Chapter 13: Let Us Be
KYMS, ''The Orange 106,'' was a small FM station located in Santa Ana, California. The music was ''underground'' rock, and the owners were having problems competing with seventy-seven other radio stations in the Los Angeles/Orange Country area.
KYMS was one of four stations owned by Southwestern Broadcasters, Inc. The president of Southwestern was on the verge of giving up in the battle to win enough of a loyal audience to show up in the ratings books. About that time someone suggested that KYMS could become a religious station.
Orange Country was reported to have one of the highest ratios of Christians in the nation. It would seem that a contemporary religious station concept would have become reality for that area much sooner, but there had been none, except for one or two Jesus-music radio shows. Since May 10, 1974, John Styll had broadcast ''Hour of Praise'' on KGER in Long Beach, a traditional religious station which carried back-to-back preaching programs, much like most other religious stations in the country. John's show was on each afternoon at 3:00 P.M. He would go into his studio in Newport Beach at ProMedia Productions, usually after lunch, and record the hour show on a ten-inch reel of tape. Then the rush was on.
The scene was somewhat reminiscent of an old Tom Mix cowboy movie, when the star literally jumped onto his horse and rode off to save the train. Except in this case John ran out into the parking lot with his 10'' reel of tape, literally jumped into his Mustang, and drove through the traffic-filled streets from Newport Beach to KGER's Long Beach studios via the most direct route possible.
More than once John and the tape arrived as the closing comments were being made on the taped show leading up to ''Hour of Praise.'' The on-air announcer had long before learned to have an
album of contemporary music queued up in case John didn't make it. But, he is proud to admit, he always made it!
''Hour of Praise' ran on KGER for exactly one year,'' John explains. ''It was both a vanguard show and an avant-garde show.''
Just before ''Hour of Praise'' ended its year run on KGER, speculation began about what was happening at KYMS in Santa Ana. Finally the news was announced: KYMS was going to change from secular rock music to contemporary Christian musicone of the first stations in America to do so.
On March 15, 1975, KYMS, ''the Orange 106,'' became the ''Spirit of 106.'' Arnie McClatchey, station manager for KYMS in its first several years, recalled the public's reaction. ''The sound on the air excited the young, Christian populace of Orange Country,'' he remembered. ''KYMS quickly became their station, freely playing the Jesus music which had been impossible to hear on radio before, except for an hour or so each day.''
Some of Calvary Chapel's concerts were broadcast live on KYMS, almost immediately drawing the attention of the young people. Also a remote radio studio was built at Maranatha Village, the Christian shopping center located in the original Calvary Chapel building, which had been sold to businessmen Jim Willems when the Calvary crowds outgrew the facilities.
Only nine days before KYMS' debut as a contemporary Christian radio station, Larry King and several associates had introduced KBHL-FM, ''The Sound of the New Life,'' to Lincoln, Nebraska.
KBHL went on the air at 6:00 P.M. on March 6, 1975. "We're on the air! Thank you, Lord!'' Those were the first words heard at 95.3 FM. In the next few weeks the station was deluged with calls of approval from all over the Lincoln listening area. Local businesses, including the A & W restaurant, distributed KBHL bumper stickers, which proclaimed that KBHL was ''Kept By His Love.'' Automobile bumpers all over Lincoln spread the news of KBHL's arrival on the scene. Brilliant orange T-shirts emblazoned with KBHL's call letters and a frosty mug of A & W root beer told the people that both were ''Thirst Quenchers.'' It wasn't long until the station began sponsoring contemporary Christian concerts by 2nd Chapter of Acts, Barry McGuire, and other well-known artists.
KBHL's activities in promoting the new Christian music marked a major step forward, as did those of KYMS. Enlisting top-name business establishments for major promotions of Christian radio stations had been done before, but never for Jesus music.
Contemporary radio was a medium very much akin to Jesus
music. Like Jesus musicians, the main goal and desire of these contemporary broadcasters was to enable everyone to make their faith a part of their daily life. They wanted to present radio as part of a Christian lifestyle, one which was not ostentatious. The new Christian lifestyle would allow teenagers an opportunity to witness to their friends without being excessively verbal. Their music witnessed, but was not a turn-off, because it so closely paralleled pop music in style. A person could keep his radio on the contemporary Christian station without being ashamed of it in front of his peers.
The Apostle Paul stated, ''I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes . . .'' (Rom. 1:16, NAS). Likewise, the young people of the 1970s were not ashamed of the gospel, but they were embarrassed when they had to couch it in what to them was an antiquated music style or broadcasting style. For these youth, life in Christ was as exciting and real in the 1970s as ever before, and they needed to convey that as well as live it.
So, the solution to them was to take the venerable gospel message and run it as a thread through the fabric of their lives. Contemporary music and contemporary radio provided the necessary atmosphere. Listeners could tune into KBHL, KYMS, or one of several other new contemporary Christian stations and ''participate'' in radio as they did with the secular stations. News, weather, sports, music, personalities, and even contests provided the Christians with a companiona Christian alternative.
The new contemporary stations usually didn't limit their programming to Jesus-rock music alone. In fact, a fairly strict hand was kept on how ''far-out'' the music was. Moderation was the rule. To balance the music and the audience, the station programmers generally played the music which could best be described as MOR (middle-of-the-road). In one deejay's words, it had to be ''not too rocky and not too hokey.''
The result of this MOR approach was best described in a letter to the editor of the Lincoln Star. In part, it read:
Anyone who is a Christian and hasn't yet discovered KBHL has been missing a very delightful and spiritual experience for over a month. If one is not yet a Christian, he should find out what this ''new life'' sounds like. There is nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
Those within the age group of one to one hundred will find themselves participating happily in the worship of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The youth begin to
listen to those old favorites that have been passed down through the years, with new regard and appreciation. The not-so-young among us soon begin hearing with a new attitude those newer contemporary hymns of praise to God.
Houston, Texas, was another city to be served by a contemporary Christian station in 1975. Benton White, who along with Scott Campbell, Rod Hunter, and Dewey Boynton helped to create the new contemporary format, experienced varied reactions of KFMK listeners.
''When the Houston station went on the air with the new format,'' recalls Benton, ''there was nothing else like it there. The company, Crawford Broadcasting, wanted something new and exciting. They wanted to pioneer. So, when the opportunity came, they took it.
''KFMK went totally music from 6 A.M. to midnight, with mainly contemporary Christian music. Because of our lack of enough Jesus-music records in our station library, we really were fairly moderate to start with, kind of middle-of-the-road music.
''Being at the age I was, which was twenty-two, I was looking for something which spoke to a young age group. To see the possibilities of the Word of Christ being spread in that way, was something I wanted to be a part of from the ground up.''
Jesus-music activity was on the increase. Residents of Santa Ana, Lincoln, Houston, and a few other cities could now experience contemporary music more than ever. One major problem still existed, however. People at one end of the country still didn't know what was happening at the other end. Things had been that way since the beginning of Jesus music.
Singer Danny Taylor, whose early years in Jesus music were spent in the Northeast, recalls how little he knew of the activities in the western U.S. ''In 1969, we really had no models,'' Danny says. ''For example, there was Scott Ross, myself, Larry Black, Charles McPheeters, and Mike Johnson. Mike was with the Exkursions out of Pittsburgh. The Exkursions were just about the earliest group out of the eastern U.S. to perform Jesus music. Anyway, all of our paths would cross doing different things.
''We weren't really aware of what was going on, until the Faith Festival at Evansville, Indiana, in 1970, when I did the concert there with Larry Norman, Bob MacKenzie, Thurlow Spurr, Crimson Bridge, and a group which was very heavy for the time, called 'e.'
''We had the feeling on the East Coast that we were primarily doing the whole thing as far as radio was concerned. 'The Scott Ross Show' was becoming a model for the East Coast at least. But in reality things happened slowly. The East Coast had traditionally been quite conservative, and it was a lot harder to break through there. It was in 1971, when we became aware of Love Song, that we became more aware of what was happening elsewhere. We started hearing stories of Costa Mesa, the Church on the Way, and other places.''
Meanwhile, Californian Tom Stipe was working as a young minister at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. ''In the early days,'' he remembers, ''there was such a personal, central movement in Southern California, in terms of incredible spiritual activity, there was little awareness of what was going on everywhere else. There was such a rush of media attention, every time we'd turn around the TV cameras would be set up at church, telecasting pictures of all the kids raising their hands in praise. It was an oddity for the press.
''As soon as a Jesus-music group got together, they would begin thinking, 'Well, this is nice but I wonder if we could go play some place outside of California.' Then they started realizing some of the things that were going on elsewhere in the country.
''As the groups got together and we felt like we were being used sufficiently in Southern California, we began to turn our attentions outward. This came in about 1972, when Love Song did their first national tour with Ray Johnson. Ray booked the tour from Houston, and everybody was amazed! They went as far as Texas!
''Love Song would come back from their tours and tell all of us in California what was happening in the rest of the country. I remember the guys coming back describing how contemporary music was being played on the radio. They told us about Scott Ross, and spoke of his earlier days at Shea Stadium emceeing the Beatles concert. That was our first impression that someone in the professional world was stepping in and taking a stand for the Lord and utilizing his talents to the glory of God.
''Later there was considerable interest from Atlantic Records in New York City. Ahmet Ertegun, the president of Atlantic at that time and producer of top groups like Crosby, Stills and Nash, offered Love Song an incredible deal to be on Atlantic Records. It was the same time the group members were in final negotiations with Good News Records in California. At this point, we realized that all this was going to spread out. We realized it was spreading out!''
Meanwhile, Phil Keaggy, who had played guitar and sung with a Cleveland rock group, Glass Harp, recorded his first solo album in
1973 as the debut recording on New Song Records. It was titled What a Day. New Song Records was an outreach ministry of the Love Inn community in Freeville, where the ''Scott Ross Show'' originated.
''When guitarist Phil Keaggy had a short stint with Love Song around 1973,'' Tom Stipe recalls, ''I remember the incredible excitement of having Phil walk in the door from a completely different part of the country, and it blew us all away at Calvary Chapel. Pastor Chuck Smith still remembers the Monday night that Phil played.''
Many people agreed that the Lord was busy with both the East Coast and the West Coast, and the main tie between them was the musicians and their relationships. To improve national intercommunication, twenty men from across the country and from various branches of Christian work met in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in April 1975 to discuss a change. Paul Craig Paino, Jr., a minister at Calvary Temple in Fort Wayne, called the meeting, which resulted in the formation of the Fellowship of Contemporary Christian Ministries (FCCM). According to Paul, ''The FCCM was born out of a desire to see the segmented ministries of the contemporary outreaches brought together under a common mode of communication and fellowship.'' ''Let us be one in you,'' one song had prayed, and the FCCM was undoubtedly part of its answer.
The organization of FCCM was a milestone in Jesus-music history, for the communication between the East Coast and the West Coast would improve, it was hoped. Also, beginning in 1976, the FCCM would sponsor annual summer conferences. These three-day retreats allowed musicians, concert promoters, coffeehouse ministers, theater groups, record company representatives, broadcasters, artists' managers, recording studio engineers, and anyone else who took contemporary Christian ministries seriously, to participate in a yearly fellowship with the brothers and sisters in common ministries throughout America.
An official newsletter was circulated among new members as a form of network, designed to facilitate communication between ministries. The newsletter was more or less a collection of epistles between members, sharing failures as well as successes.
Lou Hancherick, one of the twenty charter members of the FCCM who attended the Fort Wayne meeting in 1975, had a vision to keep not only FCCM members informed as to what was happening in the world of Jesus music, but to keep the general public informed as well. Lou announced his intentions to publish a magazine titled Harmony.
There had been a Jesus-music magazine before. In 1971, Rock
in Jesus had been created. A total of five issues of RIJ were published, but the leadership was much less than Harmony would later enjoy. Rock in Jesus was married with Right On! in January 1973, and continued for awhile as a middle section of the Berkeley Jesus paper.
Except for Rock in Jesus, Jesus music had received very limited specialized coverage in secular or Christian publications. Most of the Christian press which ran any articles ran antirock and anti-Jesus-music stories. The stories were written for the traditional clientele of those publicationspeople who were already against rock music.
There were a few exceptions. Cheryl Forbes in Christianity Today gave critical but generally positive reviews of Jesus-music album releases. Occasionally Campus Life magazine, the top Christian teen magazine, would feature an article about or by Jesus-music artists, but to no regular degree.
So, on May 1975 the first issue of Harmony was a sight for sore eyesa cause for celebration among Jesus musicians and contemporary Christians. Now fans had an opportunity to read a magazine from cover to cover and keep on top of everything happening in Jesus music.
Dan Hickling, the editor of Harmony's first issue, had worked with publisher Lou Hancherick since August 1974 in preparing the magazine. Dan edited Harmony during a layoff from the Buffalo Ford Motor Company plant. The layoff was very timely for the Harmony project, but it meant tight times for the Hicklings.
''It was almost a full-time job,'' Dan related, ''just trying to find out what was happening in Jesus music. Until 1975 we had hardly any communication from the record companies. I wanted Harmony to be a forum for information and exchange of ideas between artists and others involved in contemporary Christian ministries. My position was in the ministry of helps, especially helping people to establish contact with other people whom they needed to know.''
Harmony's first issue appropriately featured Randy Matthews, one of Jesus music's pioneers, on the cover. Inside were an interview with Bob Hartman of Petra, a ''Tuning Up'' column authored by Danny Taylor, reviews of six new Jesus-music albums, assorted news releases, and the first part of ''Brand New Song,'' a history of Jesus music, which would later be the starting-point for Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?, the forerunner of this book.
Harmony, KYMS, KBHL, KFMK, and the FCCM all contributed in making 1975 a milestone year for Jesus music. The year marked the beginning of a stupendous growth period for all forms of gospel music. But the most dramatic increase would be noted in contemporary Christian music.
Chapter Fourteen || Table of Contents