Johnny 'The Colonel' Maguire comes out swingin'

Speaking his mind
By CHRIS CONTI  |  October 13, 2010

SHARP-DRESSED MEN Nagle, Maguire, Mac, and D.

"Over the last five years, local live music around Providence has been on the back burner in favor of fancy restaurants, techno clubs, kickball, tattoos, cheap beer and hipsters."

Johnny "The Colonel" Maguire is out of character, to say the least. Sure, the trademark, 10-gallon brim sits atop his razor-shaved dome, but anyone who has met him can attest that the former guitarist for '90s punk-rockabilly icons the Amazing Royal Crowns is a genuine and likable dude. But he's feeling chippy when we meet for drinks to chat up the release of the Cobra-Matics' new disc, Play the Notes, the fantastic follow-up to Under the Hood (both available at

The Colonel orders a Sprite and says has been sober for the last five years ("My body pretty much told me to stop"); apparently, the newfound clarity sobriety offers has him speaking his mind. "I have always been too shy and a pushover to everybody, but not anymore," he says. "My girlfriend calls me 'Scrappy Doo' now. I can only hold my tongue for so long."

Local musicians — run for cover.

"Artists and bands still submitting and releasing shitty CD-Rs and scribbling song titles on an index card? Give me a break.

"Maybe it's easier to be trendy and grow a beard, look like a goddamn slob, write wussy alt-country tunes and beg people to pay for recording fees and CD releases via a fund-raising website, but that ain't us.

"The Cobra-Matics are a self-contained, success-driven unit and our uniqueness might be our curse for awhile," Maguire continues. "But we have the songs and musical ability to back it up."

"It seems like people around here love to sit in the same bar every night spending all their money on beer, then complain they don't have any money and that any show with a cover charge is too expensive."

This all may read like a douchey local musician pining for the scene's glory days, but take it more as a refreshing (if not unexpected) outlook from a local musician still devoted to crafting distinctive music.

Maguire produced Play the Notes, a lengthy process that sent him to the brink of bankruptcy — and insanity. "I had some serous panic attacks because of the time involved, finances, and pressure to deliver something unique and prove to the new guys [singer "Captain" Al Nagle, bassist Bob Mac, and drummer Russ D.] that we were serious about getting the music out like I promised.

"I had to scale down my collection and sell most of my suits in order to properly get the music out," he says. "I almost went crazy. Literally."

But the effort was well worth it. The rumbling opener "Gangway for 'Gansett!" honors the brew's ol-skool mascot chief (and somehow trumps "Hey Neighbor, Have a 'Gansett!" from Under the Hood). The band bounces hard as Captain Al adopts a gospel preacher persona behind Keith Munslow's Hammond organ on "I Can't Stand Up Alone" and on their Amazing Crowns cover "Shiverin' In the Corner." And toes will tap uncontrollably when spinning "My Babe," "I Played the Game," and the title track.

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