Susan Jacks Photo from The Music Express Archives 2013
by Keith Sharp
The past couple of weeks have been rough ones for the Canadian Music Industry, with Poppy Family vocalist Susan Jacks (aged 73) passing away from kidney failure at a Surrey, B.C hospital) April 25th and Montreal session guitarist Walter Rossi (succumbing to lung cancer May 1st in Montreal) following the departure of Vancouver’s Jerry Doucette.
Jacks, who had teamed up with husband Terry Jacks to record two smash hits, “Which Way You Going Billy” and “Where Evil Grows,” in the early 1970s. Suffered internal relationship turmoil which came to a head after their appearance at Japan’s Expo 70 event when Terry Jacks turned down touring offers in the states forcing the other two band members; Craig McCaw (sitar guitar) and Satwat Singh (tabla drums) to quit.
A then-17 Susan Pesklevits met Jacks when he made a guest appearance on CBC Vancouver’s at “The Music Hop” in 1968 and he sat in with her on rhythm guitar. As their relationship grew both musically and personally, with McCaw and Singh on board to give the band a more exotic sound, Jack’s strong vocals and attractive persona became a radio staple during that 1969-71 period.
However, Terry Jacks reluctance to tour and his internal meddling created frustration within the band and in 1972 both artists released solo albums with Terry’s Seasons In The Sun vastly outselling Susan’s Thoughts Of You due to the success of the album’s self-titled single.
Their parting was far from amicable, Susan told this writer that she had accused Terry of being controlling and although she later moved to Nashville, she had to return to Canada when her second husband, former Saskatchewan Roughriders’ football star Ted Dushinski, contracted brain cancer passing way in 2005.
Susan Jacks herself began a prolonged period of ill health and in 2010 received a kidney transplant from her brother Billy. Although she did manage to record another three solo albums; Dream, Dreams and Ghosts, her health battles prevented her career advancement and she passed away on April 25 while waiting for a second kidney transplant.
Walter Rossi aged 74, was a noted session player who performed on records by Michel Pagliaro, Nanette Workman and Boule Noire and reported turning down an offer to fill in for Mick Ronson on Bowie’s final Ziggy Stardust tour. Born Walter Rossignouli in Naples, his family moved to Montreal (after a brief stop-off in Halifax) and it was in Montreal that he developed his love for the blues as he consumed albums by Albert King and B.B King.
Rossi’s big break occurred when he passed an audition at Toronto’s Massey Hall tour in Wilson Pickett’s band. This lasted for one and a half years and then he was off again performing with The Buddy Miles Express.
Rossi then formed his own bands; noticeably Luke And The Apostles before recording a trio of solo albums in 1970-72. It was the second one, “Six Strings Nine Lives” which caused a major fuss when he beat Bryan Adams for the 1971 Most Promising Male Vocalist Juno Award. Rossi recorded two more albums, his last one being Secret Sin in 2005. and although he continued his work in jingles, sessions and production, Rossi finally succumbed after a long battle with lung cancer.