Maraca Media-John O'Mara

Freelance copywriter and blogger, shakin' and rockin' it

Tag: rockabilly

Before Elvis there was Bill Haley

My latest iTunes podcast.

Elvis Presley popularized the mix of country and R&B but Bill Haley was there first.

Source material: Unsung Heroes of Rock and Roll, by Nick Tosches.

Below, Elvis visits with Haley during Bill’s European tour.

Wanda Jackson, too sexy for the ’50s


Johnny Maraca rocks West Virginia

My biggest radio market is a thousand miles away, based in a town I’ve never been to, and comprised of listeners I’ve never met.
Here’s what Wikipedia says about Middleboune, West Virginia: ‘…a town in Tyler County, West Virginia, USA. The population was 815 at the 2010 census. It serves as the county seat of Tyler County.”
Now, The Rock and Roll Riot does run on 97.7 the Beach, serving the 18,000 residents of Wasaga Beach and another 20,000 or so in the surrounding areas but the signal of WRSG is stronger than the beach’s by 200 watts. I’ve been told Knights Radio can be heard for 35 miles or more.
Not too shabby for a high school station.


My show began as The Roots of Rock and Roll in 2008 and was added to the lineup of our sister station, Sunshine 89 in Orillia.
In 2012 I was told, via Skype, that both shows were being cancelled due to budget reasons. Thankfully, an internet station in Orillia, Swisssh Radio, offered me a spot on their service. The Roots of Rock and Roll were alive! I re-dubbed it The Rock and Riot, and another internet station, Radio that Doesn’t Suck ( added my show. Thanks to Rob Reid at Swisssh and Todd Miller at RTDS.
Rob dropped all specialty programs a few years ago but I will always be grateful for his interest in keeping my show on the air. Or, on the computer.


The post on a U.S. radio message board read: “WRSG looking for syndicated programming.”
WRSG! No offense to my internet carriers but now I had the chance to be back on a terrestrial radio station with a transmitter that could send my show to hundreds or thousands of homes.
211px-WRSG_logoExcept that it was a high school station. Meaning non-commercial. Meaning, Johnny provides the content for free.
So what? I wanted an audience and the adult volunteer who manages WRSG, Greg Goodfellow (and he more than lives up to that name) liked my show and threw it on the Knight’s Radio playlist.


I often wonder what people in Tyler County are thinking when my Riot blasts through their speakers. Who is this crazy Canadian? Who are (Canadian acts) The Royal Crowns, Ginger St. James, The Black Holes and The Hellhound Hepcats?
I suppose they tolerate my quirky nature and playlist for the chance to hear the greats like Elvis, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.
Then again, Greg often praises the show and says that a local farmer would gladly sponsor it, if sponsorship was a possibility. Which it isn’t because WRSG doesn’t sell ads.
I should also thank Rockin’ Rod West, who became the program director at 97.7 a few years ago and returned Johnny to the local airwaves.
I am truly grateful to be rocking Simcoe County and Tyler County.
Middelbourne looks like a charming little town and if Greg is any indication, a friendly one. Maybe I’ll make it there someday but, if not, it’s wonderful to be part of their weekly entertainment in some small way.
Note: as of Dec. 31, 2015 RTDS suspended its operation, due to new US copyright rules. Many internet stations could shut down because of this dramatic rise in the cost of song royalty payments.

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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