Chuck Girard Interview Part 2

28 Jan

Chuck Girard #1

I forgot to post part 2 of my Chuck Girard Interview. With all the hoopla of the “United We Will Stand” concert last week and the emphasis on the roots of CCM and Jesus music, I thought that it would be advantageous to let Girard finish his story. His interview and dozens of other pioneers of CCM were what I used to write my book “Jesus Rocks The World: The Definitive History of Contemporary Christian Music.” It was the first and unless someone rode on my coat tails, the only book of its kind on the subject. In the future I’ll publish other interviews that I did for the book with other primary sources, like Tommy Coomes, Michael Blanton and Billy Ray Hearn, along with dozens of others. My blog and book are 2 places that you can get an accurate academic analysis of CCM. Here is part 2 of my interview with Chuck Girard, which began on December 10, 2014.

Chuck Girard #2

Bob Gersztyn: You know an interesting thing while I was looking through your online book, and you had that example that a lot people come up with about some missionary going into Africa, and his kids play some rock song that the natives say sounds like something that their witch doctor would use to conjure up evil spirits with. Did you by any chance see the Martin Scorsese PBS documentary on the Blues that came out?

Chuck Girard: No, I didn’t every actually get to see it but I knew that he had done it, I think I saw a little bit of the segment with the Taj Mahal on it, I saw a little bit of that one.

Gersztyn: Well this one thing that blew me away was when he had commercial blues artist Keb Mo, go to Africa, and they went to this remote village somewhere, and they played a Muddy Waters song for him. These guys listened to it, and they said hey he is one of us, and they start playing this same melody under native instruments, and they start singing, and it is unbelievable. They are singing the same melody, except his words are different, he is talking about a city in his existence where as our song we’re talking about going out, and hunting a lion, and how the harvest was, and stuff like this. They said these are our traditional folk songs. I thought wow that kind of blows the hole in the whole witch doctor thing.

Girard: I’ll have to check that out because that is very interesting, I would love to see that, that is the one with Keb’ Mo in it?

Chuck Girard #3

Gersztyn: Yeah I can’t remember what night it was.

Girard: That’s all on DVD now I think so you can probably rent it.

Gersztyn: Yeah, they went to Africa they were there for I think that whole episode, and they were looking for the roots of the Blues, and where it came from. It kind of showed the evolution of the whole thing, and something that was interesting at the same time Robert Darden who’s the senior editor of the Wittenburg Door, he wrote a book called People Get Ready which was on the history of black gospel music. He has a lot of this stuff in it. If you want to read a really good book that talks about how music, Rock music, I mean he is specifically talking about black gospel music, but you can see it coming into doo-wop, and all this stuff, and the melodies he’s talking about, how this came from these ancient folk songs from that period.

Girard: I believe that, I’m not a scholar of it but I believe that would be a very easy case to make, and I’m sure he does a great job of it.

Chuck Girard #4

Gersztyn: What are some of your current musical projects right now?

Girard: You know I’m getting older, and I’m not in the public eye anymore, and I’ve been doing my own thing since about 1980, and it’s been kind of difficult because it’s very expensive to make an album. Part of my latest transition in my life was that three years ago I moved to Nashville. I happen to be out on the West Coast right now but I live in Nashville now, and my son-in-law has a studio that I’m able to use free of charge, and then I have a very good overdub room in my house so the cost of albums has gone measurably down. I’m looking forward to in my later years here being able to be a little more prolific because back from 1980 on I’ve really only made about four albums so that’s only one every five years or something.

Gersztyn: So you came here to Salem, Oregon back, boy I can’t remember if it was the late ‘80’s or the early ‘90’s but I took my son to go see you, and you played at a church here. I talked to you briefly, no way you would possibly remember but I just thought I’d throw that in.

Chuck Girard #5

Girard: Well thanks, it’s always a thrill to hear those kind of stories. Back to current projects, I put an album out in 1996 called Voice of the Wind that was a live worship album, kind of pre-dating really the worship movement because even though it came out 1996 I had been working on it for ten years because it took so long to make it. So I’m currently developing volume two of that, in fact I actually brought all the basic recording equipment, the computer, and all the outboard gear that I needed here to LA. Actually last night recorded some people my daughter put together from her church for the congregational part of it because we needed to record, you can never really successfully record a group of people singing in a church because of the sound leakage, and all of that, so you have to go back in a re-record it later. So we did that last night and while I’m out here I’ll also put my friend Caleb Quaye who did all the guitar parts on my first worship project. I’m going to have a few days with him to do some guitar stuff out here. Caleb was with the Elton John band in the early days, and he teaches music out at Life Bible College now. So I’m going to be able to be a little more prolific here in my later years, and hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have this volume two of this very different, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Voice of the Wind album but it’s very down tempo, low key, an hour long piece that kind of pulls you into, as I’ve been told, into worship, and into prayer, and into praise. So a lot of people have been waiting for volume two for a long time. The concept of this album is to record it live, the basic song, and then embellish after the fact with adding guitars and bass and drums, and all that after you record the initial connection with the audience. I didn’t want to have bunch of musicians on stage with me because it would be distracting so the basic live recording is just me and a keyboard with a group of people, and then we embellish it after the fact. So that’s the next album that would come out. After that’s done, I’ll make my first studio album with live players since 1991. That will be the project that comes after the worship project and I am really excited about that because it will be my first album of kind of all original tunes done in the studio since 1991. So that’s the next two, and then I don’t know where I’m going to be going from there.

Gersztyn: Well that’s very interesting do you think you might have a Love Song reunion at any point?

Girard: That door is never closed; we actually did a reunion this summer. Calvary Chapel was refurbishing the big sanctuary during the month of April and May, and they set up circus tents again for six weeks, and I flew down. I was up in Canada on tour, and we got together, and we played one night in the tent, and it was web cast, and the whole thing, it was really a brilliant night, and it really came off just great. The guys really love to play together. Tommy Coomes and I have our own ministry direction going so we are less hungry for the opportunity to play. But Bob, and Jay, and those guys they play at the drop of a hat. There’s always talk about touring again, but here’s the problem, you have to get someone to promote it, and in the climate of the way things are today, and the expense involved in mounting a tour with five players it would have to be somebody that really had faith in the project, and was willing to put some money into it. So I don’t really know if we’d ever be able to put together a successful reunion tour because we couldn’t mount it, the financial side if it, we couldn’t do it ourselves, and I don’t know if we could find someone that would believe enough in the idea. At the end of the day they have to make money, and I don’t blame them for thinking that way because you can’t go out there with the idea that you’re going to lose money, and I just don’t know if there is anybody out there willing to take that kind of risk.

Gersztyn: With the Christian radio stations all over the country I would think that somehow there would probably be some way, but again somebody would have to take up and want to do it.

Chuck Girard #6

Girard: You’d be amazed at how little interest there is with Christian radio stations about anybody back from the ‘70’s. There is a whole new generation of young people out there that don’t even know what the Jesus Movement was much less who Love Song was.

Gersztyn: Sure, my daughter who’s just going to Bible College right now, she says to me Dad she says I’m finding out all of this stuff about how the hippie movement started the Jesus Movement she said you ought to write a book about that. She said I never even knew about all of that, and these people don’t have a clue about it, and the only reason I even know is because of you. I look at right now why I’m interviewing you about the interest in the 1960’s because of the forty year anniversary of the summer of love, and I would think that the same sort of thing would be going on within the people who want to make money in Christianity. I mean you have to look at it totally not from a spiritual point of view but from a monetary business point of view, well there’s a buck to be made because of the fact that there’s the anniversary of the Jesus Movement. Just like Woodstock, right now you’ve got a two year period between the summer of love, and Woodstock, and they are going to be going crazy for this whole two years with the 1960’s. Well at the end of that the Jesus Movement begins, and so you might just run into somebody, and drop something, and maybe they’ll get interested who knows.

Girard: Well it could happen, and if somebody did it right I think it could be successful. You know it takes some capital. I am actually working on writing my life story right now, and I kind of wish I had that ready right now but it’s quite a project to really just sit there, and remember everything and write it down. I was talking to Jay Truax the Love Song bass player about some chronology. We are e-mailing to figure out what happened when , did this happen first or did this, because so much of it is so mushed together because of the drugs and all of that, so I forget the chronology of it. When I felt like really led of the Lord to write this all down I thought “who cares about my life, and what do I have to write about?” I never even became really famous, but as I really write down the experiences that I had it is amazing. Even I’m interested, and I’m going “wow, this is great if I was reading this about somebody else I would be totally riveted”. I’m going up to Northern California in the next couple of months, and I’m going to have a lot of down time where I’m not going to be around my comfort zone, and hopefully I’m going to try to really just peck out some pages of this book, and get his thing finished because I think it is going to be a very interesting story. It is representative of just what you’re talking about, it is all about the Jesus Movement, and it will be in its own way a history book.

Gersztyn: Well you were right at the epicenter of it, and if anybody would have had something to say about it, it would definitely be you.

Girard: Well you know it is funny because my life, in a way, parallels the progression of rock music. When I became musically conscious rock music was in it’s infancy. So my whole life span kind of parallels the growth of rock and roll from doo-wop to what it is today. In a way my story is not just a history of the Jesus Movement it’s a history of music because I get into a lot of the stuff about starting out in the studios. Back in the days when I first recorded we would use three track machines. I was working in the same studios where Phil Spector cut the Ronettes and the Righteous Brothers, and a lot of the book is going to cover musical history too, so it is going to be interesting on a number of levels. I’m actually more excited about that almost than I am some of the musical projects, about getting it done at least.

Chuck Girard #7

Gersztyn: Who are some of the other people that you would name as being important like yourself who came out of that period?

Girard: I’m not saying I’m important

Gersztyn: When I say important I mean you’re important because of the fact that you were at the epicenter of it. And I’m not saying it for an egotistical sort of reason, but the fact that well here’s an example, Mylan LeFever. I used to go to rock concerts, I’m from Detroit, Michigan originally, and when I was a hippie I would drop acid, and I’d go to the local rock venue called the East Town Theater, and I went to go see Traffic one time, and Mylan had a group. I knew nothing about them but in the middle of the rock concert I’m telling my wife who was my girlfriend then, “I feel like I’m in church,” and then I find out ten years later he was a back-slidden Christian.

Girard: Well I’ll tell you I guess the way to answer the question would be like. who’s book would I want to read. I think Barry McGuire could write a very interesting book. I think he’s been faithful for many years. In many ways he’s the patriarch of the whole movement because among my peers Barry is the oldest one of us. See here’s the deal.. age-wise I’m about ten years older than most of my peers, Randy Stonehill, Larry Norman.Larry is a little older but most of those guys are about ten years younger than I am. Then in my range there are a few people that are kind of in their sixties now but then it goes up to Barry who is in his seventies so he is really a father, and has had a very interesting life. Andrae Crouch would make an interesting book if it is not already out. Some of these guys might have already written a book for all I know. Those guys were pioneers.. they were like the first guys. When I got born again Larry’s album was out, Larry Norman, so he was really the first. Upon This Rock was already out, and Andrae was doing stuff. So for a little period of time there about all there was out there was Love Song, and Larry, and Andrae. Those people would have interesting stories. Larry lives right up there where you are I think right?

Gersztyn: Yeah, I even did some photography for Larry a few years ago.

Girard: So they are interesting people that had something to do with it, I think after it gets into the Michael W. Smiths, and the Steven Curtis Chapman’s it’s already kind of commercialized, and I don’t know that those stories would be as interesting to me as some of the earlier ones, it is just a handful you know.

Chuck Girard #8

Gersztyn: I was writing articles for an encyclopedia, and I needed to talk to Barry, and I did. I started to talk to him like I was with you about the early days, and when I brought up the subject of drugs he got very upset so I don’t think he would really want to talk about that early period.

Girard: I know him pretty well but he has some little places, and then he will change his mind too. I don’t know? I don’t get that, why he would get angry with that if it is part of your experience.

Girard: How long ago was this?

Gersztyn: I think it was 2004.

Girard: I don’t know him as well as others do but I know him pretty well but I didn’t know that side of him. I didn’t know that he had that kind of little eccentricity I guess you’d call it.

Gersztyn: I’m interested in the whole, because I came out of the hippie movement, and LSD. It’s like one night I just had a bad trip like you, and I said that’s it I’m done with this stuff, and I flushed it down the toilet. The next day I had a Bible, and I started reading my Bible. Within a few months after that I became a born again Christian. It’s like to say there wasn’t a connection between that would be absurd, so I’m interested, and I feel everybody who was involved in the drugs has that connection, because it’s an obvious connection.

Girard: Yes it’s part of your story, and I’m a little shocked that he’s like that.

Gersztyn: Well even Mike Macintosh I remember listening to his testimony about taking acid, and having a bag over his head, and somebody shooting a gun next to it. And Odin Fromm talking about how he was in the desert and had a hundred hits of the most powerful acid, and he saw a vision of Jesus, and everybody would talk about it. Anyway I think that I got plenty of information here, more than enough that I’ll need for the interview, and the only other thing is I’d like to get some photographs to go along with it, and the thing that is really frustrating is I photographed you in Love Song many times back in the ‘70’s, and I gave somebody all my slides. They were going to do something with them, and they never gave them back to me, and I can’t remember who it was, and these things would be irreplaceable. One set of them if you ever see them they had the name Laverne Campbell stamped on them because I did them for the pastor of my church.

Girard: I know Laverne, he’s dead now right?

Gersztyn: Yeah, he was my pastor, and in fact I photographed Love Song for him; I think you guys were going to the Philippines.

Girard: Yeah he had something to do with that.

Gersztyn: Yeah, and so I think he went with you even.

Girard: Yeah I think he did actually.

Gersztyn: And so I shot a roll of film of you guys, and gave him the slides, and I think I have two of the slides right now.

Girard: Alright, I’m glad we got to do this, and I’m sorry that it took so long.

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