In the late 60s and early 70s I can recall waking early in the morning to prepare to go to classes at high school and college, and as I would have my breakfast I would watch a gospel music program that came on the local Knoxville, Tennessee television station. The show was hosted by a fellow by the name of Harry Golden and he would present prerecorded clips of various southern gospel artists performing their music.
At first I found the music to be somewhat annoying with its twangy vocals, but being musically curious as I have tended to be my entire life, I began to be drawn to the music. The clips ran in rotation and over time I became familiar with the songs and they began to catch on with me.
My favorite group was the Oak Ridge Boys. This was several years before they crossed over to secular country music and became huge stars. Their harmonies were pleasant to hear and they sang songs that were well written southern gospel songs. Then one morning a new clip was presented that was unlike anything that had been previously played on the program. The song by the Oak Ridge Boys was called "I Wish We'd All Been Ready". About fifteen years later I would discover that this song was written by Larry Norman, who is sometimes referred to as the "Father of Christian Rock Music".
At that time, I had no idea that there was any kind contemporary Christian music movement. I bought every Oak Ridge Boys album I could get my hands on and discovered that their music was not all country gospel sounding, but was influenced by many other styles as well. This was also when JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR came on the scene. I wanted there to be a Christian rock music genre and I became a fan of just about any pop song that related to God or Jesus. It thrilled me when songs like Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" hit the charts and received regular radio play. But the real contemporary Christian music scene was brewing and I didn't even know about it.
Fast forward to 1984: I happened to see a piece on a television news journal program about a group called Petra and the Christian rock music they played. I had found what I had been trying to find over the past fifteen years. I began to discover incredible groups and artists that I had never known existed. I amassed a huge collection of Christian music cassettes and vinyl albums, read up on everything I could find about the genre, and began attending many concerts. After a while I considered myself to be somewhat of an expert on the subject of Contemporary Christian Music.
By 1988 I had decided to take a break from my traveling life with the road show production I had managed since 1981. My family and I settled back in East Tennessee and I started an entertainment production company. Among the ventures I decided to try was promoting a large scale Christian rock concert in Knoxville. I carefully researched what acts might be the best to put on the show and finally settled upon two giants of Christian rock--Greg X. Volz and Mark Farner. It would be a blockbuster show that would be sure to be a hit.
Greg X. Volz had been the amazing vocalist with Petra, the group that had first caught my attention four years earlier. Greg had left the group to embark upon a solo career and was on the heels of two superb albums. Mark Farner had been the front man of Grand Funk Railroad, one of the most successful rock acts of the early 70s. Mark had turned to Christian music and gone solo, hitting the Christian charts with his recordings. They were both known artists with respectable histories behind them.
On my limited budget I promoted the show as much as I could afford. I had secured the Knoxville Civic Auditorium with a good stage and seating for a few thousand people. I arranged for light and sound companies, catering for artists and crew, union stage hands. I set up interviews and special musical highlights on the local radio stations and bought radio time and newspaper ads. Excitedly I looked forward to the concert day. As the day approached I went to all of my ticket outlets to collect monies and unsold tickets. I was dismayed. Only a couple of hundred tickets had been sold. It appeared that all of the work that I had put into the concert had been in vain and I was about to take a bath on my investment.
I have come to the realization that this post is longer than I had anticipated. I am going to continue this story in my post for tomorrow. The Debate Day topic that was originally scheduled for tomorrow will be postponed until a later time. Be sure to return tomorrow to learn the outcome of my concert experience and my encounters with the artists and with some other artists a few years later.
Do you listen to any Contemporary Christian Music? Are you a fan? Who are some of your favorite artists? If you don't like Contemporary Christian Music, why not? Do you think that Christian artists are genuine in their missions or do you think they are just in it for the money and recognition?