Susan Jacks – A Story Of Music, Struggle And Social Conscience

By on June 14, 2015

By David Murray. Susan Jacks was born Susan Pesklevits August 19, 1948. She was a member of the group “The Poppy Family.” She and her first husband Terry Jacks had a number of hits in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

“Which Way You Going’ Billy?” sold over three million copies worldwide, hitting No. 1 in Canada and No. 2 in the USA.
I met Susan back in 1973 backstage at her concert at the Pacific Coliseum. I was a 17- year-old security guard and she had just finished her show. She introduced me to her mother and her step dad that evening.

1973 Pacific Coliseum

I followed her career as a big fan but never knew that one day, thanks to Facebook, I would be able to make a friendship connection with her again. I was involved recently with the “On to Ottawa Trek” Historical Society 75th anniversary celebration, one of the directors on the society with me was Joe Barrett (son of former premier NDP Dave Barrett).

I told him that I had been in touch with Susan Jacks and he retorted, “Susan used to be my babysitter!”

Joe also said “Mr Pesklevits was the president of the Haney NDP in the 1960s. “

Writing the occasional article for Abbotsford Today I thought interviewing Susan would make a great story. So, last week I contacted Susan and asked to meet her for lunch and to do an interview.

A Storied Career

Susan Jacks. Photo by David Murray

DM. You were born in Saskatoon Susan, when did you move to B.C.?


SJ. My family moved to B.C. When I was 9 years old. We lived in Cloverdale, moved to Surrey and eventually moved to Haney when I was 11 years old.

DM. When did you start to show an interest in music?

SJ. I always liked to sing and when we were living in Saskatoon. My mom took me to a Saskatoon mall where I was able to sing Pat Boone’s song ‘April Love.’ I was just seven at the time.

DM. So your Mom had been an influence on your music career?

SJ. She was looking in the newspaper and saw a local singing audition opportunity. I was 14-years-old and I went to an audition in Vancouver, It was with a house band and I sang a couple of songs. They phoned my mom at home and I think I was over at a friend’s house climbing a tree in Cloverdale when I got the message. Apparently they wanted me but not the house band.

DM. What did getting the audition mean and getting noticed?

THe Poppy Family

SJ. It got me a spot on the hit CBC show ‘Music Hop.’ Halifax, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal I believe had shows that displayed Canadian talent. Anne Murray was in Halifax, The Guess Who were in Winnipeg and I was featured in Vancouver.

DM. Who were the producers of the show?

SJ. Red Robinson and Fred Latremouille. I was on the show for about a year-and-a-half.

DM. I heard that you sang at a Tommy Douglas NDP function in New Westminster?

SJ. Yes. That was just before I started the ‘Music Hop’ Show.

DM. So you had quite an NDP connection back then?

SJ. Yes my family was friends with Shirley and Dave Barrett. They asked if I would sing at the Tommy Douglas function.

DM. When did you meet your first husband Terry?

SJ. We met while we were doing the Music Hop show. I guess the first time we got together was when I was performing at the Elks Club in Hope B.C., Terry’s band had just broke up and I needed someone to accompany me on guitar at the concert.

Susan Jacks. Photo by David Murray.

DM. You got married to Terry in 1967?

SJ. Yes. November of 1967, Dave Barrett gave the toast to the bride.

DM. You were separated from Terry when I first met you after your concert in 1973?

SJ. Yes, we had been separated for a while at that point.

DM. Big crowd that night, I think it was over 15,000 people for your performance!
You were single for a while and you met your second husband, Ted Dushinski, the former B.C. Lion and Saskatchewan Roughrider, in 1977?

SJ. Yes, we got married in 1980 and we had a son, Thad, who is currently living in Nashville.

DM. Ted passed away in 2005?

SJ. Yes he battled lung cancer and fought it bravely. He was 61 when he passed away.

DM. You have survived a lot. You have recently received a kidney transplant yourself?

Susan Jacks at 22

SJ. Yes it was in February of 2010. I am starting to feel better and I want to do a concert tour to raise money for kidney research in the future.

DM. You and your music have been an inspiration to a lot of people in the past. Do you have someone you admire that inspires you today?

SJ. Yes, President Obama, providing medical for 70 million Americans who desperately need help. He is probably going to go down as one of the great presidents in U.S. History.

Susan Jacks; a great singer with solid social values, coming from a family of eight and growing up in Haney! My kids asked who Susan Jacks was? I told them she was the “Lady GaGa” of my time.

You can checkout out Susan’s website

Originally published Oct 8, 2010 on Pitt Meadows Today.

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