Category Archives: Music

#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.

#258: British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #258, on the subject of British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.

It was again the early 1970s; I had a pirated tape of their debut album Fool’s Wisdom.  I’m not really certain what to say about them–call it mixed feelings.

They were a short-lived band, producing only the two albums, the second called Wildwall.  I’m sure I heard the second (I know I saw it), but I don’t recall anything from it.  On the other hand, despite the fact that I must have listened to the first for several years (until my tape recorders died), I remember only two songs from it, although obviously listening to it now I recognize the rest.  I think of them as good songs, and I’ll get to them in a moment.

From the beginning, Malcolm Wild and Alwyn Wall struck me as the Simon & Garfunkel of Christian music, what was then called Jesus Music, but that they were a British duo.  I thought they were very good, and they were certainly enjoyable.  I did not know at the time that they had come to America and were friends with Larry Norman, but he wrote a song about them entitled Dear Malcolm, Dear Alwyn.

The title song of the first album, second track Fool’s Wisdom, was all the rage in my first college.  I was certainly not the only person who learned how to play it and could perform it, and indeed I performed it at my most recent concert, although I had not done so for decades, just because I’d promised to do some covers and it was a good one that I knew.  One thing about Luther College is that there were a lot of singers there and not a few instrumentalists, and it was not at all uncommon for someone to start playing a familiar song and everyone to improvise harmonies.  This song lent itself to that, and I’ll confess to having thrown in a few more modern sounds to the chorus than the original sported.  It was well-loved because of that.

I played another song from that album, though, one called Growing Old, fourth track.  I liked it when I heard it, and I learned it (it was simple, really).  I never played it in concert and never played it with anyone else, but every once in a while would play it just for myself.  Then after my father died, I happened to try to play it–months later, no connection to his death–and almost didn’t get through it.  When I put together the program for my next concert, I included it.  It was the only song that got specific mention from audience members after a two-hour concert.

I’m sure there were other good songs, and that I just don’t remember them.  They released the first two albums in 1973 and 1974, then broke up, but reunited to do a live album in ’81.  Both did solo albums, and both are now pastors.

*****

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.

#256: Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #256, on the subject of Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.

If you have no idea who Harry Thomas is, you are certainly forgiven.  I saw what I take to be his one independently-released album, and may have heard something from it, maybe once.  I met him in the early eighties; we had two friends in common.  Harry isn’t really important for his music, though; he is important for everyone else’s music.

Sometime in the early 1970s Harry started a radio program called Come Alive, and an associated organization called Come Alive Ministries.  It was a popular show in some ways, and causes me to digress because it illustrates a significant problem with Christian radio.

WNNN had Harry’s program before I arrived.  As I have mentioned, I came to the station in the wake of a massive restructuring when new owners acquired the business and were persuaded that the only people who listened to “religious broadcasting” were retirees older than themselves.  The previous programming staff were grateful to have Harry’s program at all; the new ownership wanted to know why he didn’t pay for airtime–and therein lies the problem.

Before I was born, radio worked with programs, frequently live radio dramas, sometimes prerecorded ones, and other types of shows.  People tuned in to hear their favorite programs–much as it was with television when I was a kid, that people knew when their shows were going to air and made sure they watched the right station.  That stopped being true of radio stations, replaced by a model in which the station format was the show–that is, you tuned to this station for rock music, that station for classical music, the other for continuous news.  You expect to find the kind of programming you want by going to the station that has it.

Christian radio is still largely on the old model, but with a twist.  People who want to put a program on the radio pay the radio station for air time, and ask their listeners to support the program.  In most cases the program also has a second revenue stream, such as a church congregation that believes this will bring people to their services, or a line of books or tapes for sale to listeners, or conferences or meetings which raise money.  It is very like vanity publishing, that people who want to be on the radio pay to be on the radio and hope that it will bring money to cover the costs.  Yet radio doesn’t really work that way–people who turn on the radio and don’t hear the particular kind of programming they seek change the station.

Harry’s program was a Christian contemporary/rock music program, and it was apparently good–good enough that secular rock stations were paying him for permission to air it.  It worked for them, because it was officially a religious program but had a sound similar enough to their format that it wouldn’t drive away listeners the way, say, a Sunday morning church service would.  So Harry was being paid to release his program to secular radio stations, while Christian stations like mine wouldn’t air it because he wouldn’t buy air time.

All of which suggests that the programs on Christian radio stations are there not because people want to hear them but because people are willing to pay to play them.  I sometimes listen to preachers when my local radio station goes away from the good music to the teaching and preaching, because I know some of them, and because, well, I’m a professional Bible teacher, and once in a while I learn something, even if it’s only what obvious mistakes others are making.

So Harry had a good show.

He then arranged a small outdoor concert, and it worked, so in 1979–the year I reached the radio station–he went one step bigger and launched Creation, a Christian rock festival now believed to be the longest continuously running festival series and the largest, with the original now known as Creation Northeast and a second on the opposite side of the country known as Creation Northwest.

I said I had two friends in common with Harry.  One was the Reverend Jim Bracken, founder of Mission Teens, a rehab not far from the radio station.  I think he must have taken me to Harry’s home in Medford once.  The other was a college classmate, Big Brother Archie Bradley, who worked Harry’s security department and got me on staff for Creation ’83, when I met and interviewed several artists.  I’ve talked about that before, and will do so again.

I hear ads for the upcoming Creation festival, June 27th, and I wanted to post this before that happened.  I don’t expect to be there.  However, researching this article has made me aware that Harry Thomas, now in his seventies and quite infirm, has recently been arrested and charged with sexual misconduct involving minors.  The details have all been kept secret, and his attorney has submitted a not guilty plea, while his ministries have all suspended his involvement for the present.

As their church website says, pray for all those involved.

We’ll get back to the musicians next time.

*****

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.

#254: Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #254, on the subject of Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.

There were probably more Christian bands back then than anyone remembers, although not nearly so many as there are today.  I’m going to hit a few that were perhaps more obscure and less remembered.  These are perhaps awkwardly sequenced, because they don’t make a lot of sense grouped together anyway.

Let’s start with a fellow named Lewis McVay, because I remembered the title and cover of his album, Spirit of St. Lewis.  I remember thinking at the time that it was clever.  Today I recognize none of the tracks titles, but listening I immediately recognize Lost But Not Forgotten, which must be the one we played most, but I also remember Sit Down.

The reason he’s mentioned here, though, is because in looking for him, I discovered that he had been an original member of a band called Mustard Seed Faith, which was one of those bands I’d heard existed but about whom I never heard anything more.  Hearing them now I would say they had a light pop sound, at least as far as the tracks surviving on the Internet indicate.  As I was researching other bands, I also discovered that there was someone in the same band named Oden Fong, and the tracks I hear from him were quite a bit beyond the Christian rock of the day, and I’m disappointed that I never heard of him back then.

There was also a band that released several albums in the 70s, of which we had the one called Love Note.  Honestly I probably would have forgotten this band entirely were it not for my memory of a name.  I recently heard a DJ (Rudy on the Radio on Lift-FM) say that he was playing a song from Steven Curtis Chapman’s first album released in 1989, and I knew it had to be wrong.  I remember nothing about Steven Curtis Chapman but that we were sent something about or by him by early 1984 (when I left the station), and I spent quite a bit of time trying to determine whether this was the Steve Chapman who was in Dogwood and who subsequently released several albums with his wife under the moniker Steve and Annie Chapman, of which again we had one which I think was the original self-titled one and is completely forgotten.  I can’t find any evidence of a Steven Curtis Chapman as early as that, but I do see albums in 87 and 88, so he was certainly around before 1989; I am persuaded that he is a different person from the other Steve Chapman.

I want to mention a band called Jerusalem, not merely because their logo looks familiar so I must have seen one of their albums, but because the tracks I’ve heard on the web are very good, and for another reason as well.  There is a group on Facebook that insists there was no Christian Heavy Metal music until Stryper appeared in 1984.  I never heard Stryper; they were a rumor when I left the station that year.  I also admit to having no clue exactly what distinguishes heavy metal–I’ve never heard more than a few hits (and see the Petra article about hits) from Metallica or AC/DC, and don’t know their sound.  However, in reading about Jerusalem I find reviewers from 1976 identifying them as a “Swedish heavy metal Christian band”.  So maybe the reviewers were wrong, but at least there’s some evidence of Christian metal prior to Stryper.

Finally, my researches recalled to my attention Sweet Comfort Band, which did a smooth mellow jazz rock sound in the cuts I remember.  Looking at their album covers, I remember more than one disk, and several titles from their discography bring songs back to mind, such as I Love You With My Life, I Need Your Love Again and Got to Believe from their Breakin’ the Ice LP.  I feel like I should remember songs from Hold On Tight, but none of them sound familiar other than the finale More Than You Need.

There were a lot of other bands, and some of them are still on the list ahead.  This gives some idea of the variety of what was out there.

*****

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.