Event will honor radio disc jockey John O’Leary

Highland Park resident was found stabbed to death

By: Maria Allard | Metro | Published January 11, 2022

 A memorial to honor radio disc jockey John O’ Leary will be held from 5 to 11 p.m. Jan. 30 at the Token Lounge in Westland.

A memorial to honor radio disc jockey John O’ Leary will be held from 5 to 11 p.m. Jan. 30 at the Token Lounge in Westland.

Photo provided by Brian Major

 John O’Leary was a fixture on Detroit radio and never missed a J. Geils concert.

John O’Leary was a fixture on Detroit radio and never missed a J. Geils concert.

Photo provided by Brian Major

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METRO DETROIT — Local radio disc jockeys, music fans and musicians will gather Jan. 30 at the Token Lounge in Westland to remember their dear friend John O’Leary.

The on-air rock ‘n’ roll disc jockey, who spent decades at various Detroit radio stations, was found dead Nov. 21 of multiple sharp force injuries at his Highland Park home.

Those close to O’Leary, 67, were shocked and saddened about his death. The memorial will include an all-star jam session and tributes to remember the well-known radio broadcaster and ardent music fan.

The event will take place from 5 to 11 p.m. Local classic rockers Mob Opera are expected to close the show. Tickets cost $10 each and are available at www.TokenLounge.com. 

O’Leary, who attended Redford High School and was a graduate of the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts in Southfield, began working in radio in 1975. He remained a staple on the airwaves at W4, WABX and WLLZ, which drew audiences from Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. His most recent gig was at classic rock station WCSX-FM (94.7), where he spun tunes from 2002 to 2013.

WRIF disc jockey “Screamin’ Scott” Randall is planning to attend the memorial. The 1982 Cousino High School graduate in Warren was a fan of O’Leary for years.

“I grew up listening to him on WABX,” said Randall, of Roseville. “He had a very distinctive voice. He always had good commentary. As soon as you heard him, you knew it was John O’Leary.”

O’Leary and Randall first crossed paths when Randall worked the DJ booths at local clubs, including the Ritz in Roseville and New York New York in Warren, which are both now closed.

“I would see John there doing radio promotions for all the great local bands in the area,” Randall recalled. It was in 2002 when Randall really got to know O’Leary, as they both were assigned to the midnight shift inside the Greater Media building in Southfield. Randall worked at WRIF and O’Leary at WCSX.

“I was doing the overnight, midnight to 5 or 6 a.m. We’d always pass each other every day,” Randall recalled. O’Leary was approachable to the other on-air talents. “John would always try to reach out and be friends with them. He was always kind. We always had a kinship with music. His knowledge of music was vast. He would always research bands. John would read tons of different books on different artists.”

The late disc jockey’s music collection included everyone from Roxy Music to the Bee Gees to James Bond movie soundtracks. Off air, O’Leary could often be found at rock concerts, many times chatting it up backstage with his favorite rock acts, including the J. Geils Band, Bob Seger, Eddie Money and Skid Row. 

Brian Major, executive producer of the MAJOR Group, and Roger Burghdoff are executive producers of the upcoming memorial. WLLZ disc jockey Doug Podell will host the show and is a co-producer. Major was working as a photographer when he first met O’Leary backstage at a J. Geils show. 

“We had similar tastes in music,” Major, of Pontiac, said. “We hit it off and became good friends. He had a great set of pipes.”

Working in radio meant everything to O’Leary.

“John always knew he was going to be a disc jockey,” Burghdoff, of Oak Park, said. “He was my boss at a radio station in Lansing. He was a pretty happy guy. He taught me all about music and how the world of radio works. He knew the production and quality of a song.”

Not only were his on-air skills in demand, O’Leary could also be counted on to introduce bands at local venues. He supported local music by attending live shows and soaking up the music. After last call, the party usually continued at O’Leary’s place.

“He was right down the street from a club called Bookie’s,” Major said. “The party tended to move to John’s house. It was a frequent spot for after-show gatherings.” 

Along with rock ‘n’ roll duty, O’Leary was the broadcast voice of Oxford Hockey for many years. Proceeds from the Jan. 30 memorial will benefit #OxfordStrong. 

“John would have wanted to do something for that,” Burghdoff said. 

On Nov. 24, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy charged O’Leary’s roommate, Sean William Lamoureux, 38, in connection with the fatal stabbing. The defendant was charged with one count of open murder, and one count of larceny in a building.

According to a press release from Worthy’s office, it is alleged that Lamoureux fatally attacked O’Leary multiple times with a sharp object causing his death. Wendy H. Barnwell was listed on court documents as Lamoureux’s court-appointed attorney. Attempts to reach Barnwell to comment on the case were unsuccessful.

The Token Lounge is located at 28949 Joy Road in Westland. 

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