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James Carroll ‘Jim’ Maher, music critic, dies

James Carroll “Jim” Maher ardently supported the Baltimore music scene.
James Carroll “Jim” Maher ardently supported the Baltimore music scene.

James Carroll “Jim” Maher, who chronicled the Baltimore rock music scene for the City Paper, died of a stroke March 25 at Seasons Hospice at Sinai Hospital. He was 65 and lived in Hamilton and later in Towson.

Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Catonsville on South Rolling Road, he was the son of Raymond P. Maher Sr., a Baltimore Sun advertising executive, and his wife, Joanne Carroll, who taught at the Good Shepherd Center and owned a retail store in Cape May, New Jersey.

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He was a 1973 Cardinal Gibbons High School graduate and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Maryland, College Park, where he was editor of Calvert, the university’s literary journal.

He initially worked for the old Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. in customer service and wrote poetry for literary journals.

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He later became a full-time writer and the Baltimore City Paper’s music critic.

“Early on he wrote for a little fanzine, Foster Child, published in Glen Burnie,” said a friend, Debbie Couzantino. “It was the time of the garage music revival in the 1980s and 1990s. He always kept his fingers in the music. He’d walk around the neighborhood with his headphones on and the music blasting.”

She also said, “I used to call him the mayor of Hamilton. He’d walk into a Harford Road bar — the Shamrock was one of his favorite hangouts — and people would shout out, ‘Jim!’ Everybody knew him and was glad to see him.”

Friends recalled his upbeat personality.

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“There was a great humanity about Jim,” said Earl Johnson, a friend. “If you were down, he knew how to make you feel better and put you in a higher mood.”

He was a voice for the Baltimore music.

“Jim was an ardent supporter of the local Baltimore music scene and was a music writer at the Baltimore City Paper for more than 20 years,” said his sister, Trish Maher-Mediuch of Cape May. “He was known for his support of local Baltimore artists, especially punk, garage and metal bands.”

David Dudley, editor of CityLab, a digital publication that covers urban issues, was Mr. Maher’s editor at the City Paper. “He made my job easy — it was my first editing job and Jim always knew exactly what he was doing. Jim had a fierce attachment to local bands and was a major chronicler of the local Baltimore music scene.”

Mr. Dudley also said: “Jim was the reigning expert on local bands that were loud — alternative rock bands. He knew all those characters and was the translator to what was happening within that Baltimore sound.”

Mr. Maher was a manager at Record and Tape Traders in Towson from 1995 to 2009. Family members said he retired when the business was sold to a national corporation.

“He was my musical sommelier. He cared about sharing the joy of music, whether it was his taste or not. I’d roll in to Traders and he’d have the latest jam band release for me. He was one of the founding supporters of the punk rock scene,” said Baltimore artist Gayle Maxwell, a friend and longtime customer. “He knew his customers and was a fixture at the Marble Bar and other places.”

She also said, “He was known for his encyclopedic knowledge of music and also known for introducing artists to his customers. He knew his customers’ tastes and easily paired them with the right new release or an obscure musical gem. We have a huge hole in our musical hearts now.”

She said he often showed up at the Ottobar, Hammerjacks, Sidebar and Max’s on Broadway.

“He was a fixture in Hamilton for years and loved the Hamilton Tavern and his weekend breakfasts at Zeke’s Coffee,” Ms. Maxwell said.

James Carroll “Jim” Maher was a manager at Record and Tape Traders in Towson.
James Carroll “Jim” Maher was a manager at Record and Tape Traders in Towson.

She also said, “He had a fantastic sense of humor. When he spoke, he spoke volumes, but he was not a boisterous man.”

In addition to his sister, survivors include his mother, Joanne Carroll Maher of Cape May; four brothers, Raymond P. Maher Jr. of Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, David L. Maher of Greene, Maine, Donald J. Maher of Boca Raton, Florida, and Richard McClung of Ocala, Florida; three other sisters, Josie Maher of Finksburg, Missy Maher Beltran of Middle River and Meghan Maher Daudelin of Halethorpe; and nine nieces and nephews.

A memorial party will be held this summer to celebrate his life.

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