Bethlehem means "House of Bread" in Hebrew.
BETHLEHEM was a Country Rock group of five. With a sound reminiscent of the Eagles they recorded for Maranatha Music, toured all over the US sharing the "Bread of Life" with those who would listen.
Once again by divine appointment; my cousin Joey Albanese came to visit. The Lord had once before used Joey in my life. Thank God for my cousin, and his faithfulness!
Joey asked me about some church in
That night two bands called “Love Song” and “Parable” were playing and they sounded great! Randy was impressed musically but felt a little uncomfortable about the religious lyrics. He wondered about the drum solo and labeled it “Vanity and Vexation of Spirit.” Later on Randy confessed that God was really working in his heart that night.
After the concert Joey and I talked into the wee hours of the morning, Joe’s knowledge of the Bible, was amazing to me. I shared my experiences with him, and played the song that God had given me. I was encouraged and reminded of my commitment to Jesus Christ. That night I decided to get in touch with Bill Sprouse again, (Now if I could just find his phone number?) Joey suggested that we pray together, and seek God’s will for my music. We bowed our heads and prayed right there in my messy old bedroom.
Early the next morning, Joey and I were awakened by the phone ringing. It was Buddy King. He’d called to welcome me back from
Joey had to leave for home that morning, (His work was done for the time being.) I called up Bill Sprouse and told him that I was interested in playing steel for him. He asked me first if I had made “A decision for Christ.” and I said “yes,” and I told him about the night I had prayed the “sinner’s prayer” with Tom Stipe.
Bill said that he really loved my steel playing, and he’d only wished that I had called just a few weeks earlier. The Road Home had recently added a new steel player, Mark Ala. Bill went on to say that he was a beginner, just starting out on steel but coming along pretty well…
Ah… God’s timing! It was just not meant to be. Now I can look back and see the hand of the Lord in it, but at the time I was greatly disappointed! I had really hoped to play with Bill.
Then Bill suggested that I attend a musician’s meeting at Calvary Chapel. He said that he knew of another group that might want a steel player. So that Saturday morning I met him in the big Prayer room beside the stage at Calvary Chapel. He introduced me to some of the members of a band called “
Then the pastor, Chuck Smith spoke to us all about commitment, and serving the Lord with our music. My eyes were opened to the fact this was just not another gig! These men were serious, and had dedicated their talents to God. I felt good, and the peace of the Holy Spirit came upon me. I knew now that this was where I was supposed to be.
As I spoke to the guys from
Paul and Jerry were excited, they really wanted me in their band, but the other guys would have to hear me and decide. So Monday night I had an audition with
I had never left my bar and picks behind before, so why this time? I guess it was just another work of God to humble me…
Jerry and I had over an hour to talk, and he told me about the group’s history. I told him more about myself and my musical experience. Once we were back and all set up, Jim Frank, the lead guitarist, lead us in prayer. I though it was really neat that they prayed before practice.
When we started playing, the power of the Holy Spirit overwhelmed me. Danny’s lyrics spoke directly to my heart, just as If he had written each song for me! My Steel guitar and Leslie never sounded sweeter. It rang out and filled the room, so that even I was surprised at how good it sounded. Obviously I was in!
Now the only hard part was going to be, telling Randy and the rest of the band that I was leaving. This would be the second time I’d left them high and dry. They had bookings, but now without a steel player, they would have to re-learn the songs or add another member.
So when the time came again for Barrelhouse to meet, I drove over to the old practice house praying and rehearsing what I was going to say. When I told the group that I would be leaving to play “Christian” music. Randy took it well. He had seen it coming, and said he knew I was doing the right thing. Lori said “why limit yourself, you can play all kinds of music!” I didn’t want it to come to this, but soon it became a big gripe session. Butch and Lori had to wash clothes that day, so we continued our meeting down at the Laundromat. They tried to convince me to stay awhile but I knew I had to make a clean break. As we were speaking, I couldn’t believe my eyes when several members of the Maranatha band “Parable” came in to wash their clothes too. I saw this as another sign from God that I was in His will!
In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He will direct thy paths.
I gave my notice to Barrelhouse and agreed that New Years Eve would be my last gig with them. At that time I was still reading my “stolen” Bible. So I made it known to “Santa Claus” and others, that I would like a Bible of my own for Christmas. December 25th came around, and I received two Bibles, a King James Version from Sheila’s family, and my sister Madaline, gave me a “Living Bible.” I really liked the Living Bible, it was a translation in simple modern English, and because it was so easy to read, I devoured it. I just couldn’t seem to get enough of God’s Word. I loved reading every night before I went to sleep, and the words seemed to jump right out at me.
As I continued meeting with the members of
Sheila and I drifted apart, and we finally broke it off. I wanted to grow in the Lord and she just wanted to have more “fun.” One evening after a youth group meeting, I asked Sue if she would like to go out for coffee. She said yes! but she drank a Pepsi, (Too young for coffee I guess?) I enjoyed hugging her goodnight entirely too much!
THE CIRCUIT TOUR
My sister came to a concert that we played in
Maranatha had been organizing tours up and down the states of
On the road, I continued growing in the “Grace and Knowledge” of God. It was fun hanging with the guys in the band, and I was still learning about the ministry. In the months that followed I continued teaching the Youth group Bible study at the little church where I was saved. I was growing and learning the Bible as I hung out with the guys in the band, and I would then share what I had learned with the Youth Group. One week we were asked to play a concert at the
Now I was completely unaware that there were some problems in the group. I was so naive and I thought all Christians were perfect, and Maranatha bands would never break up. But some things came up, and apparently Paul and Jerry were out! Now we were just a Trio until we could find a new Bass Player and Drummer.
We had been practicing in Jerry’s basement, but now with him out of the group, we began meeting at Jim’s old house. Soon we began the difficult task of auditioning new members for the group. The process is simple, but emotionally exhausting. We found a Bass player pretty quickly. John Benton, was a talented musician, and he had a Chevy Van. That was always a plus! He learned the songs by listening to a tape of the band. John was actually more of a lead guitar player who just picked up the bass for the group.
After several drum auditions, we finally found Dan McCleery. Dan was a fine drummer, and very professional in his manner and appearance. He also had a small pickup truck with a shell. I was thinking “great we can haul lots of equipment!”
Danny Daniels and Jim Frank were the elders of the group. (Spiritually and Physically.) They were both married with children, veterans of combat in
Our first tour with our new rhythm section, was up to Ritzville
We had a great opportunity to minister in music at every kind of church you can imagine: Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, stuffy legalistic churches and room shaking holy rolling ones. When we came home from that tour, my heart was sure of my calling. Dan and I began witnessing, and sharing our faith with more boldness. Things at home had become more and more uncomfortable for me. My father was upset that I had “ruined my sister now” by changing her religion!
Madaline had truly accepted Jesus Christ into her life, I hadn’t done a thing, only God can save a soul…..
I knew I couldn’t live at home much longer, we were arguing more and more each day. I paid him the last few hundred dollars of the price we’d agreed upon for my ’65 Suburban.
My dad said I “became a man that day”… when I threw the last of my stuff into the back of that old Chevy panel truck. It truly was about time, I was 23 years old and my lifestyle had become incompatible with his. Coming and going any time of day or night, on tour with my band one week and home writing songs the next; staying up drinking coffee till 3 AM and sleeping in till noon, I was a nuisance.
Of course it didn’t help our relationship when I told my father ( The man who fed and clothed me and took me to church for 23 years) was probably “Going to hell” and he needed to be “Saved.” I incorrectly judged others according to my own personal experience in the Catholic Church, I was not fulfilled in that religion, but I have since come to know that many Catholics are true followers of Christ.
I was sincere in my new faith, but I lacked any kind of tact or wisdom. I am thankful that time has a way of healing the hurts we cause, and I praise the Lord that a few months later he and mom came to hear my band play at Knott’s Berry Farm on a “Maranatha” night. He even boasted to his friends at work about his son’s music.
THE CORNER OF AN ATTIC
The house I moved into was trashed and run down, in the old section of
At that time there were these communal houses for new converts to Christianity. This was a much needed ministry because of the large numbers of Hippies and street people being saved! Some were just getting off of drugs and booze, and were in need of some “Tough Love!” There was the HOUSE OF DAVID, for new Christian men; the HOUSE OF RUTH for ladies and several others across
In the fall of 1975, I moved in with several other musicians. The rent was affordable, CHEAP! My good friend Thom Doolittle and I were blessed with the opportunity to live in the upstairs portion of the house. These rooms we carved out of the attic space and parts of the rooms had sloping ceilings (See these bumps here on my head!).
Jim, our lead guitar player, and his family occupied the downstairs; along with another talented musician named Frank Loomis. The only bad part about living upstairs, was that all 3 bathrooms were downstairs; After drinking coffee into the wee hours of the morning…well you know! This problem was further complicated by the fact that the old stairs creaked and moaned as we made the trek to the potty several times a night. Jim and his wife slept, (tried to sleep) in the bedroom under the stairs.
After a week or so, we were informed that this was just not going to work! Now let me put this in some simple terms…we weren’t about to stop drinking coffee! So we just had to find another way. The next day I visited the Army surplus store and found a cool portable sink. It had a pump and held 5 gallons of water. Thom and I could now wash our hands and face, brush our teeth etc. I put up a mirror so we could comb our hair, and we also found a way to “Eliminate” our other little problem. This worked pretty good until one day Frank parked his prized Motorcycle under Thom’s window. Frank later mentioned that the morning dew was particularly heavy that day. We never told him!
A few months later Jim’s wife, Vicky, had been saying that she heard noises in the walls from time to time. No one seemed to take her seriously at first, and she became upset and later freaked out! She said the house was “Possessed” or something, and like some old TV comedy these noises never seemed to happen when anyone else was home! We said it must be mice or something, and she said no! it’s big and louder than that!
Then finally one evening we all heard it...rumble…thump… thump.. thwack.. What was that? It sounded big! We followed the sound and tracked it upstairs. Jim was working a part time “Real” job that evening, to help pay the rent, Thom and I were a little scared … but were reasonably sure that it was not a supernatural being! I got out my trusty Compound Bow and a single Razor tipped arrow… Thom held the flashlight. We all prayed… The back of the closet in Thom’s room opened into the attic. Brushing away cobwebs and musty wallpaper we entered into the dark unknown! Vicky was listening at the bottom of the stairwell to see if we lived through the encounter! Thom’s light revealed the old wooden framework and the dusty air was illuminated by the flashlight’s beam. “There is no such thing as a Haunted House I assured myself”. Thump there was the sound again! Then crack…as my foot broke through the unsupported lath and plaster of the living room ceiling Vicky let out a blood curdling scream and it echoed up the stairwell! As the last few chunks of broken plaster splattered on the hardwood floor, Vicky stopped yelling and I composed myself, and slowly withdrew my leg from the gaping hole. “Bummer”…. I‘ll have to fix that later”. We were careful to stay on the rafters after that… Suddenly something moved just a few feet in front of us, “THERE IT IS” Thom Said! I drew back my bowstring, I was trying to aim and figure out what it was at the same time… “It’s furry”… “has a long tail”… “like a monkey”… Vicky Yelled out. IT’S A DEMON!!! Ahhhh aa” she screamed! Thom’s light settled on the critter…er I mean critters. Yes there were two of them… Possums and they were… in Love, so to speak. “Oh that’s why they’re rolling around through the attic and chasing each other through the walls, mating!” I said. We all breathed a sigh of relief as the humor of the situation hit us… a monkey? Thom said! a Demon? I said! We all laughed. The next day the Humane Society came and removed them for us and showed us where they had entered the eave of the roof, so we could board it up.
Later that spring Jim and Vickie moved out and we took in a couple of other guys. I was now in charge of collecting and sending in the rent. This arrangement was not to last for very long either. In the summer of 1976 the love of my life, Sue, said yes to my proposal of marriage! In the months that followed the old house fell into further disrepair. A
MARANATHA NIGHT AT KNOTTS
The talent coordinator at Knott’s Berry Farm was a Christian and was familiar with Calvary Chapel and Maranatha Music. So once a year, the park was opened to dozens of Christian music groups. Duos and Trios performed on street corners, and amplified bands in the theaters and open areas. Special stages were set up all over and
It was a big change from the days of the Wildwood Express, and what a blessing it was now to sing about Jesus on that stage. Bill had always loved my steel playing, and was partial to country music. That evening Bill Sprouse commented about our band. He said that; “
I had always wanted to play in a band with Bill Sprouse, and apart from jamming together a few times, we never did perform together much. The last time I saw Bill, he was sitting in his living room playing a mandolin. Bill was an amazing talent, and he could pick up any instrument and learn to play it in minutes!
I had gone to his house to return an amplifier that we had borrowed. Bill loved Jesus so much, and he was always so warm and friendly that he won a lot of hearts to the Lord. God had used him greatly in my life, from the first time I had met him at Norm’s house, and later when he challenged my beliefs at Isadore’s. I’ll always remember the message in his song, “Since I met Jesus,” and the first time I heard it at Buddy King’s studio, while I was in the pits!
BILL’S ROAD HOME
A few days later, Ed McTaggart, (The Road Home’s drummer) went to his house and found Bill dead. Bill had come to the end of the “Road” … and now he was “Home” with Jesus. Bill had a severe weight problem, and it was not a big shock to hear of his death. We all were sad to see him go, but knew for sure that he was with the Lord that he loved so much.
The funeral was more of a celebration of life, than a time of mourning. We all made the drive down to
Tom Stipe was just about finished producing the “Maranatha Five” album. So he put in a last minute tribute to Bill Sprouse on the Jacket. He said that; “When the Lord heard the songwriting team of Bill and King David He just had to bring them together in heaven for some more collaboration!”
Mike Shoup had been the sound man for the Road Home, and he had been making recordings of concerts that they had done. Knowing that Bill had always liked my steel playing, Mike asked me to overdub some steel parts on his tapes. One song was called “Shotgun Angel.” I played my little heart out on that tape. It was the closest that I ever got to playing in a band with Bill.
Later on a group called “Daniel Amos” decided to record that song, and they liked my playing so much that they asked me to duplicate my parts on their version. “Shotgun Angel” went on to be one of the top selling Christian albums that year.
Mike and Cathy were married that summer, and Mike asked me to sing at their wedding. I sang “Just a prayer Away” and Daniel Amos sang a few songs too. It was a beautiful outdoor affair, and the
Mike Shoup often came with us on tour, while D.A. was in the studio or doing local concerts. We became very good friends. We had a lot of similar interests, and he was a “Gimmick Man” just as I was. I had always carried extra cords and adapters with me. In every band that I had been in, the others guys knew that I had the tools and soldering iron for emergency repairs. Mike was even better equipped, he had assembled an awesome PA system, and really knew how to use it. I was often dazzled by the little tricks and fixes he came up with on the spot. We were all quite poor back then, and often Mike worked hard all day, and was lucky to even be reimbursed for gas. When Bethlehem went over to Mike’s apartment (2A) to record a demo tape, Jim Frank dubbed the place “Shoup’s Shoestring Studios” and even made up a little ditty…. Shoup 2A, Shoup 2A….
When the Road Home ended, Ed Mctaggart and John Falcone found part time work in Maranatha Music’s warehouse, and soon Ed started playing drums for D.A. Meanwhile back in
We continued touring, and were actually making enough money to live on. We never asked for money to share the Gospel, and all of the concerts that we played were free of charge. Churches took up offerings to cover our expenses, and most of the time we stayed in the homes of the people we ministered to.
THE LOVE OF MY LIFE
I began dating Sue Lakeberg, soon after meeting her at the Methodist Youth group. We went to movies and concerts at Calvary Chapel, and Bob’s Big Boy restaurant was our favorite hang out after church. She would come to almost all of
I had popped the question to Sue several times and the answer was always not what I wanted to hear. She became friends with the wives of the other guys in the band, and they all tried playing matchmaker, by inviting us both to dinner. She and Cathy Shoup really hit it off, and of course Mike and I were good buddies. We were on the long circuit tour up in
Mike just couldn’t keep a secret, at least not this one. When he told me what Sue had said to Cathy, I was stoked! I couldn’t wait to find a phone and call her. We were playing a concert at
The beauty of
On our last concert of the tour, was in
A few nights later Sue and I drove up to Orange Hill and parked in the moonlight. We had a beautiful view of the valley below from the front seat of my old Suburban. The old truck had an intermittent starter problem, so I always had to park heading downhill so I could get it started by popping the clutch. Sue acted pleasantly surprised when I gave her the little diamond ring I had purchased on credit. Full of love and dreams of our life together, we prayed and asked for God’s direction in our wedding plans.
I will never forget the evening when I went over to talk to Sue’s parents, and ask for their blessing upon our marriage. We had planned to have our wedding in November, just a few months away. Sue’s dad said; “What’s the hurry, is there something you have to tell us?” I was a little embarrassed, and said “NO were being good!” Then he asked how we planned to support ourselves, and how much money we had saved. “Just a few hundred dollars” I answered. He just sighed and said “Oh well, I guess you will have to find out for yourselves how much it costs to live.”
My favorite event was when we set up and played on a barge and sailed down the river. As we cruised past towns and campsites, many people followed us walking along the rivers edge listening to a song or two before we drifted around the bend and out of sight. We finally docked on the bank of the city park, where a large crowd had gathered. I sensed the power of God’s Holy Spirit as we sang and told the folks there about the love of Jesus.
After the tour ended I flew to meet my parents and sister who were on vacation in
In the next few weeks Sue and I continued making all the arrangements for our wedding. We found a photographer, purchased flowers and invitations. Then we began our counseling sessions at Calvary Chapel and contacted Mike Macintosh to have him officiate at our wedding.
As our day drew nearer we both prayed a lot more, and we had one last hurdle to overcome. Thanksgiving had become a very important tradition for my family at the Cabin. Sue’s folks had also planned a big gathering at their house, including many family and friends from back east who were there for the wedding. We decided to honor our parents by each attending our own family gatherings, knowing that in the future we would always spend the holidays together as husband and wife. My heart was torn, but I drove up to
GOING TO THE CHAPEL
The cold air whipped though the broken window in Thom’s room. I couldn’t sleep because every few minutes my door would slam back and forth with each gust of wind. I finally got up and moved a chair in front of the door. Wayne and Randy were bundled up in sleeping bags on the wooden floor. Randy was being eaten alive by the fleas that lived with us in the old house. “oops sorry about that” I said; as I stepped on Randy while returning to bed in the dark. The rain and wind continued all through the night, and I awoke to a dreary gray morning. The rain had finally stopped but the winds were still blowing leaves and trash around in the streets. “Today is my wedding day!” I said to myself… wondering if the weather was some kind of sign from God. As the others began stirring, I looked around the old place and said a little prayer of thanks….I was leaving this dump! It was November 27th, 1976. Two days after Thanksgiving, and I was headed to Calvary Chapel to be married to Sue Ann Lakeberg. Of course the obvious song came to mind, and became the soundtrack in my brain for the rest of the morning.
“Going to the Chapel and we’re going to get married.”
Meanwhile… across the city where my sweet bride-to-be was sleeping; the storm had blown down a power line during the night, and her neighborhood was left without electricity. Sue’s parent’s house, was filled with out-of-town guests who had flown in for the wedding. So she began her day by stumbling around in the dark, trying to get dressed by candlelight. The power had been out for sometime and there was no hot water left for showers. With flashlights and candles the ladies fixed their hair only to have it blown all over by the winds as soon as they stepped outside. In all the commotion Sue forgot to bring the marriage license to the church. So as the ceremony was getting ready to start, Paul Mills raced back to the house for the license, (A 40 mile round trip!) so our wedding service was held up until he made it back to the church.
Randy, Thom, Wayne and I made it down to the church, with plenty of time for me to wait around nervously. I was unaware of the power outage at Sue’s house, and I assumed all was going as planned. I was busy with my own “last minute” task of putting on my rented tuxedo. It was white, and I didn’t want to get it dirty or wrinkled by driving my old truck in it. Just for a fleeting moment my thoughts traveled back to 1957; when I first put on that little white tux for my Aunt Gloria’s wedding. The ruffled shirt, cufflinks and suspenders, brought back memories of singing with the big band. I thought about singing at my own wedding, but that seemed a little tacky.
Out in the Sanctuary the music began. I had asked Danny Daniels, (The lead singer in our band) to play and sing for the ceremony. I also had Mark Ala, (One of my Pedal Steel students) play with him. It was cool to have the wedding march played on Steel. He did a pretty good job, and I was probably the only one who noticed a few minor glitches, (Since I was the one who taught him how to play it.)
I combed my hair again, and waited nervously in the wings with Randy Rigby, my best man, and Pastor Mike Macintosh. The photographer took a posed picture of us all checking our watches.
It was 2:00, I prayed a little…. “This is it” I thought! “I’m standing back stage at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, as I had done many times before”….. (There were usually well over a thousand people at the Saturday night concerts) “but this time it’s just a little bit different!” I thought. 2:00 came and went… why were we running late? A few minutes later we were informed about the Marriage license being left at home. Mike said we could still get married, but we just couldn’t go on the honeymoon!
Danny and Mark just kept playing. I had asked them to play worship songs as the people were seated. It was just as the Lord had planned, and the guests were treated to more songs of testimony!
Finally the signal came; Mike nodded and we walked out. Sue was so beautiful, all in white; and her mom and dad both walked her down the aisle. As I took her hand, I quickly turned to climb the stairs. When I almost tripped, Pastor Mike joked: “You don’t have to hurry Dom, I don’t think she’s gonna run away!”
We had asked Mike to do an “evangelical” service, because many of our friends and relatives who were not Christians would be there. He did a fantastic job, of blending the traditional ceremony with bits and pieces of what he knew about us. God truly inspired him, and I don’t know if he even realized that much of what he told us was actually a “prophecy.”
He reminded Sue that I was in the ministry, and she had chosen to be my partner in whatever God’s plans were for me. He said that together we would be a “little church,” and that we would travel and be witnesses of God’s love. Our little church would grow, (as children came) and the Lord would be the Potter and we would be the clay.
The wedding ceremony was beautiful and it went so well, through Communion and the candle lighting, and we felt God’s hand on it all. After the last photos were taken, Sue’s uncle Warren drove us to the reception. The food was great and we received tons of gifts including 3 hamburger makers! (A very popular item in the fall of 1976)
One very special gift was from Sue’s employer, and was all wrapped up in the shape of a surfboard. Everyone was sure that it was an Ironing board; but to all of our surprise; it was a 4 foot “Jesus fish,” cut out of plywood and beautifully stained. That fish has been the center piece of our living room, in every home we have lived in; symbolic of course, of the Lord being the most important center of our marriage.
The Jesus Fish is now a major design feature on the wall of my studio, where it speaks to the many musicians who come here to record.
After the reception, we stopped at Sue’s mom and dad’s place to change clothes and open all the cards that people had given us. Many of the envelopes contained cash! We were so happy and blessed to find several hundred dollars…more than we had hoped for, and more than enough for our honeymoon plans.
Soon we were off in my old truck, heading up Interstate 5, and I began to think, “Am I really married to this girl?”…Wow ! It still seemed like a dream… Then I was rudely awakened from my daydream by the honking of the other cars. Someone had written “Just Married” on our back window with soap, and every car that passed us just had to look and smile, and some waved and shouted advice…?
Our trip was wonderful! Up the coast of
When we returned I learned that Sue had been frightened to stay in our apartment alone while I was gone. Our “neighbors” in the unit next door had a domestic disturbance, and Sue went to stay with the other band wives. Our apartment was a very dumpy two bedroom unit, in a low rent district. So I said “don’t worry honey we’ll probably be moving to
Now I’m not saying that I’m a Prophet, but it was only a matter of a few weeks before we were asked to move to Bo3ulder,
Maranatha Music offered to pay for the whole band to move and support us for the first few months, and everyone in the band said “yes we’ll go!” That Christmas was wonderful, knowing that soon we’d be off on a new adventure.
Mike Shoup was somewhat envious, and promised that he would soon follow us. He gave us all Buck Knives and C.B. radios for Christmas! These were not cheap presents. He really didn’t need to bribe us, we already loved him and his sound ministry!
In early January, Randy and Kate Rigby were married. They honeymooned on the way to
The snow was softly falling as we pulled into the town of
Tom Stipe was a very dynamic preacher, and the church grew quickly.
Steve Baxter and his family also made the trek out to
Meanwhile back in
ON THE ROAD AND OFF THE ROAD
We were no strangers to travel.
We traveled constantly, and I started collecting those little souvenir spoons from every state. At first we traveled in my old 65’ Chevy “Carry-all” and Dan’s
The next day, Knute helped us tow Dan’s truck to the repair shop, and when we found out It was going to take some time and money to fix Dan’s truck; the Millers offered to take us in and help get it fixed. Lana wasted no time in finding us bookings. She got us into the
To call this place a “night club” was a real stretch…. It was a Country Western “beer bar” named the “Corral.” The stage was bales of hay, with split rail fence around it, and as soon as we showed up we could feel the tension. The other band was scope-ing us out, and making abusive verbal comments. They must have assumed that we were there to take their job away. The other people responded well, and some even danced to our songs. I know they heard the words, but some people have “ears to hear” and others don’t! God was working and so was the enemy. When we packed up our stuff, the other band followed us out to the parking lot. There were some drunk cowboys sitting on their big 4X4’s and obviously looking for a fight. We continued to nonchalantly load up and drive away.
As we pulled away from the bar, another pickup truck full of cowboys was blocking the road ahead, and flagging us down to stop. Danny said “Dom don’t stop!” so I went around them on the shoulder of the road, driving over the sagebrush and whipping up gravel and dirt. This must have made them even more upset, and I could see them in my mirrors, as they piled into their truck and followed us. By this time the other 4X4 with the band had joined in pursuit. Danny didn’t need to tell me what to do now. I put the pedal to the metal. Well that little 292 straight six had a lot of low end torque, but no real speed. The cowboys were driving much newer vehicles and I was sure that they would catch us soon. We came to a very steep hill, and I had to shift down into 3rd gear. I could see them gaining on us in my rear-view mirror. I was praying and at the same time, thinking about using a microphone boom stand as a club. Then the miracle happened… as we climbed up the hill it seemed like everything was moving in slow motion! Just then a big slow moving hay truck pulled out from a side road, right in front of them! By the time they slowed down and managed to get around that big old slow moving truck, we had a real good head start. It was pretty big hill, and we could see the flashing neon lights of the “Corral” in the valley below. Then we came to the top of the hill, and I rammed it into 4th and we screamed down the other side and never looked back!
There was a hush in our vehicle, as I let out a sigh of relief. We all knew that God had intervened and slowed them down. I would love to brag on my old Suburban, but I know that it was Angels and not horsepower that saved us that night! Then I also remembered the prayers and anointing oil that had been poured upon my truck in the Trailer park.
It would be weeks before Dan’s
We spent Christmas and New Years Eve in
One evening as we returned from a concert in
In the summer of 1977 Maranatha Music gave us a Dodge Maxi-van, as part of our recording contract. It had a lot more room, and towing power, but sucked the gas tanks dry in just a few hours. I felt pretty good about retiring my old Chevy, it had a new engine, good tires and now my honey had a vehicle to drive while I was gone on tour. Since I had driven my truck on all of our previous adventures, I just naturally transitioned into driving the new van most of the time. I especially loved to drive at night, because I could push it a bit more, avoiding traffic and the glare of the sun.
One night on our way across
Embarrassed, and hoping to correct my mistake without waking the others; I decided to turn around, but the turnpike was a divided highway. There weren’t any off-ramps that I could see for miles and miles. There was no real barrier between the two sides of the road, just a grassy area with a few trees and bushes. So I searched for a spot that looked easy to cross, and began my U-turn.
In my anxiety, I had not taken into account the limitations of our rig, and my driving skill! The slope of the center divider, and the weight of our trailer combined to leave us stranded in the middle, with our rear tires spinning freely. This also left our trailer hanging out into the fast lane; so the cars coming around the blind corner barely had enough time to change lanes to avoid crashing into us!
I was frightened, and one by one, as the others awoke to the impending disaster, panic broke out in the van. I started shouting out orders to get out and help push; with tires screeching and cars skidding around the curve, the angry drivers flashed their “brights” and laid on their horns. Then John Falcone, (the bass player) said let’s pray!
I must confess, I really didn’t feel much like praying at that time;
“What good will that do right now, I thought.”
We formed a circle outside of the van and pleaded with God to help us. Within seconds, a big 18 wheeler pulled up behind our trailer in the high speed lane. It slowed to a stop and the driver jumped out of the cab.
He was a big lumberjack looking fellow, and immediately began barking out orders. He threw us a heavy rope and yelled out. “Tie that around the axle of the trailer.” He connected his end to the trucks bumper; and jumped back in the cab. He pulled us out of the grass, quickly disconnected the rope and as he drove away yelled out, “there’s a turnaround about 500 yards ahead.” As his taillights disappeared down the road, I thought to myself “That must have been an angel!” In less than a minute and God had sent us the help that we’d needed.
We all got back in the van, and there was a turnaround just up the road as he said. I will never forget the helper that God sent that day; and I wonder how many other times God has send his angels to protect us!
As we traveled and ministered in towns across the
I feel like God put me through a Spiritual “boot camp” during those years. It was a wonderful and exciting experience. We also saw so much beauty in this great land that we live in. Dan McLeery had a Nikon camera, and he took a lot of slides during that time, and I continued making 8 mm movies.
IN THE STUDIO
We began working on our album in
Tom loved the steel guitar, and allowed me to experiment and completely over play on every song! (This was later corrected during mix-down, but much of the double tracking is still evident.) Some songs have 2 or three tracks of steel guitar.
At lunch we’d go across the street to Don’s cheese and sausage mart, where I was introduced to the best tasting grilled Bratwurst in the world! Sometimes we’d go to the New York Deli. (Made popular on the TV show “Mork and Mindy.”)
Maranatha Music decided to have us finish the album in
Al Perkins said my old Fender pedal steel guitar was hindering my playing. It was operated by cables and pulleys and that slowed down the action. So I started looking around for a new Steel. I found a beautiful ShoBud LDG model (Lloyd Green) at Blackie Tailors music, and my sister Madaline graciously loaned me the money to buy it. I sold my old Fender steel and I paid her back quickly.
BUDDY KING’S STUDIO
It was amazing and a little bit spooky walking up to Buddy King’s old house. Everything looked about the same, and as I entered the door all the old memories came back; The old Barrelhouse band, running out for pizza, La Brea Tar Pits and the long late night sessions. Randy and I had returned victoriously to the Pit! And now we were serving the Creator with our music.
One afternoon I asked Al to play back the old master tape of “La Brea Tar Pits” just for fun. It sounded pretty good, but knowing the truth as I do now, made the lyrics seem so empty.
We did most of the basic tracks there at the old house; with Danny and his guitar in the bathroom for a nice “live” sound. We miked my leslie cabinet in stereo, and bass went direct into the board. The drums were miked and Isolated from everything else with baffles.
Randy and I were looking forward to seeing Buddy again, but he was busy up in LA. at his new studio, “The Sound Castle.” We did some overdubs at his new facility, and then finished off the vocals at Maranatha’s studio in
Kelly Willard. And the guys from Daniel Amos sang some extra harmonies. Our big finale featured a “Choir” of the “Maranatha Singers.” I directed the group in singing the harmony parts, and we double tracked them for a really big sound. They also provided some background talking and room noise for the blues song. I have always loved the recording experience, and it was a real education to watch a master like Al Perkins. He did some fancy splices to remove clicks and pops, and even flipped the tape over to record a reverse ending on one song.
With 2 inch tape moving at 30 IPS (Inches per second) you could actually remove a small piece of tape and splice it back together; and the fix would be inaudible. Of course if you removed too large of a piece, it might sound as if the band sped up a little. Early recording engineers often spliced multiple takes of the same song into a composite, and this became the master tape. Later on “Multi-track recording,” (Pioneered by Les Paul) allowed new musical parts to be added to the existing ones, and “synchronized” together in harmony. Now digital recording has made it possible to “Cut and Paste” verse and chorus, copy and transpose keys, correct any pitch, tone, timing errors, etc. It was at this time I began to seriously pray about one day having my own studio, in my home like Buddy King’s.
The market for "home recording" began in the 1950's on 1/4" reel to reel. These were monophonic machines with inexpensive microphones. These Analog tape recorders had built in vacuum tube amplifiers and attached speakers. A few years later, by the mid 60's Stereo became available, but still using 1/4" tape. Then along came the cassette in the late 60's, at first mono and then stereo. By the end of the decade, most professional studios had moved on to Multitrack on 1" and 2" tape and speeds of up to 30 inches per second.
The first affordable Home multi-tracks were 4 track TEAC, and on 1/4' tape (Semi-professional) advertised as "DEMO" quality. Then in the 1970's 8 tracks became more common and the quality was improved, (Otari, Ampex, TASCAM, Fostex etc.) and this is when "HOME RECORDING" really came of age! For the first time in history, poor musicians could save up their nickels and dimes, and buy a multi-track tape recorder that was capable of professional results. Although high quality microphones, mixers and effects were still very expensive, many home studios appeared and began making records. The dates are approximate, but pretty accurate, because I was there!
I fell in love with recording the first time I tried it! I first used Mono 1/4', then cassettes, then a TEAC 4 track, Then a TASCAM 8 track... then in the 1990's Digital tape (ADATS), and later hard disk digital recorders.
THE BIBLE BELT
The Midwestern and
From our home base in
We were accused of using drugs and alcohol and even worse, because of our long hair and casual attire. Drums were “evil” and not allowed in church because “syncopation” was brought over from
Some churches of every denomination, welcomed us as brothers in the Lord, but others were very suspicious. Nevertheless we had amazing opportunities, and ministered in Public Schools, Prisons, outdoors in parks and countless Churches. I learned the Bible by listening to Danny preach it and living it with the other men on the road. I also learned some difficult things about the many factions within the church body. All in all it was a wonderful education, and I feel like I went through Seminary and Boot Camp simultaneously.
CUT YOUR HAIR, AND GET A REAL JOB
We continued touring, but the mere fact that we were a thousand miles from
Some of the bigger names in Christian Music started charging for tickets to their concerts. I believe that at that point, it ceased to be a “Ministry,” and became “Christian Entertainment.” Now I suppose these concerts were a good alternative to secular shows, but we had always shared our testimonies between our songs. Now you can’t very well expect people to pay big bucks to come and hear a band play and then preach at them.
We chose to share the Gospel free of charge. We had to decide whether to continue touring, or move back to
John Falcone showed up one day with his hair cut really short, and informed us that he had taken a job with the county animal shelter. This would of course exclude him from touring or playing out of town on weekdays. I started filling out job applications, and when it became known that we were looking for work, someone from the church found us all jobs in a warehouse. Stocking shelves, filling orders and doing inventory didn’t sound like fun but it was; because this was a TOY WAREHOUSE!
General Novelty was a national enterprise. They owned many upscale toy stores and gift shops. “Toys by Roy” and “Coach House Gift’s” were located in nearly every major shopping mall. I really enjoyed stacking boxes of model trains and planes, sorting through the thousands of playthings. I had already started building an H.O. train layout in the basement, and this was like throwing gasoline on a fire. I ended up spending a lot of the money I made, on toys. It was a good thing that my sweet wife was working too!
I had hoped that we could all work regular jobs, and play on weekends. I was hesitant to ask for time off to go on tour even though our manager was a Christian, and understanding. He said he would hold our jobs for as long as possible.
We drove for two days straight, just to do a few concerts in