“Always Jesus People”  – The Soundtrack:

More Sound Samples, Stories, and Photos

         The “Always Jesus People” article is both a record of what I saw God doing in my generation and a testimony of my personal spiritual journey. This supplement allows me to share more personally my musical and spiritual influences, and give tribute to the remarkable people who helped to put a song in our hearts. Unfortunately, many of the audio clips were recorded under poor conditions on inferior equipment, so in some cases newer recordings were used here. They nevertheless give me a chance to share with you many of those wonderful songs that served as mileposts on my spiritual journey.  I am amazed at how many different people were sources for the music we experienced, and each one was a unique blessing to the community of believers, and an inspiration to me.  Thanks for coming along!

The author in a quiet moment at Camp Woody, 1971.  The famous “guitar flower” hangs from the Lyle classical guitar.

 

Ruben Hillborn, “The Singing Fisherman”

           Near the dawn of my involvement in music, in the summer of 1968, I met Alaskan Country Gospel artist Ruben Hillborn, “the Singing Fisherman.”  Born in Chignik, he and his family moved to Kodiak in the mid-1960’s, and in the summer of 1968, he ministered at Camp Woody. A hard-core “Roots Country” artist before the style even had a name, Ruben had gone on tour a few years earlier as an opening act for the great Jim Reeves. But by the time I met him, he was not in the least interested in the secular Country scene, and was one of the most committed believers I had yet encountered.  His way with an old hymn was revolutionary at the time, because he used an aggressive guitar style as opposed to the organ or piano that I was more familiar with.  But what impressed me most was that he wrote and sang original songs about Jesus, songs that were infectious and memorable.  I never felt comfortable singing in his style (although bits and pieces of it have slipped in!), but I certainly sang his songs, and my approach to old hymns owes a lot to his ministry.

From left: Ruben Hillborn playing my horrible Montgomery Wards guitar , leading worship at Camp Woody in 1968, and giving a concert with his band at the “Open Door” coffee house in 1972.

 

           Years later, Ruben (who had since moved his family to Anchorage) returned to Kodiak with a full Country band, and they did a series of concerts around Kodiak.  They even gave a nice concert for us at “The Open Door” coffee house.  Once again, I was impressed with Ruben’s infectious songwriting and powerful, sincere delivery.  He didn’t sing a song, or deliver a song; he positively OWNED it, putting his own unique stamp on everything he sang. His honest and unselfconscious witness and straightforward singing approach was very appealing, and I learned a lot from watching him.  The two sound sample medleys were carefully restored in my studio, transferred from several rather poorly-recorded LP’s he released on private labels. After that is a hymn track that Kelly and I recorded (on the Evangel, no less!) that I learned from Ruben back in the summer of 1968.

 

Sound Sample: Ruben Hillborn Medley One (from his 1970 debut LP)

 

Sound Sample: Ruben Hillborn Medley Two (from several later LP’s)

 

Sound Sample: Each Step I Take - Tim and Kelly Smith (learned from Ruben, recorded in 1976)

The “Truth Paper” featured a spread  on the “JC and Company” in June, 1972.  They came to Kodiak that August, held concerts, and led the “Jesus March” featured in the “Always Jesus People” article.

Sound sample:  “Psalm 47” (Sing Praises) sung by J. C. & Company (from a poorly-dubbed cassette called “Come On Inside” released by the band. This is the song we used the most.)

Sound sample: “Alcemos Canciones a Dios” (Sing Praises) (the English verse from the Spanish version of “Psalm 47,” translated by David Johnson, a sample from the “Por Eso Es Que Canto” CD: click here for more information.)

Sound sample: “Come On Inside” sung by J. C. & Company (from a poorly-dubbed cassette called “Come On Inside” released by the band.)

Sound sample: “A Jesus Song” One of J. C. & Company’s great songs, from a demo/practice tape by Tim and Kelly Smith, Camp Woody, 1975

Sound sample: “Stayed on Jesus” learned from the band, sung by Tim and Kelly Smith, recorded on the Evangel, 1976

From a Radio Broadcast: (Complete Song) Higher and Higher (J. C. And Company)

Mike Premo Sermon: Excerpt One and Excerpt Two (from a radio broadcast in Anchorage in the early ’70’s, courtesy of Chris Myers, who provided the cassette tape)

John Hicks

           One of those “I was there when...” stories in my life was the excitement of experiencing the songs of John Hicks as he wrote them and shared them with the Jesus People of Kodiak.  John Hicks was originally from Arkansas, and was one of the Navy fellows who began attending our Bible studies, right at the time they began to grow.  His songs were like the soundtrack of our revival, and we adopted each one, singing them in our meetings, on the streets, at the Ferry Dock, and of course, at Camp Woody.  Over the course of a year, he produced seven songs, all of which were singable and meaningful.  

           His first, “The Lord is My Savior,” was a beautiful love song to Jesus. “Clap Your Hands” was a favorite of our street meetings. “(He Filled My Heart With) Love” was a sweet calypso-flavored number that I later helped translate into Spanish.

Complete Song: “The Lord is My Savior” John Hicks and Larry Shelton, with oil can bass by Tim Smith, summer, 1971

           “He Pulled Me Out of Trouble” was his personal testimony set to a driving folk-rock beat, and I later used it as the opening track on the Love and the Mercy CD (and got to pay him royalties!)  “No One May Come” was a folk-y rewrite of John 14:6.

Sound Sample: “He Pulled Me Out of Trouble” by the Stone Table String Band, 1999

Complete Song: “No One May Come” Tim and Debbie Smith with Bruce Adams, bass, 1982

            John’s “He’s a Friend of Mine” (not to be confused with the Wilson McKinley tune of similar title) was a celebration of fellowship and the community of believers.  The sound sample includes two of the three verses. “One Lonely Man” traced the agony of the crucifixion and the glory of Easter morning in one of the most dramatic songs of the time.  

Sound Sample (2 verses): “He’s a Friend of Mine” Tim and Kelly Smith, 1978

Complete Song: “One Lonely Man” Tim and Kelly Smith, 1975

            His last composition, “This is the Man,” begins on Easter morning and continues through several other post-resurrection appearances, and was translated into Spanish on the “Por Eso Es Que Canto” CD. The last sample is of John the singer, lending his fine baritone to the old folk spiritual, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” with an ending riff that he wrote.  

Complete Song: “This is the Man” the instrumental track from the 1976 “Por Eso Es Que Canto” sessions, with all vocal parts added by Tim in 2001 (sorry if it sounds a bit like the Gaither Vocal Band, but it needed a dramatic treatment!)

Complete Song featuring John Hicks the singer: His version of “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” with Larry Shelton on 2nd guitar, and me on “oil can” bass.

           Just a few songs, but they were our songs, and we did our best to share them with the world.  The sound samples above (including a few complete songs) plus the ones in the “Always Jesus People” article, document every song he wrote while he was with us.  When I last talked to John Hicks, he was still singing from time to time, but apparently he never wrote another song after he left Kodiak. God certainly blessed us with that burst of creativity which came at just the right time to energize our Jesus People revival!

John Hicks, ticket in hand, prepares to leave Kodiak in August of 1971.  He left us with a lot of good music and inspiration. Barometer Mountain and a Sikorsky helicopter are in the background!

Tim and Kelly: “Our” Songs

          My brother Kelly learned to play the electric bass in the summer of 1973, and began working with me to lead music at Camp Woody.  One voice, one nylon-stringed guitar, one inexpensive bass with an even less expensive amp. But we nevertheless developed a huge repertoire of songs that became meaningful to many people over the course of time that we served at camp.  Part of it may have been that we played music at least four times a day: after each meal, and at the evening worship services.  

           Soon we had a range from kid’s songs, Scripture songs, and praise choruses, to “special numbers” that the campers soon learned and sang with us.  Decidedly behind the times for someone who had just experienced Calvary Chapel or the Voice of Elijah ministry (or anywhere that could put together a real band), we were still truly ahead of our time for many of the churches in Kodiak, and for many of the visitors we had every summer.  But thanks to John Hicks and later to many of my songwriting college friends, we had an endless stream of really good songs.  I even wrote and sang a few, although I never considered myself a songwriter. Some of the sound samples below are of vintage recordings (usually on horrible equipment) done by my brother and I in spare moments between camps in the years we served at Camp Woody.

Tim, Bruce, and Debbie (and the Stone Table String Band): The music goes on!  

           Debbie and I got married and moved to California in 1978. Our friend Bruce, who had served at Camp Woody in 1974 and 1975, lived nearby.  He took up the electric bass, and he and I began playing some of those classic songs (and learning new ones).  Thanks to his inspiration, we were able to record many of the wonderful songs that Kelly and I had done years before. We produced several albums of “Homemade Music” in the 1980’s, that we gave as Christmas gifts. And Debbie sometimes joined us, her sweet alto adding a new dimension to the songs.

             In 1999 and 2000, Bruce joined other friends and me in recording the Stone Table String Band CD: The Love and the Mercy. Kelly also got to help out on that CD, bringing everything full circle!  Since Bruce and I  always strove for a group sound, all of those classic recordings on CD go by the title of Stone Table String Band (“Tim, Bruce, and Debbie” not being a real catchy band name!). Please follow the links at the bottom to hear more sound samples or order the CD’s.

            Some of the sound samples below include songs originally done at Camp Woody with my brother, re-created in good, clear recordings with Bruce.  Kelly and I were the original team, but we almost never had good recording equipment. Thanks to Bruce’s encouragement, which kept me singing and recording, many of those classic songs have been preserved for all to hear. And pardon my saying so, but we really did have a lot of great songs!

Kelly Smith (left) and Tim Smith in 1976 (with the famous “guitar flower”)

J. C. & Company (Alaska’s First Jesus Rock Band)

          The J. C. & Company band from the Abbot Loop Community Church in Anchorage only operated for about a year and a half, but had a strong impact on the believers in Kodiak. Their August, 1972 ministry in Kodiak was electrifying, the music was great, the preaching was inspired, and the songs they shared certainly burned themselves into our memories.  I immediately adopted several of their songs for use at Camp Woody, and later helped translate one of them when I made a bilingual Spanish-English praise album with friends in 1976.  The sound samples from the band come from one of the most poorly-dubbed cassettes I’ve ever owned, and don’t do justice to the fabulous sound the band had in live performance.  Other samples show how my friends and I used their songs in our music ministries over the years.

The band’s only known release (the source of all the samples in the two articles) was this very lo-fi mono cassette.  The graphic is of the entire outside case, and features an impressive list of original numbers, peppy rewrites of traditional  and pop material, and two cover songs from California’s legendary “Love Song”. This is kind of what you would expect from a band experimenting with the brand-new art form of Jesus Rock. But in live ministry they greatly encouraged the believers in Kodiak and across Alaska, and the songs they gave us still sound great!  Note the straightforward preaching of Mike Premo, too.

Some Signature Songs:

Complete song:  One Thing Right (Tim and Kelly, 1975 - from the Lundstroms)

Sound sample:  Stagecoach (Tim and Bruce, 1982 - by Tom Stipe. From the “Old Tracks” CD)

Sound sample: Gospel Road (Tim and Bruce, 1989 - by Johnny Cash, from the “Old Tracks” CD)

Original Songs Written by Tim or his Friends:

Complete song:  To a Precious Lord (written by college friend Gideon Kohler)

Sound sample: David and Goliath (written by college friend Larry Wagner, and played by Tim and Bruce in 1982. This song is featured on the “Old Tracks” CD.)

Sound sample: Jesus Lives (Tell It!) Written by Gideon Kohler, but our version never went past the practice stage.  This song has such a “Jesus People” style and energy about it!

Complete song: “With My Whole Heart” (Tim and Kelly, 1976 - written by Tim)

Complete song: “Even More (A Rebirthday Song)” (Tim and Kelly, 1976 - written by Tim)

Bruce Adams (left) and me in the 1980’s, the timeframe of the recordings he and I did together.  Bruce loved the songs Kelly and I had done at Camp Woody, and we were both delighted to work together to make some pretty decent recordings of those Camp Woody classics.  Many of the tracks sampled here and a lot of other great tunes he and I recorded (sometimes joined by my wife Debbie) are now available on a newly-released CD called “Old Tracks: the Best of Homemade Music” available at the CD Music Page link at the bottom of this page.

The singing bunker on Long Island in this 1973 photo

Two songs recorded in a World War II bunker on Long Island, Alaska (just past Woody Island – see the Camp Woody page for more about those excursions)

Sound sample: “Father, I Adore You” (With the Senior High campers of 1975)

Complete song: “Sparrow (His Eye is on the Sparrow)” Bruce Adams joins me and my 12-string in 1976 to sing this Wilson McKinley song, taking advantage of the marvelous acoustics of the old abandoned ammunition storage bunker

Some Folk-Style Songs:

Sound sample:  Let Me Fly (Tim and Kelly laid down the basic track in 1975, and in 1976 Tim added a mandolin track to the original mono. This song was learned from Camp Woody counselor Tim Genung in 1973, and is an example of some of the songs we sang for fun in-between camps.)

Sound sample: Ser Como Cristo / To Be Like Jesus (Two verses of a Camp Woody favorite featuring Kelly’s bass licks. This folk chorus came to Camp Woody from Tim’s involvement in the Mexical Outreach of Azusa Pacific University. This rather sedate version was recorded at Camp Woody.  For an all Spanish, peppy version, check out the sound samples for the “Por Eso Es Que Canto” CD, available at this web site.)

Complete song: Jesus Was a Carpenter (This song came off of a 1970 Johnny Cash album, and I learned its free-form verses and rhythm and sang it at Camp Woody.  It became a favorite of the staff and the older campers.  This was recorded in the dining hall with Kelly in 1975.)

Sound sample:  There’s Been a Great Change (We learned this camper favorite from Evelyn Heflen , who served at camp in the 1960’s. I was just learning the banjo when Kelly and I recorded this with the Jr. Hi Camp in 1975. Their enthusiasm completely overwhelmed our recording equipment!)

Complete song: Thy Lovingkindness  (Tim with Mitch Brandon, a splendid vocalist and instrumentalist, who recorded this Camp Woody worship favorite with me in 1995. This “Scripture song” taken from Psalm 63, verses 3 and 4, was one of many we incorporated into our worship while Kelly and I were leading the worship in the 1970’s. Now we need Kelly or Bruce to add bass!)

More Songs to be Sung:

The photo above shows me (left) with picking buddy Mitch Brandon at their Sequoia R. V.  Park in Three Rivers, California.  Mitch and I have worked together off and on since 1995, and he was the one who introduced me to the Southern California Walk to Emmaus, where I volunteered for many years.  We recorded an almost complete album of great songs in the late 1990’s, and maybe someday that will see the light of day.  One song dates back to the time of the article, so I included that in this sound page.  

There are many great musicians and songwriters out there, and I hope that this site can feature many of them in the future.  It’s been an honor to work with folks like my brother Kelly and our friend Bruce Adams, and to have been blessed by the ministry of folks like Ruben Hillborn and the band J. C. And Company.  I have other musical friends like Mike Mooney that keep writing fantastic songs. I hope this sound supplement has been a blessing to you!

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