Before I go on in my journey, I need to backstep to tell a story from part 1. While I was in sixth grade, we had a substitute for music. It wasn’t your ordinary music substitute — she knew something about music. She was teaching us about theme and variation and was using “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” as an example. She started playing it several different ways to demonstrate variation. While she was playing a minor version, I (unknown to me) started humming the harmony. She was about half-way through, when she stopped and asked, “who was humming?” I wasn’t aware that I had been, but I was found out and she asked me if I knew what I was doing (singing harmony, that is). Singing harmony was always something we did in our family, so I wasn’t aware it was unusual to sing harmony by ear. I will always remember that, because God has given me some wonderful gifts to use.
So my early musical influences were country, gospel music, music in the church, and band music. In the late 70’s something would happen that would change some of that. I told you of my love/hate relationship with the trumpet. In addition to learning that instrument, I learned to play the French Horn in Junior High.
My dad had always wanted to put together a family band that could play country and southern gospel style music. Dad had played the steel guitar and around this time my mom started taking guitar lessons. Dad suggested that I learn to play the bass. I wasn’t too keen on the idea. I hadn’t really enjoyed the trumpet and french horn even though I played them from fourth grade til I graduated from High School.
Picture of a Fender Jazz Bass. The bass that I had was a Penco Bass and it looked just like this. I have recently learned that the Penco guitars built in the early 70’s were very good in quality. I know it did play well. I eventually got myself an Ibanez Roadstar II bass that I play to this day.
My dad purchased a bass guitar for me to play and got me started on lessons. That was the worst part and as they say the rest is history. Bass was my primary instrument for many years. I took to it immediately and my teacher was impressed and quickly taught me what I needed to know. Not only can I read notes (if I have to,) but I can read the chord charts and more importantly, I can play by ear. I honed this skill by listening to recording and finding out what the bass player was doing. I really enjoyed that. The picture is a Fender Jazz Bass which is what my bass was modeled after. It served me well as I began to learn the instrument.
Oh, by the way, I forgot that brief moment in my life when I thought I was going to be a drummer. That was probably around 5th or 6th grade. We even had a set of drums in the house. When the drums got too much, mom would blink the basement lights and it was
This is not the drumset that I had but it looked very similar.
time to stop. The good thing is that I developed a sense of rhythm, because I played along with recordings. This spilled over into my bass playing. Some have asked where I get my sense of rhythm and it is from listening and playing to countless hours of music as a teenager.
About this time, my family switched churches. We had attended Trinity Wesleyan from time to time — especially for special services — revivals, cantatas, sinspirations, and other events — before switching churches. I even remember going to a Gaither Trio concert at the Spectrum in Philadelphia with the Trinity church. My mom and dad had several friends there and they were wonderful people.
A new church meant new musical influences. I would see the “Praise and Worship” gospel hymnal only occasionally for many years. When we switched churches, Trinity had just moved into it’s new building “way out” in the country. It was surrounded by nothing but cornfields. Those cornfields have given way to housing development. The church is now surrounded by cornfields but by people and they are trying to reach those around them. With a new church building came a new hymnal titled “Hymns of Faith and Life.” It was a joint effort between the Wesleyan Church and the Free Methodist Church. It was the first hymnal and at least to this point the last hymnal the Wesleyan Church would publish. Our’s was red and not the brown color you see. It matched the rest of the church; which had red pew coverings and carpet. The hymnal included the standard hymns and gospel songs, but was missing some of the songs from “Praise and Worship.” This made it not as popular. There were the standard responsive readings and The Apostle’s Creed and service music (benedictions and calls to worship.) It even included full services of the Free Methodist Communion and Wesleyan Communion services and The Covenant Renewal service. Part of the reason this was unique is that our denomination is not known for it’s liturgical worship. We would use this hymnal for about ten years until it was replaced, but more about that in another post. I now wish there was a hymnal available like this for use in the Wesleyan Church. One of the hymns that I learned during this time was “And Can It Be?” This has become one of my favorites over the years.
The late 70’s and early 80’s were full of new influences for me. Our youth group attended
This album represents the music of my high school years. It was one of the first albums I purchased.
IWYC in 1978. This was a large international youth convention held at the University of Illinois in Urbana, IL. I can’t say that I remember much from this convention. I do remember that these early conventions did not feature much in the way of participatory worship. Our college groups would sing, there was a special musical guest and then special speakers. Other than that I don’t remember much about it.
Over the next few years, I would be introduced to groups such as Glad, Sweet Comfort Band, Love Song and others. Glad was not always the contemporary, pop, accapella group they are today. The album that is to the left was quite different. It mixed classical, jazz, and rock into one package. My favorite song from this album was “All Things,” a paraphrase from Romans 8:28. I remember listening to this album and trying to learn the bass parts and some were and still are quite difficult.
We had several musicians in our youth group, so we started a band (which should come as no surprize.) Our youth leaders even encouraged us to do special music, which we did. In this era, there really wasn’t much in the way of “worship” music. Our church was pretty traditional at the time using piano, organ, choir, and the hymnal for worship. Contemporary music was used more in “special music.” On Sunday nights, we would be allowed and encouraged to play our instruments along with the hymns. I even played my trumpet from time to time. It was at this time during “youth week” they would always select me to lead the music, which meant stand up behind the pulpit, announce the hymn number, and vocally lead the hymns. This was extremely nerve wracking for an introvert, but I did it, having no idea where God would lead.
Toward the end of my high school career, our youth group started a coffee house known as “The Timbers.” We had some local bands in and a few of us would constituted a house band that would play. We played mostly songs from Love Song. Songs like “Front Seat, Back Seat,” “Since I Opened Up the Door,” and others. I sang (harmony and lead) and played bass.
In addition to all of the above, I did play and sing in our family’s band. My mom would play guitar and sing. My dad played steel guitar or sang. My aunt played piano or guitar and sang and I played bass and sang. We listened to some of the recordings we made during that time last year and it really wasn’t too bad, matter of fact it was quite good, except for the over enthusiastic bass player who tried to play every lick he knew in five minutes or less. Isn’t great how we mature!
The most important event in this era happened at the regional Toronto Wesleyan Youth Convention in 1980. The guest musicians were Dave Boyer and a group called Stacey, as well as our college groups. The only speaker I remember was Jimmy Johnson. Jimmy was the speaker when I received a call into full-time ministry. It was at this point that I knew God was leading me, but I had no idea how it would work out.
As you can see the high school years were formative, as well as the years that followed. Next week, we’ll look at the college-aged years.