Interview with Erick Nelson
It has been my pleasure to get to know Erick via email over the last year or so. He visited this website when it first went up and was one of my first enthusiastic supporters. Over the course of the past few months he has contributed to the Love Song website and to several of the artists' pages on this site with information, tid-bits and contacts with others.
It was my joy to send Erick a bunch of questions recently about his involvement in the Jesus Music of the 70's and the early years at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa that he was a part of. The following pages are the result of his poring over those questions and although he is no longer involved in Christian music fulltime, I know you will appreciate the insight he has into this area and the joy he now has with his career and family. Thank you Erick for sharing your thoughts and life with us!
My earliest memory of music is my dad sitting at the piano and making up new bass lines and chord combinations to old, beautiful songs, mostly hymns.
In high school in the 60's I started a garage band just like everybody else. It was a great era for garage bands, because most of the hit songs were easy to play (I remember loading our set with Rolling Stones and Animal songs, because the Beatles' songs had too darn many chords.) I played guitar and sang. Looking back, the idea of a baby-faced 11th grader earnestly singing "Wild Thing" is certainly ridiculous.
I remember a guy named Ricky Gordon whose church recorded a gospel quartet 45 with him as the lead singer. It was called "Satisfied". It was just so Christian, and so non-rock, that it was kind of embarrassing (even though he sang ok). The thing that struck me was the sheer guts it took to come right out and say some religious thing like that. That sticks in my memory. I really admired him for that.
One day I went to hear one of the local bands practice. They were called The Humans. The guitar player was 15 years old. As it turns out, at 15 he was one of the best rock guitar players I have ever seen. He was like a pro basketball player among high-school hoopsters. He played so fast and had such amazing licks, he just dominated the room. I was so excited that I couldn't quite even take it all in. I can't convey the feeling I had - all I remember is that I never wanted the first song to end. His name was Bob Sexton.
Well, the bass player in our band had a motorcycle, and he told Bob he could ride it if he'd play at a party with us. Bob eventually joined our band, and I became the bass player (we actually kicked the bass player out of the band because he was no good; things were brutal at the bottom), and Bob brought along the lead singer from his old band. With a decent singer and a fabulous guitar player, we were all of a sudden pretty good.
We played at a battle of the bands at the Aquarius Theatre in Hollywood. After the competition, the headliner band came out. They were called The Mandala - a white R & B band from Canada. The leader singer was George Olliver. They were absolutely, even now, the best band I have ever heard. I remember bringing a sax player friend who was a big James Brown fan, and he finally admitted that these guys were better than the Godfather of Soul! During their set, they never stopped playing - as they kept up a rhythm between songs George Olliver would sort of preach (although he had no Christian message to give) about love and coming together - that kind of stuff. It was powerful. It made me first realize that music could be used to influence people's deepest lives.
Bob and I started a new band, right about when I started Pomona College in 1968. The band was good enough to play clubs (again, on the Bob's ability), and they said I had to choose between college and rock 'n roll. I didn't dare quit school, so that was the end of that band for me. (Eventually, Bob joined Children of God, and I only saw him once again after that. I sometimes wonder what ever happened to him.)
Next, I auditioned for a vocally-oriented group as a bass player - a total musical change for me. They all lived in Downey, Calif, where the Carpenters also lived. We sat down in Steve Berg's bedroom, with big ol' JBL speakers on the wall, and they played a tape that turned out to be the studio tracks (without vocals) of a record they had recorded. Four of them sat there and sang the most perfect, loud harmonies I had ever heard. I said "where do I sign?" I eventually became a keyboard player for the group, and we sang four-part harmony, with Steve and John Berg were the lead singers. Don Stalker and I blended in, and provided most of the instrumentation. I just loved it. Once again, I had wound up in a group with people much better than I was - that's exactly what I wanted. I got to pop out now and again with a song of my own, and then hide behind them. We called the band "Friends."
Musical influences? We really liked early Elton John, and I started liking Leon Russell when he played for Joe Cocker; after starting with Maranatha, Love Song was my primary ministry role model; much later, I was influenced by Jackson Browne. But the music of Friends was by far the biggest musical influence in my life. They wrote the original Flow River Flow; they said I could change the words and we'd have two versions. They sang on that album on several songs. Lots of my ballads were patterns after their style of music.
College Days - Testimony (1968)
I started Pomona College on a state scholarship in 1968. It was about 50 miles from my home (South Gate, Calif). By that time, I had come to believe that all values were relative and had come to disbelieve in the literal truth of Christianity. I actually used to go to church and stand and say the Apostles' Creed - but I would lay out on the phrases that I thought weren't true. I felt it was just too convenient to think that the Lutheran religion was the only true religion.
I ran across a book by a Baptist missionary who had been converted to Hinduism. I thought he made a lot of sense when he said "we don't need a dead Christ, we need a living Master", and he recommended that we find a guru who had experienced Cosmic Conscious, could hear the Audible Life Stream, and could usher us into an experiential knowledge of Reality. I found a few people at school who claimed to have had mystical experiences, and started doing Transcendental Meditation. I thought I was on my way. I meditated every day and read books by Alan Watts and others. I expected my first mystical experience to be a mellow entrance into bliss.
I was wrong. One night that summer break, I had a dream. There was something like a blinding white movie screen in front of me, and something like a movie projector behind me, and on the screen a picture of Jesus on the cross - all in white with red blood. I can still see the picture - his arms were stretched wide, you could see from the middle of the right arm to the tips of the fingers of his left hand, from about the stomach up. I thought to myself, "I'm having a mystical experience." Then I felt a spinning sensation, and a tingling, and then felt like the whole ocean was falling on me. In the dream, I tried to call out to somebody, but I couldn't talk. After more of this, I woke up. My mouth was open, and the inside felt dry, like I'd been that way for awhile, and I couldn't move my mouth, or my arms, or anything. I still had that spinning, moving sensation, and I thought I was dead. I was so scared. I frantically tried to move something, anything, and finally I could move my mouth and then my arms and legs. I was afraid to go back to sleep.
Now, was this a vision? I don't know. I admit I was sleeping. But I have never before or since experienced anything with that kind of power (and most of the time, I'm not sure I want to). But I didn't know what to do with it; my life wasn't changed at all. I continued to read books, and just before going back to Pomona from break I picked up a set of books from the library that mentioned Jesus was still alive - and living in New York! Now, even I didn't fall for this, but it sure got me thinking: "What if Jesus were alive? Wouldn't it be great to talk with him, ask him questions, just hang out with him?" It fired up my imagination.
The first day of school, one my mystical friends came to pick me up to take me back to Pomona. He said, all excited, "Something wonderful has happened! Jesus is alive!" And I said to myself, "Yeah, right, he's living in New York." He told me that all the members of our mystical group had become Christians. The leader had had an experience of Jesus and gave his life to Him. As he witnessed to his friends, they too accepted the Lord, and they started having prayer meetings. Each night, they prayed specifically for one of their friends. So, one night, they prayed for me, that Jesus would reveal himself in a way that would get my attention. Apparently, the prayer worked.
Father Harriot (1968 - 1971)
We immediately started going to prayer meetings held by an Episcopal priest named Cameron Harriot at his house. At end of the meetings, they would stand around a chair and pray for the person in the chair. Anybody could come up and be prayed for. That first night,I decided that I wanted to pray for a friend named Doug Reveley, who was going through some difficulties. I sat down in the chair, and before I could say what I wanted, Father Harriot started praying. There were maybe twenty pairs of hands placed all over my head and shoulders and back - I didn't know what to think. He started asking Jesus to help "Doug" with several specific problems. Some of the people started to interrupt and say, "Hey, wait, this guy's name is Erick", but he kept going. When he finished, I looked up at him and said "How did you know I wanted to pray for him?" He smiled, and kind of chuckled, and said "I asked the Lord, and he told me what to pray for." I said, "Could I do this to?" And he replied, "I don't see why not."
This guy was the first person I ever met that I was certain really knew God. I got to know him over a period of three years, and met with him for counseling many times during my college days. He did this thing again and again! Here was a level-headed, former math major, logical, practical person - with a great sense of humor, too - who knew God. Through him, I learned about C.S. Lewis, and St. Francis of Assissi, whom I liked for completely different reasons.
From Father Harriot, in retrospective, I see that Content is Everything. I didn't care if he shared my hippie values (he didn't, particularly), or my musical culture (he couldn't care less). He didn't have a program, or a hook. His mode of expression was not especially "culturally relevant." Did I care? He knew God! He was living proof that I could start to know the Jesus that had fired up my imagination, that Jesus wasn't a "dead Christ", but was actually the very "living Master" we all need.
Selah (1971 - 1973)In Jesus Name
I wound up as a Philosophy major at Pomona. All I wanted to do, though, was know Jesus. I remember reading Thomas A Kempis' Imitation of Christ during classes. I wasn't what you'd call career-minded.
A Christian Science friend at school, Ed Sage, said one day "Hey, there's a neat church that has music you'd really like. They're all hippies there. Their theology is horrible, of course (remember, he was a Christian Scientist), but it would suit you." So we started driving out to Calvary after dinner on Mondays. My first time there, I saw Love Song play, and was amazed to see all the people that stood up for the altar call (I had never seen one before). Here were people who were using their music to tell people about Jesus. I thought to myself, "Boy, I'd sure like to help those guys out, maybe carry their equipment or something."
My own group, Friends, was doing pretty well. We had done some demos with a guy named Mike Shields, but nothing had come of it. We had an audition with Mike Post (at the time he was known as the guy who put together the First Edition, Kenny Rogers' group), and this was our shot at a big-time record contract. There was no way I was going to quit this group.
But I was intrigued by Love Song. As it turns out, Ed knew Wendy Carter's (Children of the Day) boyfriend, and I worked out a deal to go with them to one of their concerts. They were playing with a group named Selah. I remember asking Marsha Carter what that name meant, and she said "Stop and think about it." I stopped and thought about it, and couldn't figure it out. I said, "Beats me, now what does it mean?" She said, very patiently, "Stop and think about it." I was perplexed. I thought and thought. Finally, growing frustrated, I said "I've thought about it and I don't know!" She laughed and said, "No, the word 'Selah' means to 'pause and reflect' - to stop and think about it. Get it?" Oh.
I thought this was the sweetest little group I had ever seen. Two high-school girls with long hair and granny dresses, a bass player with long straight black hair, and an older guy who played things like clarinet and recorder. They sounded like a gypsy band. What got me was the freshness and innocence in the girls; and songs that sounded like Jesus was their best friend. After the concert, I came up to meet them, and Cindy said something like "why don't you come over and jam sometime." John Belles, the bass player, was a bit protective of them (I would have been, too). I went to one of their rehearsals and wound up playing with them from time to time.
One day we met together with Chuck Smith. He told me that I had to choose: I couldn't be in both Friends and Selah, because I couldn't serve God and money. (Ironically enough, Friends never had made any money, and never did make any money. They got the contract, but their records went nowhere.) So I gave up my career for good and joined Selah.
I was just a background guy who played piano, and occasionally bass. It was an idyllic time. Just four of us driving around in Belles' old VW van. Cindy and Joy lived in Seal Beach, so we'd usually meet there and just drive to the gig. No equipment to speak of - just an acoustic guitar, a bass guitar, and small amp. We'd sing Calvary sing-alongs on the way. We'd play at some church, or coffeehouse, or school - occasionally a convalescent hospital or jail - and then drive back to Seal Beach, and then I'd drive home. Piece of cake. We did maybe two of my songs (Picking up the Pieces was one); the rest were Cindy's and Joy's.
It's important to stress that I saw this as a Non-Career. Selah was ok, but we had no illusions that we were a great group. I didn't have any ambitions of a recording career or big concerts or anything musically exciting. All I really wanted to do was help out, and be a part of a tremendous opportunity to do something that made a difference. My approach to my non-career was completely passive. I don't think I ever proactively asked to play anywhere for my first 8 years, and then only a few colleges. As long as doors opened up, we went out and played. We never turned anything down.
Calvary Chapel was a fabulous platform. Because of Maranatha concerts, we got to play big concerts right away. And with the popularity of the Calvary music, we got calls all the time for smaller things. One of the prevailing images that stays with me is the multi-band Maranatha concerts, like at the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium. We'd have maybe five groups and a solo artist. Before the concert, we'd all stand around in a circle with our arms around each other, swaying back and forth, and singing songs like Two Hands and Holy Holy. That was probably my favorite part.
One custom that took some getting used to was the idea of giving the One Way sign instead of applauding after a song. I don't know who thought this up or how it started. The idea was that we didn't want to praise the performer, we would instead hold our index fingers in the air as a sign of praise to God. The idea was great in principle, but flawed in practice. When you finished playing, you didn't hear a general buzz of polite applause, but you instead faced a small sea of faces, in complete silence, holding fingers in the air. This was sometimes unnerving - if lots of people praised God for you, you'd see lots of fingers in the air; however, if only a few people felt praise welling up in their hearts, you'd only see a sporadic finger or two. It was like scoring the high dive in the Olympics. You had instant feedback of exactly how many people liked you, and precisely who they were! What made it worse was that they weren't judging your music, they were judging your spiritual value. Thankfully, this custom just died out.
As long as I was in the background, everything was fine. But we added a drummer (Alex MacDougall) and a guitar player (Craig Stevens) and a roadie (Steve Giglio, eventually called "Bugs") and had a real band. I was featured more and more; and so was Craig. Sometimes we were really bad, with me leading the way, and I often felt humiliated. I certainly didn't like the spotlight, especially when I thought I was embarrassing myself. The only thing worse than this was to play all by myself - something I always dreaded. The band wasn't that bad - in fact, we had improved, and a lot of people liked us fine. It was just that I was so sensitive. I realized that I didn't really like performing, but I did like playing, and I loved seeing the spiritual results.
Some of the bands were buddies with each other. The Way, Hosanna, and Denny Stahl played a lot of concerts with us; and to a lesser extent Country Faith and Blessed Hope - probably others. We also got to know some non-Calvary groups, like Rebirth (which included David Diggs, Bill Batstone, and Alex MacDougall). We mostly played little local things, and occasionally went on a van tour. One memorable concert was an outdoor one next to Dottie's Jolly Cone in Yreka, Calif. Nighttime, about 35 degrees, it was so cold that people drove up in their cars and didn't ever get out. They just rolled down their windows from time to time to hear what was going on.
More Maranatha Days
I often felt like a misfit in some ways (I didn't later do an album called The Misfit for no reason). I wasn't exactly an outsider in every respect, but there was a discernible difference. I had no drug past, which already set me apart. I had just come from a pretty bookish college, a philosophy major no less. Most important, I didn't become a Christian through the Jesus Movement. I had known Jesus for three or four years before coming to Calvary and already had a spiritual foundation. I was somewhat set in my ways. For instance, I was always a bit sceptical about whether the Lord was coming back "this year." I figured he might, he might not. I followed Father Harriot's lead about this issue - he had said "Look at today's obituary in the paper. For those people, the Lord came back. That's enough motivation for you right now."
There was a tradition of carrying your Bible around with you all the time. I didn't do that. So my own group actually bought me a Bible for my birthday, assuming I didn't have one. This was ironic, because I was the only member of the group who had actually read the Bible cover to cover, and I had five different translations at home. I just didn't carry any of them around. One of the other Maranatha guys rebuked me one time for reading a book (I think it was a C.S. Lewis book), and said I should be reading my Bible instead.
One thing I'll mention in passing is that I sometimes found myself in the middle of a rock 'n roll controversy, largely through no particular abilities of my own. I happened to be in Selah when Craig Stevens was the guitar player, and he had a rock orientation, and so all of a sudden we were under suspicion of "fleshing out" and being too rocky. Later, with Good News, we were considered too rowdy, primarily because Dave was a really good drummer and Bob was a legitimate rock singer even at the tender age of 16.
The culture clash appeared most when we played at churches. One time on a tour with Hosanna, we pulled up to a church somewhere in Oregon or Northern California, all tired and sweaty. Half of the guys had t-shirts or tank tops, the other half were shirtless. We were carrying all this equipment into the church, looking like a bunch of sweaty derelicts, and the pastor almost fainted when he saw us. He said there was no way we were going to play in his church. We talked it over for awhile, and he agreed to let Cindy and Joy sing acoustic songs (they looked like nice clean-cut young girls), but no rock 'n roll. We got to know each other better as we went along, and Mike Ugartechea (we called him Mike You-Gotta-Be-Kidding, or just Ugie) became good buddies with the pastor. By the time the service was over, he and Ugie were standing with their arms around each other, leading songs. It was really touching to see.
Thinking of Ugie, I remember that he was the first person I ever heard who sang "I have decided to follow Jesus" like he was happy about it - previously it had always sounded like a solemn funeral dirge. He had more guts than most of us. One time, Chuck Smith came into a Maranatha meeting, and had gotten the impression (it's a long story) that we were trying to divide Maranatha Music and Maranatha Evangelical unfairly - basically taking everything for ourselves. He said he had half a mind to wash his hands of us entirely. He was mad. He said he had never seen such a group of greedy, spoiled people. MacIntosh looked like he was going to cry. I knew I'd start crying myself if I said anything - I mostly tried to hide behind the guy in front me. Ugie raised his hand, and very calmly said, "But Chuck, if we were in it for the money, we'd have some." Chuck paused, and agreed that maybe he had a point there.
That's not to say that Chuck was unfair. My impression was that he tried to guard us and keep us on the straight and narrow. More than anything, he didn't want us to get big heads.
I give him credit for two really important things. First, he had a heart for the hippies. I don't know why, but he opened up his church to derelicts and surfers and hippies. There's a story that says the church elders became worried that the carpet was getting ruined because all these people came in with dirty bare feet. They pleaded with Chuck "At least make them put shoes on!" And Chuck's reply was "If that's the problem, then let's just pull up the carpet." He picked people over furniture.
Second, this motley group of hippies had no background in the scriptures. We were largely iconoclastic and anti-establishment by nature, and were especially prone to follow any kind of spiritual excitement that came along. We were all potential "loose canons." Many such groups became cults. Chuck Smith was the one "normal" person who held it all together. He was like an anchor of common sense in a sea of youthful excitement. His emphasis on the Bible and the basics is what kept us all going straight (ok, relatively straight).
Third, I think Chuck genuinely was not ambitious. He showed no desire to run our lives (although he had plenty of opportunities), and the church had already grown way beyond his wildest expectations. And he didn't ask for money all the time.
Laverne Romaine was Chuck's right-hand man. He had been a career Marine sergeant (attaining the E9 rank, whatever that is - it's supposed to be the highest you can get without being an officer). He looked like a cross being Danny Thomas and Lou Costello. He was the least hippie-like person I have ever met. Romaine was known for being a tough straight-talker.
One time, some girl rebuked me for "vain babbling." I had been joking around, and she thought that I could spend my time more productively. I was crushed. I was so hurt that I sought counseling with Romaine. He drove me around in his old car, and bought me a chili dog at Pup 'N Taco. After hearing all about it, he said "Don't worry about it. The Lord has a sense of humor. You're not the one vain babbling. All those people who say "praise the Lord, praise the Lord" like parrots and don't mean it - they're the ones who are vain babbling." It was one of the nicest things anybody ever did for me.
My second counseling session with him didn't go so easily. I had become very depressed, for no reason at all. I felt like God was far away - nothing was working. I told him my troubles, sitting in the front pew at the big Calvary. He looked at me and said "You remind me so much of myself it makes me sick." I took it that this wasn't a compliment. He continued, "Your problem is that you don't care about anybody but yourself. I used to be a pastor, and I was the same way - it was just miserable. Hey listen to this:" And he read me the passage in Revelation about returning to your first love, or else getting your candlestick removed from the candle stand. Then he started to cry. Then I started to cry. Believe me, if something in your life upsets a former drill sergeant, it had better upset you too. I said "What do I do, what do I do?" He answered, "Go find somebody who needs your help and get out of yourself."
That day, Mike MacIntosh called up. He was gathering some people to go to Rancho Los Amigos hospital to sing to kids that had serious physical disabilities. After singing for a group of kids, we started going room to room, for kids that couldn't go out of their rooms. In one room we met Shirley, who was maybe 14 or 15, and had the mental capacity of a baby. She cried like a baby in an adult voice. Here arms were tied down because she kept trying to bite herself. MacIntosh cheerily suggested, "Let's sing her a song." Everything in me rebelled. I almost left the room. I thought, what good is a crummy song going to do her? We sang "Peace Give I to You" over and over again - poorly. As we sang, a calm came over her that surprised not only me but the nurses as well. They said, "We've never seen her like this." I could feel God's presence for the first time in a long time, like a warm blanket in the room. I didn't really want to leave. That's when I realized again that Content is Everything. God used a pathetic rendition of a simple song to do something spiritual, something real. Something none of us could have done by ourselves at all.
The unsung heroes of Jesus Music were definitely the roadies and helpers. Hundreds of people passed out flyers, witnessed to people, counseled new believers, etc. They never made it on the charts. Also the roadies. These were guys who wanted to help but weren't all that musical. The one thing each one had was a VAN. In a day of few possessions, the guy with a van was more precious than gold. One of these guys was Steve Giglio. He joined Selah as a roadie, and lived with the guys. He worked like a dog. He typically loaded the equipment (usually with minimal help) into the van, drove us to the gig, set up, prayed fervently as he mixed the sound, tore down and loaded the van, drove us home - and when we got home he told us to go right to bed and he'd unload for us! When money was really scarce, he got a job making Earthwood guitars by hand. He'd work a full-time job and hand over the money, and still do all our roadie work. All he asked was that we rehearsed once in awhile.
One time we played an outdoor concert in San Diego, and some Hell's Angel-looking guys came up to the front of the stage and just stared at us. I was afraid they were going to take over the mikes and beat us up. I was going to try to hustle the girls to the back of the stage. Bugs walked up to them and said "God knows everything you do." And for some reason they turned around and went away - I think they sat down somewhere to listen to the concert. Alex MacDougall coined the name Bugsy for him, because he looked like a little tough guy. I encouraged the name, and Bob Wall made it stick. To this day, he is Bugs.
His faithfulness has paid off for him. He went on to work for Love Song, then Chi Coltraine, then Richie Furay, then Andrae, and now Promise Keepers. Still behind the scenes. Still a legend among the musicians.
Bugs was the best man at my wedding, and is still one of my role models. He treated everybody the same - he could hob-nob with a record producer, and be best buddies with the janitor in the same building (I've seen him do it). He could organize a rest home birthday party on one day, and have a magic touch with kids when he got home. He often lent me his ... ahem ... unique perspective with a brusque "Quit crying you little baby" - and then turned around and took care of me when I was sick.
Harold Brinkley (1973)
Selah broke up, and I was handling a few calls that trickled in. I got a phone call from Tommy Coomes, wanting to know if I wanted to go on a month-long tour with a group called "Youth for Truth" as a bass player. Tommy had met the leader, Harold Brinkley, and Harold was pretty desperate for a bass player. The tour was coming up in a week. I said sure.
Harold was a black guy from Sacramento (grew up in Oakland). The band (the "Valley of Decision Singers") and support group that traveled with it was multi-ethnic: black, hispanic, white. Their music was completely different than what I was used to, and I hadn't played bass in years, but I gave it a try. We got on a Greyhound bus and traveled through Northern California and Oregon to Seattle. Later, we did a second tour, going to Texas. This experience was one of the most formative of my life.
Harold Brinkley was the most effective speaker I ever heard (and I've heard hundreds, maybe thousands). I don't know exactly what it was. With Father Harriot, it was this mystical connection to the Lord. With Romaine, it was the fact that he boiled everything down to the basics. With Harold, maybe it was his passion and ability to connect. In regular conversation, I saw him directly and naturally draw out a total stranger and get him to talk about his relationship (or lack of relationship) with the Lord in about fifteen minutes. Socrates would have been proud.
In concerts, it was even more impressive. Harold would always give a talk at the end of the concert, followed by an invitation to come forward and dedicate their life to Christ. We would be doing the song "Let Jesus Take Your Hand", and even I would want to go forward - but I couldn't, because I was playing bass. Many of the "witnessing team" members would keep coming forward night after night. Finally, Harold had to tell them "Don't come forward, you're already Christians!" I saw him in a high-energy all-black church in the South somewhere, start with his typical "We certainly are glad to be with you today", and calmly tell them about Jesus. He rarely even raised his voice. When he was finished, one of the leading deacons of the church, sitting right next to him by the pulpit, came forward to commit his life to Jesus for the first time. Can you imagine what a humbling admission this was? It is like a pastor admitting to his congregation that he has never really been a Christian before.
We played at Stonewall Jackson Jr. High, somewhere in Texas. Harold had been asked to come because they had the worst pregnancy and crime rates in the state (in a Jr. High!), and were so desperate they said we could have at it, do anything we wanted. We started with a school assembly. After playing a couple of songs, the kids in the audience got louder and more rowdy. They were bored. They began to openly mock us. Harold stopped the concert, and said loudly to them, "Hey, you are making fun of me, and you are making fun of my God. And I want it to stop right now." And a hush fell over the whole crowd. What's with this?, they seemed to say. Harold started talking about Jesus, and we maybe did a couple more songs, and then he gave the message. Then he gave an invitation to come forward. He didn't usually do the "Slip your hand up and down" preparation we've all heard - he just said "Get on down here." A few kids got up and started walking forward, then more and more, and finally more than half the crowd: 400 plus in all.
Harold prayed for them right there, and announced that they were going to start a Christian Club, which would meet the next day before school. After the concert, we had free rein to go into the classrooms and talk about anything we wanted. It was a blast. What's more, the next morning, 400 kids showed up for the Christian Club.