Randy recording his vocals for “If I Had My Way” in the Jam Room Studio in North Carolina, photo courtesy of Leslie Stonehill.
First of all, let’s get this right out front… The first guy in the world to make Christian Rock Music was Larry Norman… the SECOND guy to do it was Randy Stonehill. And while I listened to Larry Norman, RANDY STONEHILL was my favorite, and was (and still is) a HUGE influence on me musically.
When I was a young boy, I loved to listen to music, but it was not the same music that my classmates were listening to… I listened to Classical music, and Jazz, and comedy records like Spike Jones, and Homer and Jethro. I never thought it was strange, but most other people did. My Father had one of the largest record collections I had ever seen, but he seemed to be concerned that I was not listening to the music that my peers were listening to as well, but I think even more of a concern was that I might be drawn to the darker side of contemporary music… This WAS the 60’s and 70’s, you know, so when I was still a teenager, in an attempt to head my contemporary music experience off at the pass and keep me on the right track, my father gave me a record for Christmas one year. It was Randy Stonehill’s “Welcome To Paradise” That was my first rock record ever.
Randy had recently gotten his first really big break, playing a song called “I Love You” in a Billy Graham film called “Time To Run” and my father worked for “Worldwide Pictures” (the film division of Billy Graham Ministries) at the time, so that is how he became aware of Randy.
When I went to College, Randy had released “The Sky Is Falling” and “Between The Glory And the Flame” and then his HUGE SMASH HIT album “Equator” with the song that is still a hit, “Shut De Door, Keep Out de Devil” I remember going to see Randy in HUGE stadiums in front of audiences of many thousands of people. I saw him at Edmund Chapel in Wheaton Illinois (which seats about three thousand) on tour with Phil Keaggy in the mid 80’s.
I was Thrilled in 1988 when my Christian Rock Band called “Juso” got to play at the “Mainstream Festival” in Fort Wayne Indiana, where we shared the bill with both Randy Stonehill AND Larry Norman.
Randy is still out there, Road Dogging it, and playing to thrilled ( if somewhat smaller) audiences yet today! When Randy played in the small town of Payola Kansas in the Summer of 2015, he mentioned how he got his first big break by playing for “Time To Run” and thanked Billy Graham, and then by name, personally thanked my father, Joe Gillespie, (who was in the audience) for his part in that. When I heard that, I knew that I should approach Randy to sing on a Dream Rodeo song, and what better project than the Blind Willy Johnson record with my brother, Jeremy, singing.
To think that I would get to work with a man who’s music had been with me since I was a child, and had been such a huge part of my personal musical development is a thrill of a lifetime! I am so proud to have gotten the chance to work with him, and that I can now call him my friend!
He is a beautiful person, (as is his lovely wife, Leslie, AND his OLD dog, Nigel!) and his performance is brilliant, and really took the song to a higher level.
The first Rock record I ever had in my life (given to me by my father) was Randy Stonehill’s “Welcome To Paradise”