Susan Jacks It’s My Turn

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Submitted by Don Graham

The Susan Jacks story is more than just The Poppy Family and her solo singing career; it’s a story of courage, survival and determination.

Rewind to the beginning of the story and a young Susan Pesklevits, who had moved to British Columbia from Saskatchewan, begins her professional career at 15 when she was asked to be a regular performer on the national Canadian television show, MusicHop. Susan recorded her first singles as part of a trio with Howie Vickers and Tom Northcott, recording under the name of "The Eternal Triangle". Going solo in 1966 an 18 year old Susan was in need of a guitar player. “Somebody told me that the band Terry Jacks was in had broken up so he might be available. We got together and Terry and I started working. Terry wasn’t a lead guitarist so we hired Craig McCaw as our lead player.” Although she did a few more solo TV appearances, Susan decided to leave that behind and left the "Eternal Triangle", putting all her time into the newly formed trio, performing under the name "Powerline" before changing the name to "The Poppy Family".Susan and Terry got married in 1967. Craig McCaw introduced Satwant Singh,who played tablas,to the group and he soon became a member of the band.

The early years The early years The Poppy Family recorded from 1968 through the early 70’s with a couple of big hits, the biggest of which was “Which Way You Going Billy?” Susans remembers, “ When Terry first brought the song it was called “Which Way You Going Buddy” written for a male to sing. I thought it sounded kind of wussy singing it to another male, ‘which way you going buddy, can I come with you?’ I suggested it would be better for a female to sing it to a male. We couldn’t decide on a name so we went through my brothers names, I have 6 of them. And Billy sounded the best. And that’s how the title became what it is.” The song went on to sell nearly 4 million copies worldwide,and hit #1 in Canada and # 1 in Cashbox Magazine in the United States. "That's Where I Went Wrong" and "Where Evil Grows" also charted well.

Terry Jacks decided in 1970 to drop Satwant Singh and Craig McCaw from the band and although they still called themselves the Poppy Family it was essentially Susan as a solo artist, with the exception of one or two duets with Terry.

In 1972, Susan and Terry worked together in the studio to record their solo albums. Susan's album was titled "I Thought of You Again" and Terry's titled “Seasons in the Sun”, leaving the Poppy Family name off the records.

The year 1973 was a year of change. The marriage of Terry and Susan dissolved and both solo albums were released. Susan’s album met with great success, the title song earning her a nomination for Canadian Female Vocalist of the Year. Susan continued to have hits and other Juno nominations in Canada with songs including "I Thought of You Again", "Anna Marie", "Forever", "All The Tea in China", "Evergreen", "You Don't Know What Love Is", "I Want You To Love Me", "Build A Tower", "Love Has No Pride", and "Another Woman's Man". In 1975 with the release of her Dream album, Susan was nominated for her single "Anna Marie". Her 1980 Ghosts album got her a Juno nomination with the single "All The Tea in China" and in 1982 her Forever album was released. Susan toured consistently as a solo artist and guested on various television shows including The Bobby Vinton Show, The Allan Thicke Show and a host of other talk shows.

Susan Jacks BC Hall of Fame StarSusan Jacks BC Hall of Fame StarIn 1977, Susan met Canadian Football League all star Ted Dushinski, who played for her birth province Saskatchewan Roughriders and her home province B.C. Lions. They married in 1980 and had a son, Thad. Big changes were coming and the family moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1983, where Susan would become involved in the publishing end of the music business. “I really wanted to learn about the publishing side of things and Nashville was the perfect spot. I signed as a staff songwriter and got to write some great songs with some great people.” (I recently heard a demo of one of those songs called “I Go To The Wall” which is a killer song that could be a hit today.) Susan recorded the Juno-nominated song, "Another Woman's Man" in Music City and was voted the best new country artist in Oklahoma for her song "Tall Dark Stranger". As a staff songwriter, Susan has had several songs recorded, including a children's song on a Grammy nominated album entitled "A Child's Gift of Lullabies". Susan would later co-write and sing "Looking For Love" for the movie "The Last Chance Cafe".

The stars seemed aligned for Susan Jacks and her family. She was where she wanted to be, doing what she wanted to do and with the people she wanted to be with. But all that was about to change and Susan would be faced with hard choices and challenges as life began throwing her curves. In 2004, her husband Ted was diagnosed with lung cancer.

“We weren’t together any longer but we loved each other. Ted was very sick and it didn’t look good. I asked him if he wanted to go home, to Canada. He said he did and we picked up our lives and headed back home. Although we weren’t together as a couple, Ted stayed with me until the end. He was a good man.”

In 2010 Susan starting noticing her own health suffering, “I was tired a lot, had no energy. Tests showed I had kidney problems. My brother Billy (the Billy in Which Way You Going) was a match. This is the kidney one of my other brothers named Wilson, after the volleyball in the movie Cast Away.”

Not very long after the transplant, Susan was again on stage and on April 17, 2011 performed a benefit concert for the Kidney Foundation of Canada to raise awareness of the need for organ donation.

Susan Jacks todaySusan Jacks todayOn 27 June 2010, Susan Jacks was inducted into the British Columbia Entertainment Hall of Fame. “What a thrill and an honour that was and is to this day. It’s a permanent symbol and legacy for me to leave behind. It’s very humbling to see your name on a star like that.”

Susan feels blessed by the life and career she’s had and continues to have today. New recordings are in the works and new songs are being written. The past is the past and Susan wants people to know, “There’s been some tall tales been told about me and The Poppy Family days. A lot of mistruths and flat out lies. My take on it is if someone wants to rewrite their own history to make themselves look better or smarter or the reason certain things happened, I can’t stop them. But when they start rewriting MY history to embellish their own, I take exception. I tell the truth, it’s all I know how to do, so just leave me out of your revisionist history.”

And as for the future? “I am feeling great, creative and ready to record some new music. This is what I know how to do best and I can’t wait to get going on it. It’s my turn so thanks to all my friends, fans and family for sticking by me.”

Keep your eyes and ears open for Susan Jacks in the not too distant future. A true Canadian talent and legend.