I sounded like crap. I’d say; `Why are you doing this to me’. I wouldn’t take this to heart because I know what my standards are and I couldn’t figure out why he was doing this stuff. Even when I was getting standing ovations, he’d be trashing me!”

[youtube width=”600″ height=”338″ video_id=”QfeEcCLMtxk”]

The final straw occurred when Terry started disputing her claim for artist royalty payments from the record label. “We built The Poppy Family together. He may have written or co-written the songs but I sang them!,” fumed Jacks, ” Now he’s claiming that the Poppy Family was all about him! I got some money but nothing like the amount I should have received”

“In retrospect, I was a naive 18 year old who just wanted to sing and make records,” explained Jacks “, I loved to perform and couldn’t understand why Terry didn’t want to do those things.”

The split came when they recorded separate albums in 1973, Terry recorded his “Seasons In The Sun” album with Susan releasing her “I Thought Of You Again” release. “Even while I was recording Poppy Family songs, Terry was releasing his solo material. I’m thinking what’s with this? As it was I co-produced his hit song “Seasons In The Sun” and sang all the backing vocals.”

After a financially damaging relationship with an ex manager (events recorded in her forthcoming book), Jacks met Dushinski in 1978 and in 1980 they were married and had a son together.

Moving to Nashville in 1983 with a recording contract, Jacks was soon honing her developing songwriting skills when her record label bit the dust and she began working as a staff songwriter for a Nashville Publishing Company. Sadly, Dushinski contracted lung cancer in 2004 and the family returned to Vancouver so he could be closer to his family, eventually passing away in October 2005.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Jack’s kidneys, which had begun to weaken while they were in Nashville, failed  completely when she returned to Vancouver and although she  appointing herself as primary caregiver to her brother Bruce who contracted leukaemia, Jacks eventually received a successful kidney transplant with a kidney donated by another brother Billy in 2010. Unfortunately, Bruce succumbed to his cancer in July of this year.

Still struggling with anaemia from the effects of her kidney medication, Jacks summoned the stamina to stage a few concert performances and one particular show, staged April 17th 2011 at the Red Robinson Theatre in Vancouver, a charity gig for the Canadian Kidney Foundation, received rave critical reviews.

“I appreciate that this industry has changed with all the social networking developments but I don’t feel like a new artist coming into the business,” noted Jacks. “I am biting at the bit to record just a few songs to see what happens with them on I Tunes. It would be great to attract a new audience but I know, I have a lot of people who have stayed loyal to me over the years. These are the people who continue to support me.”

Yes, things have been rough for Susan Jacks over the past few years, but at the age of 65, she is determined to get back in front of an audience and make up for lost time.

“Although things have been tragic, some of the life lessons I have learned have been amazing,” concluded Jacks. “Sometimes it takes these kind of knocks to make you aware of life but I certainly came out of it a much stronger person.”

Related posts

7 thoughts on “Susan Jacks – Against All Odds

  1. What an incredible walk through a life, amazing character!

    Go get em Susan…

  2. Keith McTaggart

    Great profile Keith! That’s such an informative story.

  3. Nathaniel North

    Great article, just wanted to say her voice has the ability to reach into you and take hold of your soul. So pure and beautiful. I hope she makes more recordings, I could listen to her all day long.

  4. kent walker

    I didnt reallly know who i was playing the bagpipes for on my boat that day one summer.i will practice anytime you want to hear them again

    Secret cove

  5. kenyon

    when we were 18.
    beautiful lady
    beautiful person
    beautiful voice
    beautiful songs
    beautiful memories

  6. kenyon

    we should talk sometime. we (my family and I ) have supported you for some fifty years from your birth city….Ken

  7. Terry

    In the 1970’s you were my sweet heart and I showered many times singing to “I thought of you again”. I have to went through some difficult times and can feel your pain. I am an avid Roughrider fan and had Ted’s autograph picture. All the best to you and your son.

Comments are closed.

Last night Keith performed a tribute to some of the great artists that we lost in 2016. Watch it below:

Posted by Keith Urban on Sunday, January 1, 2017