I generally dislike bios. They are usually top-heavy with hype and poorly written. I can't guarantee that this one will be any different, but at least you'll know who to blame.
I am the second of three brothers and I was born March 21, 1955. I grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Downey and became fascinated by music because of my older brother's keen interest in the folk music scene of the early 1960's. Comedian Martin Mull refers to this period as the "Great Folk Music Scare of the Sixties, when that stuff almost caught on".
When I was nine, my parents bought me a scaled-down nylon string guitar. My brother taught me a few basic chords and how to strum. The first song I ever learned how to play was Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land". Soon I began writing my own little songs. Of course they're quite embarrassing to think about now, but for a nine-year-old in prehistoric 1964, it was a start.
At age twelve, I had a brief fling with a swap-meet-bought electric guitar. I promptly formed a neighborhood rock'n'roll band whose primary activity was not playing music, but changing our name. We were known by various monikers that we thought were mysterious and appropriately psychedelic, including names like "The Dawn of Night!" (Great huh?)
High school brought about the inevitable forming of a Crosby, Stills and Nash-type group replete with multi-part harmonies and several acoustic guitars. After dropping out of college (didn't everybody do that in the 70's?), I pursued a two-pronged career focusing on music and girls. I was not even close to being successful in either of these fields. Ultimately, I would end up in bars and restaurant lounges singing schmaltzy love songs ("F-e-e-lings, nothing more than f-e-e-lings...") to people who were waiting for a table, closing a business deal or just hoping to get lucky with their date...not an ego boost by any means, but a large chunk of my dues-paying resume.
In 1977, I was sharing a rental house with my best friend Dan Rupple (of the ground breaking comedy duo Isaac Air Freight). To make a long story short, Dan sort of "evolved" into becoming a Christian after a period of investigation (kind of the smorgasbord approach to the spiritual search). He began reading the Bible and we would have these long, rambling, naive "God-talks" about what he was discovering.
I didn't want to "get religion" just because he apparently had, but I was curious. I began to read the New Testament for myself. In my case, a whole new picture of Jesus emerged that had nothing to do with my objections and it became clear to me that I could avoid Him no longer. It's my belief that most people's negativity toward religion has less to do with any encounter with Jesus and more to do with past encounters with people or institutions that have hurt them and called it "God". This is obviously not always the case, but I believe there are thousands of people like that.
After becoming serious about my Christian faith, the music began to reflect the changes happening to me. Those initial songs made up my 1979 debut album First Things First.
In 1981, I signed with CBS Priority Records. That relationship led to Matters of the Heart. Contemporary Christian Music magazine named it "Album of the Year-1982" and it also made their list of the "Top 20 Contemporary Christian Albums of All-Time" in a 1988 critic's survey. Matters Of The Heart differed significantly from my first effort not only in production, but in my approach to songwriting as well. I figured out that I didn't want to keep writing the same songs over and over again, and I concluded that I'm free to contemplate life in all its fullness and complexity. I sing about what I know and trust that the Spirit will minister as He sees fit. I provide a soundtrack, perhaps a catalyst, and the work gets done somehow because He is faithful. The more I take my Hands off the "ministry", the better it seems to go.
Priority Records folded abruptly in the summer of 1983 as I was recording the follow-up to Matters. Recording was completed in July 1984 and the album finally saw the light of day some sixteen months later as Non-Fiction. That Fall, I had the opportunity to open 35 dates on Amy Grants Unguarded tour. Hands down, this was the most challenging thing I have ever done. Audiences were there to see Amy and were not particularly receptive to a big, bearded guy with just a guitar. I learned a lot of difficult lessons, but it took awhile for the whole thing to sink in, (Incidentally, since I always get asked: it was great working with Amy and Gary and I consider then friends, although I don't see them much.)
In Summer 1987, I sort of tried to retire for awhile. For a little over two years, I co-hosted a morning radio talk show on KBRT. My partner was none other than my friend Dan Rupple and we had a great time interviewing a lot of interesting people and goofing off on the air. It could be grueling though, as we had to get up at 4:00am every day.
In 1988, Phillip Sandifer of Urgent Records suggested that we do a compilation album of older material. At that time, all the albums were out of print and unavailable. I suggested that we do a new song just for fun. The one song turned into four songs and the album came out in Fall 1989 as Lord of the Past: A Compilation. "Lord Of the Past" was my first Number One song and much to my surprise, I was playing music again.
One of my most treasured opportunities was to open for Michael Card on The Way of Wisdom Tour. We did about 70 dates in the Fall/Spring of 1990- 1991. I will be eternally grateful to Mike for this time of my life. Every good thing that you suspect or hear about Mike Card is probably true!
In October 1991, there came a new twelve-song album titled Songs From Bright Avenue. The amazing thing about this project was the fact that I only had one song finished and two others started when we planned the album. In a four-month period, I wrote nine songs. The songs on the album deal with some very personal and painful issues, but the overall theme is that of "hopefulness." This is somewhat surprising to me gives my temperament, but most welcome.
A couple interesting facts about Bright Avenue: Dr. Laura Schlessinger is an author and has a nationally-syndicated radio program. She plays "bumper music" between phone calls with listeners and often features little snippets of some of my songs, the most recurrent being "No Such Thing As Divorce". This songs was also used in a June 1996 episode of the NBC soap opera Another World.
Since Bright Avenue, I've continued touring and writing. This past February, I finished recording a new album produced by Phil Naish. It's titled Small Graces. Where can you get it? You can't (at least not yet). No release date is scheduled. I hope it will come out early next year.
Also, in the past couple of years, I have started performing in clubs and coffee houses for non-church audiences. This has been great, as my songs have been very well received. A solo acoustic version of my song "The Place I Am Bound" appeared on a CD magazine called Fast Folk which spotlighted Los Angeles-area songwriters.
Without a doubt, though, the identity that I'm most proud of is being "Dad" to my three children (Paul/15, Colin/13& Katie/10). I live in Whittier, California.
Thanks for your interest in me and my work and for taking the time to read this.