Saturday, December 31, 2016

#42 BOOTLEG by Larry Norman (1972)

BOOTLEG by Larry Norman (1972)
One Way Records - JC4847
"This is rock and roll. Rock and roll, as you know, if you're an adult, means repetitious. So that's why the words are the same all throughout the song. Now if I give you a pattern it will be, uh, it will have a beat, you know? What is that word that man who thinks rock and roll is of the devil uses? Syncopation. Yeah, syncopation. I don't use words like that. Syncopation. Well, this is rock and roll, so we'll syncopate it so you'll all know which side of the pearly gates it's on." 

-Larry Norman

Larry Norman was a prophet, a poet, and a public relations mastermind. Did he sometimes contradict himself and exaggerate his accomplishments? Yes, he did. But there’s no denying his foundational role in the birth and growth of Jesus Rock. He was there. His contributions were pivotal. His look, his voice, his mannerisms, his weirdness, his skill, his talents, his eccentricities, his aura -- whether authentic or contrived -- were all an indispensable part of the Jesus Movement milieu. The effect and importance of his songs cannot be overstated. He was a peaceful revolutionary who sometimes got in his own way and stepped on his message…but always pointed people to Jesus. Larry David Norman was there. On the front end. And Bootleg is auditory proof.  

Bootleg is to Jesus Movement devotees what the Holy Grail was to Indiana Jones. Which is silly to even say, since the Holy Grail is an unproven literary legend and Indiana Jones is a mythical character. But you get my drift. Bootleg is an important artifact from the Jesus Movement era; listening to it is almost like watching a documentary. Here, Larry Norman preserved a nice slice of history for future generations to discover and enjoy.

Elvis Presley

Larry Norman was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, in April of 1947, the oldest of four children of Joe and Margaret Norman. His father was a high school English teacher. The family moved to a what Larry described as a predominantly black neighborhood in California in the 1950s, placing Norman in the right place at the right time to (eventually) start a cultural revolution. It began innocently enough, with Larry performing his own rock ’n’ roll songs (such as they were) at school in the Bay area and in Sunday school at his church. Having trusted Christ at age five, Norman would later say that he felt Elvis Presley had stolen rock and roll from the black Pentecostal church in America and he was “determined to steal it back.” It’s been said that the genesis of his idea for marrying Christian lyrics with rock music began right then and there, resulting in his writing songs like Moses (which would later appear on his first solo album Upon This Rock). Norman would later claim that he was nine years old when he began to ponder this idea of combining the musical sounds of Elvis with the words of Jesus Christ (it’s fitting that Larry and Elvis were both inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in the same year – 2001). Meanwhile, while he did teach himself to play guitar and piano, Norman never learned to read music.

One of Larry’s childhood friends, Paul Tokunaga, would grow up to be an author and a high-ranking staff member with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. But back in the 50s, Paul and Larry were just kids with competing paper routes (Paul delivered for the San Jose Mercury while Larry worked for the San Francisco Chronicle). Paul’s description of Larry is fascinating.

“Larry was white white,” Paul says. “He would’ve given chalk a good name. Back then his nearly white hair was in a crewcut. Crewcuts had been out for at least five years, maybe ten.”

Tokunaga was a few years younger than Norman and says Larry kept his paper route well into his high school years, which was unusual. “I heard about Larry being constantly taunted by the jocks,” Paul remembers. “Once he was beaten up. He never fought back because he was a pacifist.”

Larry’s interest in and love for music helped him land a slot on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour, a forerunner to American Idol and America’s Got Talent. Norman formed a band called the Back Country Seven during his high school days with his sister and a friend. After opening for a band called People, he was invited to join the group as a lead singer. Norman ditched the crewcut and grew his hair down to his shoulders. Paul Tokunaga recalls watching People play as Larry “danced, pranced and sang, his wild mane of nearly white hair taking on a life of its own.”

People ended up with a hit on their hands – a million-selling cover of I Love You (originally released by The Zombies). They opened for the likes of Jimi Handrix, The Doors, The Who, Janis Joplin, and many other heavyweight secular acts of the late 60s.  

Larry Norman left People to begin a solo career and spent several years witnessing and performing on the streets of Hollywood, as well as writing for musical theater. During these years, Larry’s classic Upon This Rock was released on Capitol Records, an album that is generally credited with being the world’s first Christian rock album. Technically released in 1969, Upon This Rock has been approved by the author of this post (yours truly) for inclusion on this list and will be thoroughly explored and reviewed in a future post on this blog. For now, let’s just call it a Game Changer, not just for Christian music but for Christendom at large. Never mind that it didn’t sell briskly initially; the whole way we communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ through music changed forever the day Upon This Rock hit store shelves.

The next couple of years for Norman were marked by an association with First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, more street ministry, and well-timed appearances at Explo ’72.

A young Steve Camp was in attendance at Explo ’72, a week-long gathering in Dallas, Texas that made the cover of Life magazine and has since been called a “Christian Woodstock.” 

“My most vivid remembrance of the heart of Larry Norman is something I witnessed at Explo '72,” Camp wrote in his blog upon Norman’s death in 2008. “Larry had just done an outdoor concert at Southern Methodist University. He was heading downtown and several of us followed to see what he would do next. We saw him talking to some policemen. A few minutes later they were kneeling at that street corner with Larry, praying to receive the Lord Jesus Christ. I will never forget that powerful image as long as I live. Larry had an unmistakable evangelist’s heart and a burden for those that the established church either rejected or alienated.”

All of this was happening against a backdrop of a far-reaching, grass-roots, organic, authentic, spiritual revival among young people on the West Coast. Hippies were turning away from the empty promises of drugs and sexual promiscuity and embracing Jesus. Churched kids who had rejected the piety and legalism of their parents’ religion were finding God on their own terms. Leaders like Chuck Smith, Arthur Blessitt, Jack Sparks, Ted Wise, Jim Durkin, Greg Laurie, Duane Pederson, Kathryn Kuhlman, Hal Lindsey, and others either founded para-church ministries to help reach and disciple these new converts or simply welcomed them into established churches.   

During this time Larry was reportedly running a halfway house, performing his songs for anyone who’d listen and earning $80 per month for “refining and polishing songs” for Capitol artists.

While Larry Norman played a huge part in exhorting and exciting the young people who were becoming believers during the Jesus Movement, he at times seemed disconnected from the movement itself, telling reporters that it made him uncomfortable. Since he himself was not one of the youth who had recently come to Christ and had no ‘personal testimony’ of ‘getting high on Jesus’ and forsaking drugs and sex, he didn’t feel completely at home with the new converts or with the established Church, feeling caught somewhere between. Consider this excerpt from Mark Allan Powell’s Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music:

If there was a “conversion experience” it was not from the hippie culture to the Church, but the other way around. Norman came as a young Christian to embrace parts of the counter-cultural youth movement, while clearly rejecting other aspects of it. He never did drugs and he was not noted for protesting the Vietnam War or for supporting civil rights. He did, however, grow his hair down to his waist and learn to play protest songs of Dylanesque stature. He spoke in the idiom of the day (minus obscenities) and he espoused enough anti-institutionalism and showed sufficient disrespect for (selected) authorities to earn him a place in the hearts of America’s hippie youth. Most of all, he embraced rock and roll…

Norman’s message was finding an audience and making its mark. His appearance was striking, his approach confrontational, and his lyrics provocative. Blogger Michael Spencer wrote that Norman had an eccentric personality that made every concert and interview memorable…with total disregard for what was accepted or acceptable among Christians. The totality of the package that was Larry Norman was very intriguing to a whole lot of people, and won him a loyal following among the Jesus freaks, first in California, and then across the country and even overseas. Author and historian Mark Allan Powell wrote that Larry Norman would end up “the single most important individual in the development of the genre” of Christian rock music.

Unhappy with the way he’d been treated by record labels, both secular and Christian, he established one of his own – One Way Records. He reportedly used a $3,000 loan from a forward-looking, sympathetic Pat Boone and used the money to record three albums: Street Level, Bootleg, and Randy Stonehill’s debut, Born Twice.

Bootleg made this list for its historical importance, not for its production values or musical performance. It’s been called “the original unplugged album”…” another underground winner for Larry”…and “one of the finest albums of Norman’s career.”

Despite the title, Bootleg was perfectly legal. Intimate and unpretentious, it is a 2-album collection of songs, monologues, and interviews that gives the listener an excellent sense of what God was doing through the Jesus Movement. The album’s Wikipedia entry describes it as a “retrospective covering four years of Norman's career [1968-1972] compiled from demonstration recordings made while at Capitol, private recordings from his friends, and various interviews and live performances.” A full dozen or so of the songs on Bootleg would appear (or had already appeared) in more fully-produced studio versions on his proper record label, as the album title suggests, these are basically demos or 'bootleg' recordings.

It was claimed that the album was deliberately recorded to sound like an unauthorized recording to ensure reception by street people. "Many songs which ended up being released on Bootleg weren't really finished,” Larry said in 1999, “but I had to release the album immediately so it wouldn't violate the terms of my MGM contract which was soon going to be in effect. I just didn't have time to finish it. I didn't have the budget to make it a real album, I just used songs laying around to fill it up, which I regretted."

[Make of that what you will. You’ve probably noticed that I include very few quotes from Larry in the posts on this blog. That’s because, in all honesty, I don’t consider them to be reliable. I love the man. He had and continues to have, a tremendously positive influence on me, both musically and spiritually. If there was a Christian Rock Mt. Rushmore, his likeness would be the first one chiseled in granite. But he was the consummate promoter, always concerned about projecting a certain image and controlling how he was perceived. Like I said earlier, he was prone to exaggeration and contradiction. So you won’t read a lot of Larry quotes in these posts because, sadly, he’s gone now…so they just can’t be corroborated.]

Now...this is a Larry Norman album, so of course, there were multiple versions of Bootleg released for you collectors out there -- lots of label and cover variations. Larry was always good about giving you several different versions to track down, because, well, that's just fun, right? Happy collecting!

Side One of Bootleg was labeled "The Early Tapes" and covered the year 1968. It begins with a rambunctious romp - just Larry at the piano, singing a song called I Think I Love You. The raw, bootleg quality of the recording is evident from the very beginning, with mistakes on the piano clearly heard. It seems that this song is unique to Bootleg; it begins as if it's a love song to a girl, but later it becomes clear that Larry is talking to the Lord:

I think I love You
I've only known You for a couple of hours
I think I love You
When You're near it's like a roomful of flowers

We met last Monday in the L.A. heat
In the downtown section on a one-way street
The man with the Bible dropped a track at my feet
You know the rest, Your way is always the best

I think I love You
You're the best thing that's happened to me
I think I love You
I used to wonder where You could be

I used to seek after truth and follow where it led
So many facts and philosophies inside my head
I heard so many people telling me You was dead
I bet they all owned a Bible that's never been read

All my life I've been wondering what I should do
Suddenly I stopped wondering
'Cause I really found the answer when I fell in love with You

I think I love You
And I know that You love me

I think I love You
And I know You first loved me

You're not dead
You're not even sick

A 2:15 stripped-down version of Walking Backwards Down the Stairs follows. For my money, this song is better experienced on Upon This Rock...but Larry's vocal here does give it an intimacy that's almost eerie.

Larry sings a somewhat sloppy harmony vocal with himself on the brilliant Ha Ha World, another song that sounded much better on Upon This Rock. This definitely sounds like a demo. One reviewer said this is what Ha Ha World would've sounded like had it been recorded by Jefferson Airplane.

After a brief instrumental sidebar titled Classical Mandolin, it's yet another song from Upon This Rock - I Don't Believe in Miracles. Larry's plaintive vocal over mandolin and a drumming performance by Hilly Michaels that is, um, interesting. 

Side One of Bootleg wraps with a Yuletide classic called The Day That a Child Appeared. There weren't very many bonafide Christmas classics among the Jesus Music artists. Christmastime recorded by both Larry and Randy Stonehill would definitely fall into that category, as would Stonehill's Christmas Song (For All Year Round). But this one is also very special. It certainly seems right at home on this collection of stripped down, intimate rarities. Larry turns in a chilling vocal performance over slow, piano bar blues as he calls on us to refocus on the purpose of the Christmas season for the Christian...

I was thinking just last Sunday
That the world confuses one day
With the rest throughout the year
And that one day is the day that a child appeared.

Just a baby in a manger
But the room was filled with strangers
And the star hung in the sky
Like an angel on the day that a child appeared.

Little children please remember
Why we celebrate December
It's much more than Santa Claus
But you're right about the gift and tree
A gift of life at Calvary

Larry's playing in a major key as he sings about Santa Claus, but subtly shifts to minor chords as he talks about the cross at Calvary...a technique that can go unnoticed, but was highly effective. The Day That a Child Appeared would turn up again on a 2002 Collector's Edition CD reissue of Upon This Rock, and on a 2014 release titled Christmastime...but for many years, it was found only here on Bootleg.

Side Two of the first record is labeled The "One Way" Sessions and covers 1969. 

What Goes Through Your Mind was recorded with a full band, but it's a bit of a downer. The song is talking to a female friend or lover who apparently has big doubts about the afterlife and whether God is even real. With lines like You know your life is hell / But you've learned to hide it well and If you're trying to flee the world / You're gonna be let down / And the sea of people don't care / If you live or you drown...well, it's a little depressing. This is another track that turned up on some of Larry's many compilations decades later, but it was heard first on Bootleg.

Along with full-length songs, Bootleg also contains what one reviewer called "evocative little snatches of music and lyrics," tracks that seem like pieces of songs or song ideas. The next track, No Change Can Attend is a good example. Clocking in at about a minute, I would've loved to hear this fleshed out into a more complete song. The lyrical sentiment is that while human affection, opinions and moral views change, God's love remains constant, a rock we can cling to and depend on. 

Every human tie may perish
Friend to friend unfaithful prove
Mothers cease their own to cherish
Heaven and earth at last remove
And the music world grows garish
While the moral codes regroove
But no change can attend Jehovah's love

We're back to just piano for this one, with Larry delivering a raw and passionate vocal performance.

The classic anthem One Way is up next, again just Larry at the piano, sounding very much like an intimate live recording. This song, of course, appears on other albums as well.

A Song Won't Stop the World was a departure, with its country Gospel feel. Unique to Bootleg, this one had lyrics that gave a nod to societal changes in the late 60s and took a jab at the press (as Larry was wont to do)...

This world's in trouble
You know it's true

But who has the answers
To help us get through?
We look to our leaders
They politely yawn
The press gives coverage
And the world goes on

The radio's blastin'
The music's loud
A message is given
To a face in the crowd
By a prophet of music
A poet of song
The truth is spoken
And the world goes on

A song can't stop the world
From goin' round
This song won't stop the world
From being unsound
But it might change a heart
Change a heart or two
No, it can't stop the world 
But it might stop you

Blue Shoes White is a lively rock and roll performance, this time Larry on a terrible sounding acoustic guitar. He uses 'a pair of shoes' and 'rhythm and blues' to effectively present the salvation message: If you're steppin' through life, then my appeal / Is to follow in His footsteps and get your soles re-heeled / And if ya wanna give your feet a treat / Then get ready to walk down that golden street...

By the way, the rough and raw sonic quality of a lot of these songs does not diminish them; to the contrary, it reminds the listener that he or she is hearing something special...that he or she has the next best thing to a front row seat to the history that Larry made with these songs in the late 60s and early 70s. Besides, with a title like Bootleg, you kind of know what you're getting, right?

Next up was a pre-In Another Land version of the very dark, end times warning Six Sixty Six (The Anti-Christ). Backing himself on guitar, this one sounds very much like a stripped down demo. 

After an interesting song snippet - Taking My Time - Side Two of the first record concludes with another Norman masterpiece that was later recorded on In Another Land. Here, I've Searched All Around is a little raw, but Norman is backed by a full band. 

Now we're getting to what really makes Bootleg special. Side Three, labeled Mixed Media (1970-1971), is a section of the album that might not hold up well to repeated listening...but, more than anything else, this is what qualifies Bootleg as a prized audio documentary.

AllMusic's Jason Anderson wrote, "Listeners who are so inclined should pay special attention to the spoken section on Side Three of Bootleg. The 'grandfather of CCM' testifies eloquently about his belief and how it is translated through his music. Many a CCM artist and preacher (of any faith) could learn from Norman's delivery, which is typically humorous and humble." Mark Allan Powell wrote, "These interviews and spoken monologues provide valuable and authentic documentation of the thinking that fueled the Jesus Movement...enthusiasm, unflinching commitment, and a generous amount of sardonic joy."

The first track is titled Television Interview. In it, a TV news reporter attempts to learn more about the Jesus People, their music and their beliefs. Larry deftly and patiently explains the difference between religion and a relationship with Jesus, and the validity and veracity of the Scriptures. Larry often complained about the press, but he was great in moments like these. He had a way of answering these questions that just drew you in...commanding your attention and causing you to hang on every word.

Next up was, for me, the undisputed highlight of the album. Norman addressed Let the Lions Come to Russia for Christ Ministries, which was founded by David V. Benson in 1958. It is scary...beautiful...haunting...prophetic. In a 2008 eulogy for Larry, fellow Jesus Music pioneer John Fischer called him a prophet. He then wrote, "There are undoubtedly those who would challenge me on that statement, but I will not recant. He was an enigma--an iconoclast. He could be so far off you wondered if he was only visiting this planet, but he could be so on the mark that you could only credit the truth and light of the Holy Spirit for it." Beautifully put.

I listened again recently to Let the Lions Come for the first time in a very long time. Tears filled my eyes and spilled over; it is as powerful today as ever. To print his words here would only serve to cheapen them; you'll have to listen to the track yourself. But I suggest that you listen through headphones in a dark room for full impact.

Jesus and the Movies suffers from poor audio quality, but it puts Larry's humor front and center, complete with impersonations of John Wayne and Walter Brennan. It's funny stuff.  

Another of the album's highlights is something called Addressing the National Youth Workers Convention which is actually a hilarious live recording of Larry's classic sing-along, Sweet Sweet Song of Salvation. The song was one of the hits from Upon This Rock and would later be recorded by everyone from Evie to the Imperials, from Selah to Rebecca St James, and probably dozens more. Here, Larry's wit steals the show as he tries to get a convention of youth pastors and leaders to clap and sing along with him. Larry drops into what today might even be called a free-style rap, as he reminds these leaders that they are first and foremost followers...of Christ. Interestingly, he also name-drops President Nixon and the UN, drawing more laughs from the crowd. It's basically a 12-minute demonstration of the kind of hold Larry Norman could have over an audience...with just a microphone and a guitar. Classic stuff.

The final side of Bootleg is labeled Maranatha (1971-1972). This one contains no fewer than eight tracks.

When I First Met You is a little over a minute long and features a beautiful melody over some rich chords. 

When I first saw you I was all alone
Wishing for a love I could call my own
Watching a dream step out of time
Suddenly this came to my mind
When maybe you...
I'm hoping that maybe we...
I'm praying that maybe you and I
Can spend our lives together

This was another one that was just begging for a longer, full-length treatment. Gone way too soon!

Without Love You Are Nothing (AKA Righteous Rocker) get a gritty, fuzzed-up, full band treatment. It's one of the more hard rock moments on Bootleg. But more impressive versions of this song appear elsewhere.

Another one-minute snippet at the piano comes in the form of A Love Like Yours. It's a heart-cry to God...

With a love like Yours
A man could live in beauty and in grace
If I were a king I'd give everything
Just to see Your face

With a love like Yours
A man could be completely satisfied
He'd have no more fears
He'd shed no more tears
And have no more need to hide

You have saved me
You have saved me
You have saved me from myself 

The bluesy You Can Save Me was a standout track. It's a live recording with Norman accompanying himself on guitar. It's a prayer to the Lord that is alternately touching and funny...

You can save me
If You want to
Come and save me
'Cause I want You to

Come inside me
I will let You
I will let You wash away my sins
I sure am glad I met You
God, You know I love You
But I've been so bad, God
How can You love me?

I can't see You
But I know You're there
And I can't touch You
But I know You care
God, I love You
And I just bought Your book
I took it home and had a real long look
And this may not sound nice
But my favorite part is where You died for me

God I love You
I'm so happy
You saved my life
I was messed up
I was honky-jive
You know what I'm talking about?
Got Your Spirit
Now I feel so young
You have saved me
Even gave me tongues
Jesus, I'm so happy
I just wish that all my friends would let You in

Larry's back at the piano for a Second Coming ballad called Even If You Don't Believe. This one had a really nice chord progression and hit on a recurring theme of the Jesus Movement.

Even if you don't believe it's gonna come true
Even if you don't believe it's gonna happen to you
He's gonna come down
Take a last look around
And with both feet off the ground
You'll be homeward bound

We'll all be homeward bound...

Bootleg closes with a trio of tunes that would later be recorded either on Only Visiting This Planet, In Another Land, or both.

UFO works on one level with just Larry and his guitar, but it would later benefit tremendously from the production values that a bigger budget would buy on In Another Land

Bootleg gives us a garage band version of Why Don't You Look Into Jesus, a song that one author said established Norman as "the ultimate Christian rocker." I'm sure this version of the song was wildly exciting in early 1972; better recordings of this classic song were on the way, thankfully.

Larry closes out Bootleg with Song for a Small Circle of Friends which contains some shout-outs to friends and fellow musicians, along with his desire that they would all recognize and experience the reality of God's love.

At the time of this recording, Larry Norman's reach and influence were already being felt in a powerful way, both in the Church and beyond the Church. But we hadn't seen or heard nothin' yet. He was just warming up.

In his 2008 obituary for Larry, John Fischer also wrote these words:

"I have always likened Larry to John the Baptist--a non-conformist living in the desert wearing funny clothes, eating weird foods and hearing voices no one else heard... In a time of spiritual revolution, Larry Norman carried the torch. He was and will remain, through his enigmatic music, a voice crying in the wilderness." 

I'm not particularly afraid of what's going to happen in the United States. 

I'm glad, in a way, because it's going to force a lot of people to make a choice and not be so casual. 

When you don't have a church to go to, you going to wish you had fellowship. 

And those of you who are Christians are really going to treasure your Christianity more, and it's going to mean something to you, and it's going to work more for you because you're going to commit yourself to it more. 

And you'll start tearing out pages from your Bible.

I'm not afraid of the Russians coming or the Chinese or the World Council of Churches if that's gonna be our enemies, too. 

Let them come. 

I'm not afraid of the lions. 

Let them eat me. 

They can't swallow my soul. 

They can't touch us. 

They can't get us. 

We've been bought with the price and nobody's got enough money or enough force to buy us back. 

They can't touch you. 

And when they come you just pray for them. 

And when they lead you away, you just sing "Glory to God." 

And when they shoot you... 

Just smile.

-Larry Norman

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

#43 THE PAT TERRY GROUP by the Pat Terry Group (1975)

THE PAT TERRY GROUP by the Pat Terry Group (1975)
Myrrh - MSA 6550
Pat Terry is a guitarist, a singer, and a recording artist. 

But he is first and foremost a songwriter. 

“I was so busy writing songs back during the Seventies,” Pat said recently. “I wrote songs every day. I wrote songs when I was on the bus, and by the time we got home, I would always have a bunch of new songs that I wrote while we were traveling. It came as natural as breathing to me. Part of my creative journey back in those days was just to write and write and write. I wrote lots of songs…” 

In November of 2016, the Pat Terry Group’s lead singer and principal songwriter was kind enough to share his thoughts with me concerning the band’s early days and his memories of making this album, their debut. It’s a record that holds a special place in the hearts of a lot of people.

Atlanta was not exactly known as a hotbed of Jesus Movement activity in the early 70s, so I was curious as to how three Georgia boys ended up on Myrrh Records. 

“We came to the attention of Myrrh because one of their regional sales reps became aware of what we were doing,” Pat recalled, “and he came out to hear us play several times and got excited about it and he went back to the home office which at that time was in Waco, Texas, and he told the label, 'You know, there's some guys in Atlanta that are doing some really cool things that I think the label needs to hear.' So he kind of introduced us to people at Myrrh Records and Billy Ray Hearn was the head of A&R at that time and we kind of hit it off with Billy Ray.”

Billy Ray Hearn

Billy Ray Hearn. He passed from this life in 2015 but not before leaving a legacy that will long be remembered. He launched the Myrrh and Sparrow record labels and guided the ministries and careers of dozens of artists, including Petra, Randy Matthews, Honeytree, Barry McGuire, the 2nd Chapter of Acts, Keith Green, Steve Taylor and many more. For more on Billy Ray, you can read our tribute here. Upon Hearn’s death, Frank Breeden, a past president of the Gospel Music Association said, “If Christian music of any style or genre has touched your life in the last forty years, you can thank Billy Ray Hearn.” 

So having Mr. Hearn on board was probably a good thing for the Pat Terry Group. “Yeah, we liked him a lot and he seemed to like us, so we signed a deal to make some records,” Pat said. “I was really excited about that because I wanted to be able to take our music further than just what we were doing regionally in the South. I hoped that we would be able to travel all over the country and play.” At this point, Pat acknowledged some of the changes that have taken place in the way music is shared and promoted these days, and why a “record deal” was vitally important to up-and-coming bands in previous decades. “You know, at that time it was pre-internet and people didn't have the means to promote what they did worldwide with just the click of a mouse. If you didn't have a record label that had an organizational structure that could actually promote your records all over the country, then the chances of you doing that were really minuscule. So we started making albums for Word Records.”

Once the ink was dry on the contract, it was decided that the group’s debut album would be self-titled and would be produced by Hearn himself (along with the group). Billy Ray wanted to record the album in Nashville. The young Mr. Terry disagreed.  

“I was kind of stupid back then,” Pat laughs. “I didn't really realize how much great music came out of Nashville. I loved a lot of country music, but I didn't feel like what we were doing was that strongly rooted in country, so when Billy Ray suggested that we record in Nashville we really resisted that. I remember Billy Ray telling me, 'Look, Pat, the studios and some of the musicians in Nashville are some of the best in the world. I don't know why you wouldn't want to record there.' So I tried to explain to him that we were wanting to connect with an audience of people who loved music that didn't necessarily come out of Nashville; it came out of LA and New York, places like that. And frankly, we had some studios in Atlanta that were making a specific brand of southern rock music that I connected with musically. I felt like that was probably closer to the kinds of things that we wanted to do.” 

Atlanta Rhythm Section at Studio One

One of those studios was located in an industrial court in Doraville, Georgia and became the birthplace for albums by the Atlanta Rhythm Section, .38 Special, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Journey, and the Outlaws. It was known as Studio One.

“So we ended up recording at Studio One which is where the Atlanta Rhythm Section made all of their records,” Pat said. “A lot of great southern rock records were made at Studio One. The fellow that did a lot of the engineering was available to help us make our record, so Billy Ray decided he would come and help us do it there.”

Now, Studio One might’ve been famous for some great music, but it apparently wasn’t much to look at. Pat laughs as he recalls Billy Ray Hearn’s initial impressions: “I remember Billy Ray telling me, 'Man when I got there and I saw that place I kind of freaked out and I thought oh no, what have I gotten myself into?' I mean, if you went to the bathroom, you had to flush the commode by taking a bucket of water and pouring it into the back of the toilet and flushing it that way. It's like it was broken forever and no one fixed it.”

The guys had to work around the studio’s main recording schedule, but they managed to get it done. “Atlanta Rhythm Section was recording there at night,” Pat recalls, “so they were there all night long and they didn't leave until 9 in the morning and we would come rolling in around 10, and the engineer who had been up all night recording them had just grabbed 30 minutes of sleep and then he was back in the studio with us. I think Billy was really afraid that this was not going to be a very professional situation in which to work. But recording at Studio One was just a whole different level of recording than I had ever done before, and it turned out great.” 

[Sadly, Studio One closed its doors in 1989. Today, the space is occupied by a non-related business and is used as a warehouse.]

Hearn was a visionary. He had a huge heart to reach young people with a musical language that they loved and understood. But he wasn’t necessarily a great producer. He sort of became a producer on a lot of the early Myrrh albums by default. “Billy Ray came from a church music background,” Pat Terry explained. “He didn't know very much about pop or rock music, and whatever folk music he knew about was kind of filtered through the church youth musicals of the late 60s and early 70s. And they were kind of folk-music oriented so I think Billy Ray kind of thought about contemporary music in that way. But frankly, he liked our songs and he basically let us do what we wanted to do.” 

Overall, Pat was pleased with Hearn’s approach. “I had real specific ideas about how I wanted things to sound,” he said. “Billy Ray brought this sense of a little bigger production value, which basically meant that he wanted some strings and some orchestration on this album. Looking back now, when I listen to it I feel like it's a little more ‘middle-of-the-road’ sounding than I would probably do today. But we had some really great arrangers. Bergen White, who had done great records for a long time, arranged strings for us and it was a thrill to kind of hear something different on the songs that I'd written. So it was a great experience.”

Let’s delve into the album. 

The musical and lyrical tone for the Pat Terry Group was basically established right off the bat on the first song on Side One on this debut album. Gospel Music was a light, acoustic toe-tapper with intelligent lyrics, pleasing vocal harmonies, and intricate guitar work. “Music really had always been the way that I looked at my life, you know, and it's how I interpreted what I saw around me,” Pat told me. “So this song was just kind of a way of saying I've listened to all kinds of music…now I really want to hear some 'Good News music' which is what so much of the music that we made in that era, and a lot of the other groups of that era, it was the kind of music that was being done. So I wrote this song to kind of express that.”

I’ve been listening to the music for a long, long time
Some of it made me happy
Some of it made me cry
I’ve been waiting for some music to set my poor soul free
So sing some Gospel music to me 

Oh, I love you 
I gave My life to save you 
I rose to make you just like Me 
And if you’re near Me 
I’m sure you’ll hear it clearly 
The strains of someone’s Gospel melody

“There's some intricate guitar stuff which was harmony parts that Sonny and I were playing,” Pat pointed out. “Sonny was a big part of what our group sounded like because he was and is such a great guitarist and he kind of brought that level of playing into the group and challenged me to be better. So in a lot of our songs we worked up little harmony parts to be playing together.” 

While some groups improvised a great deal, Pat says that he and his bandmates remained fairly disciplined in a live setting. “If you heard us play several nights in a row you might start to notice that it wasn't just that I was playing rhythm and Sonny was playing lead and Randy was on bass; but the things we were playing were really arrangements. And we played them the same every single time that we played them because they were parts that had been written into these songs. We came up with all kinds of little small, subtle things that made up our sound, I guess. Gospel Music is a good example of that.”

Next up is a ballad called Forget There Was a Yesterday. This is one where Bergen White’s strings come into play. It also features a striking melody that complements the song’s message beautifully.

Every now and then I think about the used to be
The things I thought, the things I did, the things I couldn’t see
But now’s the time to lay aside the things of days gone by
The Word of God is sounding sweet to me

If by one, death reigned victorious
Then by One in life we’ll rule
By His name the walls of shame will surely crumble
By His grace we’ll walk in freedom
By His love we’ll walk in truth
We’ll forget there ever was a yesterday

“It’s the whole idea of turning your back on your old life…repenting, which is to turn away from sin and walk in a new direction,” Pat explains. “When I listen to any of this old music, one thing that I do still like about it is that I felt very free in writing melodies. As years went on, especially as I wrote in Nashville for other artists to record, melody became a narrower pursuit. It wasn't that melody wasn't important, but when you’re writing songs for other people to record, something real rangy, something really ambitious…sometimes it's hard to find someone that can sing it, or would want to sing it, especially in a genre that I worked in for years -- country music. There's a certain simplicity in that genre that actually undergirds and makes your lyrics stronger. I loved writing that way for years and years, but in the early years of the Pat Terry Group, I had no idea that I just couldn't write anything that I wanted to write in any way. And I was the one that was going to be singing it, so if I could sing it as I wrote it, it was going to work out absolutely fine! Forget There Was a Yesterday has a really nice melody, a fairly ambitious melody.

Pat flexes his rock vocal muscles a bit on You’d Be There, a song with a gentle southern rock vibe. It appears to be a message to an unbelieving friend and features hints of steel guitar and perhaps a mandolin or banjo. 

We could hear drums on Gospel Music, but the drums are much more noticeable on this track. One thing that made the Pat Terry Group unusual is that they never had a drummer as an official member. “Mike Huey was our drummer on this record,” Pat offered. “We didn't have a drummer that traveled with us live. Partly because our stuff was written so that these songs could be performed with just an acoustic guitar. They didn't need a full band to really work. Traveling another member with a bigger set-up and sound was a problem back then. Because we didn't have great sound systems, micing drums and balancing all that so that people could actually hear the song -- that was always my thing. I wanted people to hear the lyric when we played. And when you had loud drums and a full band blasting through a less-than-optimal sound system, most of the time you just lost the lyrics. And you were always playing in big church auditoriums that sounded terrible -- lots of echo and stuff. So we never felt like we had to have a drummer to get across what we wanted to do musically.” 

Pat hesitantly acknowledged that attitudes and assumptions in the Church also played a part in his decision to forego drums. 

“Yeah, the other thing, too, is that in that era, having a drummer automatically created a tension between more conservative churches and us. That wasn't really a reason not to have a drummer, but I can't say that it didn't play into our decision. We didn't like the idea of having to come in and people already being on the defensive because you had this loud drummer and they associated that with rock and roll music which a lot of churches back in those days were really afraid of. So it was another mountain we didn't want to have to climb every time we played somewhere.” 

If he had it to do all over again, would the Pat Terry Group have a fourth member? 

“Looking back these days, I think that was a lousy reason not to have a drummer. And it was only part of our reason, but it did play in there. These days, if I wanted to put a band together, I would definitely have a drummer,” Pat says, smiling, “and it'd be nice and loud.”

Holding On was another softer tune that still holds a soft spot with the songwriter. “That was another song that I loved the melody and the sentiment of the song,” Pat says, “that in all the things that we think are important, and that we chase after in our lives, the things our culture tells us are worthy of our attention, that all that stuff is temporary and eventually falls away. But God is steady and you can always depend on Him. His character will never change. He's always holding on. That's kind of what I was thinking about when I wrote that.” 

Movie stars
Everything from autographs to racing cars
Values change
But only God keeps holding on

Filled to the brim
But everything I own will still belong to Him
My grip is weak
But only God keeps holding on

Break the bond that binds you
Can the world give you what you need?
Break the bond that binds you
Are you certain you'll be really free?

Little girls
In Sunday dress
Daddy's golfin', always tryin' to do his best
Hearts can stray
But only God keeps holding on

Holding On features some fine classical guitar work, performed on Pat’s Gibson C-1 guitar.

I Can’t Wait wrapped Side One of the album. It was more than a standout track…author Mark Allan Powell called it "a literal anthem of the Jesus Movement, a jubilant and jangly canticle of anticipation."  

“Yeah, that was a song that became very popular in our concerts and I think a lot of people associate that song with our group,” Pat admits. “It was written to be played at a Bible study that I attended in the Atlanta area. Every Tuesday night we played at this Bible study, and the atmosphere was like a retreat kind of vibe, you know? All the kids came into this basement and then they sat in the floor and we sat on stools and played music and there was a lot of sing-along type things that were like camp songs almost. And that's the way I always thought of this song. I thought of this as a campfire song. We played a lot of different kinds of concerts, and we played a lot of retreats, for youth retreats and things. This song was always the one that got pulled out sitting around campfires at retreats, singing songs.” 

Just as the lightning comes from the East
And flashes even to the West
So shall the coming of the Son of Man be
Put on your Sunday best

I can’t wait to see Jesus
In His glory, as He bursts from the sky
I can’t wait to be held in His arms
And see the glimmer in His eye

I can’t wait to hear trumpets
‘Cause I know what they mean when they sound
I can’t wait to cast off my burdens
And feel my feet leave the ground

Tell me how it’s gonna be
Read it from the Bible again
I can’t wait to see Jesus
‘Cause Jesus is coming again

“There was a huge emphasis in those days on the return of Christ and so I thought a lot about that, especially in that era,” Pat said. “And I'm still looking for Him to come again.”

Anyone playing “contemporary” music in churches in the Seventies had their fair share of encounters with well-meaning but misguided pastors, deacons and elders. Pat Terry was no exception: “One interesting thing -- the last verse of that song says I can't wait to see heaven / and to walk those streets of gold / I can't wait to check into my mansion / and get my sleeping bag unrolled. It was very common that when we played that song in churches, that a pastor or deacon or someone would pull me aside afterward and sometimes jokingly (but sometimes not so jokingly) say, 'You know, Pat, there's not going to be sleeping bags in heaven.' And it became very serious real quick. They were basically trying to encourage me to be careful with my theology. But my thought was, Hey, you know, how do you know there's not sleeping bags in heaven? Maybe there is! Just because Scripture hasn't mentioned it doesn't mean that there might not be! Anyway, there was something about that third verse that seemed to capture people's attention every time we played it.”

Before examining Side Two of The Pat Terry Group, let’s take a step back. How did Pat Terry end up a Christian in the first place?

“I became a Christian in 1970,” Pat says. “I was raised in the church and I had always been very cognizant of Christ, but I'd never really experienced anything personally until around 1970. Some friends of mine came by my house and invited me to go to a youth rally, kind of an evangelistic meeting that the church was having and so I went and for three nights in a row, I listened to three different guys speak about having a personal relationship with Christ. And it was just a gripping thing for me. You know, I'd never heard anyone talk about knowing Christ in a personal way. So the last night I responded to the invitation and really gave my life to Christ. I went home that night and I remember laying in bed and feeling different -- just feeling like something had literally changed inside of me. From that point on I started hanging out more with Christian friends and people who could help me start to grow in my faith.”

Pat had always been musical, so it was natural that he would end up using his gifts and talents to express the joy of his walk with the Lord.

“I had played in rock and roll bands all through my school years,” Pat recalls. “When I was 12 years old the Beatles played on Ed Sullivan and that became my focus from that point on, really. I just wanted to play guitar and wanted to be in a band! So all through middle school and high school I played in bands and it was kind of a natural thing for me to continue with music after I became a Christian. It never occurred to me that I should stop doing that. I started writing songs that I hoped could kind of convey to people what had happened in my life as a result of my trusting Christ. My church let me play at their coffeehouse and I started getting invitations from different youth groups in our area to come and sing at their churches. Churches at that time were somewhat skeptical of any music that wasn't necessarily hymns or songs specifically written as 'gospel songs' and that kind of thing. My background, of course, was singer-songwriters of the 70s -- James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, and people like that -- so my songs didn't sound like hymns, they sounded more like pop songs.” 

Needless to say, Pat met with some resistance in those early days. “There were plenty of times when I would play at churches and I would get pulled aside by an elder or deacon or someone who felt the need to explain to me that what I was doing was ‘outside of God's will’ and ‘dangerous’ and all that kind of thing.” 

That bothered him. 

“I struggled with some of that,” Pat admits. “But it never stopped me from -- all I was doing was trying to express myself, and I didn't see that as anything bad. So it was actually a great experience going around in those really early days and just playing for church groups. I wanted to reach people with the Gospel. And I think it meant something to me and a lot of kids my age that we were developing this language of our own to share our faith, so I think that was an important part of that time.”

The Jesus Movement had been in full swing out on the West Coast and the effects were being felt as far south as Atlanta. “During that era, there was what I feel was a genuine revival in churches among young people,” Pat remembers. “A lot of kids were finding their faith in a very vital way like they never had before. Thousands and thousands of kids were coming to Christ all over the country. It was an exciting time. Unlike today, the emphasis wasn't on culture wars and things like that. The emphasis was on finding forgiveness in Christ and sharing that with your friends. So it was a great time.”

So how did Pat hook up with his bandmates?

“The Pat Terry Group got together probably around 1973,” Pat says. “Sonny Lallerstedt and Randy Bugg were playing with a band called Dove which was part of an evangelistic team that traveled out of Oklahoma. But whenever they were home we would get together and play just for fun. I'd gotten involved in a Bible Study in our area that later became known as Metro Bible Study. It met in the basement of some good friends' house, and so I was playing there every week and I invited Sonny and Randy to come over and play with me at that sometimes. So the more we did that, the more natural it felt to be playing together. They finally came off the road with Dove and we started playing together full-time after that.” 

And the name? “We called it the Pat Terry Group, quite frankly, only because I had already been playing so much around our area, people kind of knew me and knew what I was doing, and it just seemed like it made sense to keep that momentum going,” Pat explained. “But we functioned as a group. We tried as much as possible to function very democratically. There were three votes in the group and if we were going to decide to do something, there had to be at least two people that wanted to do it, and the third guy needed to feel good enough about going along with the other two that we had a decision. And that's pretty much how we ran the group for years and years.” 

Side Two of The Pat Terry Group began with another classic: That’s the Way.

That's the Way was a song that I wrote for our bass player Randy Bugg and his bride Brenda,” said Pat. “It was sung for them on their wedding day. I've heard about this song from so many people through the years. It's been amazing to me how many people seem to have had that song sung at their wedding. When I go out and play live now, occasionally I'll pull that song out and play it, if, for no other reason, people will come up to me before the concert and they'll say, 'Hey, are you going to do That's the Way? Because we had that song sung at our wedding.' And it means something to people. And that, in turn, means something to me. You know, that's what songwriters want to have happen. You want whatever song that you write to, at a certain point, stop being your song and start being someone else's song. So this is one of those songs where that certainly happened. It still thrills me today when I hear that someone had it sung at their wedding.

With this ring
I thee wed
And I give to you my life
Mine is yours
Yours is mine
And we can live that way forever
With this kiss
We will seal
That we now are man and wife
Two in one
One in two
That’s the way it’s got to be

With this love
We can live
We can’t keep it to ourselves
He is mine
And He is yours
And we can spend our lives in telling
I give my heart
I give my soul
I give you all my worldly goods
Two in one
One in two
That’s the way it’s got to be

I will cling to you
You will cling to me
And in the shadow of the cross
We’ll live on bended knee

With this prayer
I commit
That we both become as one
He in us
And we in Him
Saying vows to one another
Holding fast
Til the day we see the Son
Two in one
One in two
That’s the way it’s got to be

There was an amazing amount of wisdom expressed in that song, especially considering Pat’s youth and lack of matrimonial experience (!) at the time. During the intervening years, marriage has been severely devalued and even redefined. But That’s the Way remains a beautiful description and poignant fleshing out of God’s design for marriage as described in Genesis chapter 2. 

“It's a fun, up-tempo song,” Pat says of the next track, When I Go Passing On. “It's talking about looking forward to what it's going to be like when we pass on and we're face to face with Jesus, the joy of that.”

Musically, this one has an almost Southern Gospel feel and features Chris Walski on piano. Pat also managed to drop a Smyrna reference into the lyrics. “We played that one every single night, no matter where we played,” Pat said.

When the Lord Comes Back was another highlight of this album. It was definitely the closest thing to rock and roll on this record, and when the guys played it live, it sometimes made people a little uptight. “This one was a little more rock-oriented,” Pat recalls. “Sonny played his Gibson Les Paul on this one for a little edgier guitar sound. It was when we did this kind of stuff that we kind of felt whatever tension there was out there about more aggressive-sounding music in the church. This was one of the songs that you could always sense that kids really liked it and adults got a little more nervous. When you listen to the music that's done in church today, you can't even dream that something this tame and not particularly edgy by today's standards (by any means) was ever questioned. But it was. It was a different time.”

Lyrically, this song always brings a smile. “It was playful,” Pat says. “It wasn't real heavy on theology; it was more about thinking imaginatively about what would happen when the Lord comes back, and so it's fun. Occasionally I pull this one out and play it live just because I think for folks who were around in that era, it kind of takes them back a little bit and I enjoy remembering some of that, too.”

The way that things are goin’
How long can it last
The food’s so high that I can’t afford it
My car’s runnin’ out of gas
It won’t be long now
He’s coming back now
Uh-huh, when the Lord comes back we won’t need no gas no more

Money’s getting tighter
Sin is on the rise
USA, what can I say
You’re actin’ too big for your size
But He’ll be back soon
It won’t be long now
Uh-huh, when the Lord comes back you won’t act so big no more

It won’t be too big for the common man
We’ll all be the same in Jerusalem
If one’s got the bread and one’s got the wine we’ll share it
We’ll smile as we pass walkin’ down the street
Shakin’ the gold dust off our feet
Jesus will be King and on bended knee we’ll declare it
(Yes we will)

May be months or minutes
Who can say how long
The Lord may come before I sing the last line of this song
Won’t that be nice now
He’s coming back now
Yes, and when the Lord comes back we won’t need this song no more

I asked Pat about how the recording process has changed over the years. “These days, so much of recording has to do with programming,” he said, “and most of the time things are recorded to a click track which means that it's locked into the tempo fairly rigidly. But back when we made this record, that was not the way recordings were done. The drummer helped find and set the tempo and then he was the person that kept you in line rhythmically. You played pretty much just like you were performing live. I would play guitar and usually sing a scratch vocal which means that it wasn't the final vocal, it was just something we would use to play along with so that we captured a real performance of the song. But then I would come back and we would get rid of that vocal and the guitar that I was playing when I sang that scratch vocal, we would get rid of that, and I would re-cut that guitar in a more controlled way without any vocals going on so that the engineer captured a good performance of just that guitar that he could control in the mix. And then I would go back and do vocals. I don't think of myself as a great singer by any means, but I’ve kind of learned over the years that I sing better and I capture the spirit of a song better when I can play guitar and sing at the same time. So these days when I record I generally record my vocal and my guitar at the same time (depending on the song). It helps me capture things with a little more emotion and kind of get inside the song. But back then we recorded as a band and everyone was playing at the same time - the drummer, bass player, and guitarists.” 

Next up was a song that Pat’s not so fond of. “Tell Them What I’ve Done was one of those songs that was written in a voice as if God was speaking to you. Frankly, I have mixed feelings about some of that kind of stuff today. I think it can be presumptuous to think you can speak in the Lord's voice as to what He might be saying. Obviously, you're on safe ground a lot of times when you're using Scripture or something because that's God's Word to us, but this song is not quite that based in Scripture. It’s just how I imagine that maybe God would want to say to us. And I'm not sure that's always a great approach for writers to take. I think maybe it's best if we stick sometimes to how we feel about something and don't try to always put it upon the Lord that our feelings are the same as the way God feels about things because that's not always true, obviously. I don't dislike the song, but it's just a different kind of thing that these days I probably wouldn't write something quite like that.”
Lyrical misgivings aside, it’s a charming, bouncy acoustic number with another great melody line and some smooth harmonies.

The Pat Terry Group ends with yet another gem – a poignant and meaningful ballad titled Meet Me Here

“I always liked to end albums with something kind of reflective, that makes people sit and think a bit,” Pat reveals. “My church was First Baptist Church of Smyrna, Georgia, and back in those days, if you wanted to go to your church in the middle of the day, the front doors were unlocked and people didn't worry about someone coming in and vandalizing the church or stealing things or anything like that. It was a part of the church's ministry to have an open door policy. And anytime you wanted to come in and go into the sanctuary and pray or think or study or whatever you wanted to do, that was part of the reason your church was there with open doors. So I used to go up to my church sometimes when no one else was there, in the middle of the week. And I loved playing the piano because the piano there was so much better than the one I had at home. So I would play the piano and I would think about things and I would pray and I would write songs. Meet Me Here comes directly out of that experience of wanting God to meet me in a quiet space and speak to my heart and it's a somewhat confessional song, admitting that I come up short often. And I need God to meet me where I am because I don't know how to bring myself up to His level. That's what the grace of God is all about. He meets us where we are and accepts us based not on how well we do our religion but on the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I still love this song and I play it live often. There's strings on this, and it's a nice arrangement. It's something that I still think very warmly about. I still love this song.”

So do I. And for many of the same reasons. When my family was on the road in full-time evangelistic ministry, we would minister at a different church in a different city every week. We were in thirty-five states and three countries over the course of seven years, constantly seeing new places and meeting new people. In some ways, it was a very exciting way to spend my teen years, sharing Jesus with different audiences every Sunday morning and four or five nights a week. But it could be lonely. We were always around people, meeting new folks all the time…but never putting down roots. Relationships were temporary…our travel home constantly being moved and relocated to another state or another town…all of it gave our lives this sort of transient quality that just wasn’t the way normal people lived. Usually, our bus (or travel trailer) was parked right next to the churches where we ministered. So I would often go into the church sanctuary late at night…after the service was over and everyone had gone home. Usually, in those days, the piano would have a small light so that the church pianist could better see her hymnal or sheet music. I would go to the piano and turn on just that small lamp, leaving the rest of the sanctuary dark…and I would begin to play and sing Meet Me Here. And the Lord would do just that. Tears would inevitably begin to flow as God made Himself real to the teen-aged me in a very comforting way. That song will always be meaningful to me as a result of those special moments.

Organ stopped its playing
Everyone’s gone home
But I’m here
Wishing that some way we could meet

Preacher stopped his preaching
Somehow it goes on
In my heart
Somehow I feel so incomplete

Pews and aisles so empty
Still You seem so near
And I cry 
Hoping that some way I might know You

Choir stopped its singing
Somehow I still hear
And the tears are blinding the eyes that need You

You and me all alone in Your house
Don’t know how to say it
I guess that I’ll just play it
By ear

I asked Pat about the response they received from this, their first official album. “It was a great response,” he said. “The people that liked our group obviously responded well to it and really liked it. The record label liked it very much - it was in keeping with what they wanted to accomplish to bring a more contemporary sound out to the Christian audiences. By the standards of that day, the sales figures were probably average. I think it might've sold between 15,000 and 20,000 copies which at that time was not too bad. As the years went on the sales of Christian records got bigger and probably the biggest, you know, by the time we got to around 1976 or 1977, the biggest-selling Christian albums were by people like B.J. Thomas and Evie and some of those kinds of artists. Their albums were selling 50,000 records and to Christian music professionals, that was a lot of records. These days it's not. But in those days, for a Christian record to sell 50,000 copies was huge. Our records never sold that many, but back then records were mainly an opportunity for us to share our music with people and we were glad to be able to have something that we could make available to people after the shows and it helped us finance being on the road.

“You know, people have a tendency to think that when you're writing songs and making records, going out and playing concerts, that you're making lots of money,” Pat smiles. “Believe me, nobody was making any money back then. We were barely getting by. We were putting gas in our bus and when we finished a tour we might each get a few hundred dollars, and we were living on that for a while until we hit the road again.”

Pat Terry says one of his biggest frustrations is that no Pat Terry Group albums have ever been re-released in digital form: “People write me all the time and say, ‘Hey why don't you release these albums?’ Well, I don't own these records. This particular record is owned by Word Records, Inc. And at this point, that company has been sold several times through the years. There's no one working there who was there back in the era when these were made, and it's just off people's radar. I do think it's kind of sad that the music of that era, which was important for laying a groundwork for a certain kind of music that the church embraced, that, if for no other reason, just for historical reasons, that some of that music hasn't been re-released. And that there's not some interest from the labels that own it, of keeping these catalogs at least available for people to have. I mean, every genre of music, whether it's country or rock or folk or pop -- every genre of music puts a certain value on the early stuff that they have in their catalogs, that documents the artists of that era, what they were doing, and how it fit culturally into what was going on in the country at that time. The Christian labels have not put much emphasis on that. Some things have been re-released which I'm glad to see, but there's not been a big emphasis on putting this stuff out and helping people to know where the roots are, where a lot of this music that ended up being called Christian music started. So, here's hoping that down the road that can happen. I've explored ways to try to get our stuff re-released and I haven't been successful yet. But who knows, down the road...”

How did Pat and the guys feel about this debut record? “We liked it,” Pat says. “We'd done our very best to record the best album we possibly could. We’d given it 100%. Certainly, it was a good representation of what the Pat Terry Group sounded like and what we were about back in that era.”

Early 80s

The album was a starting point for Pat, Sonny, and Randy. They would go on to record several more albums together, records that sold more copies and opened many doors for them. Pat would write songs that would be recorded by bigger “stars” like Evie, B.J. Thomas, and the Gaither Vocal Band, establishing him as a sought-after songwriter. The guys would eventually build their own studio and record their own albums, taking more control over their music and their message. Then they, like many other “first wave” artists, become disillusioned with the business that CCM had become, leading them to dissolve the band and go in different directions. Pat released a trio of Christian rock albums as a solo artist before earning a living as a country songwriter in that town that he didn’t want to record in back in 1974 – Nashville. Artists like Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson, Tanya Tucker, the Oak Ridge Boys, Confederate Railroad, and Kenny Chesnee have all recorded Pat Terry songs. 

Yes, Pat Terry is a songwriter. 

In his Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music, author Mark Allan Powell writes, "Terry appears to have had a natural gift for songwriting and from the start was able to craft tunes with melodies and structures appropriate to the lyrics," adding, "The Pat Terry Group albums succeed if only on the strength of the songs themselves." 

A songwriter is defined as “an individual who writes the lyrics, melodies and chord progressions for songs.” But it really goes much deeper than that. A songwriter creates memories…lays down markers and takes you back to milestones in your life…gives you a vehicle to express deep feelings and emotions. 

This debut record was more than a jumping off point for the Pat Terry Group; the record itself is remembered fondly for songs that would become long-term favorites…cultural markers for the Jesus People…audio artifacts from an era that seems happier, simpler, purer as we look back. 

L-R: Pat Terry, Randy Bugg, Sonny Lallerstedt

Billy Ray Hearn said it well on the album's liner notes. "These are the Pat Terry Group's songs," he wrote. "As soon as you hear them they'll be yours."