YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Before the Zoom interview even started, Thomas John turned his phone around to show a large photo hanging on the wall of his basement office.
Pictured was a head and shoulders shot of Michael Stanley singing into a microphone. It was signed, “T.J. Thanks for all your help! You are a rocker! Michael Stanley.”
“I was literally stunned,” said John, upon learning that legendary Cleveland rock and roll star Michael Stanley died Friday of lung cancer.
John himself was behind the microphone in the 1970’s and 80’s as the afternoon drive disc jockey on then-radio station WSRD, nicknamed “The Wizzard.”
Hardly a day went by when John didn’t play a Michael Stanley song – or two, or three.
“The live double album ‘Stage Pass’ was recorded in Cleveland, and you’d see him at the Agora [in Youngstown] and it was exactly the same vibe,” said John. “I mean you felt like you were a part of that album even though you weren’t.”
John was close personal friends with Stanley and the other band members, three of whom – Gary Markasky, Michael Gismondi and Dan Pecchio – were from Youngstown.
John even sat in on some recording sessions.
“It was really a lot of ‘us against the world’ kind of feeling,” he said.
John called the Michael Stanley song “Midwest, Midnight” the “greatest song about the music industry.” He says the song explains why the Michael Stanley Band was a major regional band, but never huge nationally.
“They were a band and they got signed and everything was great,” said John. “But all the record companies cared about were the foreign bands they were signing. So, they didn’t give him any support. They never got the push from the record company that they should have.”
For 12 years, Thomas John introduced the bands at the Agora in downtown Youngstown, for which he was paid. But only once, after a Michael Stanley concert, did he forget to get his check.
“It came to the end of the night and I was like, ‘Wow. That was the coolest thing.’ And I walk out the door, and I’m walking down Federal Street, and I realize I never got paid. And I went back.,” John said. “That’s the kind of impact they had.”
John mentioned that the Michael Stanley Band broke the record at the Blossom Music Center for a three nightstand: 64,965 on August 23, 24, and 26, 1982.
“And the record they broke was Led Zepplin’s,” said John. “So that tells you something.”
John’s ultimate tribute to Michael Stanley can be heard through his earphones during his daily walks in Poland Woods.
“I have a little MP3 player,” he said. “It has 199 of my favorite all time songs, five of which are Michael Stanley. So, I hear Michael Stanley almost every day walking in the woods.”