Maraca Media-John O'Mara

Freelance copywriter and blogger, shakin' and rockin' it

Tag: Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry and Johnny B Goode

My latest iTunes podcast. Chuck Berry and my favorite rock and roll song of all time…and the tune that helped me become Johnny Maraca when Sean Anderson and The Black Holes called me up to the stage. Go Johnny Go, indeed.

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Has ‘50s rock and roll faded away?

Gary Clark Jr. and Jon Batiste are fine musicians and did the best they could in saluting rock and roll legends Fats Domino and Chuck Berry at the recent Grammy Awards but, when their brief mashup of Ain’t that a Shame and Maybellene ended, I just stared at the screen.

That’s it? Two songs in the middle of the show. Elton John is one of rock and roll’s great piano men so why didn’t he do a medley of Domino hits? I imagined an all-star tribute to Chuck Berry to end the show with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, John Fogerty, John Mellencamp, Robert Cray, Joan Jett or any combination of rockers who are indebted to the man who laid rock and roll’s foundation.

And meanwhile, I was thinkin’….(Berry reference.)

Music fans tuning in to see Kendrick Lamar, Kesha, Rihanna and Childish Gambino likely had no idea who Domino and Berry were.

Meanwhile, I’m still thinkin’…

Has ’50s rock and roll faded away? Retro rockers like Brian Setzer and Robert Gordon have done their best to keep the fires burning but are they just flicking their Bics?

My show features tunes from the late ’40s to the present day and continues to run on a community station in Middelbourne, West Virginia. WRSG. And it was recently added to the internet station Beach Booster Radio here in Wasaga Beach. But it was canceled a few weeks ago on the station I work at, 97.7 the Beach (I’m still there, my day job is commercial writing and production, thanks for concern).

I took it well, as you may recall. Picture that Willy Wonka meme that gets recycled every time someone needs to express sarcasm on Facebook.

Okay, I was pissed.


The station plays ’70s to the present day. My playlist was too old and the show was doomed even though I’ve met many listeners during the past 10 years who really liked my program and tuned in every week.


They were usually over 60. Which brings me to the conclusion that ’50s rock and roll is in danger of being forgotten or slowly erased and maybe it’s just the passing of the years that causes that musical memory loss. Oldies radio used to be ’50s and ’60s. Now, it’s ’70s to the ’90s and Pearl Jam and Nirvana are classic rock.


My show was inspired by the band I played with (after a few beers) and became friends with, The Black Holes. Hailing from London, Ontario…Vince, Sean, Tom and Jedd. Holes drummer Sean Anderson was my co-worker in the late ’90s and his band introduced me to Johnny Burnette, Link Wray and Eddie Cochran….and played supercharged versions of hits by Little Richard and Chuck Berry.

I became Johnny Maraca after shaking said percussive instruments with the Holes on Johnny B. Goode.

At the time, the Holes were playing college pubs and really, since the The Stray Cats exploded on the scene in the early ’80s with their retro rockabilly tunes reminiscent of Cochran and Gene Vincent, I figured early rock and roll would always appeal to at least a small segment of music fans.

Perhaps too small for Neil (“step up…females”) Portnow and the presenters of “music’s biggest night.”

Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard are the only ’50s legends still with us. The remaining Beatles and Rolling Stones are septuagenarians.

In Johnny B. Goode, Berry wrote about a young guitarist seeing his name in lights but the bulbs on the marquee are burning out one by one. The ticket booth is boarded up. There’s an echo of staccato bends and double stops…how that little country boy could play…close your eyes and picture a brown-eyed handsome man holding an electric guitar.

Smiling, duck walking across the stage.

Rock and roll. In 1958, Danny and the Juniors said it was here to stay. In the mid ’70s, Ronnie James Dio and Rainbow gave us (well, hard rock fans, most people reading this would say, who?) long live rock and roll. A decade after that, Twister Sister went further. You couldn’t stop it, according to Dee Snider. Tonight, sang Oasis, you’re a rock and roll star.

Every  couple years, some music journalist declares rock is dead. Like many of you, I’ve either doubted their conclusions or wanted to believe such was not the case.

But now…the ’50s ARE fading away and the ’60s, even with the Beatles and Stones, will as well.

I hope I’m wrong.

Johnny Maraca’s radio salute to Chuck Berry

Hey, if you missed last night’s show on 97.7 the Beach, you can stream all three segments right here. The playlist alternates between Chuck’s originals and cover tunes by the Beatles, Stones and more….plus a few interview clips with the legend we lost a week ago.

Cover scan by Dietmar Rudolph

Segment One

Chuck Berry–Maybellene

Linda Ronstadt–Back in the U.S.A.

Chuck–No Particular Place to Go


Chuck–Rock and Roll Music

Rolling Stones–Carol

Chuck–Roll Over Beethoven

Segment Two

Nina Simone–Brown-eyed Handsome Man

Chuck–Sweet Little Sixteen

Elvis Presley–Too Much Monkey Business

Chuck–Wee Wee Hours

Ronnie Hawkins–Thirty Days

Chuck–Reelin’ and Rockin’

Bob Seger–C’est la Vie

Segment Three


Jerry Lee Lewis–Little Queenie

Chuck–Around and Around

Joan Jett–Tulane

Chuck–Promised Land….

and, capping the show off with my favourite song by my favourite rock and roller…

Chuck Berry and Johnny B Goode



Back to the future of media and entertainment

When Marty McFly time travels back to 1955 he has a hard time convincing old friend Doc Brown that he’s come from ’85.

“Then tell me, future boy, who’s president of the United States in 1985?”

“Ronald Reagan,” Marty answers.

Doc can’t believe his ears.

“Ronald Reagan, the actor?”

Then again, the idea of an actor who became the Governor of California and then president  seems almost reasonable today in light of you know who.

Bonzo would be more qualified to lead the free world (though you could be cynical and say he is).

BACK TO 1967

I’ve covered the walls in my 97.7 the Beach studio with music photos, including the four Beatle pics that came with the vinyl version of The White Album. John and Paul are to my left, George and Ringo to my right though Harrison’s photo is behind my monitor and I often wonder if he could have imagined our future back in 1967.

George had yet to record “Something” and the Fab  Four were a couple of years away from breaking up, and a year past their final concert. The would never again play live, except for the rooftop performance in ’69.

Would he have envisioned forming the Traveling Wilbury’s with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne?

Back in ’67, the only way to watch television was by hooking up rabbit ears or an antenna. Okay, George, picture a flat-screen television with two little boxes connected to it (my setup). On one side, a Roku that gets free channels. On the other, a jailbroken Apple TV that uses a program called Kodi to get more free channels.

Though in ’67, TV was free. In the ’70s, cable brought us a dozen or so channels you had to pay for, then the 57 that Bruce Springsteen sang about, and eventually hundreds that sent the cost of cable and satellite TV through the roof.


By the way, has anyone else recently cancelled cable or satellite TV? The “loyalty” rep from Bell acted like I was breaking up with her after a long romance. She wanted to keep seeing me and I had to say, no sweetheart, I’ve made up my mind and this is the way it has to be.

Actually she, and the other rep I dealt with were so persistent that I soon lost my cool.

But remember the good times we had together, John? We brought you The Sopranos. Wasn’t that great? Do you really want to cancel? Really? You’ll miss us. People get bored with Netflix, you know.


Getting back to ’67, I’m sure George’s mind would have been blown by the way computers changed television and music.

Songs that exist as wav files or mp3s. Auto tuned voices. Guitar riffs or beats ripped off (okay, sampled) to create new tunes that people mostly talk over in rhyme. Producing an album without actual instruments or vocalists who can sing in key. Or sing at all.

The Beatles honed their chops playing for hours and hours a day at beer halls and strip joints in Hamburg, treating German audiences to renditions of classics by Elvis, Little Richard and Chuck Berry.


And that, conveniently enough, brings us back to Marty McFly, who joined Marvin Berry’s band and ripped into cousin Chuck’s “Johnny B. Goode” at the high school dance where his parents kissed for the first time. Delighting his bandmates and the the audience with a song that “really cooks,” and then baffling them all with an Eddie Van Halen-esque guitar solo.

“Guess you guys aren’t ready for that  yet,” Marty said. “But your kids are gonna love it.”

Who knows what kids will be listening to in 30 years, or how we’ll consume music, movies and TV shows?

Or how we’ll communicate at all. Maybe we’ll go back to the future and actually have conversations in person and not be so obsessed with texting and gadgets.

Nah, that’s too hard to imagine.



Tales from The Dark Side

I have several enduring memories of Crossroads, the room known as The Dark Side at Owen Sound’s historic Coach Inn.
A drunk patron, perched on a stool. Arms fully stretched as if crucified between two tables. He’s passed out, facing down and I’m wondering how’s managed to hang in that position without crashing to the floor.
Then there was a young man who got thrown out for trying to start a fight. The side door swings open. He’s back, fists raised and ready to rumble. And the door swings shut and hits the guy in the face.
The Dark Side also provided me with several rock and roll history lessons taught by my friends The Black Holes. Drummer Sean Anderson, then my co-worker at CFOS. Jedd House on the upright bass, Tom Hilborn and his nimble fingers on the Gretsch guitar and on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, London Ontario’s ladies man with a capital L, Vince Braca.
Sean managed to get the band booked at The Dark Side and, on that first night when the band opened with The Wreck of the Old ’97 (recorded by Hank Snow, Johnny Cash and many others) I had no idea what they were playing. The atmospheric intro actually sounded more like The End, by the Doors.
A few years later, during another Holes performance in The Dark Side, Vince encouraged the crowd to hit the dance floor. One 30-ish woman yelled back, “If you played anything we knew we’d dance to it.”
She was used to the country rock bands that were common to the Coach Inn, playing tunes like Fishin’ in the Dark, Friends in Low Places, Sweet Home Alabama and the unofficial Owen Sound bar anthem, Riverboat Fantasy (well it seemed that way to me). She wasn’t familiar with the catalogues of Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent or Link Wray.
To be honest, neither was I.
I knew some of the numbers the Holes played, like Johnny B Goode and Good Golly Miss Molly but The Fool by Sanford Clark? Rockabilly Boogie by Johnny Burnette? Never heard them, and I only knew Burnette as the man who sang You’re Sixteen (check out his rockabilly numbers from the mid to late ’50s, killer stuff).
I was born in 1962. Most of the songs I play on the Rock and Roll Riot were cut before I was brought into this world so, unlike some of my fans who lived through the rock and roll era, many of these songs and artists are relatively new to me…and it’s been a wonderful experience discovering all this great music.
Thank you, Black Holes. Thank you, Dark Side.
And to the lady who couldn’t dance to the music the Holes were playing, well…if you can’t shake your moneymaker to Little Richard it’s time to visit the doctor to see if you still have a pulse.

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