Category Archives: Music

#279: My Journey to Becoming a Writer

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #279, on the subject of My Journey to Becoming a Writer.

This is a response to a question asked by Georgia Bester on the Christian Music Network Musician’s Corner at Facebook, which reads:

Hello [emoticon omitted]
For those of you in writing ministry. I would love to hear about your journey. How did you know for sure that this is where the Lord wanted you?

That link probably does not work if you do not belong to that group, as it is a closed group, but that is her entire post.

Uncertain exactly what she meant, I asked for clarification, specifically whether she was talking about songwriting or bookwriting, and she answered:

Christian Author+-songwriter

–which I take to mean both books and music.  I write both, and there have been separate but connected paths that brought me to them.

By the time I was twelve I had settled in my mind that I would be a professional musician, in the popular vein.  I already played piano, clarinet, oboe, saxophone, ukulele, and I think fife and recorder, and my singing was noteworthy–my kindergarten teacher had identified me as her “little songbird”.  I could hold a part in a choir, and had a significant range for a boy.  I had even tried writing music, but none of it was any good, and it was frustrating.

I was introduced to another boy my age (John “Jay” Fedigan) who played the guitar, sang, and wrote songs.  Working with him I learned how he wrote songs, and started doing so myself.  Because in order to play keyboards with him I was going to need to know what he was playing on the guitar (and he was clueless when it came to notes and chords) I learned to play the guitar.  Before I’d finished high school I’d added bass guitar, tuba, flute, and several other instruments to the list, but I got good on playing the guitar, singing, and writing my own songs.  This was the late sixties/early seventies, so these songs were all love songs, usually sad, or protest songs.

The Jesus Movement hit our town in a big way.  I actually had become a Christian when I was thirteen, in 1968, but it hadn’t had a lot of impact on my life because I’d always been a reasonably decent churchgoing kid.  The Jesus Movement was something different, people for whom faith was the center of their lives in a real way.  I got dragged along the edge of this, and became more involved, and realized that the songs I was writing weren’t really worth singing, in a message sense, so I started to shift more toward writing Christian songs, and by 1972 (middle of junior year high school) that’s pretty much all I wrote and all I sang.  (I did write a piece for my high school band, and a setting of the Lord’s Prayer which my high school chorus performed, and of course performing with school groups I did the music chosen by the directors.)  The band that had been a precision rock band called BLT Down became an evangelistic Christian vocal rock band called The Last Psalm, and for a couple years made a splash in coffeehouses and colleges in northern New Jersey.

I went to college and decided to major in Biblical Studies (rather than music) because I thought having that degree would open more doors for music ministry than the other.  I did take a music theory class, but I also took a creative writing fiction class, mostly because it sounded interesting and I imagined that I might one day write the next major Christian fantasy novel, akin to Tolkien’s work.  I played in a couple of bands, including Jacob’s Well and Aurora, which sometimes included some of my songs in the repertoire.

Coming out of college I mostly spun my wheels for years trying to get some traction.  My wife’s theory was that I would get a good paying job with my college degree and pursue music on the side until it reached the point that it paid for itself.  That never happened.  Instead, the Lord worked some strange circumstances to land me on the air at a small but important Christian radio station (it had been the twelfth most important Contemporary Christian/Rock radio station in the country shortly before I arrived, despite being in the sticks and reaching part of northern Delaware as its primary audience–no offense to people in Delaware, but it’s not one of the top markets in the country).  I did some solo concerts with teaching included and continued to write songs for them.  I met a lot of people in the Christian music world, but by this point my recording equipment had died and I had no recordings to give them and no spare money with which to repair the recorders.

During this time I headed up a project to launch a radio station news letter, and wrote much of the content for it.  We had it printed by a local newspaper, who traded printing costs for advertising time, and so I became acquainted with the associate editor of The Elmer Times.  In our chatting we hit an idea by which I would write a few pieces of political satire for his paper, under the byline M. Joseph Young, so that it wouldn’t be obvious that this was written by the DJ on the local Christian radio station.  I think two were published, and I might have copies of them buried somewhere.

After five years I parted ways with the radio station; God had in essence told me it was time to go, and I was so burnt from the struggle I didn’t ask where I was going.  That turned out to be nowhere fast.  I was asked at this time to head a band called TerraNova, which I did for a couple years, but a guitarist who came to us very humbly then made himself indispensable then fell apart and quit pretty much put an end to that.  I was going through jobs fairly quickly, four jobs in two years none of them going anywhere, and my wife, who finished her nursing degree, said I should go back to school.  I could tell you about the very strange search for continuing education and how I wound up going to law school, but suffice it that I did, and graduated with a Juris Doctore and a mountain of debt, only to be denied admission to the New Jersey Bar because of the debt.

While I was trying to resolve this problem, I was asked to help a friend of a friend who was trying to write a role playing game.  I was good at role playing games and good at writing; he was quite creative and had a core of excellent ideas for the game, but he was a terrible writer, had no head for game mechanics, and was very disorganized.  We collaborated, and after five years of work and personal tension he dropped out and left me to publish Multiverser:  The Game.  I kept the nom de plume M. Joseph Young for that project, and for most of what came from that.

I attempted to launch another band, Cardiac Output, which played a bit locally before the pressures and problems of my family life created by the combination of the debt and the fact that getting a law degree wasn’t solving anything was too much and the band collapsed.

In order to promote the game I started writing web pages, first as my own sites.  I wrote on multiple topics–Bible materials, but also role playing game stuff, time travel pages, some stuff on law and politics.  My own originally several web sites grew (eventually I consolidated them into one huge site, M. J. Young Net) and I was invited to write material for other web sites, most of it role playing game stuff, but some on other subjects.  I was occasionally paid small amounts for these.

The company that published Multiverser got a crazy idea to create a comic book based on the concept, and it fell to me as the company’s chief writer to create the characters and stories.  I had written enough for three issues (six stories, two for each of three characters who would rotate) when the tiny company’s art department said it couldn’t be done without increasing the size of the department sixfold, so the stories got shelved for a few months–and then I suggested that they could be turned into the beginning of a novel.  The company agreed, and eventually published Verse Three, Chapter One.  A lot of what brought that about is discussed elsewhere.

Something had been nagging at me ever since TerraNova had dissolved:  a lot of Christians had come to Christ and were never told what to do next.  I felt that a need existed, and in very short order wrote What Does God Expect?  A Gospel-based Approach to Christian Conduct.  The company that published the novel did not want to get the image of being a “Christian” book publisher, so I talked to a lot of people about it, and wound up self-publishing it.  This was followed by two more short books.

Laced into this, when I was at the radio station I became aware that one of the most Christian games I had ever played was being attacked by Christians, and so I spoke in defense of the game on the air, and put together notes for what might be an article.  A few years later I wrote that article, and tried to find a magazine interested in publishing it, but I’ve never been good at self-promotion so it didn’t go anywhere.  When I started putting things on the web I finished that article as Confessions of a Dungeons & Dragons(tm) Addict, and it caught the attention of Reverend Jim Aubuchon, who was co-founding an online group then called the Christian Role Playing Game Association.  He invited me, I wasn’t interested, again circumstances intervened and I was just about forced to join.  I was then asked to head a committee, and from that told that put me on the board of directors.  The group changed its name to Christian Gamers Guild, and the Vice President and the President both resigned in short order, the Chaplain decided that that made him President, and we needed a Chaplain, so he asked me to fill the slot just until we could finish the group’s constitution and hold elections.  I’d never won an election for anything in my life, and as far as I could see the Chaplain didn’t really do anything, so I figured I could wear the title for a couple months and then someone would replace me.

After those couple months there was an election, and I was nominated and elected to continue in the position.  After wearing the title for a couple years I decided that I ought to do something, so I started writing a monthly column entitled Faith and Gaming.  (I had also simultaneously started writing a weekly column for one of the role playing game web sites, Gaming Outpost, entitled Game Ideas Unlimited.)  I wrote this series for four years, disrupted by a computer crash.  People occasionally asked me if I was going to write more, or if I was going to put the material in a more accessible format, so I self-published Faith and Gaming.  A few years later a publisher in the industry approached me with the suggestion that they could republish an expanded edition with a few other articles I’d written on the subject in other venues, and I agreed.

In the end, I write and I compose because it’s what I do.  Much of what I write and all of what I compose is Christian, but then, that’s because I am Christian, and even when I’m writing about law or politics or role playing games there is a degree to which my Christianity is part of that–C. S. Lewis once commented that the world did not need more Christian books, but more books by Christians.  I’m not persuaded that he was right, as Christians need Christian books, but I think he was onto something with the notion that if the best books on secular subjects are written by Christians, unbelieving readers are going to find traces of the faith reflected in those books, undermining their unbelief.

So Georgia, if you’re asking how I knew God had called me to write, I don’t know that I ever really gave it much thought.  Writing is not one of the ministries; it’s one of the tools of ministry, and if you’re called to ministry and you can write, you’ll probably find yourself using writing as one of the tools of that ministry.  I write because I cannot help writing, and I sing and compose because I cannot help doing so, just as I teach and explain because it is innately part of me to do so.  If you are called to something, you will find yourself doing it, or doing something like it, without thinking about it.

I know this has been long, but I’m going to close with a few links to other articles you might find helpful on the issue:

#278: The 2018 Recap

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #278, on the subject of The 2018 Recap.

A year ago I continued a tradition of recapitulating in the most sketchy of fashions everything I had published over the previous year, in mark Joseph “young” web log post #219:  A 2017 Retrospective.  I am back to continue that tradition, as briefly as reasonable.  Some of that brevity will be achieved by referencing index pages, other collections of links to articles and installments.

For example, on the second of January, the same day I published that retrospective here, I also posted another chapter in the series of Multiverser novels, at which point we were at the twenty-third chapter of the fourth book, Spy Verses (which contains one hundred forty-seven short chapters).  We had just published the first of seven behind-the-writings web log posts looking at the writing process, but all of that is indexed at that link.  Also on that same day the Christian Gamers Guild released the second installment of the new series Faith in Play, but all of those articles along with all the articles in the RPG-ology series are listed, briefly described, and linked (along with other excellent articles from other members of the guild) in the just-published Thirteen Months in Review on their site.  That saves recapping here two dozen more titles in the realms of Bible/theology and gaming, many of them excellent.  It should also be mentioned that six days a week I post to the Chaplain’s Bible study list, finishing Revelation probably early next week, and posting “Musings” on Fridays.

Spy Verses wrapped up in October, and was followed by the release of an expansion of Multiverser Novel Support Pages, updated character sheets through the end of that book, and by the end of that month we had begun publishing, several chapters per week, Garden of Versers, which is still going as I write this.

Now would probably be a good time to mention that all of that writing is free to read, supported by reader contributions–that means you–through Patreon or PayPal Me.  If you’ve been following and enjoying any of those series, your encouragement and support through those means goes a long way to keeping them going, along with much else that has been written–and although that may be the bulk of what was written, there is still much else.

Since on January 10th the first of the year’s web log posts on law and politics appeared, we’ll cover those next.

#220:  The Right to Repair presents the new New Jersey law requiring manufacturers of consumer electronics to provide schematics, parts, and tools to owners at reasonable prices, so that those with some knowledge in the field can troubleshoot and repair their own cell phones and other electronics, and none of us need be at the mercy of price-gouging company stores.

#221:  Silence on the Lesbian Front addressed the ramifications of a Supreme Court decision not to hear a case against a Mississippi law permitting merchants to decline wedding services to homosexual weddings.

#222:  The Range War Explodes:  Interstate Water Rights arose at the Supreme Court level when Florida claimed Georgia was using too much of the water that should flow downstream to it.

#225:  Give Me Your Poor talks about our immigrant history, the illusion that it was entirely altruistic, and the question of what we do going forward.

#229:  A Challenge to Winner-Take-All in the Electoral College looks at a federal lawsuit claiming that the standard electoral college election system violates the one-person-one-vote rule.

#230:  No Womb No Say? challenges the notion that men should not have a say in abortion law.

#231:  Benefits of Free-Range Parenting discusses the recent idea that parents who do not closely monitor their kids are not being negligent.

#241:  Deportation of Dangerous Felons considers the Supreme Court case which decided that the law permitting deportation of immigrants for “aggravated felonies” is too vague.

#247:  The Homosexual Wedding Cake Case examines in some detail the decision that protected a baker from legal action against him for refusing service to a homosexual couple, based primarily on the prejudicial language of the lower court decision.

#251:  Voter Unregistration Law examined a somewhat complicated case upholding a law that permits removal of non-responsive voters from the registration lists.

#253:  Political Messages at Polling Places presented the decision that non-specific political clothing and such cannot be banned from polling places.

#255:  On Sveen:  Divorcees, Check Your Beneficiaries examined a convoluted probate case in which a law passed subsequent to a divorce dictated how life insurance policy assets should be distributed.

#259:  Saying No to Public Employee Union Agency Fees is the case the unions feared, in which they were stripped of their ability to charge non-members fees for representation.

#261:  A Small Victory for Pro-Life Advocates hinged on free speech and a California law compelling crisis pregnancy centers to post notices that the state provides free and low-cost abortions.

#270:  New Jersey’s 2018 Election Ballot was the first of two parts on the election in our state, #271:  New Jersey’s 2018 Election Results providing the second part.

#274:  Close Races and Third Parties arose in part from the fact that one of our congressional districts was undecided for several days, and in part from the fact that Maine has enacted a new experimental system which benefits third parties by having voters rank all candidates in order of preference.

One post that not only bridges the space between religion and politics but explains why the two cannot really be separated should be mentioned, #224:  Religious Politics.

My practice of late has been to put my book reviews on Goodreads, and you’ll find quite a few there, but for several reasons I included #223:  In re:  Full Moon Rising, by T. M. Becker as a web log post.  I also copied information from a series of Facebook posts about books I recommended into #263:  The Ten Book Cover Challenge.

There were a few entries in time travel, mostly posted to the Temporal Anomalies section of the site, including Temporal Anomalies in Synchronicity, which is pretty good once you understand what it really is; Temporal Anomalies in Paradox, which is a remarkably convoluted action-packed time travel story; Temporal Anomalies in O Homen Do Futuro a.k.a. The Man From the Future, a wonderfully clever Brazilian film in which the time traveler has to fix what he tried to fix, interacting with himself in the past; and Temporal Anomalies in Abby Sen, an Indian film that is ultimately pretty dull but not without some interesting ideas.

In the miscellaneous realm, we had #227:  Toward Better Subtitles suggesting how to improve the closed captioning on television shows; #228:  Applying the Rules of Grammar encourages writers to understand the rules and the reasons for them before breaking them; and #273:  Maintaining Fictional Character Records gives some details of my way of keeping character information consistent from book to book.

This year we also began a subseries on the roots of Christian Contemporary and Rock Music, starting with #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor in March, and continuing with

  1. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael
  2. #236:  Reign of The Imperials
  3. #238:  Love Song by Love Song
  4. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark
  5. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch
  6. #244:  Missed the Archers
  7. #246:  The Secular Radio Hits
  8. #248:  The Hawkins Family
  9. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist
  10. #252:  Petra Means Rock
  11. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands
  12. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive
  13. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn
  14. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus
  15. #262:  First Lady Honeytree of Christian Music
  16. #264:  How About Danny Taylor?
  17. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire
  18. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts
  19. #272:  To the Bride Live
  20. #276:  Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.

Looking at our Bible and Theology posts, the first of the year landed in the end of March, as #233:  Does Hell Exist? attempts to explore how the modern conception of hell compares with the Biblical one; #245:  Unspoken Prayer Requests finds theological problems with asking people to pray without telling them what to pray; and #267:  A Mass Revival Meeting explains what is really necessary to bring about a revival.

There were also a couple of entries related to gaming, including the republication of a lost article as #237:  Morality and Consequences:  Overlooked Roleplay Essentials–the first article I ever wrote to be published on someone else’s web site.  There was also a response to some comments made by #239:  A Departing Member of the Christian Gamers Guild, and a sort of review of a convention appearance, #249:  A 2018 AnimeNEXT Adventure.

A couple previously published pieces appeared in translation in the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, which you can find indexed under my name there.

So that is a look at what was published online under my name this past year–a couple hundred articles, when you count all the chapters of the books (and more if you count all the Bible study posts).  In the future, well, I have a lot more to write about Christian music, I’m only getting started with Garden of Versers and have another novel, Versers Versus Versers, set up and ready to run, several Faith in Play and RPG-ology articles are in the queue (one publishes today), and there’s a study of the Gospel According to John ready to post and the Gospel According to Mark being prepared to follow it, plus some preliminary notes on Supreme Court cases, an analysis of a time travel movie that’s taking too long to finish, and more.

Again, your support through Patreon or PayPal.me helps make all of it possible.  Thank you for your support and encouragement.

#276: Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #276, on the subject of Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.

The rumor was always that Jimi Hendrix claimed Phil Keaggy was the best guitarist in the world.

The way I eventually heard the story, Hendrix was being interviewed and was asked what it was like to be the best guitarist in the world, and he replied, “I don’t know, ask Phil Keaggy.”

Keaggy always maintained that Hendrix never said he was the best in the world, and I suppose you could take that version of the story in a way which doesn’t say that.  On the other hand, Keaggy was and still is an amazing musician.

He began with a band called Glass Harp, and they were a more than moderately successful ensemble–they recorded a live album in Carnegie Hall sometime in the early 1970s, but it wasn’t released until the late 90s, after Keaggy was more than established.  For most aficionados his first Christian album was the breakthrough, and the title song What a Day put him on the map, showcasing his lead stylings.

It was again the title song of his next album, Love Broke Thru, which caught the ear; it was also recorded by its co-writer, still ahead on our survey, and although people still debate which version is better, the song propelled both of them into the spotlight.  It led to a tour and concert album with 2nd Chapter of Acts, under the title How the West Was Won, a good album which never achieved the greatness of To the Bride.

This was followed by a more fusion-styled album, The Master and the Musician, from which the only track I remember was the instrumental Agora (The Marketplace).

Not long after I arrived at the radio station, Ph’lip Side landed on our desk.  It was a much-played album, from the rocky opening A Royal Commandment to the gentle mostly acoustic closing I Belong to You, but the big cut for us, coming out when a major movement was bringing a Crisis Pregnancy Center to our local city, was Little Ones, still one of the most powerful songs in defense of the unborn.

I don’t recall ever having seen, let alone heard, the album Town to Town, but somewhere I still have a vinyl copy of Play Through Me, and whenever I think of Keaggy the first song that comes to my mind is probably the opener of that album, Happy, which is instrumental for probably four-fifths of its run.  Obviously, if I owned the album I heard it, probably many times, and would probably recognize any of the cuts from it, but the only other title that rings a bell is Nobody’s Playgirl Now.

Keaggy is still recording, so there’s a lot of his stuff I’ve never heard; but there was one more album he released in that last year before I left, and as 1983 came to an end I put it on a list of the ten most significant Christian albums of the year.  The album was double-titled, The Private Collection Volume I (there doesn’t appear to have been a Volume II) and Underground.  I recognize one track title from it, What a Love, but the quality of the music or the memorability of the songs was not what was significant with this.  It was the way it was produced.

TEAC, one of the leaders in recording equipment of the era, had released an all-in-one recording studio that used two cassettes–that’s right, cassettes, those tiny little tapes that were always getting chewed up inside the players but which abruptly produced a remarkable audio quality with the development of “metal tape”–to record four tracks on each and permit mixing from one tape to the other.  Keaggy sat at home and laid track upon track, drums, guitars, bass, multiple vocals, all using this gadget, and came up with an album that was at least passable by the standards of the day.

I say passable, but in a sense it wasn’t.  Sparrow Records, which at the time was contracted as Keaggy’s label, felt it was below their production standards, and if you listen to the album on good equipment and attend to the background tracks, you can hear the kind of distortion one gets from copying one tape to another repeatedly (I’ve done it, using a pair of TEAC 3340 reel-to-reel decks and a Tascam 3 mixer; alas my children destroyed those tapes).  Sparrow found itself in a bind, because the music was excellent but the production was below par, so they created a new label, Nissi Records, for the purpose.  I understand the label eventually carried more of Keaggy and several other artists, but I was no longer in touch with the industry so I don’t know the details.

To me, though, this was significant.  In the late 50s and very early 60s it was still possible to record a song in your garage on a small reel-to-reel recorder and have it break through to be a national hit.  By the early 80s hourly rates for studio time for the quality required to make a major label record ran six digits.  Keaggy’s record was the first glimmer of the possibility that it was still possible to make good recordings of good music at home at a not completely unreasonable cost.  It was well outside my budget as a barely-above-minimum-wage Christian radio DJ and PD, but it was not impossible to imagine being able to afford such a thing, even though I never could.

To wrap up, in college I knew someone who said that Keaggy was technically brilliant and undoubtedly impressed other musicians with his skill, but he found the music boring.  He did impress other musicians.  I attended a live solo concert of his in the early 70s, and he would perform these incredibly difficult pieces, and then give an embarrassed laugh and comment that he should have practiced that one.  However, I recently encountered evidence that Phil might just be the best guitarist in the world, in his live rendition of True Believers (video begins with an extended spoken intro).  He is obviously using some fancy equipment on his acoustic guitar, such as one or more ditto boxes, but even so the performance is technically brilliant, and the audience recognizes it.  He does things I’m not sure I could even tell you how to do, and I’ve been playing for almost as long as he has.

*****

The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
  15. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus.
  16. #262: First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.
  17. #264:  How About Danny Taylor.
  18. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire.
  19. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts.
  20. #272:  To the Bride Live.

#272: To the Bride Live

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #272, on the subject of To the Bride Live.

There aren’t a lot of albums that I’m going to mention in their own articles; this might in fact be the only one.  That’s partly because this is a collaborative effort–our last two spotlighted artists, Barry McGuire and The Second Chapter of Acts, went on tour together with support from a band called A Band Called David (which supported artists on other tours as well).  It is also because this live album easily falls among the best recordings of its decade, with wonderful performances of great songs and an unrivaled concert ambiance.

By Source, Fair use

However, it is difficult to present much of this album, because very little of it can be found online.  One of the two cuts I had linked in the early notes was removed because the account holder had been cited for multiple copyright violations (although I found another copy of it).  None of my searches uncovered any cuts from this album by The Second Chapter of Acts.  However, they did most of their repertoire to that point, and Barry also sang quite a bit as well as talking to the audience.  His chat about Dolphins is available online (or was as of this writing, although I had to find a different link for it).  He also sang the wonderful song I Walked a Mile.

This was apparently the debut tour for Acts, as Barry, the known figure from his secular successes, introduced them as those three skinny people “not to be confused with the microphone stands”, and told the story we’ve already related about hearing them at Buck Herring’s house after dinner one night.  As they begin presenting their part of the concert, it is obvious that they, unlike some of the secular vocal bands of the era, were every bit as good live as in the studio.

The two-disk album is enjoyable and compelling throughout, a performance and concert experience rivaling any.  If I could have only one album from that decade, this would be it.

The Second Chapter of Acts appeared on other live albums with other artists, but although they always delivered unblemished performances, the presence of Barry McGuire here made it a great concert, a cut above anything else I ever heard.

I recently saw that Barry released a new album in October, 2018.  It might be accompanied by a concert tour.  If you have the opportunity to attend one of his concerts, it’s worth it.

*****

The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
  15. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus.
  16. #262: First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.
  17. #264:  How About Danny Taylor.
  18. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire.
  19. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts.

#268: Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #268, on the subject of Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts.

On the sensational live album which will be our next subject, our last subject, Barry McGuire, introduces a family trio, Annie Herring (nee Ward), Nellie Greisen (nee Ward), and Matthew Ward.  He tells how he was visiting his friend Buck Herring, then producer of Barry’s first Christian album, and at the end of dinner Buck said to his wife something like, “Why don’t you show Barry what you and the others have been working on?”  Barry’s gut reaction was this is a cross I have to bear, one of the sufferings that come with being a famous musician and recording artist–and then as Annie played the piano and the three of them sang, he was overwhelmed with how wonderful they sounded.

I have recently observed that sibling vocal groups blend extremely well, partly because their genetics give them similar sounding voices and partly because their upbringings give them remarkably similar ideolects.  I can usually, but not always, tell which of my five sons is talking (and my youngest has exhibited a remarkable ability to mimic the sound of his mother calling me).  This was certainly a factor in the sound of this band, as it was difficult to tell when the singer was Annie and when it was Nellie, and although Matthew had a slightly deeper vocal quality and an amazing flexibility in his singing (his frillery would have astonished Handel) when the three sang in close harmony it was as if one voice were triple-tracked.

Their debut album was cleverly entitled With Footnotes, and the back of the album had the text of that passage from a modern translation, with footnote numbers to footnotes which were the titles of the album’s eleven songs.  The first, Which Way the Wind Blows, was one of their memorable ones, and Love, Peace, Joy was also popularly recognized, but their most popular song ever, covered by many other artists including Keith Green and Glad, Easter Song, appeared on this album.

They followed this with more superb recordings of great songs in In the Volume of the Book.  It opens with Start Every Day With a Smile and the hard-rocking Yahweh, and includes Morning Comes When You Call, Last Day of My Life, Keep On Shinin’, and I Can’t Get Near You.  I remember covering Prince Song in a band we called Aurora, with Jeff Zurheide, Karen Johnson (later Zurheide), Candy Jones, and Melissa Rowe (who ultimately married our classmate Brooks Williams, who had his own reasonably successful music career).  It was a very popular and influential album overall.  It is surprising how many of these are not on YouTube, although as to that someone keeps having them removed.

I remember bits of the next, Mansion Builder, including the title song, I’ll Give My Life to You, Well, Haven’t You Heard, and the Melody Green song Make My Life a Prayer to You.

It appears they released a couple of albums while I was at the radio station, but somehow these either never reached us or weren’t so memorable.  All three of them released solo albums, but Matthew had a major solo career which I did not follow–his frilly style was wonderful folded into the vocal stacks of the trio, but a bit much on its own, like listening to Baroque arias.  They also toured with several other artists, and released multiple live albums proving that they were as good live as anyone was in the studio, but one of those rose to prominence worthy of its own spotlight in our next article in the series.

*****

The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
  15. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus.
  16. #262: First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.
  17. #264:  How About Danny Taylor.
  18. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire.

#267: A Mass Revival Meeting

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #267, on the subject of A Mass Revival Meeting.

On September 27 through 29 (coinciding with the Feast of Tabernacles) an organization called Awaken the Dawn is planning a massive effort entitled Tent America 2018.  In all fifty United States capitals and on many college campuses they are planning to hold huge meetings over several days, comprised of worship music and intercessory prayer.  The hope is to lead America to revival.

I received an invitation to participate, but after some investigation I declined, for a number of reasons.  I am sure that it will be a wonderful time of praise and worship for those for whom such meetings are worthwhile, and I would certainly encourage anyone to participate who benefits from such meetings.  However, I think the organizers, at least at the Trenton New Jersey location, have made two serious mistakes.

The first mistake is entirely common in our present time:  they have assumed that anyone who is a Christian musician is de facto a worship leader.  As I have elsewhere noted, just as the majority of Christians are not what we call “ministers” (although all are called to serve), so too the majority of Christian musicians are not “music ministers”, and even among those who are only some are what we call “worship leaders”.  Leading people in worship is fundamentally pastoral ministry.  It’s not about standing up front with a guitar singing the right songs; it’s about being called to that as a ministry.

I say it’s a common mistake–just as back in the 1970s it was assumed that anyone who was a Christian and a musician was automatically an evangelist.  It wasn’t true.  Today the assumption is that such people are automatically worship leaders–overlooking the fact that a worship leader is, pretty much by definition, a pastor, although very few will say this of their worship leaders.  I know they’re making this mistake because when they told me what they wanted, it pretty much came down to standing on the stage singing worship songs, not speaking more than necessary.  I am a teacher, but they did not want me to teach even a little bit.  Very few of my songs are “worship songs”; most of them teach.  I also have talked with another Christian musician planning to play there who readily admits not being a worship leader, but who is planning simply to play a few worship songs; if someone else is leading worship, that’s fine, and I fully agree with that attitude of being willing as a musician who is not a minister to support another minister with musical gifts.  However, it is a mistake to expect such musicians to be ministers just because they’re musicians and they know some worship songs.  It doesn’t work that way.

The other mistake is that they expect mass meetings of worship and intercession to result in revival.  I don’t want to say that it doesn’t work that way, but history and scripture both suggest that it doesn’t.  Revivals do not arise from Christians being involved in praise meetings; nor do they come from intercession.  Every revival whose roots can be traced began with believers repenting, confessing our own sins and admitting that we have not been what God wanted us to be.  These meetings are not telling anyone that.  Rather, they are focused on enjoying our relationships with God (which is certainly a good thing) and praying for other people.  It is not until we pray for ourselves, ask forgiveness and seek to change our ways, that we are launching the roots of revival.

To that end, it’s not going to be songs like You Are My King (Amazing Love) by The Newsboys, or Revelation Song by Phillips Craig & Dean that bring revival, as wonderful as they are, but songs like For King and Country’s Oh God, Forgive Us.  It is when we meet to confess our own sins and change our own lives that revival begins–always with the household of God.

#266: Minstrel Barry McGuire

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #266, on the subject of Minstrel Barry McGuire.

I met Barry McGuire thrice; I’ve mentioned that, and I’ll tell you about it, but his history goes back before mine.

Barry might be the first successful secular artist to become a leading contemporary Christian musician.  He was a member of the successful folk group The New Christy Minstrels–not a founding member, but co-wrote their first hit, Green, Green, on which his characteristic voice can be identified on lead vocals.  He went on to appear on stage in the Broadway hit musical Hair, but was best known for his single–which knocked The BeatlesHelp! out of the number one spot–Eve of Destruction.

In 1973 he recorded his first Christian album, Seeds, on Myrrh Records.  I was aware of the album, and am sure I heard it, but don’t recall any titles on the track list.  His signature song Happy Road, recorded in several versions on several disks, was originally released on Lighten Up in 1974 (and the backup vocals might sound familiar, but we’ll get to them).

His most famous studio album was undoubtedly Cosmic Cowboy, whose title song rose on the Contemporary Christian music charts when it was released.  I think most of us didn’t know what it was–Rap was brand new and at that time exclusively black, so a song in which the lead singer talked all the way through had more in common with Country/Western ballads, but the heavily-orchestrated disco-like background music was incongruous with that genre.

About the same time he got a lot of airplay of the title song of a children’s album, Bullfrogs & Butterflies.

I always found that Barry’s studio work did not do him justice.  I met him at a concert somewhere near Boston in probably 1976 or 77, and he impressed me by taking time to talk with me about music ministry; that’s been recounted in web log post #163:  So You Want to Be a Christian Musician, and it inspired me to write my song Mountain, Mountain (Barry is the mountain, not just because he is a large and imposing person and personality).  In March, 1977, I opened for him at a Gordon College banquet we called the March Thaw, but was unable to play the song for him then, and then when I was at the radio station he stopped by one day when he was singing in the area and talked with me on the air, but I didn’t have a guitar (and silly me I should have sung it for him a capella, but I didn’t think of it and didn’t think I would never see him again).

He appeared on the Keith Green tribute album First Love, and reportedly retired but returned to tour with Terry Talbot.  I find no report of him since 2016, but no obituary either.

We’ll have more of Barry after the next entry, because his music for a time was intertwined with another band who recorded with him numerous times but is much better known for its own career.

*****

The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
  15. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus.
  16. #262: First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.
  17. #264:  How About Danny Taylor?.

#264: How About Danny Taylor?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #264, on the subject of How About Danny Taylor.

Many of you are asking, how about whom?  When I mentioned, though, that Andraé Crouch was not the only artist recording an album during that concert at Carnegie Hall, well, Danny Taylor was the other.  He had already released one album, Taylor Made.

Danny Taylor and his band, Taylor Made Music, with fellow musicians Doug Mathieu and Dona Whittemore, return to the Phillips Area Community Center. They offer a lively medley of classic country and rock.

Living in northern New Jersey we thought of Danny as a local boy.  Word was he lived somewhere nearby.  I only recently learned that he had stayed at the Love Inn in Freeville, New York (previously mentioned in connection with Ted Sandquist).

The quality of that first album was not great, even by the 1972 standards.  However, Jesus People bought it because there weren’t that many Christian albums out there.  The songs on it were all right, but the only one anyone ever mentioned was the penultimate track, How About You.  Jeff Zurheide and I covered it, and we did not cover many songs.  I’m not sure what the appeal was–maybe it was the somewhat goofy opening line, “Railroad tracks are tied, how about you?” which was delivered in complete seriousness.

A colleague, a fellow college-aged musician running his own band in Bergen County, once wrote to Taylor and sent him a tape.  He got a polite reply, eventually, saying that he had to work on his lyrics.  I remember that a lot of Nick Berezanski’s lyrics (I’m not going to swear to the spelling of his name, but I will say that his band was named The Tetragrammaton Life Saving Bank with the Dust of the Earth and I Don’t Know When He’s Coming So Be Ready) were rather clever, but his guitarist admitted that Nick sometimes had trouble with them.  That, though, is kind of off-topic here.

At the radio station we had a copy of his other live album, I’m Not a One-man Show, recorded with a band in Kansas City and having much better production values across the board.  He released a few other albums, but I never heard any of them.  I’ve seen a couple of discographies of him online, both incomplete, and am unable to find a track list for either live album.

However, I clearly remember the novelty song from the later album, Snatchin’ All the Children.  In fact, twice I played at a local coffeehouse, and one of the other artists playing there the same night performed the song.  We got to talking, and he said that he’d been part of Taylor’s band for a while at one point.  I wasn’t certain whether I should be impressed–it’s that local boy thing, that I didn’t ever really think of Taylor as one of the top musicians in contemporary Christian music even though he was really rather good and one of the earliest.

He died in Nashville in 2010; his obituary mentions more about him, including that he toured with Randy Matthews and Mike Johnson for a while.

*****

The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
  15. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus.
  16. #262:  First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.

#262: First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #262, on the subject of First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.

Pop music of the seventies tended to be dominated by the men, so it is not surprising that early Contemporary Christian Music was as well.  We’ve seen a couple of female vocalists in bands along the way, some of whom had solo careers as well, but the one who stands out as the female artist in the Jesus Music world of the time was known as Honeytree.

The stage name of Nancy Henigbaum is a translation of her surname, somewhat known in the classical music world as her parents were both classical musicians, her father conducting a major orchestra in South Carolina before his recent passing.  Her fans were not generally aware of her parentage, however, and heard in her sounds similar to Joni Mitchell or Carly Simon, with a strongly Christian message.  Perhaps her best-known song was Clean Before My Lord, from her 1973 self-titled debut album, but over the years there were many others that became familiar.  (Lovely Jesus) Here I Am, the bluesy and playful Rattle Me, Shake Me, and Diamond in the Rough, were all well known before I reached the radio station in 1979.

She was quiet while I was there, with no releases between 1979’s Maranatha Marathon and 1985’s Single Heart (neither of which I ever heard).  Yet somehow I heard the title song of her 1993 album Pioneer despite the fact that I had no access to current Christian music at that time.

Reportedly, Honeytree is still singing.  In the latter part of the twentieth century she became involved in ministry specifically to the needs and issues of single women, a ministry she continued even after marrying (John Richard Miller) in 1990.  Her website includes invitations to appearances and mission trips through this year.  However, 1993 is the last reported album.

*****

The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258: British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
  15. #260: Lamb and Jews for Jesus.

#260: Lamb and Jews for Jesus

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #260, on the subject of Lamb and Jews for Jesus.

I had heard of Lamb long before I heard them.  I think I even knew that their names were Joel and Rick, and I knew that Rick was a goy and Joel was Jewish.  They were a tip of an iceberg floating in the sea of the Jesus movement, of which Moishe Rosen’s organization Jews for Jesus was the other visible tip:  Jews embracing Jesus as Messiah.  I knew they were out there, they were happening, they were said to be good.

It wasn’t until their sixth album, in their eighth year, that I heard them.  That 1981 album New Mix was a bit different, and particularly different was the hit song Jonah.  Guitarist Rick “Levi” Coghill achieved the vocal effect with something called a “voice tube”, then a relatively new gadget that enabled the guitarist to control the “packaging” of the guitar output by singing into the device, combining voice packaging with guitar pitch.  Vocalist Joel Chernoff captured the drama of the song quite well.  The rest of their music has a very Jewish folk feel–well done and beautiful, and they were on the charts before and after I was involved in radio.  Sing Hallelujah, from their earlier Songs for the Flock LP, is perhaps more typical of their sound..

It is perhaps peculiar that Jonah is the only song of theirs that I remember, but it was quite a memorable song.  I saw them perform it live, and they managed to capture most of the flavor of the song with just the two of them on stage.

I caught up with Rick after that concert.  He was engaged in a discussion with a fan who was very disappointed that the band didn’t have an “altar call” and invite the unsaved to pray for salvation.  His answer was quite interesting.  He said that no one gets to a Lamb concert who doesn’t already at least know what they have to do to be saved.  They might not have decided to do it, but they don’t really need to be told or walked through it.  It seemed to me he was right.  After all, the concert, like probably ninety-five percent of the Christian concerts I attended, was in a church (and another 1% were at specifically Christian events like Creation).  By 1981 there weren’t many people who might have attended such a concert who were not Christian and hadn’t heard the gospel.  Rick and Joel weren’t so much there for the few unbelievers who might have been in the audience, but for the believers who filled the hall.  It showed a keen understanding of the purpose of their ministry.

Online discographies report that the final album was released in 1990, after which there was a compilation CD of their earliest work in 1993.  Joel’s Lamb website reports that he continued to perform and record, and in 2005 released an album with another guitarist replacing Rick.  I find nothing more recent but a Facebook fan page, which is not currently very active.  Still, 1973 to 2005 is a respectable thirty-two year run, and the band more than anyone else defined Messianic music.

Jews for Jesus is still alive and well, and will gladly come to your church to present the Jewish roots of Christian faith and practice, including images of Christ in the Passover.

*****

The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258: British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.