Dr. J's Rock and Roll Classes

In order to keep Michigan Rock and Roll Legends advertisement-free, both the website and the Hall of Fame display at Scotty's Sandbar in Bay City have been completely funded by the rock and roll history classes that I taught through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Saginaw Vallley State University in Michigan and Rutgers University in New Jersey. Rock and roll classes have also been presented in the past at Sunrise Side Lifelong Learning in Tawas City. These noncredit courses are open to the general public and offer discounted class fees for OLLI members. As of 2022, the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame has a permanent home at the Historical Museum of Bay County, located at 321 Washington Avenue in Bay City, Michigan.


The True Story of Elvis Presley - Part Two (1959 -1977) at Saginaw Valley State University - January 2023

Part Two of the mesmerizing life and career of Elvis Presley will begin with his army years in Germany and his relationship with Priscilla Beaulieu. It will continue with his hit recordings and films of the 1960s, including the famous Comeback Special. The course will also cover Presley’s personal life during this period. The 1970s included many triumphs, but the decade also saw Elvis move away from the music that made him famous, while becoming addicted to the prescription drugs that contributed to his downfall and early death.

Instructor: Gary (Dr. J) Johnson. The course was presented on Tuesday afternoons from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. on January 24th and 31st and February 7th and 14th at Curtiss Hall in Classroom C 244. Price: $40 for OLLI members, $60 for non-members


The True Story Of Elvis Presley - Part One: (1935 - 1958) at Saginaw Valley State University - September 2022 

This two-part course will present the full, true, and mesmerizing story of Elvis Presley.  Part One  covered his early years in Tupelo and Memphis, his seminal recordings with Sam Phillips at Sun Records, and meeting Col. Tom Parker. From 1956 through his induction into the army in 1958, Elvis would achieve unprecedented success as a recording artist and in films; but the heart of the story was the man himself, a poor boy of great ambition and fiery musical passions, who connected with his audience and the times he lived in a way that has yet to be duplicated. 

Instructor: Gary "Dr. J" Johnson. The course was presented on Wednesdays from 12 noon to 2:00 p.m. - September 7, 14, 21, and 28 at Curtiss Hall in classroom - C 244. Price: $36 for members, $56 for non-members.


Presented in February 2022 at Saginaw Valley State University

Michigan Rock and Roll - Part 2: The 1960s - The Golden Decade

The course covered Michigan’s most interesting musical decade - one that saw the emergence of a literal galaxy of stars including Del Shannon, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Bob Seger. The garage rock movement, the growth of teen night clubs across the state, Detroit rock and the Grande Ballroom, the popularity of music festivals, and Motown developing into “The Sound of Young America” were just some of the topics covered in this fascinating time capsule. 

The course was presented in person with a reduced class size to accomodate social distancing in Room 224 in Curtiss Hall. Class dates were Wednesday afternoons on February 2, 9, 16, 23, and March 2. Class time: 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. Instructor was Gary (Dr. J) Johnson.



Presented in February 2020 at Saginaw Valley State University

Michigan Rock and Roll – Part 1: Roots, Rockabilly, and the Birth of Motown 

Beginning with a series of important events that include the growth of the automobile industry, the Great Depression, and World War II, the course  examined the factors that helped make Michigan one of the leading centers of the rock and roll movement. Drawing from blues, country, gospel, R&B, jazz, Latin, and pop influences, the state became a melting pot in which these disparate genres came together to form a distinctive new musical style. John Lee HookerJohn Lee Hooker

The class covered the Michigan-based record labels and important songs that came about during this early period, as well as the lives and careers of a wide variety of artists including: John Lee Hooker, Bill Haley, Aretha Franklin, Jackie Wilson, Hank Ballard, Jack Scott, Johnny & The Hurricanes, Marv Johnson, Little Willie John, and Smokey Robinson.

The course was presented in four sessions thar ran from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. om Wednesday afternoons on February 5, 12, 19, and 26 in Rm. 129 in Curtiss Hall. Instructor - Gary (Dr. J) Johnson



Presented September to October 2019 at SVSU

Roy Orbison and Brenda LeeRoy Orbison and Brenda Lee

The five-week course examined the parallel careers of two of rock and roll’s greatest vocalists. Using dozens of vintage performances, along with hundreds of photos, the class was a musical journey from their humble beginnings to international stardom. The course delved into the peaks and valleys of both Roy’s and Brenda’s recordings and personal lives, culminating with the many honors bestowed on both artists, including their inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The classes ran on Wednesday afternoons from 1:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. on September 4th, 11th, 18th, 25th, and October 2nd in Room 129 in Curtiss Hall. Instructor - Gary (Dr. J) Johnson 



Presented in May 2018 at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan and in October 2018 at Rutgers University OLLI in New Jersey

The Everly Brothers - Heartaches and Harmonies (Revised)

The Everly BrothersThe Everly BrothersAmong the first ten inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Everly Brothers were the artists most closely associated with country music. The Kentucky-bred duo grew up performing on the family country radio show all over the South and Midwest in the 1940’s before becoming early rock and roll stars in 1957 with their classic recordings on the Cadence label. Don and Phil Everly’s main musical contribution was their keening, knife-like harmonies that would become important models for later harmony-based rock and roll acts such as Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles, the Bee Gees, and the Hollies.

This fun and informative four-session course used a wealth of vintage video, photos, and even some early radio broadcasts to examine the amazing career of Don and Phil Everly. The class also covered the rise of country music in America during the 20th century and its impact on the Everly Brothers, one of the most important country-based recording artists in the history of rock and roll.

Instructor was Gary (Dr. J) Johnson. It met in the OLLI classroom at Brookdale Junior College in Freehold on Thursday afternoons from 1:00 to 2:30 P.M. on October 4th, 11th, 18th, 25th, and November 1st.



Presented during the 2019 Winter Session at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan

Bob Dylan: American Poet Bob Dylan: American Poet Bob Dylan: American Poet 

Bob Dylan made a seismic impact on international pop culture as he fused folk tradition, rock and roll rebellion, political insight and poetic ability into a personalized, myth-making style that still resonates today. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when he became a reluctant “voice of a generation” with songs such as “Blowin’ In The Wind” and "The Times They Are A-Changin'" which became anthems for the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war protests. 

Dylan has been scrutinized, acclaimed, assailed and debated by critics, detractors, defenders, and fans with more fervor and attention that any other post-war musician. Although his later work has not affected pop culture as much as his material from the 1960s, most of it amounts to a resourceful body of music that is often beautiful and daring.

This entertaining and music-filled course employed dozens of performance clips and music videos, along with hundreds of photos to illuminate the entirety of Bob Dylan’s life and career from his boyhood in Minnesota through his most recent “uncovering” of the classic American Songbook.

The Bob Dylan course was presented by Gary (Dr. J) Johnson on Wednesday afternoons from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. in Curtiss Hall - Room C129. Class dates were January 30, February 6, February 13, and February 20.

Previous Courses

  • Rock and Roll Songwriters: Songwriting Teams of the Brill Building Era
  • Elvis Presley: The King of Rock and Roll
  • Motown: Hitsville U.S.A.
  • Doo Wop: Life Is But A Dream
  • The Beach Boys: Endless Summers
  • Johnny Cash: The Man in Black
  • Ricky Nelson: They Called Him A Teenage Idol
  • Buddy Holly: Not Fade Away
  • Michigan's Rock and Roll History Pt. 1: Roots, Rockabilly, and the Birth of Motown
  • Michigan's Rock and Roll History Pt. 2: The 1960s - The Golden Decade
  • Women in Rock Pt. 1: This Little Girl's Gone Rockin'
  • Women in Rock Pt. 2: These Boots Are Made For Walkin'
  • The 50s: Before the Beatles
  • The 60s: The Birth of Rock
  • Bruce Springsteen: Thunder Road
  • The Everly Brothers: Heartaches and Harmonies
  • Michigan and the Paul McCartney Death Rumor of 1969
  • The Rolling Stones: Paint it Black - The First Decade
  • Elvis in the 50s
  • Madonna: Rebel Heart
  • Bob Dylan: American Poet


  • Michigan Rock and Roll Legends
  • 96 Tears and the Art Schiell Recording Studio
  • Bay City's Fake Zombies Scandal
  • The Battle of Mickey's Big Bop
  • The Madonna Controversy in Bay City
  • The Million Dollar Quartet
  • The Boy Who Shot Buddy Holly (In Color)
  • JFK, The Beatles, and Michigan
  • So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Teacher
  • Frankie Lymon's Tombstone Blues