GMA Journal: Tuesday, April 8

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Randy Stonehill has been called an icon in Christian music. Although he finds the
moniker amusing, there is dome truth in the statement. How many Christians artists – or
any other artists for that matter – can show 32 years of a successful recording career
that is still viable today? Asked what he finds best and worst changes over the 32 years
of CCM history, Stonehill says, “I think the diversity of musical styles and an
excellence in recording that parallels anything else in the mainstream are the greatest
changes in the industry today.” On the flip side Randy says the negative changes are
“too much focus on commerce and less focus on the foundational elements that
strengthen the growth of the industry.”
Randy has found a whole new audience in the children of his first audience. “People
who came to my concerts when they were children are returning today with their own
children,” says Stonehill. I take that as a real compliment.” Randy says that kids 4-10
really connect with him. “They see the big kid in you.” This has led to Randy’s newest
project, Uncle Stonehill’s Hat, a CD that is a prototype for a series of videos and
books directed at children. We will run the full interview soon – stay tuned!

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After spending a fun 45 minutes with Randy, I headed over to the Wildhorse saloon for
the Ministry Partners International luncheon. This stellar event featured a delicious meal
and some of the finest entertainment and talent I have experienced this year. One
exciting veteran act after another took the stage, proving that the veterans are cranking
out some of the most exciting songs in CCM. Our delightful emcees were Dick and
Mel Tunney who provided delightful music and comments between acts.

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First up were
the Imperials, 40 year veterans of the Christian music industry. With strong vocals and
tight-woven harmonies, the Imperials reminded us that Jesus is coming soon.

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Next up was popular Memphis native son, Clay Crosse who sang such noteworthy songs as
“When I Am Afraid,” and “Purify Me.”
Following Clay, Dick Tunney told a true story about how his daughter was involved in a serious
wreck, and how the Lord used that to begin teaching him and Mel it was time to start
letting her go. This led into the touching “Let Them Fly” with lyrics that tell parents to
“have no fear at all; I will catch them when they fall.”
The founder of Reborn Records, Stephen Alexandersen, had a short set due to technical
problems, but his high-energy performance featured powerful vocals, a unique style,
and a strong testimony. Having spent many years away from the Lord, Stephen had his
heart turned around at a Billy Graham crusade, and Stephen brought church to the
Wildhorse, getting Pentecostal on his crowd in the process. Stephen certainly embodied
the zeal promised in GMA Week.

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Probably the most anticipated act to some and the most surprising to others was Rick
Derringer. A couple of generations ago, Derringer was most famous for his hit “Hang
on Sloopy” and “Rock ‘n Roll Hoochy Koochy.” Now Derringer sings about Jesus and
the “Rock ‘n Roll Hoochy Koochy” has turned into “Read the Word, Live It Too!” “I
don’t want to be an idol,” Rick told his audience. “I’ve been there and that didn’t do
anyone any good.” Rick’s voice sounds like Bryan Duncan belting out the strongest
rock vocals imaginable and Rick’s mastery of the guitar has to be seen and heard to be
believed. Rick brings classic rock, strong vocals, stellar guitar licks, and years of
showmanship to the stage. Combine that with the Gospel message and you have one
very powerful performance.

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J.J.. Jasper from Kentucky provided the comedic interlude for the luncheon, telling us
such jokes as discovering a men’s cologne that’s irresistible to women because it smells
like WalMart. Another joke that garnered enthusiastic applause was Jasper’s musing,
“Suppose when we bombed the bunker we didn’t kill Saddam but he lost a leg. Can you
imagine how the body doubles will feel?”

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Eric Horner was up next, best know for his patriotic songs and his country style. He
encouraged the crowd to “hit your knees and pray” in “Prayer Warrior” and got the
lunch bunch up on our feet for “We Will stand.”

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Second Call: Last but not least was Bonnie Keen who along with Mel Tunney
was one of the founding members of the beloved group First Call. One of the
highlights of the
afternoon was seeing Mel and Bonnie performing together again on “The River.” It was
nostalgic as well as entertaining to hear their voices bland together again, and it was
good to see Bonnie smiling her Goldie Hawn smile. A strong song for Bonnie was
“When God Says No” which assures us, “There is hidden affirmation when God says no.”
Her final song was a benediction with exquisite, ethereal vocals that I would not mind
hearing again and again and again. This was a truly memorable event and a fine
example of the best GMA has to offer.
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