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

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Local rock historian Mark Opsasnick in Greenbelt
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 g4him 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.

Ron 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.



Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. She also created and curates the Greenbelt Maryland YouTube channel. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog weekly at GardenRant.com.

3 Responses

  1. Paul K.
    | Reply

    Oh, thank you for the article AND your time.

  2. Paul K.
    | Reply

    Hey Mark, just read an OUTSTANDING article you wrote regarding your research into the identity of the posessed boy from which the motion picture “The Exorcist” was loosely based. Great work Mark, terrific journalism! At the very end, you seemingly concluded that boy was mentally ill as opposed to being the subject of paranormal activity. I didn’t get that impression, just merely the impression that Hollywood tells a real good story. At the end of your article, the last eye-witness, the Priest working at the hospital I believe, admitted that a glass moved, a bed moved, markings that appeared on the boy, and the speaking of Latin. In conjunction, the boy’s friend that you interviewed was “stumped” regarding the incident regarding the desk in his classroom. The incident wasn’t a small incident either, I mean he was expelled for the disruption. Bet ya’ the teacher was a little rattled as well. I understand the boy was dysfunctional, a real pain in the ass if you will, but that doesn’t discount the influence of the paranormal activity. I mean the mother definitely brought the boy into the parish to seek help from the church, but that’s a testament to how desperate she was to explain the “unexplainable”. She was aggressive in the matter, and I’m sure that some of the things that went on in the house were a bit unnerving for her to the extent that a psychologist was not an obvious choice. The fact that there is an ENORMOUS amount of dedication to “keeping a lid” on the identity of the “afflicted boy”, so many years later, tells of the seriousness of the event. Also, to play the devil’s advocate (no pun intended!), why would the diaries of the event be so colorful (far-fetched) written by a Catholic Priest in contrast to the recent evidence you’ve uncovered? I mean, what if your only remaining living eye-witness to the event is reluctant to tell you everything? It seems that 40 years of lies builds its own reputation of consistency. You definitely did the right thing by contacting “Mr. Doe” once discovering his identity. You had to, let’s face it. I wouldn’t have been able to sleep on it! This person knew EXACTLY what you were calling about, it’s not as if he had no memory of it. There is such a big shroud of secrecy looming over this story, which if in fact the boy was just simply “troubled”, the 40 years of secrecy would be nonsensical, pointless… I dunno, the diaries written by the priests don’t completely match up. Wouldn’t be surprised if the Catholic church made a few bucks off of their NEWER version of the diaries that accidentally ended up in the hands of William Blatty that directed the movie… send me a text or an email if u get bored. (936) 933-0989 xyreus@yahoo.com

  3. Heather Brooks
    | Reply

    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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