Interview with John Wickham
John Wickham was a part of several well known Jesus music bands in the 70's, most notably The Way and Parable. A gifted guitarist, he also played on countless albums released during this time. John has been involved in leading worship for many years since those days and was gracious enough to answer a few questions I threw his way for this month's interview. Enjoy!
One-Way: John, thanks for taking time to answer these questions. What do you think about this whole thing called the Internet?
John: Well, It seems to me to be part of the last days scenario in some way. I know that there is a lot of good on it. Actually it's pretty amazing. But there is the obvious garbage, just at the touch of a finger. It is for this reason that we do not have it in our home and have no intention of getting it.
OW: So I assume you have not had a chance to visit the Decade of Jesus Music website?
The Way 1973
Son Come Out
You're Caught In A World
OW: Along with Love Song, Country Faith and others, you were a member of one of the most popular early bands to come out of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa – The Way. Were you a founding member? How long did the group last?
The Way 1973
John Wickham, Gary Arthur, Bruce Herring, Dana Angle
JW: I was not a founding member. The group was together for 5 years. I got into the group after it's first 1 1/2 years, just before the first album was recorded. So I was in the group for 3 1/2 years.
OW: The Way’s first album is a true gem in my opinion. It has a folk-country-rock flavor ala America at times but in concert you guys were known to really rock ‘n roll ala Allman Bros with dual lead guitar solos! This showed up a little more on the 2nd album, “Can It Be” in 1975. Was there a concentrated effort to tone down the studio albums?
Can It Be 1975
Days Of Noah
Do You Feel The Change
Sittin' In The Pew
JW: Not really. When I joined the group initially as a bass player. We didn't have a drummer and were basically doing first album songs and many others like them that have never been recorded. As time went on, I picked up the electric guitar in rehearsals and we added a drummer, Alex MacDougall, and the second album songs developed. We did both the first and second album songs when we would play.
OW: I recall many of your concerts at the Knott’s Berry Farm festivals. Seems like The Way was always packed out.
JW: Darrell Anderson was the head of entertainment at Knotts at that time. He was a Christian attending Calvary Chapel. He also was the great grandson of Walter Knott. The idea came up to have a Christian night at Knott's Berry Farm as the Saturday night concerts at Calvary were weekly packed out. Knotts expected about 5000 people. Approximately 17,000 showed up. That broke all of there previous attendance records. The short of it is, it was a God thing. The Lord did it.
OW: Do you still have contact with any of the guys from The Way?
JW: Actually, just this last week, I spoke with Bruce Herring for the first time in 20 years or so. And with Dana Angle for the second time in 20 years. I've spoken with Alex and Gary fairly often over the years.
OW: Did you have any religious upbringing? How about musical training and who were your influences?
JW: No real religious upbringing. My parents became members of a particular denominational church - but it was more of a social thing,... actually almost totally a social thing.
As far as musical training. My brother gave me one guitar lesson (that's all he had time for. ) Other than that, it was alone in my room till the early hours of the morning and playing in garages with my friends.
As far as influences,... anything that had a guitar solo in it it was listened to. Eric Clapton with John Mayall (spelling?) and the BluesBreakers, The Yardbirds, Cream (definitely), Jeff Beck, Mike Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop, Buffalo Springfield (primarily Stephen Stills leads), The Sons Of Chaplain, a bit of Jerry Garcia, B.B. King, Albert King (loved his sound), the solo on Kentucky Woman by Richie Blackmore (Deep Purple), etc.
OW: When and how did you get saved?
JW: I became a Christian in 1970 while in the middle of my 10th grade year in High School. Alex MacDougall received the Lord at a Billy Graham Crusade and quit playing drums. (He didn't think that a Christian could or should play drums). This made me so curious as to what was going on with him. He was a friend and a bit older, that is, I looked up to him somewhat. He invited me to Calvary Chapel. I thought, "Church?????" "What's with that??" I didn't mock it as there was a respect for God, but I didn't even know what a Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were. I knew next to nothing. Truly spiritually blind. When we went to Calvary (the little chapel) on that Friday night, the invitation was given to come forward and receive Christ. I did! The next day or so,... a tremendous hunger to read the Bible welled up with me. I'd come home from school and read the whole book of Revelation before dinner. The next night would be Ephesians and Phillipians, the next night the whole book of Acts and so on. Jesus is real!!!!!
The Way (John is on the left)
OW: Were there any particular Christian individuals or music groups that influenced you during the early days of your walk with the Lord?
JW: Definitely! Love Song. There were other as well. It seemed that I would listen to anything about Jesus. Didn't matter about the style or the age of those singing or playing. If it was about Jesus, it would be listened to.
Parable - Illustrations
OW: Your name showed up on so many Maranatha albums in the 70’s and you joined the group Parable for their 2nd album. What other projects were you involved with?
JW: Too many to remember. Really! Probably well over 30 albums. I played bass on the first Maranatha Praise album (Praise The Lord, Peace Give I To Thee, and Heavenly Father I Appreciate You). It was in the back of mind that I played on the first Carman album in some studio in Santa Ana. Finally ran into the producer of that album a year or so ago and confirmed it to be true. Like I said, too many to remember.
OW: Any chance we’ll see any of The Way albums on CD one day?
JW: Probably not. But maybe. I don't know. I doubt it. Although, just got word a week or so ago that there will be a Jesus People Reunion Concert at the Anaheim Pond Auditorium on Saturday April 24th, 1999 from 12 noon to 7:00 PM. Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa is putting it on. Some of those who will be playing are Love Song, Mustard Seed Faith, some of the guys from Daniel Amos, The Way, Parable, Blessed Hope, Gentle Faith (that's with Darrell Mansfield), possibly Erick Nelson, Denny Stahl, Ernie & Debby Rettino and bunches more.... A video and CD(s) of the night is in the works.
OW: Do you have a particular favorite Christian album and/or song from the 70's?
JW: There was so much that was new and fresh and heart felt that it makes it difficult to just pick one or two. I like listening to most all of those albums when the opportunity avails itself. And the worship albums were such a blessing. The simplicity of the early writing is very appealing to me spiritually. Just focused on Jesus.
OW: Many lives and hearts were touched during the years of the Jesus Movement and throughout the 70’s; can you explain what made those times different than we see today?
JW: Many, so many hearts and lives were touched in the 70's and the hunger to know the reason for life seemed to run deep. It was so ripe for a revival. It is an incredible thing when the Holy Spirit moves and works. It is truly Not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit. It is also an awesome thing to realize that the same Holy Spirit who moved upon the face of the waters in Genesis, and fell on the 120 on the day of Pentecost, and who moved in the 70's is still working today. Jesus is still moving.
OW: This website is all about Christian "oldies" music - do you still listen to any of the older stuff?
JW: Not very often.
OW: What are your feelings on the whole CCM industry as we know it today?
JW: Well, I used to be very opposed to it and all it represented. Don't really think of it that often any more. You know, during the early 70's, there really was no CCM industry.. There were no Dove Awards, no Christian top 40. In the early days of Maranatha Music, we didn't even have contracts. We actually thought of putting any royalties from all the group sales combined into a big pot and whoever needed rent money that month could be helped. It wasn't a record company business. It was a fellowship and a ministry.
In the early 70's our role models for ministry were Pastor Chuck Smith and all he had to say and teach, Love Song and some of the other groups, but mainly the book of Acts and the rest of the Word. In Acts the thirteenth chapter it says that as Paul and Barnabas ministered unto the Lord and fasted that the Holy Spirit spoke to them and they were sent out on a missionary journey. They didn't go to get exposure or because they put out a new C.D., or had one good paying gig and wanted to fill in the calendar with more paying gigs. No, they went because the Holy Spirit led them. Paul said that the love of Christ constrained him. It was this love that motivated his activity. Not selfish ambition. Or trying to build some sort of career. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
OW: Do you keep in touch with any Jesus Music artists from the old days?
JW: There are some who I see or talk with on occasion, Oden Fong, Pedro, Darrell Cook (Mustard Seed Faith), Chuck Girard, Tommy Coomes (Love Song), Malcolm (Malcolm & Alwyn), Gary Arthur, Alex MacDougall (The Way), Debbie & Ernie (Psalty), Darrell Mansfield (Gentle Faith), Matthew Ward (2nd Chapter) and a number of others.
OW: I know you've led worship in your church for a long time. Tell us about your activities these days. Do you still perform in concert? If so, what is a typical concert like and how can people contact you for bookings?
JW: Both my wife and I have been leading in worship for the last 18 years in a full time capacity. I am presently an associate pastor on staff at Maranatha Chapel in Rancho Bernardo. And yes, we still do concerts as time permits. We have three kids and are very busy. Thank You Lord!!! We could be reached at the church (619) 613-7800.
OW: What advice could you give to young musicians starting out in the music ministry today?
JW: Get into the Word of God and wait on the Lord in prayer for your ministry.
OW: Can you tell us a little about your future plans? Any new music in the works?
JW: Lisa and I are looking towards another album this year. We are also discussing a record label out of the church. There is much talent around there these days.
OW: Tell us a little about your family, hobbies, interests, etc.
JW: As I said, three children. Evan is 17 (plays piano and guitar and writes and leads in worship and wants to be in the ministry). Philip is 14 (plays guitar and leads in worship and wants to serve the Lord with all his heart) and Jillan is 12 (sings on the Jr. High worship team and wants to grow in the Lord). We are so blessed with our children. They are amazing. My wife and I just had our 20th anniversary!!!! Our hobbies and interests change from time to time - but we do have them - I guess!
OW: John, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. Any parting thoughts to our readers?
JW: Jesus is coming soon!!!