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30 Years of Memories: Bryan Duncan

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30 Years of Memories-Bryan Duncan

Bryan Edward Duncan, born in 1953 in Utah, raised the son of a ‘preacherman’ in North Carolina. I learned that a long time ago in a conversation with Bryan on the drive from Evansville, Indiana, on our way to our concert at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center. I’ll mention more about that talk later in this letter.

Beginning as early as 1973, Bryan was one of the early Contemporary Christian artists. Bryan originally was the lead vocalist for a group called the Sweet Comfort Band.

‘What a vocal gift!’ was one of my earliest thoughts about Bryan. I first signed him through the same agency that I booked Randy Stonehill and Phil Keaggy, the Street Level Agency out of Indiana. Holly was the agent and kind of a mother figure, I think, for all three. Each of those artists have faced personal disappointments and each is blessed with unique and God-given gifts to share with us all. All three have done WBVN concerts multiple times over the years.

Bryan is an artist that I used to say had an uncanny vocal range. If you talked to him you’d never expect that talking voice to have a range unlike anyone else. He can sing rather casually with little effort, actually, I think sounding better than on the cds you listen to. Bryan’s music expands from soul/jazz and pop to heartfelt ballads. Bryan’s a Harley motorcycle owner and has even written a song about that called “Hogwash.” (Ten #1 songs from 1993 thru 1997, 5 of those from one cd: Mercy. He was elected to the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2007. Had Released 18 solo albums.)

Bryan was WBVN Concert number three on 1/19/1991. His most recent was on October 19, 2019. In between, there were many interesting events and stories to remember about Bryan. I remember our first meeting with Bryan and how after the concert Bryan came up to me and Mike Middleton and wanted to know what we were going to do the rest of the evening. Mike and I looked at each other and said, ‘We are going home and get some rest’. We both had just spent three 12 hour days on the radio during a Celebration and we were exhausted. I actually spent a couple of meetings at later concerts over the years apologizing for that comment to Bryan. There are actually too many stories initiated by Bryan to put in this letter, but let me share just a couple. One that I’ve shared the most was a concert years ago where the Civic Center event was on a Saturday night. Friday night Bryan was performing in Springfield, IL. Bryan arrived as usual, on time, humor in hand, ready to go– he’s always ready to go, he loves performing. As he got out of the car Bryan asked that his luggage be brought into the dressing room. Problem, no luggage! Bryan was traveling with a road manager at the time and he and the road manager had set the luggage down on the ground in Springfield to load in the car and each thought the other had loaded it. Interesting face Bryan was wearing at that thought. The luggage contained a new Armani suit that Bryan had just worn to have publicity photos made for an album cover, and a suit with a significant price tag according to the interesting face he was wearing. At the time my car was in the shop and I was driving my mother’s Big Buick, not a sub-compact Buick– a big ancient Buick. Next thing I knew Bryan was jumping in my mother’s car and off to Target to get a concert wardrobe. Bryan said he was going to drive me like they drive in Los Angeles. Interesting skills they have in Los Angeles.

There was a lot of weaving in and out of traffic, much acceleration, and my big eyes and lots of Bryan laughs at my reactions! By the way, a simple black tee-shirt was that wardrobe. That night Bryan did the concert in that black tee and his leather winter jacket. That was a hot concert in a couple of different ways.

Another interesting moment over the years was the trip I mentioned earlier from Evansville to our concert. It took about 90 minutes to travel. 90 minutes with Bryan is always full of conversation. And I’ve traveled many times with him in the car but this time was different from all the rest. That trip Bryan was very relaxed and seemed to spill out a lot of personal family information about his relationship with his dad. And, without the details, I’ll just say that Bryan’s experience as a young man and the relationship with a parent was similar to stories you’ve heard before. The simple version is that his dad and Bryan had a falling out, a separation, and eventually a time of not much communication. Years of heartache and anger passed. However, Bryan told me the last trip in that his father had come to the point of needing health care and he was put in the situation of having to go and help his father during the last part of his dad’s life. That necessity had led to a reconciliation of sorts and brought the story to a loving end. Bryan’s story of how he felt about his mother was shared in a song a couple years ago called ‘Remember My Mother’ that he performed for us during the last concert.

Without going into details, Bryan has experienced a lot of personal hurt over the years. While one of the funniest people I’ve met, he’s also one of the most bruised people I’ve met. He’s mountain topped and walked in a few valleys. When I express that I’m talking not about one or two things that have broken his heart but a handful of things that were painful. Some have been made public over the years, many from Bryan’s radio program called ‘A Road To Redemption’ done over the past few years to help others recover from their pain. He also created his own record label called Red Road Records, Red short for redemption. Bryan had done what we all are likely to do with pain, we slap it away and either cried or yelled in anger. Being human, I think Bryan has had both of those responses.

I’ll close with this thought. At the pre-concert meeting with some concert attendees at our last event with Bryan, those people experienced the Bryan Duncan behind the stage. That moment was so personal, so caring, so real for those that attended. Bryan is the kind of person that expresses much of what he’s thinking without huge filters or masquerades. Now that can make you a bit nervous occasionally, but he’s so energetic it’s always fun to be around Bryan D. He’s still writing music, doing a bit of singing and traveling. He’s a sports nut; knows every team’s members and their stats. I used to tell people if I was stranded on a desert island and had one vocalist to be with me I would choose Bryan Duncan, an unbelievable voice and his stories aren’t bad either.

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.)

December Newsletter-Christmas 2020

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But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son…Gal 4:4

There was a perfect time, a unique time, an appropriate time, and in our case, it became Christmas time. The implication is, after a delay, sometime after there was space between God’s planning and doing, at a specific time, the Father gave His only begotten Son, Jesus, ‘that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ That’s the overwhelming purpose of the Gospel. The word used here for Son holds more meaning than just being an offspring of God, more than just simply originating from God. The fullness of being God’s Son also implicates the presence of the character, the nature, the heart of the Father as well. God sent His Son to share a ‘God Life’ with us, to redeem us from Adam and deliver to us a new way to live. It was a loving God’s response to Adam’s failure, ‘For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.’ (John 3:16) God’s Purpose defined.

Now the next few sentences are not important. It’s only fun to look at, to think about. They make no difference in the actual application of what Paul called our adoption as children of God. But it’s Christmas, it’s interesting to search some of the material on what day was Jesus born. As I said, it’s not important, only our curiosity drives it, but most everyone that has written on that subject is quick to point out that the one day we’re pretty sure he was not born is December 25th. Don’t throw stones at me just yet. It’s just that the Bible doesn’t specifically indicate a date and people that research such things all agree that the clues in scripture move us away from December. Our traditional Christmas celebration was established by Emperor Constantine in 336AD. Clues in the Bible such as shepherds in the field usually not indicative of December, Augustus’ census was never held in an Israel winter because of the weather. In fact had it been a winter, Mary and Joseph probably would not have been traveling the 70 miles between Nazareth and Bethlehem, Mary very pregnant and not really donkey agile. Also, the folks that study the physical sky point to the practical alignments of Venus and Jupiter (June 2BC) or Saturn and Jupiter (October 7BC) as likely the Shepherd’s- leading bright star of scripture. But, we wish you a Merry December Christmas just the same! As I said, not important but fun to look at.

The reason I bring that up is because the birth is the important part, not the date. The incarnation of Christ doesn’t depend upon December 25th being significant; what’s significant is that before the foundation of the world, ie, the whole of the cosmos (and that’s everything that exists out in front of God, everything), Jesus was coming to comfort, redeem and save. In that coming, on that perfect someday, Jesus was a New Adam, making all things new, not only in each life that is re-generated, but a New Garden was established to sustain believer’s lives. The tree of Life had been replanted in the Garden of Gethsemane to re-establish the one removed because of Adam and Eve. Once again His creation could access a way to live that was in a person relationship with Father, Son and Spirit. The Old Testament migrated from the original relationship of Adam and Eve with God, to an Adamite separation with its fear, embarrassments and alienation. New Testament teaching after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascending, re-established a Garden environment for believers to personally walk, talk, trust and be comforted by God once again. When Paul writes in 2Corinthians 5:17, he confirmed that in believers’ lives all things were new. All things in the Greek means all things! We stand in the middle of a fallen world, but we also occupy the middle of a new creation because Christ is in the middle of that new creation.

Son of God: strong words and many significant meanings. As the second Adam: The Son established universal dominion on earth. As a son of Abraham: heir of the land of the Covenant. As son of David: heir to the throne of David. As Son of God: the heir of all things as testified to in Hebrews 1:2 (heir of all things, made all things) Acts 10:36 (Lord of all).

Next month on January 8th, we will celebrate our 31st year of music ministry over FM 104.5. Singing began as an expression of a future hope. We still prepare and hope for a new day to come and ‘come quickly’ might be an appropriate present attitude. I hear that in much of the music coming out for us to play on the radio recently. Music in the faithful began early as we have writings of the Song of Moses, David, Elizabeth and others. I’ve had many conversations over the years with artists that have come in concert. I remember talking to a few about their creative songwriting. Some songs just stop us in our tracks and our attention and heart is drawn to the lyrics. I have changed my tune about using the word ‘creative’ over time. I no longer express what an artist does as a creative process. That hangs all the responsibility on their skills and ability to envision the moment. I’m more likely to express my thought as what great ‘discoveries’ they have made to write their music. Christ lives in believers’ hearts, His Spirit whispers to our souls and that’s the real resource I think artists tap into to write those songs that cause us to pause and listen intently. What’s inside them is being discovered by the artists and shared to others. It’s not being created as much as revealed in their music. I mentioned to someone just a few days ago, the Spirit of God is like a musical tuning fork that, when the fork is struck, vibrations of the right frequency are activated. Like that fork, our hearts vibrate when we hear the Truth of God, our heart responds to God’s frequency. We hear a song, a sermon or a spoken word and it vibrates in our soul, lights up in our Spirit.

Music, and we’ve had all these years to share it, can stimulate the tuning forks in our hearts. The math associated with musical scale is fascinating but too lengthy to describe in this letter. However let me say this, when we listen to music the notes are at differing frequencies, those vibrations of the frequencies hit the 10,000 ‘organ of corti’ in our ear and we sense the sound. Our hearts have spiritual corti and Jesus taught that those that have ears to hear, let them hear. All those people had flaps on the side of their heads, but Jesus was saying to listen with the corti of our hearts. Even though we hear it through our ears, on the inside it is playing in a playground of our hearts as well. Some people dance, some raise their hand, many fall to their knees, tears can stream down our faces, smiles appear, eyes brighten and amen’s are thought or said or can be heard around us. What’s going on in the inside is not only entertaining but it can be a place where time stands still and a spiritual ‘touching’ can take place. When that happens sometimes intimate things happens that step us into that New Garden that Christ has established. All of God, Father, Son and Spirit, dance, raise Their hands, smile, express shouts of Joy for us. That Trinity is with us, never at any time are any of the Three separated from us. When Jesus came as Son, Father was with Him, Spirit was with Him and that is true today as well. If Christ be in you, you in Christ, He, the Father and Spirit are present in our lives as well. If we live like that is not true we rob ourselves of the purpose again of God sending the Son on that unique day, that perfect time.

From all of us at WBVN we obviously have for 30 years hoped the best for you and your family. We are blessed to be able to celebrate the birth of Christ every day of the year. And, getting to wish you a very Merry Christmas for the 31st time is a gift to this ministry staff.