On August 30, we lost drummer Skip Prokop, who wrote Lighthouse’s biggest hits “One Fine Morning,” “Sunny Days” and “Pretty Lady.” We remember him with some flip sides and exclusive reflections from fellow Canadian musician Susan Jacks of the Poppy Family.
By Warren Kurtz
Flip side: Little Kinds Words
A side: One Fine Morning
Top 100 debut: September 11, 1971
Peak position: 24
In the mid-‘60s, Skip Prokop was the drummer for the Canadian band the Paupers. They released several singles and two albums. After that, he spent time in the U.S. as a session drummer for a variety of acts and was a driving force on the double-album, “The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper,” known for its historic Norman Rockwell album cover painting, which is on display at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
In 1969, while Al Kooper’s former group Blood, Sweat & Tears achieved major success with their brass driven sound on their second album, Skip Prokop returned to Canada as a founding member of Lighthouse, initially a thirteen-piece rock orchestra with brass and strings.
While early 1970 brought a brief “Dutch Invasion” to America with three groups, the Shocking Blue, the Tee Set, and the George Baker Selection, 1971 seemed like an even bigger “Canadian Invasion” with more than twice that number of groups on U.S. radio from early spring through the end of summer. The groups included the Bells, Ocean, the Guess Who, the Five Man Electrical Band, the Stampeders, and the Poppy Family, featuring Terry and Susan Jacks.
Susan Jacks told Goldmine, “I met Skip at some music functions. There’s no doubt he was an immensely talented musician, singer and songwriter. He represented an era in the music industry where creativity and ingenuity stood out. And he certainly did.” Skip Prokop’s breakthrough composition for Lighthouse came in late summer of 1971 with “One Fine Morning.” This Ontario band seemed to draw inspiration from across the Great Lakes with Chicago-like guitars and tight brass heard on singles from other Chicago bands, the Ides of March’s “Vehicle” and Chase’s “Get it On.”
The flip side of the “One Fine Morning” single, also from the album of the same name, was “Little Kind Words.” The song opened with Flo & Eddie-like vocals and an arrangement fitting for a Turtles album from their “She’s My Girl” – “Elenore” era.
1971 also included the release of Lighthouse’s next album, “Thoughts of Movin’ On.” The beautiful closing number from the “One Fine Morning” album, “Sweet Lullabye,” served as the flip side of the band’s first single from the new album, “Take It Slow (Out in the Country),” not to be confused with Three Dog Night’s “Out in the Country” from the summer of 1970. This song and the next single from the album “I Just Want to Be Your Friend” both charted in the U.S. Top 100, while the album’s final single, “I’d Be So Happy” only charted in Canada. A few years later, this Skip Prokop composition was covered by Three Dog Night, and served as the flip side for one of their final Top 40 singles, “Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues).”
In 1972, Lighthouse returned to the U.S. Top 40 with the title song from their next album, “Sunny Days.” Skip Prokop wrote, “There’s nothing better for your soul than lying in the sun and listening to rock and roll.”
The following year, on the the title track of the album “Can You Feel It,” Skip Prokop declared, “There’s just nothing better than a song that can set you free.” The song from the album that brought the group back to the U.S. Top 100 for a final time was “Pretty Lady,” featuring brass, keyboards and strings.
In 1974, Skip Prokop left Lighthouse to become a producer and pursue a solo career. He produced the seven piece Canadian band Deja Vu, with the same structure as Three Dog Night, featuring three vocalists and a four piece combo of keyboards, guitar, bass and drums. On their second album, Deja Vu included a cover of “Pretty Lady.”
In 1977, Skip Prokop had an other “sunny” song on Canadian radio, his single “Sunny New Orleans” from his first solo album “All Growed Up.” By this time Lighthouse had broken up, but reunited in the late ‘80s. Skip Prokop wrote or co-wrote most of the thirteen songs on their 1996 “Song of the Ages” CD.
Jamie Prokop has replaced his father on drums in Lighthouse, currently a ten person group, who will be among the acts performing on the Moody Blues Cruise in January.
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, known for “Fabulous Flip Sides” along with interviews, CD, DVD and book reviews. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, on WVCR.com as part of “Moments to Remember.”