The story of Randy Stonehill coming to Los Angeles in 1970 to apply for the job of “rock star” but finding Jesus instead has been told and retold innumerable times -- often by Stonehill himself in songs like “Norman’s Kitchen.” His friendship with Larry Norman throughout the ‘70s has been celebrated in tunes and liner notes and more recently examined in the documentary film Fallen Angel. The contribution of this singer and songwriter for over forty years has been substantial -- first in pioneering popular rock music with a Christian point of view, and later in demonstrating a consistency in holding to the faith through the trials and tribulations of ordinary life.
Stonehill's first album, Born Twice, was released in 1971 with financial help from Pat Boone. The album, primarily a live performance, was recorded for a mere $800, and according to Stonehill, it "sounds like every penny of it!"
A year later, Stonehill made his film acting debut in The Blob sequel, Beware! The Blob (also known as Son of Blob). Also that year, Stonehill, along with Todd Fishkind and Keith Green, wrote "Your Love Broke Through," which would be recorded by numerous artists over the years, including Stonehill himself, Phil Keaggy, Russ Taff, and others.
In 1976, Stonehill released the Larry Norman-produced Welcome To Paradise, with Andy Johns (The Who, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin) doing the engineering. This became a landmark album for the songwriter and was voted "3rd Most Important Contemporary Christian Album" in a mid-1980s poll of Christian music critics. Norman would also produce the followup, The Sky Is Falling, which would start a twenty-year Stonehill tradition of recording two consecutive albums with any given producer. That tradition continued through two albums with Terry Scott Taylor (including the landmark, Equator), two albums with Barry Kaye, two albums with Dave Perkins, two albums with Mark Heard, and two more albums with Taylor until the routine was broken with 1995's Lazarus Heart.
In the late 1970s, Stonehill would join forces with rock band Daniel Amos (also known as DA) for the Amos n' Randy Tour. DA would go on to be Randy's band for the next two releases, 1981's Between The Glory and the Flame and 1982's Equator. The latter album introduced Stonehill fans to the concert favorites "Shut De Do" and "American Fast Food." Stonehill would later provide backing vocals on a number of DA's projects, including Doppelganger, and would join DA's lead singer, Terry Taylor, for a duet on his first solo project, Knowledge & Innocence, entitled "A Song of Innocence."
1984's Celebrate This Heartbeat teamed Stonehill with longtime friend Phil Keaggy for the song "Who Will Save The Children?" The two would frequently tour together over the years, even forming The Keaggy/Stonehill Band in 1989 with Daniel Amos bassist Tim Chandler and Swirling Eddie's David Raven on drums. The tour was in support of Stonehill's Can't Buy A Miracle and Keaggy's all-star tribute to '60s rock and roll, Phil Keaggy and Sunday's Child (which also featured Stonehill, Steve Taylor, Derri Daugherty, Mark Heard and others lending a hand). Keaggy and Stonehill would also team up with singer Margaret Becker, drummer Joe English, (former member of Paul McCartney and Wings), and others, in 1988 for the Compassion All Star Band's album One By One.
Stonehill followed Heartbeat with 1985's Love Beyond Reason, a pop-rock effort that teamed the artist with Amy Grant for the duet, "I Could Never Say Goodbye." The album also contained Stonehill's own version of "Your Love Broke Through." A video collection was also created for the album and released on VHS. A five-song, pop-rock EP entitled, simply, Stonehill was also recorded in 1984 with producer Kaye, with the intent of promoting Stonehill to the general music market, but very few copies were released. After a producer change to Dave Perkins, the next two albums The Wild Frontier (1986) and Can't Buy A Miracle (1988) featured a raw rock style similar to Bruce Springsteen.
In 1990, in honor of Stonehill's 20th anniversary in the music business, friends gathered for a special concert celebration. Musical performances included appearances by Daniel Amos, Tom Howard, The Swirling Eddies, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and Russ Taff. Stonehill ended the night with a performance himself, which was filmed and released on the VHS-only "One Night In 20 Years." In addition to the other performers listed above, the video also featured appearances by Pat Boone, Jerry Houser, Michele Pillar, Gary Chapman, Bryan Duncan, and others, all recounting some of their favorite memories of Stonehill. That same year, Stonehill released Until We Have Wings, an album that was produced by Mark Heard and was split with half live material and half studio material. Also that year, Stonehill teamed up with Daniel Amos once again for an "Amos n' Randy" reuinion concert at Cornerstone 90. Stonehill closed the show by joining The Swirling Eddies onstage for some covers of The Beatles' "I Want To Hold Your Hand," The Animals' "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place," and Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World."
For his next project, Stonehill chose to reunite once again with producer Terry Scott Taylor for the Wonderama concept album in 1991. Stories, a "best of" collection released in 1993, teamed Stonehill with the Lost Dogs for three new tracks.
In 1994, Stonehill teamed up with other artists to pay tribute to longtime friend Mark Heard, who had died in 1992 after suffering a heart attack during a performance at the Cornerstone Festival. Stonehill contributed his rendition of Heard's "Look Over Your Shoulder" for the CD Strong Hand Of Love (later reissued on the double disc collection, Orphans Of God).
In 1994, Stonehill started StreetLevel Records. The label released Julie Miller's Invisible Girl and Stonehill's own Lazarus Heart. By 1998, StreetLevel Records had been shuttered, inaugurating a period of label-hopping. Thirst was released on Brentwood Records. In 2001, Stonehill released a children's record using the name Uncle Stonehill, entitled Uncle Stonehill's Hat On The Holy Sombrero label. Also that year, Stonehill embarked on the "Legends Tour" with Daniel Amos, The 77s, and Sweet Comfort Band. During the tour's performance at Cornerstone '01, Stonehill was joined on stage by Larry Norman for the song "Good News." 2002's Edge Of The World (this time on Fair Oaks Records) followed, which brought together a number of musical friends including Phil Keaggy, Barry McGuire, Noel Paul Stookey, Love Song, Phil Madeira, Mike Roe, Russ Taff, Sara Groves, and Larry Norman. This album marked the first time Stonehill and Norman appeared together on a recording since 1980's The Sky Is Falling. In 2006, Keaggy and Stonehill released a live concert on DVD and CD in support of the Compassion International Christian relief agency with which both men had long been associated.
Stonehill continues to record and tour heavily around the world, primarily as a solo act with acoustic guitar. His sterling sense of humor comes through in his live performance as it does in studio recordings such as "American Fastfood" and "Shut De Do." He also toured in Australia, has written country music with a number of veteran songwriters in Music City, including the Warren Brothers, and has a production company in Los Angeles (Stonehill Productions) with his partner Mike Pachelli. Pachelli helped produce two of Stonehill's most recent albums, Paradise Sky (2008) and Spirit Walk (2011).
The interview was turbulent from the get-go| Posted April 20, 2018
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