Maraca Media-John O'Mara

Freelance copywriter and blogger, shakin' and rockin' it

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A change has come!

My last name is O’Mara. It’s an Irish name and back in the ’70s my father, Joe, received something in the mail addressed to “Joseph Omar.”

A few days ago, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib became the first Muslim women to be elected to the United States Congress.

To paraphrase a song by the great Sam Cooke, a change HAS come.

Cooke’s civil rights anthem was more in line with Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem before NFL games. A protest against treatment of American Americans at the hands of racist police departments.

I’m not sure if Cooke could have predicted that a refugee from Somalia would become the house representative from Minnesota.

But the face of North American politics is changing. Darker skinned. LGBT (Jared Polis is openly gay and was elected Governor of Colorado). Representing a diverse with a capital D constituency.

Canada’s Minister of National Defence is Harjit Sajjan. Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces and decorated for his service in Afghanistan.

And born in India.

Our Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship is Ahmed Hussen, who fled Mogadishu after the civil war in his native Somalia.

As a Canadian, I take great pride in having those men guiding and protecting our wonderful nation. We are in great hands,

And, getting back to the women.

I’ve been a Macleans subscriber for many years and that magazine has been labelled as conservative…but they feature a column by one of my favourite writers, Tabatha Southey, who has attacked Trump with great wit and insightful commentary.


They paid tribute to Canada’s Foreign Minister with this cover story…

Chrystia Freeland has been a frequent guest on Real Time with Bill Maher. Love that show.

And back to Sam Cooke.

“There been times when I think I couldn’t last for long,

But now I think I’m able to carry on.

It’s been a long time coming. But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.”

Michael Moore said this last week on Late Night with Seth Myers:

“If I could just speak to my fellow angry white American guys who are semi-uneducated like me — ‘dudes, give it up.’ We’ve been running the show for 10,000 years. It’s like we’ve had a long run as men running everything. … Why don’t we just take a break? Let the majority gender run the show. What are you scared of?’”

And this son of “Omar” is going to follow my very distant relative (hey, we could be) Ilhan Omar on social media because I feel Ilhan, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Chrystia and Rashida are leading us to a more humane and peaceful coexistence on this planet.

It’s their time, and it’s about time.

Here’s Johnny with his Halloween radio Riot!

Vampires, werewolves, train rides to hell and…raving about wire coat hangers!!!!!!!

Johnny Maraca’s Rock & Roll Riot was cancelled in January of 2018 because 97.7 the Beach changed its playlist to 1970s and newer music, so my mostly ’50s and ’60s tunes were considered too old.

The one show I always looked forward to creating was my Halloween Riot. I mixed scary classics with obscure but spooky songs and, because it was Halloween, when you can stretch the boundaries a bit…some harder stuff!

And…some clips from The Haunting, Carrie, Count Floyd and The Hilarious House of Frightenstein.

This ran on Halloween, 2014

Segment One

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins–I put a spell on you

Gene Vincent–Race with the devil

Imelda May–wild woman

Chuck Berry–downbound train

Brian Setzer Orchestra–ghost radio

The Clovers–love potion #9

Little Richard–heeby jeebies

Segment Two

Carlos Casal Jr.–don’t meet Mr. Frankenstein

Blue Oyster Cult–Joan Crawford

Johnny Cash–ghost riders in the sky

Billy Lee Riley–flying saucer rock and roll

Jace Everett–bad things (True Blood theme)

Kitty in a Casket–bride of the monster

Segment Three

Alice Cooper–cold Ethyl

Los Straitjackets–Munsters theme

Rob Zombie–Halloween (she’s so mean)

Johnny Fuller–haunted house

Smiley Smith–voodoo woman

Lee Aaron–lady of the darkest night

Vincent Price…saying goodnight as only he could!


Three cassettes from the Maraca Collection: yes, cassettes!

I was never a fan of music cassettes.

They often got tangled in the deck mechanism and even if you could rescue and rewind the tapes, they often stretched. Many times they broke.

Cassettes sucked ass.

Their only selling point was portability. You could insert them into Walkmans, boom boxes and, the main reason I started buying cassettes, car stereos.

I had an Alpine installed in my Pontiac Phoenix.


And now, it seems, the much-maligned cassette is like Monty Python’s parrot. It’s not dead, they claim. It was resting. Cassette tapes are back and I still don’t understand why.

As mentioned in that link, the biggest challenge is finding a player. I haven’t had a working deck since the ’90s. But I do have a rack, hidden away in the guest bedroom closet. It contains nearly 100 tapes and here, chosen randomly with my eyes closed, are three from that dusty collection.

Elton John by Elton John (recorded 1970, cassette released 1985)

Sir Elton is on a lengthy farewell tour to cap off a fantastic career. His debut album had a track called 60 Years On and it’s hard to believe I’ve been listening to his tunes for over 40 years.

I was too young when this one was originally released, but in the mid-’70s you couldn’t escape the music of the former Reginald Dwight. He was all over the radio. Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin created hit after hit and were an incredibly prolific team.

So, after purchasing the vinyl versions of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Honky Chateau and Greatest Hits Volumes 1 and 2, I went back to the beginning.

Your Song, Take Me to the Pilot, Border Song, The King Must Die.

A strong debut that hinted at the greatness to come…in contrast with our next album…

Bat Out of Hell by Meatloaf (recorded 1977, cassette released 1990)

Just in time for Halloween!

The debut album by the former Marvin Lee Aday went on to sell 14 million copies and test the vocal skills of many a karaoke couple on a hot summer night. Or any night when the drinks were flowing and the inhibitions were overcome.

Meatloaf’s soaring voice never sounded as good as it did on Bat Out of Hell. In later years it went from weird and nasally to just plain sad. Today, he tours and doesn’t sing a note!

That says it all.

Nevertheless, Bat Out of Hell was a specular achievement, with Mr. Loaf at the height of his powers, providing the perfect vehicle for songwriter Jim Steinman’s mini rock operas.

Paradise by the Dashboard Light, Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth and, my favourite, the epic title track.

Greatest Hits by Toronto (released 1984)

I grew up in Toronto and back in the ’60s and ’70s groups often named themselves after cities, states and even continents. Boston, Chicago, Kansas, Chilliwack* and…cue the intro for that opus hated so many, Europe. It’s The Final Countdown!

That’s stuck in your head, isn’t it? Sorry.

Back to the band Toronto, formed in that city but with a lead vocalist who hailed from Durham, North Carolina. Annie Elizabeth “Holly” Woods.

I’ve always loved powerful female vocals. In 1980, when I heard Holly belting out Even the Score, I was hooked. That track is on the greatest hits album along with Your Daddy Don’t Know, Lookin’ For Trouble, Girls Night Out and Start Telling the Truth.

Toronto broke up in ’85 after their record label went bankrupt. Woods cut a solo album that wouldn’t get released until 2007.


I’m Facebook friends with Annie/Holly and drummer Barry Connors (who joined Toronto in ’81 and went on to play with Coney Hatch) and, thanks to their many posts, I can tell you the band still tours as Holly Woods & Toronto.

How about a Wasaga date next summer, Annie and Barry? RibFest or the motorcycle rally would fit the bill.

When cassettes became popular in the early ’80s, companies like Memorex and Maxell started selling blank tapes that you could record on. Or, if you were cheap…and I was a college student so, guilty as charged…you could break the write-protection tab and make a duplicate album or mixtape using that pre-recorded cassette.

Home taping! It was supposed to kill the music business.

Okay, time to put the cassettes back in the rack. I’ll be back with another trio soon. Maybe cassettes, back to the CDs or even vinyl. Thanks for reading.

*-Back in my college days, I saw a concert ad on one of the Buffalo TV stations. It was  Journey or maybe Foreigner, with opening act “Chilly-wack!” Oh well, the TV announcers from fire city (Buffalo news reports always seems to lead off with 4-alarm blazes in Batavia or Tonawanda) couldn’t be faulted for not knowing how to pronounce a name from B.C.


Radio ads: Why they didn’t work for you (and what you can do about it)

Radio advertising works, when you do it right! So what went wrong and why didn’t you get the desired results?

It seems easy. The marketing rep convinces you to try radio because you’ll be reaching thousands of potential customers, and once those people hear YOUR message…get ready for a business boost!

Or not.

Why didn’t it work? You wonder if the station scheduled your ads in lousy time slots. Maybe they didn’t run them at all! Relax. They did. The problem, more often than not, is a poorly-crafted message, so read on for a list of campaign killers.


You put your print ad or flyer on the radio and the script you approved was heavy on information and light on persuasion. Your name, location, hours, website, “Like us on Facebook” and (no, no, no!!!) your phone number.

Which opening line do you find more appealing?

A) “It’s the Spring Fling event at Susie’s Weight Loss Centre.”

And I should care because?????

B) “You can lose 20 pounds by Christmas.” (Followed by introducing Susie, how she can make that happen and why you should give her business a try).

Way better! Address a problem and solve it.


Further to my point above, as the great radio advertising guru Dan O’Day says, the opening line is the commercial for the commercial.

“Hi, it’s Steve Jones from Wasaga Beach Toyota.”


Listeners have much stronger bullshit detectors these days. It’s not the ’70s anymore with a limited choice of radio and TV stations. We all know Steve is going to spend the next 25 seconds bragging about his dealership and the best selection, best prices of the year, the lowest finance rates…


Steve will hit us with the usual cliches and “ad speak.” We expect those and have no interest in the rest of ad.

I’ve long had a theory that car dealers don’t speak to the radio audience, they advertise to each other. The guy down the street has the best (see list above)? We’ve got the best and if we yell like a Monster Truck ad, the customers will choose us!


Listen to this ’90s gem from the suburbs of Philly. Prepare to be amazed.

Told ya!

What a gloriously awful mix of hard sell and hype! Yes, that was real and from what I can gather, Gary Barbera’s #1 Dodgeland frequently tortured folks in beautiful Roxborough with messages like that. Oh, and they were charged with upping the monthly payments without telling those customers who had bad credit, went through a divorce or whatever else that didn’t matter at that crazy car dealership.

Those in Radioland don’t enjoy being yelled at in the raunchy, over-the-top manner of Dodgeland. They tune out because they’re waiting for the next song, or the weather forecast.


I’ve been in radio nearly 30 years and witnessed this routine many times. Rep makes the sale. Books it, schedules the spots. As for the copy?

“What do you want to say in your ad?”


“Here’s the email of our writer, send him some copy points.”

You don’t have time to come up with ideas so you recycle the same crap advertisers have used for decades. Maybe you suggest an opening line.

“How about, The leaves are falling and so are the prices at…”


Before we continue, how about some advertising fun from George Carlin?


It’s not your fault. Think about what sets your business apart. Tell the rep or writer what customers like about your business or services. Share your success stories.

You’re not selling flooring. You’re giving customers a more beautiful living room and allowing them to take greater pride in their home. Or increasing the resale value. Play that up!



  1. Talk directly to the listener. As Dan O’Day says, enter a conversation they’re already having. Heating bill too high? They need a more energy-efficient furnace.
  2. Spark their imagination. Radio is, after all, theatre of the mind. Roy Williams, The Wizard of Ads, has made clients (and himself) rich by painting pictures with his words. Sound effects, music and production tricks are fine but what you say, and how you say it, will make the difference.
  3. Avoid filling your spots with Yellow Pages info or social media links. No one is going to “Like” you on Facebook until they’ve had a good experience with your products and services.

The fact is, the creative departments at many radio stations are staffed with non writers. People who graduated from broadcasting programs to become radio personalities or producers. Sure, copywriting was likely part of their training but it wasn’t why they chose radio as a career.

They took a job in creative as an entry point in the business. Or the company went through the dreaded “restructuring” process and jobs were combined. Copywriting became an extra chore for that aspiring morning show host.

I am a writer. I don’t retype copy info, I analyze it. What would I, as the consumer, find appealing?

It sure isn’t their claim of being “conveniently located.” Again, what the heck does that mean? What if I’m at the other end of town, or in another town?


I’ve been to many seminars, including those of Dan O’Day and Roy Williams, and the result is a combination of my unique style with O’Day’s “make the cash register ring” philosophy and the imaginative, storytelling approach of The Wizard of Ads.

I can help your business, or become a freelance addition to your creative team. Feel free to send me an email:







Three discs from the Maraca Collection: Chapter Four

Welcome back to another trio of compact discs from my dusty racks…gotta clean the condo soon, Mom is coming over for Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday…where I found them, and why I purchased them.

I just finished listening to Eddie Trunk’s show on Sirius/XM Volume. He loves CDs and takes offence when music journalists and fans claim the format is dead…and do so while pointing to the over-hyped vinyl resurgence.

Agree with you Eddie. Compact discs are much easier to handle and last longer. The small size of the cases meant smaller covers, harder to read liner notes and sometimes folded posters, and those full size extras were the features that made us long for vinyl.

Just not the scratches, warps and skipping.

My previous choices have been rather eclectic. Today, when I closed my eyes and ran my fingers along the CD cases, I ended up with three rock and roll albums.

Batting first…

Silent Radar by The Watchmen (1998)

When the Winnipeg alternative rockers released this record, I was living in Owen Sound, Ontario. For non-Canadian readers, Owen Sound is 100 miles north of Toronto and, at the time, did not have a rock radio station.

The region was radio deadsville, nothing but soft rock, country and oldies.

It wasn’t until several years later that I heard the single, Stereo, on Sirius/XM. Loved it, and found Silent Radar at Randy’s Records in downtown Owen Sound. If I recall, Randy didn’t put price stickers on his products. You’d have to hold it up and wait for him to say…

“Asking $7 for that one.”


MTV Unplugged by KISS (1996)

As I’ve written in previous blog posts, I’ve never really cared for unplugged albums. I’m a rocker. To quote KISS, I love it loud…and played on electric guitars.

So why did I grab this disc at Randy’s Records?

Maybe it was the reuniting of the four original members for tracks 18-21. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons on all songs, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss on 2,000 Man, Beth, Nothing to Lose and Rock & Roll All Nite.

Most diehard KISS fans prefer the ’70s version of the band with Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter. I also enjoyed their ’80s non-makeup period. There were some great songs on Lick It Up, Animalize and Hot In The Shade.

I haven’t listened to this album in ages but I’m betting Stanley’s vocals sounded much better than they do today. If you’ve seen recent Youtube concert videos of KISS, Paul’s voice seems to be shot and he croaks through the hits.

As Stanley said recently, “If you want me to sound like I did on KISS Alive II, listen to KISS Alive II.”

Good luck on the “farewell” tour, you’re going to need it. Drink plenty of herbal tea.

The Best of Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks (1990)

While The Hawk and his band (featuring young Canadians like Robbie Robertson who went on to become “The Band”) gave us some fine rockin’ tunes, the reason I purchased this on Amazon was…


In the late ’60s, the CRTC mandated that Canadian radio stations had to play at least 30 percent homegrown talent. The MAPL system (Music, Artist, Performance or Lyrics by a Canadian, had to have two of’ ’em to qualify) that program directors came to love so much.


Hawkins hailed from Arkansas but moved to Canada in the late ’50s.

My program director let me get away with 25 percent Can-Con since Johnny Maraca’s Rock and Roll Riot (originally Roots of Rock and Roll) ran after 7 pm on a Sunday.

So, Ronnie Hawkins and Jack Scott helped me hit 25 percent, along with early Guess Who and the jump blues albums by Colin James.

That’s it for this edition. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon.


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