Chapter 8: Pass It
June 1972. The Texas sun seemed to be a little hotter than usual. Texans were used to their share of sunshine, but the drought conditions of the recent few months had farmers praying for badly needed rain. It wasn't to a crucial stage yet, but the drought was causing concern.
In 1972, residents of Dallas were still living down the city's reputation of being the place where a President of the United States had been gunned down nine years earlier. Dallas Cowboy fever was somewhat a diversion as the football team became world champions at the Super Bowl in Miami earlier that year.
As early as 1971, hints had been dropped that ''something historic'' was going to happen in the ''Big D,'' Dallas, in June 1972. Newspapers started to divulge more about what was being planned. Billboards announced the week of June 17-22 as that historic week-to-come, the week when as estimated one hundred thousand young people would converge on Dallas to participate in Explo '72, the World Student Congress on Evangelism.
The man behind the plan for Explo '72 was Bill Bright. In 1951, Bright, then owner of Bright's California Confections, founded Campus Crusade for Christ. Campus Crusade was to the churches of America what the Jesus movement had been to street people. Much more organized than the spontaneous Jesus movement, Crusade people had worked aggressively at winning college-aged and high school-aged students to Jesus with the help of many churches. Bright's goal was to see by 1980 global saturation of the gospelto see all nations have the opportunity to hear the Good News. Explo '72, the World Student Congress on Evangelism, was part of that goal.
Using the techniques and publicity methods he knew as a
businessman, Bright orchestrated the gigantic congress, to be attended by representatives of all fifty states and nearly one hundred countries. Mailers announcing Explo went out to all regional Campus Crusade offices nationwide, and the word began spreading.
In early June, teenagers, college-aged youths, and older adults began the pilgrimage to Dallas. Explo '72 bumper stickers decorated cars and luggage from Washington to Maine, and much farther. All the cars headed toward Texas.
Finally the week of Explo came. Dallas had never seen such an onslaught of young people. All airplanes into the airport were filled. Motels were packed with wall-to-wall teenagers. Backyards of private residencies were turned into campgrounds as Dallas-area residents extended a welcome to the Explo crowds. A tent city was built at an RV campground near Dallas, and the rows of tents and campers seemed endless.
Although there were teaching sessions going on throughout Dallas each day as part of Explo, the main gathering place for the multitudes was the Cotton Bowl. Each night as many as eighty thousand delegates poured into the giant stadium for preaching and music. The preaching came from Billy Graham and other renowned speakers, and the music came from perhaps the widest array of musicians ever to gather to worship the Lord at one time.
The Cotton Bowl meetings were far from typical. Cheers pierced the warm Texas air: ''Gimme a J! Gimme an E! Gimme an S! Gimme a U! Gimme an S! What've you got? Jesus!'' The people in the crowda lot of them, at leasthad Jesus, and much more. They had an enthusiasm which made the older guests rejoice and shudder at the same time. The young might be returning to active life in the churchbut did they have to be so enthusiastic? Even when a full-fledged thunderstorm dumped tons of water on the Cotton Bowl crowd, the cheers turned to roars of applause for each clap of thunder provided from the heavens. As one student commented, ''Almost eighty thousand people here in the Cotton Bowl prayed that it wouldn't rain tonight. There were probably about two hundred thousand farmers praying that it would. We were simply out-voted.''
One of the climaxes of Explo '72 was the candlelight service held toward the end of the week, when an estimated eighty thousand people in the Cotton Bowl lit candles in a ''Great Commission'' service. As each person lit the candle of a person next to him, the entire stadium sparkled with the beautiful light. The people sang ''Pass It On,'' written by Kurt Kaiser as a part of the 1970 musical Tell It Like It Is.
Kurt remembers that night well. He was watching the television coverage of Explo from a motel room in Cincinnati. ''It was probably one of the most moving experiences of my life. I never would have imagined that one simple song would go so far. But I'm so very glad it was used in that way!''
''Explo '72 was a major step by the churches not only to bring back their prodigal youth, but also to refire the enthusiasm of church youth. The established church leaders trusted Campus Crusade more than the less-defined Jesus movement in the streets, which they often viewed as pulling the young people away from the church.
But Explo '72 was historic in another way. Noteworthy were the numerous concerts of gospel music presented at the Cotton Bowl each night, at various parks and churches throughout the week, and on the Woodall Rogers Parkway the concluding day.
The day-long concert near downtown Dallas drew one hundred and eighty thousand Christian and non-Christian people to hear the most varied program of gospel music in America's history. The program of performers and speakers that sultry June day was overwhelming: Billy Graham, Johnny Cash, Randy Matthews, Larry Norman, Danny Lee and the Children of Truth, Katie Hanley (star of the Broadway production of Godspell), country singer Connie Smith, Andrae Crouch and the Disciples, Willa Dorsey, the Armageddon Experience, Reba Rambo, Barry McGuire, Vonda Kay Van Dyke (former Miss America), The Speer Family, and many others, including an appearance by Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge.
Gospel music would never be the same again. The music programs at Explo '72 gave every visiting delegate a chance to pick a favorite style of gospel music and take home word of what had been heard. For several music groups and solo musicians, Explo '72 was their springboard to national prominence.
In fact, just a few months later, several of the musicians who had performed at Explo were in Madison Square Garden for a Labor Day concert. ''Jesus Joy: A Solid Rock Gathering at the Garden'' featured Love Song, Danny Lee and the Children of Truth, Katie Hanley, Lillian Parker, and the Maranatha Band. Speakers included Tom Skinner, Scott Ross, Fr. Jack Sutton, Moishe Rosen (Jews for Jesus), Bob Mumford, Charlie Rizzo, and Jerry Davis (editor of New York's Jesus paper, Good News of Jesus).
''Jesus Joy'' concerts provided the same opportunity of worship for northeasterners as had the Maranatha concerts in California and Explo in Texas. In Carnegie Hall, ''Jesus Joy'' had sponsored a concert a few months prior to Explo featuring Andrae Crouch and
the Disciples and Danny Taylor. The crowd at Carnegie Hall overflowed into a Baptist Church across the street. While Danny performed in the Hall, Andrae Crouch and the Disciples performed at the church. Then, while everything was ''cooking,'' the performers switched stages and did the whole concert again. What could have turned into mayhem turned into ''Jesus Joy.'' Both Danny and Andrae recorded the Madison Square Garden concerts for albums. Danny's was released on Tempo Records and Andrae's on Light.
Andrae Crouch and the Disciples were rapidly becoming the best known gospel group in America. Andrae had made giant strides in contemporizing gospel music, and he took much flak for doing so. Critics lambasted his rock interpretation of the gospel, but soul gospel music was Andrae's life and the beat didn't bother him at all. ''It's the rhythm of the heart,'' he'd say.
Andrae began playing piano as a mere child, and was raised in a church environment which made gospel music second nature to him. In 1965 he brought together a few friends to form a singing group known as the Disciples, who stayed with Andrae through several years of work at Teen Challenge in Los Angeles.
In 1970, however, Andrae Crouch and the Disciples became a full-time ministry. The group recorded a single, ''Christian People,'' which hit the secular charts in some locales after its release on Liberty records.
The next step was a recording contract with Light records, and Ralph Carmichael ''adopted'' them to Take the Message Everywhere. Andrae's music was quickly taken up by young people, especially songs like ''I've Got Confidence, ''Through It All,'' ''I Don't Know Why (Jesus Loved Me),'' ''Bless His Holy Name,'' and ''My Tribute (To God Be the Glory).''
Andrae's enthusiasm while performing was infectious; likewise, the Disciples.' They even accomplished the ''impossible'' by appearing on Johnny Carson's ''Tonight Show'' (he introduced him as Andrew Crouch). By that time the Disciples were made up of Bili Thedford, Sandra Crouch (Andrae's twin sister), and Perry Morgan. Backing up Andrae on the show was a group known as Sonlight, who themselves had recorded an album for Light records. Sonlight included Fletch Wiley, Bill Maxwell, Harlan Rogers, and Hadley Hockensmith.
By 1972, the songs of Andrae were beginning to be accepted by older Christians as well as the youths. Andrae Crouch and the Disciples' appearance at Explo '72 just reassured that acceptance. The hands clapped. The feet stomped. The people sang and praised the Lord with one of the men most responsible for the growth of Jesus music.
Because of the growing response of audiences to the music such as that which Andrae Crouch and the Disciples played, Word, Incorporated in Waco, Texas, was watching ever more closely for new contemporary Christian talent. At the time of Explo '72, Word was rapidly approaching prominence as the largest religious record publisher in the world.
Word, Inc. was founded by Baylor University graduate Jarrell McCracken in 1953. In the mid-1960s, Word and Ralph Carmichael's Light Records, a division of Word, had been instrumental in modernizing Christian music. Records by the Spurrlows, the Continentals, the Jimmy Owens Singers, Ralph Carmichael, and Andrae Crouch, and the Disciples paved the way in the recording industry for Jesus music.
As Word focused more and more attention on the new Christian music, the Myrrh label was established, with Billy Ray Hearn coordinating the production of albums by Ray Hildebrand, Randy Matthews, Dove, and a few of Thurlow Spurr's contemporary groups, such as Dust and First Gear.
Both Ray Hildebrand and Randy Matthews had done an album on the Word label before the formation of Myrrh. In 1962 and 1963, Ray had been ''Paul'' of Paul and Paula, whose recording ''Hey Hey Paula'' had sold close to three million copies. Ray had written the song during the summer between his junior and senior year at Howard Payne College in Brownwood, Texas, where he was an all-star basketball player. When it was time for recording the song, the scheduled singer didn't show up. So Ray did the singing with ''Paula,'' and within a few months, he was on the road all over the world for a straight year and a half.
When he returned to Texas, Ray was soured. ''I was tired of chasing around the world after something that I wasn't even sure I wanted,'' he said. ''I had recorded a hit album, but the royalties were slipping off. I couldn't see devoting my life to dirty jokes and night clubs. What for?
''That's when I started reading the Bible again. I had been raised in a Christian family, but I had never really asked the real questions about life or my faith. ''That's when I realized the Good Lord was trying to teach me something.''
So Ray signed with Word Records for two albums. Then he was moved to the new Myrrh label and recorded a third LP. Ray's greatest contribution to Jesus music, however, was his 1967 album, He's Everything to Me. The songs from that album were circulated among many churches which had previously not been open to contemporary music.
Randy Matthews was a bit more radical than Ray. He was no
stranger to rock musichis father Monty had helped form Elvis Presley's first backup group, the Jordanaires. But Randy took the rock music one step further. ''I reached an age where I had to rebel from my father,'' Randy related. ''I sang acid rock until those guttural, animalistic noises nearly ruined the quality of my voice. The band did very well. But I never wrote anything until I found Christ.''
After his senior year in high school, Randy joined a gospel group called the Revelations. Though the Revelations were a gospel quartet, Randy somehow always managed to inject rock into what they were singing. The Revelations toured for two years, while Randy also attended Ozark Bible College. He them moved to Ohio to attend Cincinnati Bible Seminary, where his music took a turn to street ministry. He helped organize ''The Jesus House'' in Cincinnati, which two hundred and fifty young people attended weekly.
During his Cincinnati days Randy recorded his first album, Wish We'd All Been Ready, for Word Records. The album was quite radical for its time, and it had very few contemporary counterparts on the Word labels. In fact, Randy was the first Jesus-rock solo artist at Word. As soon as Myrrh Records had been formed to capacitate the contemporary musicians, Randy was a natural for one of the premier albums.
All I Am Is What You See, Randy's first Myrrh album, was a collection of excellent Jesus-music songs, many of which became his most popular: ''Johnny,'' ''Sunny Day,'' ''Country Faith,'' and ''Time To Pray.'' Randy moved to Nashville and took up residence as one of the east's best-known Jesus-music performers.
The work wasn't glamorous by any means, though. On a live album released in 1975, Now Do You Understand?, Randy told his concert audience,
It was about four years ago now that I started traveling around the country playing my music for God. Back then they called it ''gospel rock and roll.'' There wasn't a lot of places to play ''gospel rock and roll.'' You couldn't play in churches; they were afraid you'd rock and roll them out of the pews. You couldn't play in colleges 'cause they were afraid that you would sell ''prayer picks'' after the concert. So I was left to play mostly where I could, and that was on the street payin' some dues and learning some lessons.
I learned a lot of important things living on the street like thatand goin' without food. I learned that materialistic things, they just all pass away. They're of no value really at all. I also learned that for those of us that love the
Lord, everything works together for the good, even though you can't see it at the time.
Another lesson that I learned was that dill pickles can be a great comfort to you. You can buy a five-gallon jar of dill pickles really cheap, man. What you do is get it and put it in the trunk of your car, and when you get hungry you open up that five-gallon jar of dill pickles, stick your hand down in the pickle juice, and you take out one, big, green, warm dill pickle. After you've eaten one of those, you don't want to eat for a couple of days anyway.
Dill pickles in jars, sardines, and pork and beans right out of the can cold, with Kool-Aid to wash it downthey might have been unusual fare for most people. But for the Jesus musicians, it was part of ''payin' the dues."
Chapter Nine || Table of Contents