Pro wrestling has given the ears of its fans some memorable entrance theme music over the years. There’s “Sexy Boy” for Shawn Michaels. “Cool Cocky Bad” for the Honky Tonk Man. “Common Man Boogie” for the late Dusty Rhodes. And on behalf of all my fellow Canadian wrestling fans, who could forget “All American Boys” for the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, “Hart Attack” for the Hart Foundation, and “I’m the Mountie” for the Mountie?
All of these aforementioned themes and 108 more pieces of music were created by “Hurricane” JJ Maguire in collaboration with his friend, legendary wrestling manager Jimmy “the Mouth of the South” Hart, for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). (The “Hurricane” nickname comes from Maguire’s time working on the television series/movies, Thunder in Paradise, with Hart and Hulk Hogan. It’s a nod to Hogan’s character, Randolph J. “Hurricane” Spencer and because Maguire’s mother always used to say to her son, “You’re moving like either a tornado or a hurricane, I can’t tell which.”) Maguire takes readers through his musical contributions to the squared circle and beyond in his autobiography, My Life in Heaven Town, written with John Cosper and out now from Eat Sleep Wrestle.
“People kept asking me about some of my experiences in show business and life,” shared the 67-year-old Maguire, who resides in Somerset, Kentucky, in a phone interview with SlamWrestling.net. “And I didn’t run around bragging and telling them, ‘Hey listen to this!’ People would ask me and then I’d get rolling. And then as you read in the book, it just keeps going and going. People told me, ‘You know, you’ve got quite a few experiences, I think you should write a book.’”
Added Cosper in an email interview with Slam, “JJ is friendly, creative (and) passionate. He’s proud of the legacy he and Jimmy Hart have in wrestling and he’s enjoyed every adventure he’s ever had in life. He’s also a fantastic friend. This is the story of the music to Jimmy Hart’s lyrics – and so much more. JJ wrote the musical soundtrack to many of our childhoods in wrestling, and it’s exciting to see him get his due.”
In order to complete the book, Cosper would interview Maguire once or twice a week over the phone for several months. The result is a book full of fun stories that will give both wrestling and Hollywood fans immense feelings of nostalgia. The only criticism this writer had was that some of the stories went by too briskly. This greedy reader wanted more details on the fascinating life experiences of Maguire. And with Maguire being so colorful in personality and his fashion sense; I felt a photo of Maguire should have been used on the cover of the book. (Instead, Maguire chose a split cover that pays homage to pro wrestling and Hollywood).
Born John James Maguire, the lifelong musician’s book naturally begins with an overture. But instead of the expected grand opening orchestral piece, Maguire offers the story of how his grandfather, Dr. John. D. Maguire, saved the life of Ed “Strangler” Lewis at a wrestling show in 1929. After a fan slapped Lewis on his back, the gum that Lewis was prone to always chew went down his throat causing him to start choking. The elder Maguire leapt into action and was able to get the grappler to cough up the gum. His reward: ringside seats whenever Lewis was wrestling in Lexington, Kentucky.
“Every wrestler I’ve told that story to has been speechless after hearing that tale,” Maguire shared in the overture. “I’m as proud of that story as I am everything I’ve accomplished in music and in wrestling. Most of all, I love how my life brought that story full circle. I never set out to work in the wrestling business. I wanted to be a musician. I wanted to write songs and play in a band and make music, but many things fell into place to lead me right back to the business of professional wrestling. It’s been an incredible ride with many twists, turns, detours, dead ends, and even a few false finishes, and I am thankful for all that has happened.”
Maguire’s musical journey began at the age of only three years old. Instead of banging on the piano keys like most children his age would, he would play actual songs like “Silent Night.” His mother tried to get him lessons, but was told no one would take him until he reached the age of five. Maguire would indeed start lessons once he reached that age and would progress to playing multiple instruments including the guitar, drums, bass and keyboards. He would also be skilled at composing, vocals, producing and arranging.
“(Music is) everything in my whole life,” confessed Maguire. “I can’t imagine what I would have done (without it).”
In the fifth grade, Maguire joined his first band which was called The Undertakers. “How’s that for some foreshadowing of my future life?” Maguire pointed out in the book. The band would end up changing their name to Sounds Unlimited. “We wound up being the number one prom band and dance band in the state of Kentucky,” wrote Maguire. “We had gigs all over the place, and we weren’t even old enough to drive!”
A few other bands later, Maguire was told about an audition for the Gentrys. The group had a hit song with “Keep on Dancing” and its leader just happened to be Hart. The Gentrys were looking for a new drummer, and Maguire would be up against some stiff competition, the drummers for Jerry Lee Lewis and Ray Charles. Maguire would end up getting the gig after impressing the band with his skills and Hart and Maguire would become bandmates, friends and musical collaborators. Hart even writes one of the forewords for this book.
The Gentrys would eventually disband and Maguire received several offers from other bands including a just starting up R.E.M. which he turned down! But don’t feel too sorry for Maguire. His musical forays and just plain being in the right place at the right time would lead to countless celebrity encounters. He would play pool with Jackie Gleason at the actor’s house, got kissed by Farrah Fawcett and witnessed a rehearsal of Prince and the Revolution before they made it big. And that’s only naming a few!
While reading the book, I often wondered if there is any celebrity Maguire hasn’t met yet that he’d still would like to. Turns out he’s a huge fan of the South Korean pop group, BTS. He loves their sound, style, dance moves and philanthropy. Maguire even has a song to pitch to them and would like the group to be appointed as a member of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels. Maguire himself was bestowed with the designation in the late ‘60s, which according to its official website “is the highest title of honor bestowed by the Governor of Kentucky. It is recognition of an individual’s noteworthy accomplishments and outstanding service to our community, state, and nation.” (Maguire’s award was for his involvement with the Oakwood Corporation, “an organization that ran homes for special needs children and adults.”)
Maguire would first be exposed to pro wrestling when he was spending the summer with his aunt and uncle around the age of 11 or 12. Although Maguire had done some wrestling himself in school, he had never watched it on television before. The first wrestler he saw onscreen ended up being Gorgeous George. Maguire would quickly become a fan himself, and like so many of us he’d tune in on Saturday mornings accompanied by a bowl of cereal. He liked the tag team The Interns and remembers being terrified of Ox Baker. Later on, he would be impressed by Randy “Macho Man” Savage, not knowing the two would end up working together years later. (Maguire would co-write “Together” the wedding song first used in a music video aired before Savage and Miss Elizabeth’s wedding at SummerSlam 1991).
Maguire’s career in wrestling music would begin with a call from Hart. (As you’ll read in the book, many of Maguire’s wrestling projects would come about this way!) The two would work with Jerry “the King” Lawler, who wanted to record a single. Hart would end up going to the WWE and brought Maguire in to work on the promotion’s musical albums The Wrestling Album and Piledriver. The projects would lead to Maguire coming on full-time to work on music for the WWE.
Hart and Maguire would prove to be a formidable and synchronous musical team with Hart writing the lyrics and Maguire composing the music. Maguire has particularly fond memories of creating “It’s All About the Money” for the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase. He and Hart were struggling to come up with a theme for DiBiase when Maguire just happened to let Hart know that their foreign royalty payments would be late that month saying, “Jimmy, you know how everything is, it’s always about the money.” To which Hart replied, “That’s it! Thank you!” Hart proceeded to jot down some lyrics on the spot saying out loud, “Everybody’s got a price. Everybody’s got to pay.” Maguire replied by humming what would become the melody on the spot.
“Jimmy Hart’s brilliant,” remarked Maguire matter of factly. “He’s just a creative genius.”
Out of all the entrance themes he worked on, Maguire says that “Sexy Boy” (which he says he wrote the music for in about 10 minutes) and Hogan’s “American Made” (used during his time in WCW) stand out to him. Of course, it must be asked which of the vocalists who’ve performed “Sexy Boy” is his favorite (the song has been sung by the late Sherri Martel, Michaels and Kurt Angle). Maguire is quick to point out that I’ve forgotten to mention the spoken word version by William Shatner. He laughed saying he thought he was “in a parallel universe,” when Captain Kirk (Shatner’s role on Star Trek) did his song on an episode of Monday Night Raw. For the record, Maguire insists he’s happy with everyone who has sang it.
When Hogan and Hart left WWE for WCW, Maguire went with them. Maguire is even the one driving the car with Hogan when he was led parade style to “sign” his contract when he debuted with WCW. Along with Hart, Maguire also befriended Hogan. Along with creating some music for WCW and the aforementioned role on the Hogan starring, Thunder in Paradise, Maguire joined Hart, Hogan and Hogan’s then wife, Linda Hogan, to form the Hulk Hogan and the Wrestling Boot Band. The group would release one album, Hulk Rules. Cosper, for one, will unabashedly admit he’s one of the group’s biggest fans.
“(In the) summer of 2005, my friend Randy Pease moved in with me,” explained Cosper. “Randy was a big wrestling fan and brought his entire wrestling video, book, and music library. It was that summer I first read Have a Nice Day, Foley is Good and several other wrestling books. That’s really where the seed was planted for me to write about wrestling. I had a close friend who lived up the street named Jamie Bratcher, and we spent a lot of time riding around in Randy’s car because his was the nicest. He had a CD with every wrestling theme ever on MP3 that we always listened to, and the Hulk Rules album became a staple. ‘Beach Patrol’ and ‘I Wanna be a Hulkamaniac’ were two of our favorites.”
Cosper says he never discussed a Boot Band reunion with Maguire, but this writer did. Maguire pointed out that with Hogan and Linda since divorcing, the original lineup wouldn’t be the same, but he acknowledged that getting the band back together was a possibility.
“I won’t say it’s an impossibility,” revealed Maguire. “But it is possible. And there has maybe been a little chatter underneath between us all about it, but nothing concrete at this time.”
Added Cosper, “I think it would be a kick to see them perform live.”
On the subject of Hogan, this writer had to ask Maguire about the scandals that have plagued his friend in recent years.
“He was a pro’s pro in and out of the ring,” stated Maguire. “Now that’s my experiences with him. Somebody else might have something different. But we traveled to England together and all-around different places around the globe. Hulk is a very sensitive person in real life and he can get his feelings hurt easy. He’s very sensitive because he’s a creative artist. As God as my witness, I never heard him use the n word in all my travels with him or anything. I’ve never heard him put down foreigners or people of color. I think he was upset and in an upset moment he blurted (that) out.”
Maguire feels he has accomplished “the pinnacle” in his career in music and wrestling. “Who am I going to do a theme for that’s as big as Hulk Hogan?” he asked. “Nobody. Shawn Michaels? Nobody. Demolition? Nobody. You can just go down the list!” But Maguire would like to see the WWE have a musical wing in its Hall of Fame to honor himself and to see his friend Hart become a two-time inductee. He’d also like to see the WWE induct more of the people who work behind-the-scenes such as the referees.
For now, Maguire will literally keep on dancing, (it’s an activity he strives to do daily) and will continue to be humbled talking to fans about the music he’s created and of course, his book.
“To me, the book just shows what a person can do if you really work at something and that nothing is impossible,” summarized Maguire. “You know, I had people tell me when I played piano at the country club (when he was just starting out in music), ‘That sounds real good Jimmy, but you’ll never be anything more than just a sophisticated parlor piano player.’ And I thought, ‘No! I’m going to be more than a sophisticated parlor piano player!’ And I worked hard at it.”
Maguire concluded our interview the same way he ended his book, by saying: “God gave me talent. I took it to the greatest show on Earth! I traveled the world with the greatest of all time, unbelievably entertained people of all colors and all walks of life. Who knew that wrestling is such a powerful force? I did!”