Memoires of an ex-hippie turned Jesus Freak:
I had known Tommy since maybe 1964 when we used to sit in at a teenage nightclub known as the Cinnamon Cinder. We eventually worked together in a funky little group trying to be a poor man's version of the Mothers of Invention with a little Sopwith Camel thrown in. Kind of a jugband, acid-blues band hippy freak travelling show. In those days, musicians could pool their resources and pretty much live together on the meager earnings gained from an occasional gig. A lot of it is a fog obscured by the lifestyle and time. We did build a long-lasting friendship through it all.
In early 1967, Tom, myself, and a third member of our group, Chuck Butler, all got drafted: Tommy went to Germany, Chuck B. to Korea, and I went to Vietnam. I hated every minute of it. I don't think the experience leaves anyone who had to go through a year away from home--in the service of our country, only to return to demonstrations and scorn and ridicule of the ones we loved,the ones we thought we were defending. I think that era really marked the end of our country's innocence--that and the Nixon era. I was there at the worst time, of course, and caravaned through Hue-Phu Bai during the 1968 Tet offensive. I was never in combat because of my job (in communications); in fact, I was a disc jockey for a while until my unit (the First Air Cavalry) moved north near the DMZ. Even though I was there under relatively easy conditions, the presence of the war and the destruction and death it wrought will always be a part of me.
I survived, but pretty much spent the entire time there shielded from the reality of war by a thick haze of pot and hashish, a practice that continued when I came back. I started hanging out in Orange County, CA and went through a band or two--they were usually composed of great musicians, but the whole environment wasn't very conducive to stability.
In the early part of 1969, while I was roomies with Chuck Girard in Costa Mesa, Jay Truax blew into town and recruited me for an acid-rock band located in Salt Lake City--the Spirit of Creation. We opened for the Grateful Dead and other name acts... We were all so immersed in the psychedelic drug culture that a lot of memories seem disjointed and surrealistic. But we lived to tell about it; a couple of our friends didn't.
We sort of drifted back to Laguna Beach, where Tommy, Chuck, myself and a couple other local musicians rented a beautiful house in South Laguna with an incredible view of the Pacific, all the way to Catalina when the smog was light. At that time, Jesus began to be a serious topic. A lady friend of mine who I met in Salt Lake had become a Christian. She came to our house and pretty much got in my face and told me to stop getting loaded. She left me a book--nothing too remarkable about it. But it portrayed the life of a real believer as having peace. People came together to worship God--you didn't have to have a stash of drugs for people to feel God and the love of brothers and sisters.
My life was in such total disarray that I truly had no choice. I had absolutely no hope or purpose. My memory was impaired. I used to poke fun at myself for quite a while with a story of how I reasoned myself into thinking about God--you can lose an eye, an arm, an ear, and still make it (because you have two of each). But if you lose your mind, you're sunk. One night, in the absolute deepest dispair, I took the words of my friend to heart. I figured my life was completely without value; I might as well give it to Jesus. Almost immediately, I had the distinct impression that I would never smoke another joint, or ever need drugs again.
The next morning I awoke, and the entire world was different. The colors of the flowers in the garden were alive. Hummingbirds flew near the windows and knocked me over with their life and brilliance. I was a new creature, and I really knew that it was absolutely nothing I could conjure up or create. I have come to realize that the conversion experiences of many if not most are not quite as dramatic. Nevertheless, to me it was a quiet and complete revolution.
At almost the same time, Jay had a similar experience--Chuck seemed to know already. This was in January of 1970... Because we were so close to each other, we talked and talked, and came to the corporate realization that there was something awfully important going on to us. Anyone who knew us was dazzled by our fierce conviction; it also goes without saying that we were spiritual loose cannons and basically couldn't agree on anything other than the person of Jesus and that the Bible was a very "heavy" book (meaning significant, full of important stuff).
Our friend had told us about a Christian commune in the Newport Beach
area. To settle a particular dispute, we decided to go ask a Christian.
When we got to the commune, we were absolutely welcome-they were people
just like us--long haired, former users, on and on. One kind brother asked
us where we went to church. Amid the muffled replies, he suggested we go
to a place called Calvary Chapel. We went that night, and the rest is
pretty much history. We started singing there probably within a week (we had
already written songs about God, although I'm not sure how much our own
understanding was reflected in the lyrics). At this point, Love Song was
born (again), and the flood of tunes began.
Fred is currently studying for his doctoral degree in linguistics.