LOVE SONG HISTORY - Part 1 (Mar 1997)
by Chuck Girard
The name "Love Song" was actually coined in Las Vegas by a guy named Jack Shaeffer. He was a bass player in one of our Vegas bands, and one day while we were sitting around , he just said, "I've got the perfect name for a band: 'The Love Song". I liked it immediately, and later on adopted the name for my band, dropping the article.
The group went through several incarnations in the early days. These were our hippie, psychedelic days, and the first band I remember was the band we put together to blow off the 5th Cavalry. The Cavalry was an Orange County, CA band that I had met while playing Vegas with another band I had co-founded that went by the name of "Six the Hardway", named after the gambling term.
The Cavalry was very impressive, and Denny Correll, who went on to make CCM albums, was one of the lead singers. He had just gotten turned on to Jesus before the band came to Vegas, and was proselytizing. He was fiery and convincing, although his own experience was based largely on drug induced enthusiasm. He convinced me I needed Jesus in my life, and I credit him with being the first to actually get me excited about spiritual things. After Vegas, I used to go see the band at a club in Orange County called "Gold Street"., not without a bit of jealousy on my part, because they were just amazing. At Gold Street is where I first met Jay Truax. He was playing in a band called the Park Bench, and also was hanging out at the club to hear the Cavalry. He got caught up in all the madness, and became a life long member of the friendship. Denny Correll eventually left the band to follow Jesus, and we got tight as friends.
After some time, Denny and myself, the drummer from 6 the Hardway, Ernie Earnshaw, and some others, decided to form a band which would be like the Cavalry, but we could preach about Jesus and God, and we would be evangelists. That was the first band that went by the name "Love Song", and we did actually do a concert at Gold Street, and it was a pretty incredible night. Through all this, we were heavily into the Bible, and were all hanging with a guy Denny knew named George Grenier, and had formed sort of a hippie cult trying to find God. George was a leader type who thought he knew the Bible, and was convinced that we were the beginning of the reincarnation of the 12 apostles. Another idea he had was that we were to put a band together to write music which would lead the world into the millennium spoken of in the Bible, and that we were to have trumpets, because we would be the ones who would sound the 7 trumpets at the return of the Lord. This type of apocalyptic philosophy drove us eventually to sell all our possessions and move to Hawaii, specifically the island of Kauai, because George had deduced that Hawaii was going to be the place where the millennium would begin. He arrived at this by the mistaken idea that Kauai was the purest place on Earth, pristine and untouched by man, and that this would be the place where Jesus would return. Jay Truax was the first to go over to the islands, and went alone. He hooked up with a few hippies over there, but already came back by the time the rest of us left. Several of us made the move, and once in the islands, we split into groups, I don't exactly remember why. Denny, his wife Margaret , his 2 infant daughters and I went off to Kauai. We purchased a little Renault Dauphine for a couple hundred bucks, and set off for a town called Kalaheo, on the west side of Kauai, where we heard that hippies were living rent free in cabins that were inhabited by seasonal workers during banana harvest season. We set up camp in one of the cabins, which had no electricity, running water, etc.
I remember waking up the first morning with sawdust all over my face. Wondering why, I looked up at the ceiling and noticed it was infested with termites, who were burrowing through the wood, and the dust was dropping on our faces. The inconveniences aside, we were free, and we believed God would provide for our needs. I remember having a royal feast one night of the best guacamole I'd ever tasted , made from avocados we harvested off the ground from a local tree. These were avos that had been tree ripened, not the kind you get in supermarkets that are picked green and ripen on the shelf. We bought some chips and feasted. We really didn't have a plan, but we'd heard that the action was on the North shore. We left Kalaheo, and took off for the Hanalei side of the island, where we heard that there were other hippies and some cool places to live. We actually wound up living in another harvesters cabin at the end of a road in Hanalei, in one of the most beautiful settings on earth. Again, no conveniences, and no money, but we were following God. For recreation we would sing Beatle songs accompanied by guitar, and tried to live off the land.
One morning I remember driving into town, and having nothing to eat. We were praying for God's provision, and I promise you, we made a turn in the road, and right in front of the car dropped several huge grapefruit right off the tree. You can imagine how it built our faith! This kind of provision was the exception however, and the idea of living off the land got pretty thin very quickly. All that grew wild on Kauai was passion fruit, avocados, bananas, etc, and we needed more substantial food. We eventually were reduced to begging and borrowing a little money, with which we would buy a box of oatmeal or the like, and that kind of fare became our principal diet. After we'd been there a number of weeks, I remember Denny and I getting some temp work through an employment agency, chipping the mortar off used bricks in the hot Hawaiian sunshine. We actually laughed at the irony of how the dream had soured, and wasn't turning out the way we thought it should. It seemed like we had wound up "breakin- rocks in the hot sun" as Bobby Fuller sang in the song "I Fought the Law", not having the free idyllic life we had envisioned. The dream was getting less and less glamorous, and finally, Denny and family went back to the mainland, as the life in Kauai was really not fair to their daughters.
About this time, Jay Truax came back over to the islands, specifically to find me. Jay was living in Salt Lake City at the time, and had formed a power trio "Cream" type group with a guitar wizard named Chuck Fraher, and a drummer named John Mehler. They had become very popular in Salt Lake City, and had become the opening band for all the main concerts that came through Salt Lake City. They opened for the likes of Janis Joplin, Three Dog Night, Grateful Dead, etc. They were thinking of expanding their sound, and Jay had come over o Kauai to invite me to come back to Utah and join the band. He was making pretty good money, and offered me a plane ticket, so I accepted the offer. He left the islands ahead of me, and a while later, (my sense of time and chronology are very hazy in regard to all this), I left the islands for Slat Lake City, carrying some marijuana in my bag from Kauai to deliver to some hippies in Honolulu just as a favor for some other hippies. What a walking bust we all were. No common sense at all. I could have gone to jail for a long time if caught. Exit Hawaii, enter Salt Lake City.... (To be continued)
I arrived in Salt Lake City in the dead of winter, without so much as a
pair of shoes. I remember the airline wasn't going to let me on the plane
without shoes, but I told them I didn't even own any, so for whatever
reason, they relented and let me on. No one in Salt Lake City knew when I
was coming in, so no one was there to meet me at the airport. I don't
remember exactly how, but somehow I got from the airport into town, just
me, no shoes, and a duffel bag. I remember walking along aimlessly through
town, when all of a sudden, one of the guys who managed Jay's group
recognized me, and pulled his car over. He gave me a lift to where
everyone was living , and I got settled in.
The next step was to rehearse with the band. This idea was doomed from the start. I've never really been a "player", but more of a singer/songwriter. These guys were all pretty good musicians, and were basically a "jam" band, and we all soon found out that I was out of my league. The idea of my joining the band was soon abandoned, but now I was stuck in Salt Lake City with no money, and no prospects. But I'd been in this situation before, and I basically just hung out for about a year, taking drugs and continuing my search.
I don't remember what the catalyst was, but eventually I moved back to Southern California. A bunch of us rented an apartment on Bay St. in Costa Mesa, and made it into another kind of hippie pad like my house had been. We actually got by ok financially, because we formed different bands with the available musicians, and got jobs playing in clubs. By this time, Fred Field, Chuck Butler, and Tommy Coomes had just been discharged from the army, and had joined our commune. Neither Jay or I can remember who the connection was to knowing them, but likely it was Chris Friend, one of our non-musician buddies. Anyhow, they became part of our "band pool", and a bunch of us wound up playing at a club in Costa Mesa called "The Happening". That band included Larry Brittain, Jesse Johnston on guitar Denny Correll singing, and Bobby Guidotti on drums, among others, as well as myself . By this time, we were very committed to the idea of finding God, and considered ourselves to be "mostly Christian". We were beginning to write songs about God and specifically including Jesus in our lyrics by this time. We were very evangelistic, and talked to people on our breaks, trying to inspire them to seek God, and to get turned on to LSD, because we believed that was a part of the process of finding God. We would sometimes actually take a group of potential "converts" out somewhere in nature on a weekend, and drop LSD with them, sharing our philosophies and trying to get them more involved and committed. Talk about the blind leading the blind! The Happening job became a drug laden free-for-all. We would get stoned, play a set, get stoned again on our breaks, come back and play another set. This habit became our undoing. In our hippie -like trust, it never occurred to us to any great degree to fear the possibility that narcs might be in the building, but narcs there were. We were again a bust waiting to happen. There was a little room out back of the night club, where we would go every break to get stoned. We would all get off the stage, walk through the crowd, out the back door, and into this room to smoke a joint. All of us would leave at once, no attempt to be subtle about what we were doing, and any vice officer would very quickly be able to put together what was going on.
Anyway, one night, seemed like after we were done playing for the night, as we went to our cars to go home, several cop cars pulled into the lot with lights flashing. I remember pulling a couple of caps of LSD out of my pocket and throwing them as far away as I could, but the cops saw it, and retrieved them. We were arrested and booked into the Orange County jail, and somehow got out on our own recognizance or bail or something. At the time, there were so many hippies being arrested that they didn't really have jail space, so somehow, we got out until our day in court. The charge on my own arrest was possession of heroine, which really scared me because LSD was a misdemeanor, but heroine was a felony at the time. Of course it was later proven to be LSD in my pocket, but it was very unsettling for a few days. I went to court, was found guilty, and was sentenced to one day in County! Again, such light sentences were being given because there were so many hippies being arrested. That part worked for me, at least. Again, reasons being so hazy in my mind, I don't remember exactly why, but eventually we wound up back in SLC, where the group which was still called Love Song, became the house band at a really cool club called "The Old Mill". It was just that, and old abandoned grain mill, built from stones and mortar, that made a very atmospheric psychedelic club, amidst the strobe lights and all. We played there for some time, singing our "Jesus songs", along with our rock and dance songs. We took the place of "Spirit of Creation" for awhile as the top band in SLC. Well, somehow, in the midst of all this, Hollywood heard about us. Through one of the Salt Lake City managers, we were put in touch with Liberty Records in Hollywood. I don't remember exactly how we got them excited, maybe we sent a tape or something, but pretty soon a guy from Liberty Records, Lanky Lindstrot was dispatched to SLC to come and hear us. He liked what he heard, and before too long, myself and maybe one other band member flew to Hollywood to meet with the record executives at Liberty. One of the guys took us into an office and played an advance copy of the Beatles "Let It be", before it ever came out. He mistakenly thought that the reference in the song to "Mother Mary" was the Virgin Mary, and concluded that religious rock was going to be the next big thing. It was later disclosed that the reference was in regard to Paul McCartney's actual mother who's name was Mary, but it worked for us. We had a song about California falling into the ocean, called "Lead Me Out Of California" , another about having tried everything in the world, being unsatisfied and winding up finding happiness in Jesus. So even though we weren't born again yet, the songs were definitely religious, and the label was excited about us, seeing us as a part of what they perceived as a new trend in music, "religious rock". A contract was drawn up, and we started the process of waiting to sign. This was about the time we made a fateful trip to Salt Lake City which resulted in my second arrest. We had gotten some very good quality hashish, and decided to bring some to Salt Lake City to visit everybody and to share it with them. This story has already been recounted on my web site, and will be reprinted here as Part 3 of the history.
"Chris, you've been reading too many mystery novels!", I said. It was early in 1969, and Chris Friend, an aptly named friend of mine, was attempting to explain something to me in regard to our plan to transport a relatively large amount (for us) of hashish to Salt Lake City, to share with some friends. "What you do", he said, "is put the hash in the bottom of the door panel, and cover it over with black paper. That way, when the cops shine their flashlight down through the crack in the door, it will just look like the bottom of the door, and they won't see the hash", Chris said. "Fine", I said, not really caring what he did, but not really believing it would ever be a necessary precaution. After all, we were hippies, and God would protect us, since we were just bringing some good dope to our friends in Salt Lake, who we hadn't seen in some time. The drive from Laguna Beach would take about 16 hours, and Fred Field, Tommy Coomes, Chris Friend and myself started off, for the drive, anticipating the enjoyment of having a good hit of LSD along the way. The LSD would make the trip go very quickly, and we were anxious to get started.
By the time we hit Vegas, we were beginning to come on pretty good, and decided to do the prudent thing and avoid the Strip. We wanted to avoid Las Vegas altogether, because in those days Nevada laws were very strict on drug usage. Large foreboding signs greeted you as you hit town reading: "Don't gamble with drugs in Nevada. Possession 25 years, Dealing: Life". We actually wanted to heed the sign and get through as quickly as possible, but knew we had a short stretch on the north side of town where the freeway ended, and you were forced to go on surface streets for a mile or two to get back to the freeway.
We took the last exit off of Hwy.15 and started down the street. Not a few blocks later, we saw the black and white in front of us. "Be cool, and just drive by, we'll get past them and get out of here," somebody said. We got right alongside the slow moving cruiser, being careful to keep our speed down, and tried to avoid eye contact as we passed. But it wasn't to be. I saw the excitement in the eyes of the cop who was driving as he looked up and saw a bunch of hippies, ripe for stopping, whether or not they had a reason. In seconds he was behind us, the lights went on, and we were pulled over. They got out with shotguns at the ready, their vicious looking dogs in the attack position, as if we were big time criminals. "Out of the van", they ordered, and as we complied, they put us spread eagle against the patrol car. They began to search the van in earnest, as we waited, knowing the only thing to find was the hash. I literally couldn't believe my eyes as I watched the officer shine his flashlight down the door of the van, exactly like Chris had described in our earlier exchange. "Thank you, Chris, you're not so stupid after all," I thought to myself with great gratitude. The search went on for some time, until one of the cops finally came back around the van, announcing "well, you boys look clean". What a relief! Chris had been right, and we were going to make it out of here tonight. In a fit of bravado and lack of good judgment, Fred blurted out, "you can search all night, you'll not find anything!" "Shut up, Fred", I thought, wishing he would just leave well enough alone. But then I heard other words which turned my joy into dread: "Well look what I found" said one of the officers with that sarcastic little sting in his voice that all of us have heard when we find ourselves at the mercy of another. Triumphantly he held up the "roach", the butt of a marijuana cigarette, claiming he had found it in plain sight on the engine cover. "I don't think so", I thought to myself. How convenient, 20 minutes into the search to find a roach that would have been found in the first minute of the search. To this day, I believe that roach was planted. It didn't matter though, for in a matter of minutes we were cuffed, brought "downtown" and booked. The police took particular delight in cutting our shoulder length hippie hair, an act which was probably illegal, but what did we know? Unbelievably, Fred had a gram of hash in his hand throughout the whole bust, which they never found. He was so stoned, he stayed cool, and he and Tommy, put in a different cell than Chris and I, swallowed it when they got to their cell. High in jail in Las Vegas, scared, still very much under the influence, we made our phone call to Fred's dad, and sat back to wait out the consequences.
We all looked pretty funny with our nearly shaved heads and beardless faces as Fred's dad came to bail us out the next day, all the way from L.A. They said the F.B.I. searched our van, and never ever found the hash. We would have been in real trouble if that was found, but God had other plans for us than to spend a good part of our lives in jail.Our trial date was set for 6 months later, so we had a lot of time to think about things. This was a turning moment for me. I was scared, and I didn't want to go to jail for a minute, much less for life. It turned out I did a lot of thinking about God and the meaning of life.
I had been raised in a legalistic denomination, and had burned out on religion about the age of 15, when I discovered rock and roll. I left the church, believing I was on my way to hell, but unwilling to go for some of the stupid things they said I would go for. "If I'm going to hell, I'm going for wine, women and song, and not for eating meat on Friday", I thought to myself. And wine, women and song I did, as I began my recording career with my first group, "the Castells" in the early '60s. We got a top 20 hit with our second record ,a song called "Sacred". Off I went, still in my senior year of high school, to do shows with people who were my heroes, Roy Orbison, Jackie Wilson, Jerry Lee Lewis. What a thrill for a kid from Santa Rosa, CA, whose closest contact to these people up until now was as I played the 45's and LP's I bought, learning every lick, every chord, every label, every publisher. I was truly a fan, and now In was a small part of the rock pantheon. It felt good. Later on, we recorded another top 20 hit, "So This Is Love". After the Castells broke up, I worked for a few years with a guy named Gary Usher who co-wrote a couple of Beach Boys songs with Brian Wilson. I was part of Gary's studio group, and recorded many "surf/hot rod" type albums in the '60s. We recorded under many different names, the "Super Stocks", the "Revells", the "Weird-oh's", but we really struck gold when Mercury Records pulled a single off one of the albums we did, and the song "Little Honda" went to the top 10. I was the lead vocalist on that song, but just participated in the recording of the second Hondells hit, "Younger Girl".
I got more and more into alcohol during this period, and slowly but steadily my life went out of control. I needed booze on sessions, I thought, and often got so drunk I couldn't sing. Later I discovered marijuana, and wondered where that had been all of my life. About a year into marijuana, the publicity began to hit on the hippie scene, and I got very curious about LSD. My first LSD trip was great, but I had no opportunity to try it again for a year. LSD became more available, and a year later I got into it seriously when I obtained some while playing in a night club in Honolulu. My drummer and best friend, Ernie Earnshaw and I would drop after work many a night, and stay up stoned all night and most of the day , catching just enough sleep to start all over again the next night. This went on for many months, and then the group, which was called "Six the Hardway" wound up playing in Las Vegas, where I met Denny Correll. Denny was in a group called the "5th Cavalry", and both our bands were playing the "Pussycat A Go Go" on the Vegas strip. One night on a break, Denny got us all in the back room. "You have to accept Jesus, man, you have to repent and get your life right"., he preached. The force of his conviction, his boldness and his personality deeply affected me, and I knew I had to look into this. After Vegas, we all went back to California, and I began to go down to a club called "Gold Street" in Orange County where the band played. By this time they were called "Bigfoot", and "Gold Street" was one of the hot places in town. But our interests were different from the majority of the night club crowd. We would study the Bible, and talk about God. We were still taking drugs, because we thought it was all a part of finding God. We were sincere, but in error, but God is able to take you through all that.
Eventually, we wound up in Laguna Beach, CA, where we rented a beautiful house overlooking the Pacific Ocean in South Laguna. We weren't dealing drugs, but we could make good money by playing in night clubs, and with eight or so of us living communally, we could support a pretty comfortable life style. As good as life should have been, I was miserable. facing the bust in Las Vegas, and another bust in Orange County, I faced an uncertain future. I knew that I couldn't go on taking drugs forever, but I wanted to maintain the high. I heard that the "guru" type guys were able to maintain a high without drugs, and I was definitely thinking that Eastern religions might be the way to go. I had made a deal with God that I would not stop searching for truth until I was totally satisfied that I had found the ultimate answer, whatever it was. I had read in the Bible that if I would "seek, I would find, if I asked, it would be given unto me, if I knocked, the door would open." I figured that if God was as fair and just as He was reputed to be, that if I did all I could to discover Him, and searched with all my heart, that He couldn't fault me if I didn't find Him. I realized that there was nothing more important to find out about in all of life and whatever I had to do to find it, I was willing to do. I didn't know if there was heaven or hell, but I didn't want to take the chance on dying and finding out that I went to hell. I felt funny about the Eastern philosophies, the Urantia Book, the Aquarian Gospel, and other books I was reading, but seemed to feel most comfortable with the Bible, even though I wasn't comfortable with the idea of becoming a Christian. I needed satisfying answers.
Well, answers began to come. We began to pick up more than one hitchhiker who would ask, "have you been to Calvary Chapel yet? God's really moving there." Believe me, if God was moving somewhere, I wanted to check it out. And so I did. One night a bunch of us went down to a Christian commune in Newport Beach. Hippie Christians had taken over a whole motel complex which was in escrow at the time. The realtor, being a Christian, allowed them to live there during what he knew would be a long escrow, and they had taken over the whole motel, turning it into a Christian commune. A bunch of us at the Laguna house were having a debate over some controversial scripture, and decided to go down to the "Blue Top" as it was called, and talk to these guys who were fully Christian. What I mean by that, is that if you asked me what my religion was at this time, I would say "mostly Christian". We knew that these hippies had given their lives to Christ, whatever that meant.
We knocked on the door of apt. 1, and were invited in. We really felt the love of God in the place, they all talked very enthusiastically about their church, and especially their pastor, a man called Chuck Smith. They invited us to church and after some wrestling with my misgivings about anything called Christian, a few of us went that night.
The service was very low key. I remember being very impressed that Chuck didn't yell or scream, just shared stuff about Jesus with a big grin on his face. I don't remember what was preached that night, I just knew that something very powerful and important was going on in that room, and I wanted to understand it and be a part of it. I didn't go to the altar that night, but the Spirit of God got hold of me in a big way. I began to weep deeply, as all my control and pride was broken like a twig in the presence of God. I had deep release as I wept before God, and felt such a cleanliness in my spirit, unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. I repented to God, for the first time I realized how spiritually bankrupt I was. Snot and tears were pouring all over my face and beard, but I felt cleaner than I ever had in my life. I knew I had found a piece of God, though uncertain it was all there was. I told God that I would stay there until He showed me different.
I had been trying to carry the sins of the world on my shoulders, believing that no one could have peace until ALL had peace. What a comfort to find out that Jesus had carried all sins already, and died for all men. The big difference I saw between the Eastern way and Christianity, is that the Eastern philosophies pointed to an elusive, barely attainable place of peace somewhere in the future for the few who were able to bear the rigors of spiritual disciplines. Christianity offered peace right now, and didn't depend on my ability to be spiritual, just my brokenness and repentance before God. They explained that Jesus had done it all, and all I had to do was accept what He did. At that point, I could have spiritual peace, and eternal life, which was a free gift, and I couldn't earn my way into heaven by my good works or holiness. What a relief to know that I could be right with God, and that if I died the next minute, I'd go to Heaven to be with Jesus. In fact, I wished in the best way that I might die that minute, so at peace was I and so ready to go. Later I realized that we had purpose here on Earth, or God would take everyone home, the minute they would repent. There was a job to be done, to share the same message with others who needed what we had found.
Well, that was 27 years ago, and I've never looked back. I was baptized with the Holy Spirit a week later, and about that time LOVE SONG started playing at one of the Bible studies at Calvary Chapel. As what was to become known as the "Jesus Movement" started in earnest, we got caught up in the attendant wave of media attention, and in the space of 2 years became world famous. We continued in the ministry for a total of 3 years, when I went off to become a solo artist. My albums became successful as well, and I continued and still do today, to record, travel, preach and teach, and do my best to serve God.