Desis In Odd Places Part II

More from the desis in places where you least expect 'em dept: here we were browsing through the exhibits in Victoria's Royal BC museum in British Columbia, when we spotted something odd. Tucked away in a glass case in a room of exhibits depicting Vancouver in the '60s was a vinyl album. Featured on that album cover was a Sardarji as one of the members of a band. On the left is the only picture of the album cover I could find online. Not a pristine print but have a look at the second guy from the right. The cover art leaves no doubt as to the times that produced this work - '60s flower-power. But, when you think of the entire '60s hippie movement, how many actual Indian musicians (other than Ravi Shankar) come to mind? So, I dug a little deeper. The name of the band was the Poppy Family and the album was "Which Way You Goin' Billy". AMG says:

Susan Pesklevits and Terry Jacks met in the band Powerline. They later married and formed the Poppy Family in 1968. With guitarist Craig McCaw and percussionist Satwan Singh, the duo's third single, "Which Way You Goin' Billy," became a hit in the U.S. and their native Canada, selling over two million copies. The group recorded three albums in the early '70s: That's Where I Went Wrong and Which Way You Goin' Billy in 1970 and Poppy Seeds in 1971.

Apparently, Satwan Singh had played percussion with Ravi Shankar. The AMG album review has some more tid-bits:

The album's two international hit singles, "Which Way You Goin' Billy?" and "That's Where I Went Wrong," are both tales of lovers on the run that sound as desperate as Del Shannon and as lonesome as Brian Wilson's worst nightmare, and such lost classics as "You Took My Moonlight Away" and "Beyond the Clouds" are every bit as strong, boasting clear but emotive vocals from Susan Jacks, brilliant if oddball Indian percussion from Satwan Singh, and melodramatic string arrangements from Graeme Hall.

It turns out the album is long out of print, unfortunately. So, what became of the group?

Terry and Susan were divorced by 1973, however, and both began solo careers. Susan released Dream (1976), Ghosts (1980) and Forever (1982), but Terry became more successful when his "Seasons in the Sun" single went platinum in Canada (more than 150,000 units).

Yes, that "Seasons In The Sun" - it's tougher to be more sentimental and mawkish, I tell you. But what of Satwan Singh? I could only find this:

Terry Jack's dislike for playing live led him to let McCaw and Singh go from the Poppy Family fold in 1970.

Two more hits followed in "That's Where I Went Wrong" and "Where Evil Grows" which saw Jacks under great pressure to put a touring version of the Poppy Family together. While working with Valdy on a studio project in Vancouver, Jacks came across the guitar work of Norman MacPherson who he brought on board to replace not only McCaw as a live guitarist, but to help in the studio on the 'Poppy Seeds' album. MacPherson left the live roster on good terms in the Fall of 1971. Terry Jacks would then call Bob Nelson to replace MacPherson on guitarist. At first, it was Terry Jacks, Susan Jacks, Bob Nelson & Satwant Singh. They played quite a few gigs across Canada and in the United States. But Nelson eventually left the group and the Poppies returned to studio life.

And that's it. Damn shame - I'm curious to find out whatever became of, possibly, the first Indian percussionist in a psychedelic band. He would have some stories to tell!

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- November 16, 2005 8:13 PM // Music , Select