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30 Years of Memories-BIG DADDY WEAVE

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30 Years of Memories-Big Daddy Weave

It’s been awhile. Not because we haven’t tried, not because they haven’t tried, but Big Daddy’s travels and our opportunities to have them in for our concert series simply has not crossed paths. Obviously, they are one of our favorite events. They are a great band with tons of great music and message. They are great people; artists with ‘pastor’s hearts’ from my perspective. Even if they did not sing a note, did not play a chord, BDW are the kind of people you would want to have come to your town just to create a ‘family union’ atmosphere with members of the band. In 1998, Mike and Jay Weaver started the band while in college in Mobile, Alabama. They were worship leaders from Florida. Today’s BDW band also has Joe Shirk (keys), Jeremy Redmon (guitar), and Brian Beihl (drums). (Original drummer Jeff Jones left in 2013.) We first came in contact with BDW in 2002 with a concert at the Aldersgate United Methodist Church. I remember that night pretty well because of something Mike told me that afternoon. According to him, one: they were thrilled to be here. Two: that night was their first touring ‘headliner’ event. Three: he hoped they had enough music to fill the evening because they only had one cd (One and Only, let’s see… 9 songs and 2 hours to fill!). That caught my attention, made an impression for sure.

This fall’s concert scheduled for September would have been the 17th appearance for them for WBVN. As you can tell we kind of like them, and even better, you kind of like them. They are unique in that only Mark Schultz and BDW have filmed DVD’s here. That tells you that not only do you love them, they love coming here, choosing you as their audience to be filmed for that DVD. I will always remember hearing Mike and band singing ‘Redeemed’ and you singing louder than they were. I think I will hear that in my memory until my dying day. BDW also have been so popular with our concert family that they have done what only two other artists have done in 30 years, two sell out concerts in one day. (others: Schultz and NewSong) They are unique in another way; out of 213 concerts we have produced over the years, BDW (and Lincoln Brewster) are the only ones I’ve not been able to attend. Both those events were in the spring of 2012. The night of the BDW concert I was in Chicago with my wife Jane as she was being overcome with GBS, paralyzed from head to toe and in ICU. I remember Mike Middleton sending me videos from his phone that night to just give me an appreciation for that event. I remember getting a phone call a couple days later from Jay Weaver just wanting to assure Jane and me that they were praying for her and that they would keep her in their hearts over the next few weeks. Nice guy that Jay Weaver.

As you are aware, Jane survived that illness. And after three months in Chicago hospitals, she came home and finished her recovery back here. Ever since that experience, every time BDW is in town Mike and Jane have spent a few moments discussing that specific experience. A comment that Jane came away from Chicago with, and one Mike has spent time contemplating, is that thanksgiving is a place established in God, a place we can occupy, that it can hold us up in times like hers. (A He in us, we in Him place.) Mike still quotes Jane’s comments about thanksgiving being a dimension in God while on stage. He always brings that conversation up when they visit on the day of concerts.

I mentioned earlier that BDW coming to town is something like a family reunion. Many times, they have rented an extra bus and brought their wives and children with them. They are the typical traveling band but prioritize their families as well and make sure that their home life is preserved and cared for while out on the road. Another family connection that gets made in Southern Illinois when BDW comes to town is the family reunion between the Shirks. Joe (keys) went to grade school in Murphysboro. His dad, Steve Shirk, was a pastor/worship leader in Carbondale until his death a few years ago. (Steve was always a favorite with me, calling the station just to encourage me occasionally. Steve asked nothing in return for his encouragement and prayers, just loved folks, pastored folks and majored in kindness to me.) When Joe comes home his mother Betty is always present and his sister and family always attend. I remember just a couple years before Steve passed away that the bus pulled into the parking lot at the Civic Center and a little later the tour went to Murphysboro where Steve and Betty had prepared a huge picnic for all involved with the tour. The Shirk family has been very special.

Big Daddy Weave: one of the huge memories and experiences of WBVN’s 30 year history. It could not have been any better. I will always remember, and this was after the second night of two sellout crowds in a row, I mentioned to Jay that they were getting so big nationally, so popular in the large venues around the country, that I was concerned whether they could keep coming to a small venue like we have here in Southern Illinois. His response still rings in my ears because I think he sincerely meant it, ‘Big Daddy will always come to Marion, I promise you that!’ We are and they are going to make that come true again in 2021.

(As I write this memory it is appropriate to ask the readers to pray for Jay and his family. He has been and still is going through a very hard place physically and needs those prayers and certainly, the encouragement of God.)

30 Years of Memories-Randy Stonehill

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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.

30 Years of Memories-Phillips, Craig & Dean

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30 Years of Memories-Phillips, Craig & Dean

Occasionally I dream. The most recurring ones are about concerts– strange concerts for the most part. Even today, I still remember many of them. One of the early ones was when I couldn’t find the concert stage where I was supposed to meet Geoff Moore and the Distance. It was 7pm concert time and I’m supposed to introduce Geoff, but where? Another was when I couldn’t get a certain group to come on stage and sing; they were just too busy to sing, they were like stray cats, all over the place but not on stage. I remember a Wes King concert in a Shakespearian theatre; a late 1500’s, English Shakespearian theatre. One time had an artist that wouldn’t come to the stage because he was finishing a Lucky Strike. (Not a factual dream but a strange one.) None were based on true experiences. Just crazy, interesting, kind of make you smile dreams. The only thing they had in common was all the concerts started at 7pm, and in each, that was not significant in the artists’ eyes. Those dreams never reflected any real life, just reflected ‘stress creation’ for someone responsible for producing a concert. At least they were always creative and funny the next morning.

The last couple months writing about 30 years of artist memories, I’m amazed that our WBVN concerts have been such powerful events in our community of believers. We’ve done over 210 of them and all have such beautiful moments. In the beginning of the ministry, I never imagined the quality of the performers’ talents and the sincerity of the performers’ hearts. I’ve written about Rich and Mark most recently and now some guys I will never forget. Actually it’s a group that we’ve done many concerts with: Phillips, Craig and Dean. They’ve supplied many memories and their visits have been ‘dream come true’ events for us.

Randy, Dan and Shawn began their music ministry at about the same time we started the radio station. They are three pastors, Randy and Dan from Texas and Shawn from the St. Louis area. Our experience with them began when they released a single called ‘Turn Up The Radio.’ Hearing it, there was something that just told me, ‘this is special, see about booking them for a concert.’ We did that after only hearing one song. We were so excited and they were so new to the ministry that BVN decided to give away the tickets. We didn’t tell them that and they came to do the concert at the Civic Center, and we had 1000 people meet them there on January 8th, 1993, our third broadcast anniversary. I remember they were so excited. Imagine, they thought they had sold out 1000 seats. That’s exciting for a group that had just started out! I remember telling them after the concert that we gave the tickets away and the looks on their faces would make great ‘sad’ photographs. Well that was the start of many special nights with PCD.

During the concert they had a surprise for me. Randy called me up on stage, I assumed to just be nice to the station and compliment us signing them to do the event. Not what happened! They put me in a black trench coat, pulled my prescription glasses off and put sunglasses on me. Put a microphone in front of me (which I couldn’t find without my glasses) and proceeded to do a choreographed song which I have no idea what the song was because I was a bit distracted being unable to see and forced to try and follow their choreography. Not pretty, not safe, but FUNNNNNNY! I’ll never forget that moment; I can’t think about it without smiling even today. The second concert, December 11, 1993 (same year as the first), I had called Randy prior to the event. I had gone over the details of the concert and I asked for one more favor. And just like the good guy that Randy is, he promised me not to ever do the ‘call me up on stage’ thing ever again. Needless to say, (I think I can say this) Randy lied, I guess a pastoral lie, with a small L of course! Well, they are funny guys for sure.

One year they were late for a concert, arriving at 4:30 for a 7 o’clock concert, late because of ice and snow and driving down from St. Louis. They’ve filled the stage with kids a couple of times. All three have brought their wives with them here because of the wonderful times we’ve had together. It’s always been fun and talented evenings with Randy, Dan and Shawn. And they are caring, caring people. I have a special memory to share of that caring.

It was a concert on April 17, 1995, and Carla was there. PCD was Carla’s favorite group and she loved their music. She came with some pretty high expectations for enjoying that special night at the Civic Center. And, it was special for all of us because Carla was, as I’ll call it, long-suffering from a terminal disease. To be there, she had to have special care and equipment. She arrived in a special wheelchair and we brought her in from the alley side of the old Civic Center and put her close to the stage. She was susceptible to more damage and pain by coming but she was determined to hear ‘live/in concert’ Phillips Craig and Dean. They actually came down and met with Carla, sang to her and made a special moment even more special with their caring hearts that night. It was a joy for Carla in an almost joyless time. Carla would pass away just a few days later.

It would be impossible to think back over the 30 years of WBVN memories without thinking about PCD. Special nights, special people. They have brought smiles and tears. Over the years, some artists have told me that when they retire from CCM and traveling around the country doing ministry they for sure want to come one last time and do a WBVN concert. Phillips Craig and Dean have said that to me. I have promised to make it happen if at all possible and that is a promise that I will keep better than Randy’s to not get me back up on stage.