I’ve been privileged to see and hear these brothers live on four different occasions now. And there are 3 things you can count on when attending a David & the Giants concert:
1. You’ll be confronted with some good, old-fashioned rock and roll
2. You’ll be struck by the sincerity and humility of the men on stage
3. You’ll hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be given an opportunity to respond
Whether it was a church concert in Greenville, South Carolina in the late 1980s…a Winter ski retreat for youth groups in the Smoky Mountains around 1990…a reunion concert in Monroe, Georgia in 2007…or last night’s standing-room only concert in Watkinsville, Georgia…those three things were always front and center.
David & the Giants was actually a band that pre-dated Jesus Music. They were a popular mainstream act in the late 60s/early 70s. That changed when they met the Lord. After a number of successful albums on Priority and Myrrh Records, they broke out of the mold, built their own studio, founded their own label, and released their own albums. The result was 18 albums over 40 years, and tons of radio airplay. The group officially disbanded at the end of 1997.
I knew that David & the Giants had been getting together on a more frequent basis for reunion shows. So when my brother caught wind via social media that this concert was taking place just a 2-hour drive from our home, it was hastily decided that a road trip was in order.
New Life Apostolic Church in Watkinsville, GA was the venue. Watkinsville is a small community near the college town of Athens. The church was completely filled with smiling, friendly people and we quickly found great seats on the fourth row, on the center aisle.
After a couple of songs from the church’s worship team, and two more from Rayborn Huff’s daughter Zoe, David & the Giants took the stage.
Since the church was filled with people from every age group, including a lot of senior adults, the Pastor smiled and asked, “Now, you all know this is David & the Giants, right? Somebody said one time, ‘God’s not deaf.’ Yeah, well, He’s not nervous, either!” That drew a big laugh from the audience.
It was clear from David Huff’s demeanor and comments that the band members and their families shared a history of some sort with the members of this particular church family, giving the evening a comfortable, intimate feel. Near the very top of his remarks, before the first note was sounded by the group, David Huff set the tone for the next 90 minutes when he said, “Greetings, everybody, in the wonderful name of Jesus Christ to all my friends!” It’s the same humility, the same down-to-earth sincerity that I encountered when I, as a young, very green radio announcer, interviewed David live on Christian radio in Greenville, South Carolina in the late 1980s. I was basically a kid with a passion for communicating on the radio through contemporary Christian music, and was probably a little star-struck at the prospect of looking across the board at David Huff. But his gentle manner and humble spirit instantly put me at ease. And that spirit was on display again last night, all these years later…because it’s who these guys are. And it is so refreshing.
The guys tore through classic hits like Holy Rain, R U Gonna Stand Up and You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet. Twin brothers Rayborn and Clayborn were on hand – Clayborn playing a 5-string bass held up by a WWJD strap, and Rayburn playing a Roland keyboard and an actual B-3 organ. Those two always crack me up. They can be ripping their way through some loud, classic rock and roll…and the whole time they just stand there looking like members of the Darling Family on the Andy Griffith Show.
The guys slowed the tempo quite a bit and played their crossover hit Here’s My Heart, featuring a synthesizer solo by Rayborn.
David shared a portion of his personal testimony, telling the assembled crowd that he had played with the likes of the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart back in the early 70s, but had noticed an absence of joy in their lives. He talked about “smoking dope” and “getting the munchies for fish,” eliciting laughter from the crowd. But then he attended a church in Laurel, Mississippi, and something happened that changed his life forever. He surrendered his heart and life to the “Bright Morning Star” and the “King of Kings.” Later, through the encouragement of one of his aunts, David said he was “filled with the Holy Ghost.”
I’ve got to say that it’s so refreshing to hear a rock and roll band so willing to talk about the way Jesus touched and changed their lives. Somewhere in the late 80s/early 90s, talking about Jesus became quite unfashionable among CCM groups. “We’re not preachers” became the mantra, and “thanks for coming out” became the most meaningful thing you would hear from their concert stages. Not so with David & the Giants.
Their music on this evening was heavy…hard-hitting Southern and Classic rock and roll with no punches pulled. They plowed through Superstar (complete with a Talk Box!), the all-time classic Fire (It’s like a fire / shut up in my bones), and a relatively new song called I’m Still Rockin’ which featured David on slide guitar. By the way, David Huff, in a Fender T-shirt under his jacket, was amazing on lead guitar. I remarked to my brother that if someone who knew nothing about David & the Giants wandered in off the street and saw this older gentleman absolutely shredding that guitar the way he did last night… they would think they were either witnessing something bizarre or being pranked. Huff’s lead guitar chops are absolutely amazing for anyone, but especially for a man his age.
Keith Thibodeaux also gave his testimony. He talked of coming to the Lord after being a successful child star – he was “Little Ricky” on I Love Lucy and one of Opie’s friends on The Andy Griffith Show. His drumming opened the door for him to lock down a 7-year contract on I Love Lucy. But Desi became an alcoholic; he and Lucy divorced, leaving Keith an unemployed 9-year old! Keith’s world was further shattered by his parents’ divorce. He left the bright lights of Hollywood and went home to Louisiana where he met the Huff brothers. After dabbling in the occult and experiencing suicidal thoughts, Keith met Jesus and was filled with the Holy Spirit. So he started witnessing to those Huff boys! Eventually they decided to play rock and roll music with “Godly lyrics.” And now you know the rest of the story (as Paul Harvey would say).
From there, the guys launched into the classic Highway to Heaven, complete with a 5-minute drum solo from the 66-year old Thibodeaux. Talk box and a drum solo…for classic rock fans, it just doesn’t get much better than that!
David Huff then sang My Song of Praise. I noticed that even young teens sitting in front of us were singing along and knew all the words. David explained that the song was born out of hardship…a time when his son was in jail and didn’t want God. To make a long story short, two years later he called David from Los Angeles and said he had decided to serve the Lord for the rest of his life. People stood, singing along and worshiping, people of all ages and demographics singing along.
After Rayborn exhorted the crowd regarding the end times, the group played their signature closing song – Noah, complete with audio-visual effects. Much more important than the lighting and sound effects was the anointing of the Holy Spirit that was thick in the room as they sang. The church’s Pastor then came up and closed the evening by giving an open invitation for people to surrender their lives to Jesus.
We had a chance to speak briefly to David at the end of the night. He was kind, warm, and personable. Just like always.
I stopped by the CD table on the way out and picked up a copy of a “reunion” recording of sorts by David & the Giants. It’s called Still Rockin’ and is essentially a greatest hits project with most of the tracks having been recorded live in 2014. It’d be a great one to add to your collection…and a fitting way to support the ministry of these great musicians and humble servants. Go to www.davidhuff.com to order a copy today.
All that was left to do was get back in the car, head home, and talk about how thankful we were to have crossed paths at various intersections of our lives with these men who not only rock and roll with the best of ‘em, but also love and serve Jesus with their very lives.