Interview with Paul Amschler of Phoenix Sonshine
Tell us about how Phoenix Sonshine began. Were you one of the original members?
Yes I was a founding member of the group. I had met Gary Cowan while doing a bible study at his high school in El Segundo, California. A short while later Gary and I started playing together and formed the group. The first name was Sonshine just due to the time period seemed okay then as Debbe Mick joined the group we added Phoenix to it because both she and Gary were from there. Sonshine because Jesus was the Son and me living in Calif. where the sun Shines. Looking back it was a very hokey but it worked.
PS released two albums in the 70's. Were you on both of those?
No just the first one.
What's become of the other members of the group?
Well Gary is pastoring a very successful Calvary Chapel Church in Albq. New Mexico. He is still writing some great music for praise and worship. Debbe is living in Denver Colo. We all talk to each other and are still good friends. Gary and I just did a small reunion concert over New Year's and there is talk of getting back together to do a few more concerts. As for myself I am married and have two wonderful grandsons and am pastoring a First Nations Church in Gallup New Mexico which is called Gallup Foursquare Church. We minister to First Nations peoples of the area.
Briefly tell us your testimony.
I had a group of friends who had been sharing their life in Christ for two years back in high school around 1964-65 through Youth for Christ / Campus Life. But I never could accept Jesus, then one day in the middle of football practice something hit me between the eyes (Hmmmm sounds like a song verse) and it wasn't a football or another player it was the fact I needed Jesus in my life so right there on the field in the middle of practice I asked Jesus into my life; that was Oct. 1966. And the adventure began. Now almost 36 years later I am still serving Jesus as a pastor.
Were there any particular individuals or musical groups that influenced your ministry during the early days of the Jesus Movement?
Here is the funny part. I must say that there was no "Christian" influence to start with. The people I listened to were Peter Paul and Mary, Steve Stills and the group Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Later I got into the Eagles, James Taylor and a few others. I just liked the clean pure harmonies and guitar playing styles of these people. Later on a few Christian groups became an influence like Wing and a Prayer and The Way and the all time favorite The Salt Company. I still listen to CS&N and PP&M and the rest of the older folk rock music today.
Any particular recollections during the recording of the PS albums?
Long Hard Work. The musicians of today have it easy. Everything you hear on our albums we had to PLAY! Not like today where you can bring in a few modules a keyboard and have a full band with the London Symphony backing you up. Need a Hammond B3 with Leslie you had to bring it into the studio (which we did).
How about stories of times with the band?
Tons, One short one was back in OK. at OSU doing a Jesus Festival I saw a good friend, Randy Matthews, across the field when I yelled at him we both took off running at each other. (Remember I played football just a few years before) as we got closer in my mind I said " You won't be able to stop on a dime anymore so I took one step to the side and as we passed Randy reached out caught my bib overalls and nearly ripped them off my body. They tore from the chest all the way down to mid calf, and I had to go on in 15 minutes!
Do you have a particular favorite album and/or song from the Jesus movement?
Phoenix Sonshine "Shining in the Light"
This site is all about Christian "oldies" music - do you listen to any of the older stuff any more?
Yuppers, still do. I have a few old tapes of Love Song and us, but with the help of Napster and MP3's I have a few songs that you just can't find anywhere.
What are your feelings on the whole CCM industry as we know it today?
Not very much. I think we have bought into the whole worldly point of view to such an extent that we have lost the salt and have become prostitutes of the of the gospel of Jesus. Many groups are want a bee's who couldn't make it in the Non Christian field. One example is my wife works in the high end computer field and one of her co-workers came in one morning talking about this great song he had just heard and then went on to say it would be a good song to %$#@ his girl friend to. She then told him it was a Christian group and he just laughed he had been listening to a Christian radio station on the way into work and couldn't see any difference in the music none of the music sounded any different than the junk he was used to listening to they were selling sex! That tells me we have lost the salt.
With these huge stage shows a small church can't do evangelism concerts anymore because it costs to much. Now there are a few groups who are still doing ministry concerts and taking love offerings these are the groups who I would bring in these days. Just think of this, the Greek Theater in LA holds what 20,000 people at an avg. of 30.00 a seat for two nights that's a lot of change... before anyone gets madder at me I know what it costs to do concerts today and know what it cost to travel to each event but who is bigger God or their egos?
Do you keep in touch with any Jesus Music artists from the old days?
Not too many.
Any possibility that any of the PS albums will see the light of day on CD?
Yes we have or I should say Gary has put both albums on one CD. and there is talk of a third album in the future.
What have you been doing since those early days?
Well pastoring mostly and teaching Worship around the country. Over the past few decades I have done maybe three concerts but I still play and sing. trying hard to finish my Masters in Biblical Studies and want to spend time with my grand kids. That one is hard due to the 750 miles between us. Love my wonderful bride of 8 years and just loving Jesus.
What kind of hobbies do you have?
Well now comes the part which a lot of Christians don't understand. I really love to hunt and fish go outside for a few days and hunt deer, elk, and bear. I don't like to trophy hunt and think that trophy hunting should be done away with but we really love to eat everything we get. Yes I said we which means my wife hunts right along side of me when I go out there with my long bow or black powder rifle. We still love the old ways so to speak. We also love to fish and go sailing though sailing is a bit hard these days with no ocean close by.
Any parting thoughts to our readers out there?
The old days are just that old but we can not forget them. Jesus lived in the old days yet we still follow Him. I would love to see Christian music go back 25 years to when it was fun to do one on one ministry after concerts instead of going back to your dressing room and being an untouchable. Where would we be if Jesus said "I don't have time to heal you or feed these thousands of people". Or "I don't think I want to die for your sins today because you can't come up with my required minimum fees" I think we would be in some deep trouble. Jesus first loved us. Always remember this "What can you say to this, If GOD is for us Who can be against us" Romans 8:31. That was the very first verse I learned and still it is my verse to live by today. God Bless you all.