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
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
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)
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.
“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
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.
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!)
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.
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)
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
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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