The Brief, Somewhat Tawdry History of Rockzillaworld
Back in 1999, the Rockzilla character surfaced one weekend
on the e-mail group of a Dallas, Texas Americana radio station.
The response caught the character's creator, Michael Johnson,
off guard. Rockzilla's tendency to speak of himself in the 3rd
person coupled with labeling his every opinion as "The Final
Word" quickly separated folks into two very distinct groups.
You either loved him or hated him. No middle ground.
In response to the haters, Johnson said, "Screw you!
I'll start my own damned group." From that ill-conceived
beginning sprang Rockzillaworld. It started out as just
another fan site, complete with reviews written by the fans themselves.
It was just a fun little exercise -- a spoof of folks who took
themselves too seriously.
Over time readership grew and Johnson was able to attract
more experienced writers. Rockzillaworld was changing.
It was no longer simply a fan site; it was evolving into a serious
music site and taking on a life of its own. Some folks seemed
to resent the changes, and the decision to keep the site going
was day-to-day for quite a while. The "screw you!"
mentality won out, and the site continued to grow.
The quality of Rockzillaworld's writing increased dramatically
when William Michael Smith became the Houston bureau chief. In
his first year, Smith wrote over one hundred reviews and moved
the site's focus from almost entirely -- and often marginal --
Texas acts to a broader range of genre-mixing Americana. He
also used Rockzillaworld as a springboard to becoming
a contributing writer for "the bible of alt.country,"
No Depression magazine, as well as other publications.
Smith eventually became Rockzillaworld's editor and,
while maintaining his rate of over one hundred reviews per year,
now edits all of the writing on the site. His experience as a
journalism teacher has proven invaluable to some of Rockzillaworld's
less experienced writers. Their work has shown a great deal of
improvement under Smith's guidance. Nowadays it is not uncommon
to find blurbs from numerous Rockzillaworld writers in
artists' ads in various music publications. Uncompromising and
often brutally frank, Smith serves as a guardian of Rockzillaworld's
Johnson says that his own tendency to be the "Hey kids!
Let's put on our own show!" dreamer and Smith's to be the
"It'll never work" resident curmudgeon voice of reason
have blended quite nicely. Johnson still has his dreams, though,
and says to look out for some big stuff in the coming months.