There are certain things you don’t think about when you start writing about professional wrestling. You don’t think about becoming friends with wrestlers, past or present. You don’t think about the possibility that you’ll have many of them in your phone contacts. You don’t think about the prospect of getting phone calls out of the blue, just to talk. You don’t think about early morning texts, or sharing holiday greetings with people you consider heroes… or even legends.
You also don’t think about losing them. What’s more, you don’t consider that one day, because you are a writer, you’ll be the one to eulogize them in some way. I can’t say that would have dissuaded me from taking this turn in life, but I can’t tell you it’s an honor I am happy to have.
It wasn’t unexpected when we lost Tracy Smothers in 2020. He’d been battling cancer for a year. He’d had good days in bad, and leading up to that morning, when Mad Man Pondo called me at work, he’d had more bad than good. He was a few years shy of 60, but he had cancer. And cancer sucks.
JJ Maguire was past the big 6-0. He was also dealing with cancer himself, though as far as he told me, it was mild by comparison to Tracy’s. I was talking out of a peddler’s mall in Louisville when I got a Facebook message from Jamie Hemmings offering condolences. I wasn’t ready for that one. It came out of no where. it was a complete shock.
Which brings me to Sean Patrick O’Brien.
Sean was 34. He was younger than me by almost a decade and a half. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would write a memorial for him. Sean left behind a beautiful family, two sweet little girls. And so, so many friends. I’m not sure it’ll sink in even after I go to my first show at the Jeffersonville Arena and see his mural on the wall instead of his smiling face giving me a hug.
If you want to read my memorial to Sean, it’s on Slam! Wrestling. Click here to read it. I don’t have much more to say here. This is just me, getting some thoughts down in black and white, on the unfortunate side of being a pro wrestling writer. I’ll miss Sean’s hugs and smiles as much as I miss Tracy and JJ’s random calls and texts.
To all my friends in the business… you are family, and I love you guys.
To all the superstars and family members of superstars who have allowed me to write their stories… I love you all too. You are family.
Same to all you readers. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being fans of these amazing people. Let’s get back to enjoying pro wrestling. And let’s share a few more hugs – make it a lot more hugs – going forward.
One last thing: here’s the short film Sean helped me make during Covid, along with his brothers in stripes Aaron Grider and AJ Kissinger.
“You need to learn to play Luscious Lawrence’s theme song.”
My son Sam went to OVW last night for the first time. He’s a phenomenal musician who, so far, has picked up keyboard, guitar, bass, trombone, and saxophone. On the way home, his sister Lydia began telling him, not for the first time, that he needed to learn Lawrence’s signature saxophone-driven theme.
This led to a discussion of OVW theme songs in general, and an interesting observation: by an large, the wrestlers of OVW all have great theme songs. To be more specific, they have actual songs that are easily distinguished from one another and tell you a great deal about each character.
Luscious Lawrence has that smooth, almost sleazy saxophone with the lounge keyboard and bass underneath.
Tony Gunn’s theme is driving rock with a screaming vocal that demands fans sing along.
Jack Vaughn sounds like he’s walking out to the theme song from a local 1980’s wrestling television program.
The Outrunners sound like they’re making their entrance to some primo outtakes from the Miami Vice soundtrack.
Words fail me to describe the operatic diva Shalonce Royal’s new theme, other than to say it is quite uniquely her.
I could go on an on.
My dear friend, the late Hurricane JJ Maguire, wrote many of the classic WWF themes from the 1980s with his writing partner Jimmy Hart. They and Jim Johnston set the standard for what a wrestling theme should be.
It needs to be clearly recognizable within the first few notes or sounds.
It needs to tell you a story, specifically, who the wrestler is.
It needs to be as unique and distinct as the wrestlers themselves.
This isn’t a post meant to denigrate any of the big companies who spend way more money on theme songs than independent wrestlers can afford. This is just to share an observation by my kids. OVW wrestlers have great theme songs. They are as distinct as the wrestlers themselves, and they are highly enjoyable. It’s an old school way of doing business, and it still works.
Lydia’s only been a handful of times with me, but on the way to the show, she didn’t just tell her friend and brother who were tagging along what to expect. She sang about it.
“You’re also going to see, Shotgun Tony Guuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnn!”
When it comes to pairing songs with wrestlers, right now, the OVW roster might truly be “The Best There Is.”
Whatever your feelings are on this promotion and that, this weekend is Super Bowl weekend for pro wrestling. So hey, let’s celebrate!
Right now, you can get 20% off your entire order using the coupon code “mania” at checkout. And right now the store is loaded down with copies of Wahoo, Princess Victoria, Chris Candido, Tracy Smothers, Mike Rodgers, Chris Michaels, Hurricane JJ Maguire, The Black Panther Jim Mitchell, and more.
Before JJ and I wrote his book, before we ever met in person, we collaborated on this short film. It’s a comedy bit about the origins of wrestling chants, but it was also a place to introduce JJ to people who might not know who he was.
JJ Maguire made a lot of great music. He created themes for Shawn Michaels, The Honky Tonk Man, Demolition, and Hulk Hogan. JJ also had a great sense of humor.
I almost didn’t answer the last time JJ Maguire called me. I was at Planet Fitness and had just stepped onto the treadmill for my hour long walk. The phone rang as I was trying to turn on a podcast. I would have called him back. I always do. But I decided to answer it. I walked and talked for 27 minutes that day, just catching up on life. JJ told me who he had spoken to recently, how he was hoping to make new music with Hillbilly Jim and Jimmy Hart among others, and he asked me how my family was. I told him my daughter was playing ice hockey and my son Sam was in a band.
“How old is he now?”
“He’ll be thirteen in two weeks,” I said.
“That’s about the age I started.”
We talked about getting together to do a show at some point, hopefully one where we’d make more than we spent to get there, and we hung up.
JJ and I caught up like that every month or two. We had done so since before we ever sat down to write a book together. We traded texts and Facebook messages too, sometimes every week, depending on what was going on with us. Earlier this week I sent him a text asking if he might want to join me for a show in Ashland, Kentucky. He didn’t answer back, but I didn’t think anything of it. Sometimes it took him a while, but he’d always get back to me with a text of a call.
I was out with my son and my brother-in-law today when Jamie Hemmings messaged me her condolences. I asked her what for. That’s how I found out my friend JJ Maguire was gone.
Heart sick. Those were the first two words that came to mind because that’s how I felt in that moment. Soon those words were followed by others. Generous. Gentle. Kind. Three words that encapsulate who JJ Maguire was to me and to everyone who called him a friend.
Like many wrestling fans, I didn’t know who JJ Maguire was during the years he worked with the WWF, WCW, and Hulk Hogan. I sure knew his music, though, and not just the WWF themes. In the summer of 2004, Hulk Hogan and the Wrestling Boot Band became the soundtrack for me and my friends Randy and Jamie. We knew every word to “I Wanna Be a Hulkamaniac” and “Beach Patrol,” and we blasted those tunes loud and proud in Randy’s Pontiac Grand Am.
I first heard of “Hurricane” JJ Maguire from Kenny Casanova, when he reached out to let me know that JJ was looking to write a book. Some time later it was Robbyn Nelson of the Wrestle Pop Podcast who introduced us, giving me JJ’s phone number. Robbyn knew JJ and I would click, and he was right. I called him one Sunday, and we talked for an hour. JJ was friendly, engaging, and a great storyteller. He was also very excited to be working with my fellow wrestling journalist Jim Phillips on his autobiography.
JJ and I kept in touch, and we got together in person to work a comic con in Richmond, Kentucky. My son Sam, who was just starting to play piano, came along, and Robbyn Nelson joined us for the day as well. We didn’t sell much, but we had a great time hanging out and sharing stories.
JJ and I had a lot in common beyond music and wrestling. We shared a common obsession over James Bond and The Avengers – not the Marvel Avengers, mind you, but the British TV series from the 1960s. JJ grew up on the series, which we agreed was at its best when John Steed paired up with Mrs. Emma Peel. One of the many thrills JJ had in his life was working with Patrick Macnee while shooting the TV series Thunder in Paradise. We became friends before we ever became collaborators, and when the opportunity to work together came up, we were both excited.
JJ knew exactly what he wanted in a book. He wanted to share the story of how a talented musical prodigy from Kentucky lucked into a life story greater than he ever imagined. He talked with great pride about the music he made with the Gentrys, the work he did at Glen Glenn Studios in Hollywood, and the adventures he had in wrestling. He loved to share his tales with famous people like Gene Simmons, Henry Winkler, and a very young Prince, and he was particularly fond of sharing the story of how Farrah Fawcett kissed him.
But you know what? JJ took just as much pride in his days as an amateur magician and his experience as a teenager playing high school dances as he did Wrestlemania. JJ lived every moment to the fullest. He cherished his experience in every band, in every club, and at every gig.
If there’s one thing that made him prouder than his professional life, it was his family. JJ loved to tell the story of how his father saved Strangler Lewis’s life when he choked on gum headed to the ring one night in Lexington. He was proud of his father John, who played basketball for Adolph Rupp and appeared in a few Kentucky-filmed movies. He was proud of his brothers Walter and Philip, and he was very proud of his children.
Working together on the book brought us closer as friends. We talked on a regular basis after the book came out. I shared the latest projects keeping me busy. JJ shared the latest news on potential musical gigs. And we always enjoyed getting together in person. JJ invited me down to Somerset, Kentucky to sell books at a show where he was acting as master of ceremonies. I took JJ to Fort Wayne, Indiana for Heroes and Legends.
One of my favorite memories of JJ was that night before in the hotel, listening in as JJ spoke with his lifelong pal Jimmy Hart about the big event.
“Now, Maguire, you have to dress up for this thing.”
“I know, Jimmy.”
“You gotta look nice. Now what are you wearing?”
“I have my blue coat, and my shades, and my hat.”
Yep. Like an old married couple. Or a long-term tag team.
If JJ had one wish, it was to receive some acknowledgement from the WWE for the work he and Jimmy did creating the soundtrack for a generation of wrestlers. He told me on more than one occasion he would have loved to have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. I certainly feel he and Jimmy (and yes, Jim Johnston too) deserve that nod. After all, what would our memories of pro wrestling from that era be without the iconic songs like “Sexy Boy” and “Cool Cocky Bad?”
JJ and I always hoped we’d get back out on the road post-pandemic. He wanted to get something together with some of the boys like Jimmy, Koko B. Ware, Hillbilly Jim, and The Honky Tonk Man to play some music. I just wanted to be there the next time he and Jimmy got together in person to watch them interact. In fact I was hoping to get that chance this spring.
JJ has had some health issues in recent years, but as far as I knew he was doing well. Jim Phillips just talked to him last week, and Jim tells me Jimmy Hart did as well. Word I am hearing from his family was that he went peacefully in his sleep. I know JJ was a man of faith and I take comfort in that, but it’s so sudden. Even after writing all this, I am still in shock.
I’m gonna miss my friend. I’m going to miss the texts and the catch up calls. I’m going to miss there dreaming we did, talking about future projects we both had on our minds. I’m gonna think about him every time I hear “Sexy Boy” and “Demolition” and “Super Fly” and “Cool Cocky Bad” and yes, even “Beach Patrol.” I’m gonna remember how very aware he was of the blessings he had been given, and I’m going to take time to be thankful for my own blessings.
Thank you, JJ, for the music and the inspiration, but most of all, for your friendship.
Today is May the 4th, which has come to be known as Star Wars Day. Those who know me well know that Star Wars has been an obsession of mine longer than pro wrestling. It got me to thinking, how would I re-cast Star Wars with some of the people I have written about in pro wrestling?
Hurricane JJ Maguire as… Max Rebo
Sure, I could have gone with Figrin D’an, but I suspect the Hurricane would have found himself taking the more upscale booking at Jabba’s versus the cantina at Mos Eisley. Plus I want to hear JJ say, “Yes, Miss Snootles, we can take it from the top again.”
Princess Victoria as… Princess Leia
A bit obvious? Yes, and she’ll be disappointed that once again, she’s cast as the babyface. But like Cinderella, the space slipper fits. Nobody tells Princess Leia what to do, just as nobody tells Princess Victoria what to do!
Tracy Smother as… Yoda
A man who poured himself into many young pro wrestlers over the last few decades could easily be cast as Obi Wan, but Obi Wan only had two pupils. Yoda trained countless Jedi, and the Smothers family is now legion across pro wrestling.
Scott Romer as… Han Solo
With that camera strap always over his shoulder, one could draw a direct comparison to Chewbacca, but let’s be honest. Romer was a survivor, a hustler, and a ladies man. Plus think of all the great Romer pics of him posing with Lando, Jabba, and the glitterati of the galaxy.
Mad Man Pondo as… Boba Fett
As we all learned to our great delight in The Mandalorian, Boba survived the ultimate death match against the Sarlacc Pit. Can’t you see Pondo vs. Terry Funk fighting it out on a skiff in a no rope, loser falls in the Sarlaac Pit match? It would be the biggest draw on Tatooine since Anakin vs. Sebulba.
Chris Candido as… Luke Skywalker
Chris Candido was a natural heel, just as Victoria was, but I have to go wth Luke. Why? Well, people said Chris was a little short for a WWF Superstar, and we all know Luke was a little short for a Stormtrooper.
Dr. D David Schultz as… Darth Vader
“Oh you think the Dark Side is fake, do ya?” John Stossel better be glad Dr. D wasn’t a Sith. He’d have never left MSG alive that night in 1984! Chris Candido would have gotten a kick out of being booked opposite one of his heroes, and just think how awesome those Dr. D promos would sound in James Earl Jones’s voice.
I attended my first Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion and presented Dr. D David Schultz with the Male Wrestler Award.
I got “Colonel” Stu Gibson inducted into the New Albany High School Hall of Fame.
And unrelated to wrestling, I released a science fiction novel I really, really like called Die Alan Die.
2019 was busy.
2020 is already looking to be just as busy. There may not be as many books, but there will be a lot happening. I’ll post more about that in a few days. In the meantime, you can save 20% on your entire order when you shop here and use the coupon code “2020” at checkout. Coupon code expires January 10.
For almost 50 years, Hurricane JJ Maguire has been making music with the Mouth of the South Jimmy Hart. The pair met in 1971, when JJ won an audition to become the new drummer for The Gentrys, laying down the beats on their hit single “Cinnamon Girl.” Since that time, Jimmy Hart has relied on JJ Maguire to be the music to his lyrics, and the two of them composed some of the most iconic songs in wrestling history.
“Sexy Boy.” “Cool Cocky Bad.” “American Made.” “Demolition.” Jimmy Hart and JJ Maguire penned 114 pieces of music for WWF and WCW including the entrance themes for Bret Hart, Greg Valentine, Jimmy Snuka, The Million Dollar Man, the Nasty Boys, and many more. They were also the music and lyrics on Hulk Hogan’s solo album “Hulk Rules,” and they teamed up to form the beachside bar house band on Hulk’s TV show Thunder in Paradise.
Outside of wrestling the Hurricane had his own solo adventures playing in bands and working for a recording studio in Hollywood, California. He shot pool with Jackie Gleason, talked cars with Henry Winkler, talked Kentucky burgoo with Bob Hope, and even got a kiss from Farrah Fawcett.
In spite of all his success, JJ Maguire was content living a humble, quiet life back in his hometown of Somerset, Kentucky. That is until the day his son came home from school and asked, “Dad, is it true you wrote all those wrestling songs back in the 80s?” Inspired by his kids, the Hurricane chose to come out of retirement and share his story, now chronicled in his autobiography My Life in Heaven Town. Looking ahead to 2020, the Hurricane is looking to get out on the road to meet the fans and even perform a little music.
Hurricane JJ Maguire is currently scheduled to appear in East Elmhurst, New York on November 16 courtesy of Monte and the Pharaoh. He is also booked at the New England Fan Fest in Warwick, Rhode Island in July 2020. He is available for appearances to sign autographs, give interviews (including podcasts), work as a master of ceremonies, appear ringside with talent, and even perform a little music.
If you’re interested in scheduling Hurricane JJ Maguire for your event you can contact him directly. Email him at email@example.com to get the ball rolling. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in having both of us attend and event.
JJ Maguire loves meeting the fans and he’s an energetic and dynamic storyteller. It’s long past time he had a chance to have his own story told!
Hurricane JJ Maguire was the music to Jimmy Hart’s lyrics on more than 100 songs for WWF and WCW. He had a ringside seat – literally – for some of the greatest moments in the early days of the WWF and Wrestlemania, and his memoir, My Life in Heaven Town, is jammed full of stories about wrestling, music, and Hollywood.
The following is an excerpt from the book selected by JJ Maguire himself. It’s about his first trip to Wrestlemania, and it begins as many of his adventures begin, with a phone call from Jimmy Hart.
Jimmy Hart called me up one day and said, “Maguire, I’m coming out there with WWF for Wrestlemania. I don’t know my way around LA,” said Jimmy. “The only other time I went out there was when I did a bikini beach movie with the Gentrys. Can you show me around?” I told him I would be glad to.
I picked Jimmy up at the airport along with one of the wrestlers he was managing: King Kong Bundy. Bundy got in the front seat, and I took the two of them to the hotel. They were sharing a room together, so we went upstairs and I sat on the bed while they got unpacked. We watched TV for a bit, and then Bundy decided he was thirsty.
“Do you and Maguire want a Coke? I’m going to go get a drink.”
“Sure, Buns,” said Jimmy. “I’d love a Coke.”
Bundy left the room, and the two of us went back to watching TV. It was pretty quiet in the hotel, and we were having a nice conversation when all of the sudden – CRASH! BAM BOOM! We heard a terrible noise and felt the floor shake.
“Maguire!” said Jimmy. “It’s an earthquake!”
“No, Jimmy,” I said. “I’ve been out here long enough to know what one feels like. That wasn’t an earthquake.”
Jimmy’s face dropped. “Oh my gosh. That must be Bundy. Go down and see if you can find out what happened.” Jimmy didn’t want to get involved so lucky me, he sent me to find out what happened.
I went down the hall and around the corner to where the vending machines were and saw a Coke machine overturned and smashed. This wasn’t the kind of soda machine you see today with the plastic front. This was solid metal, and it was in about forty pieces. It looked like an atomic bomb hit it.
Bundy was standing there drinking a Coke. “What happened?” I asked.
Bundy nodded to what was left of the machine. “That damn thing ripped me off, and I’m not taking it. I body slammed the machine.”
I looked and saw Cokes everywhere. It’s a wonder none of them burst.
“Hold your hands out, Maguire,” said Bundy. I held my arms out, and he loaded me down with about twenty Cokes, and he grabbed an armload for himself. We started walking back down the hall, and Bundy was handing them out to other hotel guests as we passed them.
We walked back in the room, and Jimmy sat up. “What happened down there, Buns?”
“The machine ripped me off, so I body slammed it. We don’t have to worry about running out of Cokes for the weekend.”
“Okay,” said Jimmy, and not another word was said about it. We had plenty of beverages to last us the weekend, and we enjoyed every one of them.
When it came time for the show, which took place at the Coliseum, Jimmy and Bundy took me with them. This was Wrestlemania II, and even though I didn’t work for the company, I had full access to everything.
Wrestlemania II was a star-studded event, and I got to meet some great people that day… The biggest thrill for me that weekend was getting to meet the legendary Robert Conrad, who starred in the classic TV show The Wild Wild West. Robert Conrad was the guest timekeeper for Wrestlemania II in Los Angeles. I was such a huge fan of Robert Conrad growing up, meeting Elvis would not have been as big for me. Bob, as I came to know him, brought his grandson with him that day, and we walked all over the arena that night, from set up all the way through the show that night. We spent the whole day together, getting to know one another.
What impressed me most about him wasn’t just as he was nice (he was!) but how massive he is in person. When he was getting his tuxedo on right before show time, I reached around him and gave him a hug from the side. I’ve since given that same side hug to wrestlers, including Hulk Hogan. Hulk is big, but I swear to you, Robert Conrad was even bigger around the shoulders!
Bob invited Red and his son to come backstage later on that evening. The two of them were old friends, so much so that when he was alive, Elvis was jealous of Robert Conrad because he and Red were so close.
When Wrestlemania II came to a close, I said goodbye to Jimmy and the WWF and went back to my work with Glen Glenn Studio. I was working a lot of hours at Glen Glenn with some amazingly talented people, but I had no idea that I would soon become a part of the growing entertainment juggernaut that was the World Wrestling Federation.