Johnny Rhythm

This page was a response to a search for the “Suedes lead singer”.

The Suedes lead singer, Johnny Rhythm/Rutter, joined The Suedes in the early to mid summer of 1959. From the disbanding of The Consuls in the early spring until John’s arrival the most likely candidate for lead singer was Gene McClellan, but Gene was as much lead guitarist as singer and usually tried to avoid the attention a lead singer might attract; John of course loved the attention and performed accordingly without having to play a musical instrument as Gene did. Not only did John perform as lead singer, he was also a very entertaining front man with comic talent who had gained singing and stage experience with Joe King and yearly performances at the Royal Alexander theatre in “Spring Thaw”.

When John arrived Gene left; it was then that Robbie began attracting attention as lead guitarist, no longer having to pretend he was a bass player especially since his friend, bassist Pete Traynor (Thumper) eventually founder of Traynor amplifiers, joined the Suedes about when Gene disappeared.

John was lead singer with the Suedes until about November or early December of 1959 scarcely 5 months, like the year of the four Roman emperors, a reminder that in reality things happen in the blink of an eye, and was replaced by Billy Kent a recent materialization from England, (wearing the first continental suit I remember seeing, a fashion that eventually became the style among entertainers in the early 1960’s. Try as I might I haven’t been able to recall why John had been ostracised from The Suedes. Shortly after Billy had replaced John we ended up in the Westover Hotel where “The Hawks” stayed when in Toronto. John was still out there trying to contact us. He reached me by phone and asked to meet me for coffee where he told me he’d fallen for a new love, a woman who was driving to Florida with her kids and he wanted me to go along. I left the hotel without telling anyone where I was going: at least that’s all I recall of my setting out on that strange December journey from snowy Canada through to the warming sunny south. We ended up on a beautiful beach on Miami’s Collins Avenue just over the bluest water from Batista’s Cuba as “The Big Hurt” flowed out over the incoming waves maybe a year before Castro’s communist takeover. I remember John telling me that when I went back to Toronto he’d met a guy who used to fly him over the water to watch night-time Cuban bar room shows. Before I left I remember John phoning long distance to Toronto’s Dave Johnson a CHUM disk jockey. When I got back to Toronto whenever I saw Dave I was “the Florida man”. It was nearly Christmas when I left John and got back to Toronto. The band was still in the Westover which had become a kind of base where I recall all sorts of people we knew visited. Billy had a couple of girl friends from Scotland over. Today an old drummer friend reminded me of a conversation he’d had there with Pete Traynor. I still don’t recall ever seeing him there. But that’s the way it was back then so much coming and going; I can’t recall who actually roomed there. The next thing I remember is The Suedes next and last performance at Merton Hall depicted on a CHUM Chart probably in January 1960 with a CHUM DJ and Ronnie Hawkins; I can’t recall whether Billy Kent was on stage with us though as a Suede he should have been. John was out of sight and out of mind. And for want of a point in time to mark the end of the early rock and roll/rhythm and blues era, I’ll choose that Merton Hall January 1960 performance. For not only did that early blend of r&r/r&b end, but also the era when local teen audiences behaved as though they were part of the show, their dance floor a kind of extension of the stage whence came its reason for being.