|FRESH SURRENDER by The Archers (1977)|
Light Records (LSB-5707)
Fresh Surrender…every Christian teenaged boy’s favorite album cover in the 1970s! More about that a little later on.
I’ve always felt a bit of a connection to The Archers. Like them, I grew up the son of an Assemblies of God pastor. Like them, we were immersed in gospel music as kids and ended up winning awards in Teen Talent – a national Assemblies of God program that encouraged young people to develop their musical gifts and hopefully use those gifts for ministry purposes. [Tim and Steve Archer ended up winning second place at the Teen Talent Nationals in the 60s; my brother and I won second place in the Southeast Regional competition in the late 70s. Which was not bad, considering that we were pushing the envelope by playing “contemporary” music using a Wurlitzer electric piano, Moog synthesizer, and
synthesized drums.] And, like The Archers, we ended up forming a family band and played in churches, schools and concert halls all over the United States and even a couple of cities in Canada. But that’s where the similarities end. Pearl
|The Archer Brothers|
The Archers played Explo ’72, toured Europe and
, won Dove and Grammy awards, and played at the White House. More importantly, they breathed hope and excitement into the lives of many churched teenagers by demonstrating that the message of the Gospel and polished, commercial pop music could be completely compatible! South Africa
In a radio interview, Tim Archer told
Full Circle’s Jerry Bryant, “We were preacher’s kids; we were very active in my father’s church. We grew up singing in contests and in the services and outreaches to our community.”
“See, we were raised in church, so the music that we were familiar with was church music,” Steve Archer recalls. “And up until that point our parents had taken us maybe to some southern gospel quartet concerts, and our oldest brother, Gary Archer was actually in a quartet in college, and when he came out of college he traveled in a southern gospel quartet.” By the mid-60s, they were traveling and singing with their older brother Gary, calling themselves The Archer Brothers. After the near-win at their denomination’s Teen Talent nationals, they added electric guitars and drums, moving more toward a pop/rock sound. When
moved into artist management, Tim & Steve added some additional players and changed the group’s name to, simply, The Archers. Gary
|The Archers looking groovy in the early 70s|
They played lots of churches and festivals in the early 70s, delivering a new sound previously unheard in many evangelical church settings. “Larry Norman was an influence on us, as was Andrae Crouch,” Steve recalls. “And it was at that time that those influences like Andrae and Larry – people that were already out there, I think Barry McGuire was probably out there at that time, too – but we were like, you know what? The kind of music that we want to do would be for our friends, kids that were in Jr. High School or High School, and so we began to do a form of what we now call Jesus Music, where it had kind of a rock ‘n roll or pop feel to it. So we were in church with drums and electric bass and electric guitars, jamming for Jesus! And there were a few people that it kind of set their hair back, you know. They weren’t sure how to appreciate that! So, even for us, coming out of church, it was difficult to take that music into the church, but the Lord opened the doors and we were able to do it.”
Did He ever.
As I already mentioned, The Archers were awarded a slot at Explo ’72 in
Dallas, a historic Woodstock-like gathering of “Jesus people” from all over and beyond. This put them in front of a quarter million people and got them noticed by Andrae Crouch and Ralph Carmichael (who was the label head at Light Records), relationships that would prove to be fruitful down the road a bit. America
Much of The Archers’ popularity during this early period was the result of covers of popular Jesus Music songs like Andrae’s It Won’t Be Long and Jesus Is the Answer, as well as Little Flowers and Keep Singin’ That Love Song by Danny Lee (of Danny Lee & the Children of Truth). After a move to Light Records, The Archers recorded a song called It Wouldn’t Be Enough. It became a signature song for them and ended up being covered and recorded by many other artists.
In 1976, long-time group members Billy Masters and Nancye Short departed, creating an opening for little sister Janice Archer. Janice assumed the role of female lead for the group and dramatically changed the look and sound of The Archers. With a pleasing voice, Farrah Fawcett hair, and a million dollar smile, Janice was instantly popular and became somewhat of a "celebrity crush" for many Christian male teenagers across
Her presence also positioned them as truly a family group. This new direction would define The Archers for the rest of their career. America.
With baby sister Janice in tow, Tim and Steve entered the studio to record what would become the group’s best selling album to date. Fresh Surrender was arranged by Elvis Presley TCB Band alumnus Larry Muhoberac and boasted a 'who’s who' of top session players. The list of elite studio musicians who contributed to Fresh Surrender included Steely Dan alumnus Ben Benay, as well as Dean Parks, Lee Ritenour,
The album’s front cover featured a close-up photo of the three Archer siblings sporting about as much hair as you’re likely to ever see on a record cover. The back cover photo caught the trio in a playful mood and did nothing to discourage Janice’s many admirers.
Standout tracks include the title track and I’m Gonna Rise. Ballads Make Me an Instrument, You Know the Future and Give Him Praise were favorites of many listeners. Every Breath I Take and I Need You had a decidedly 70s feel. A teenaged Janice was given only one solo – Change, which was penned by her predecessor – and acquitted herself admirably. As usual, Steve stole the show vocally and proved to be a master of “blue-eyed funk” on his own compositions Sanctified Life and Water Into Wine.
Fresh Surrender claimed an astounding seven airplay hits for The Archers. The album and its title track would be nominated for a Dove Award.
The Archers would release several more albums together. They won a Grammy Award and performed on the Grammy Awards telecast twice. They were the first CCM group to perform at Universal City Amphitheatre in
and even had their own television program for a while on the TBN network. In a review of a greatest hits compilation, Billboard magazine praised the group’s versatility. Los Angeles
Janice Archer married into another Christian music family, the Cruse Family, and Steve transitioned into a successful solo career. But the brothers & sister combo reunited in the early 90s for one more album, before disbanding for good in 1994. At a concert at Canyon Hills Assembly of God church in Bakersfield, CA, older brother Gary Archer was in the audience and was invited to come on stage and sing with Tim and Steve. In a brief revival of The Archer Brothers, the three men sang a couple of songs together for old times’ sake.
|A recent photo of Steve, Janice & Tim|
In more recent times, The Archers participated in The Beginnings Concert & DVD project, which featured many foundational Jesus Music artists in a reunion event. Tim Archer has survived a bout with cancer and recently recorded again with brother Steve. They released a brand new version of He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother in 2014.
Not long ago, Steve Archer was asked which Archers record was his favorite (of the ones that included his sister Janice). His answer: “I would have to say Fresh Surrender, and I know that it was her first, but there was a tenderness about her voice. And you know, she was only 17 years old at the time. I’m six years older than her; Tim’s 9 years older than her. So we’re the older big brothers. But there was just a tenderness about her, but also a real strength. And she didn’t hurt the look of our group at all – she was a beautiful young lady! But that record, the freshness of the look of our group, the fact that it was our first family venture, and just the songs that she did. That’s my favorite.”
Well put, Steve. It’s a favorite for a lot of us, too.
Fun fact: Kelly Willard was actually a member of The Archers’ touring band, playing piano and singing backing vocals for the group in 1975.