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30 Years of Memories-Randy Stonehill

30 Years of Memories: RANDY STONEHILL

The history of contemporary Christian music is interesting. Some of it we got into just as we began the station in January, 1990. Names such as Keaggy and his Glass Harp band, Second Chapter of Acts, Michelle Wagner, Keith Green, Don Francisco, Annie Herring, Larry Norman come to mind as early ‘influencers’ of contemporary Gospel. One more name should be added and it’s a name that we have had multiple concerts with over the 30 years of ministry of WBVN. If I said Uncle Rand or simply Stonehill, little images may go off in the minds of some of our listeners.

Randy Stonehill first hit our concert series on March 22nd, 1992. What a character! Randy is an easy smile, easy to be amazed at the guitar skills, easy to love the person. I actually remember too many things about him as I write this memory. About the time one thing gets typed on the page I’m already smiling and thinking of something else that muses me about Stonehill.

Obviously, we played dozens of Randy’s songs over the years so the name was familiar. A friend of mine had actually mentioned Randy in some conversations we had and asked me if I knew that Randy appeared in The Blob II movie made in 1972. He has a scene singing to another lady, actress Cindy Williams, who played Shirley Feeney on the Laverne and Shirley television sitcom some years later. I had to watch that and did since Danny actually had a copy of the movie to look at. I digress; anyway, Randy was well known for his music writing, performing and humor. Each of those showed every time he came to do a concert for us. Whether singing ‘Who Will Save The Children’, ‘Every Heartbeat Is A Prayer’, or the grin songs ‘American Fastfood’, or Breakfast At Denny’s’, Randy was unique and worth every minute shared with us on stage; that from a guy who told me that back home in California he had a tortoise for a pet.

For awhile we brought Randy in every 3 or 4 years. I remember a concert we did at John A. Logan College on March 20th, 1998. Actually, March 20th and March 21st. That was an interesting night. The concert was scheduled to begin at 7pm and everyone was in their seats and ready to go at 7, but there was one little problem. Randy was stuck in a snow and ice adventure at the St. Louis airport. There were lots of phone calls that night between me and the artist management trying to decide what to do next. Do we send people home and tell Randy to go get a room until he can fly back to California or do we wait? We waited. Randy, and this was an amazing little coincidence, was visiting on the plane with a person headed to SIU for meetings. That conversation turned into a car ride to JALC. Randy arrived about 10:30 that night. He tuned the guitar. He drank his always required lemon juice and hot water and started the concert at about 11pm. The reason I said March 20th and 21st was the concert didn’t get over until after midnight, and in my office I have a signed photograph of Randy and he put two signatures on the picture and the dates: 3-20-98 and 3-21-98. That’s Stonehillian!

I remember a concert a few years later. Randy found out that Phil Keaggy was coming in a few months after his concert and he took copy paper and wrote a bunch of notes to Phil and asked us to hang them around the Civic Center. Stonehillian! That concert was very special and actually the last one we’ve done with Randy. It was fun and serious all in one package. It was special in another way as well. Randy had to be taken back to the airport in Evansville, Indiana, and along the way something just clicked in Randy. The result was tears and smiles but certainly heartwarming. A car ride I will never forget. He went into detail about album covers, like the one with a screen door behind his photo, which Larry Norman had taken at their back door rented house. He mentioned that the famous, high leg kick photo on the album ‘The Wild Frontier’ was actually just a photo that the record company had rotated the photograph to make it look like he was kicking over his head but really was him bending over and only kicking about a foot up. I learned how it all started and the tears were part of Randy’s conversation with me about Keith Green. The starting part was fun and interesting. He started with the little known fact that the way he, and also Larry Norman, got started was from a $500 dollar gift from Pat Boone– the 1957 ‘April Love’ Pat Boone. Randy told how Pat had seen them in a small club and that, impressed, he asked them to come to his house for a meeting. There Pat gave them $500 cash to pay for studio recording time, time to make their music. According to Randy, Larry Norman went to the bank and had it exchanged for five hundred one dollar bills just simply to see and feel all those dollars. Again, according to Randy, Larry put all the cash in a dresser drawer and stirred it up, they thought they were rich.

The tears part was associated with Randy’s conversation about Keith Green. They had written songs together, worked together and were great friends. He told me of how Keith would show up at 2 o’clock in the morning and wake Randy up and tell him he just needed to listen to a new song Keith had just written. I think the word spontaneous was used to describe Keith. The tears flowed when Randy began to tell about seeing Keith at the airport coming off a plane while Randy waited to get on one. I got the impression that there had been a bit of tension between them but not having stopped and talked, not renewing old friendship, is something Randy wished he could do over. Randy’s sadness was because just a few weeks later, Keith would be killed in a plane crash. Not taking the time to come together seemed to be a real heart-breaking moment from Randy’s memory. It was hard to talk about anything after those tears.

One of the amazing things over the years that surprised me about the artists we’ve met in concert, artists that you have experienced and loved just as I have, has been the immense talents and sincerity of people we brought in to do concerts. There have been hundreds of personalities but one very common denominator: Love of Jesus in each. There may be hundreds of different ways to sing and talk of the Gospel with those artists but, just like Randy, the integrity of their mission and purpose, for the most part, the kindness of their hearts have been amazing. Randy Stonehill is one of a kind for sure. Yet, that Spirit of God still makes him a lot like you, a lot like me.

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters, Uncategorized

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