Mark Opsasnick, Local Rock Historian, on Greenbelt’s Famous Rockers

| June 25, 2014 | 1 Comment

Here’s a familiar face to many Greenbelters – Mark Opsasnick at his favorite hang-out – the New Deal Cafe.  Mark’s a life-long Greenbelter, so can tell stories about the teen scene here back in the ’60s.

The action was at the Youth Center, which held dances up until ’76 when they, along with similar teen clubs throughout the county, closed.  Had something to do with drug use.  ( I can just imagine.)

Mark’s been an avid fan and follower of the rock since those early years and he’s put that passion to use researching and publishing books about the DC-area rock scene. His Capitol Rock chronicling DC-area rock music from 1951 to 1976 attracted some nice reviews, with the Washington City Paper calling it “a feast of arcane, often fascinating detail, conjuring a long-lost world of innocent teen dances and rowdy honky-tonks.” The Washington Post called it “an excellent recent history of Washington’s rock ‘n’ roll scene.” Next, Mark wrote Washington Rock and Roll: A Social History, and another best-seller for him was The Lizard King Was Here: The Life and Times of Jim Morrison in Alexandria, Virginia. 

Currently Mark’s in the tall grasses researching the saga of popular music in the DC area from Colonial times to the end of the 1960s, work resulting in a book he hopes to see published in  2016.

Mark got started writing through his interest in unexplained phenomena, and his first article for Rockville’s Strange Magazine is the first and last word on Big Foot sightings –  Maryland Big Foot Digest.  His coverage of that beat also led to another of his books – Miscellaneous and Unknown: Cultural Souvenirs from Prince George’s County, Maryland.

And there’s more great local reporting and story-telling in his Cultural Badlands Tour:  An Outsider’s Guide to Obscure Landmarks and Offbeat Historical Sites in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

For 18 years Mark wrote for Strange Magazine, and his articles there led to the the publication of another book – The Real Story Behind the Exorcist.  (Mark had determined who the “possessed” boy really was, where he attended school, and where he really lived at the time of his “possession”  His methods and writing prove that meticulous research can really pay off.)


Impressed with Mark’s thorough research and passion for the subject, I asked if he knew of any nationally known popular musicians from Greenbelt and it turns out he does!  

Buzz Busby (1933-2003) was a singer-mandolinist considered the Father of Bluegrass in the DC area.  Some of the details about him in Mark’s forthcoming book include his ’50s residency in Riverdale and Greenbelt, where they passed through two residences, 30-A Crescent Road and 10-F Southway.  He later rented apartments in Takoma Park, and then lived for many years in College park, where he supported himself as a gas station attendant.

AAAJune20145Ron Bushy (1941-) is the original and current drummer of the psychedelic rock band Iron Butterfly, best known for the 1968 hit “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”  He was born in DC and told Mark in an interview that he lived in Greenbelt at 7-C Southway from the time he was born until approximately 1946.

Seth Justman  (1951-), raised in Greenbelt and Lanham, is best known as the keyboardist for the J. Geils Band, and played on all fifteen of their albums from 1969 to 1984.   Justman lived at 3-D Crescent Road in Greenbelt until age 15.

Terry Gleason (1955-2004)  is best known as the rhythm guitarist for the blues legend John Lee Hooker.  He also played with Carlos Santana, Gregg Allman, Roy Rogers, Charlie Musselwhite, and everybody from the Starship.  He grew up at 7846 Lakecrest Drive in Greenbelt, played in bands around the county, including at the Greenbelt Firehouse, and lived here until 1981.





Category: People

About the Author ()

Susan Harris started this blog and the Greenbelt Maryland Youtube Channel in 2012 in order to get to know her new community and have some fun. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she still blogs at Garden Rant. Susan's primary project in retirement is DC Gardens, a nonprofit media campaign promoting public gardens and gardening in the DC area. It launched in March of 2015.

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  1. COOL! Man, it’s so amazing how many long time Greenbelters there are. It’s so opposite of how I grew up.

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