Joyful Noise

Chapter 15 in “Memoirs of a Jesus Freak”

Music, predominantly guitar music, was prominent in the JPM. Early in 1968, I began learning to play the guitar, never picking up bass or lead, but learning just enough chords to play most of the Jesus songs. During that period I wrote a few simple choruses, and I notice that some of them are still sung to this day.

At Excelsior Baptist Church in Byron we sang hymns with a piano accompaniment. The same had been true at First Baptist at Fairfield. At the Bible studies, however, the guitar was the mobile instrument of choice, and the music was modeled on the rock and roll we had all grown up with. Bands quickly emerged that wrote and played their own songs, and the band we formed out of my Tuesday night Bible study was called Joyful Noise. Greg Beumer, Rick Ricketts, Kenny Sanders, Jeanine Wright, Donna Hays, Malcolm Dawes, Tommy Gaulden, Gary Bartholomew, Jimmy Ayala, Linda Fritz Patton, Mary Kay Herb, Mark Buckley, Kris Kenner, Kenny Hopkins, and others made up Joyful Noise over a period of four years. I played rhythm guitar and sang lead. (My childhood severe ear infections served me well in Joyful Noise and as a preacher, because to compensate for my hearing loss I developed a loud, strong voice.)

Undoubtedly, the most productive and fun years of my life were those spent in the ministry of Joyful Noise. We were not musically polished, but we wrote most of our own music and were equipped to play anywhere, anytime. We played at nearly all the high schools in Marin County, at many churches, and on the street, in parks, in private homes, and even once in San Quentin State Prison.

Joyful Noise had a growing reputation for performing and preaching at drug abuse assemblies in high schools. We would set up and quickly play a song or two—songs like “You’ll Never Get to Heaven on LSD”; “Oh Holy Joe”; “The Christian Way of Life”; “There’s a Great Day Coming”; “One Name”; “Jesus, Jesus, When I Hear that Golden Name”; and “This Little Light of Mine.” Then one of us would give a testimony, followed by another song or two, then another testimony, until I would finally preach a short sermon and give the standard appeal. Time and again, nearly the entire audience to whom we were singing would respond and be apparently converted.

One event stands out in my mind.

Glenn County school system in Northern California invited us to spend an entire day at their high school of 95 students. After the assembly, where we played our music and gave testimonies, we split up into groups of two and visited every classroom for more testimonies and Q and A. At the end of the day we added up lists of names totaling 96 people who had made a commitment to Christ, one more than the student body. I sent these names and addresses with phone numbers to a local ministerial association for follow up. It was quite a joyful ride home for Joyful Noise.

We Travel Afar

Due to the influence of Cora Vance, a wonderful Christian lady I had met at a Women’s charismatic meeting where I had spoken in Atlanta, Georgia, the Atlanta school district hired us to conduct drug abuse assemblies at each of their high schools. It took us three weeks to complete the circuit, holding at least two assemblies each day. On one such occasion, we were scheduled for an assembly during first period in the school’s gym. En route, we lost our way and arrived late. When we opened the door to the gym we found it packed wall to wall with kids sitting silently, patiently on the benches, at least 2,000 of them. In silence we set up the band. Guitars were not in tune, we had no time to warm up voices or tune instruments, and the time was slipping away. We were introduced, I made some sort of apology for being late, and we opened up with a couple of songs, which we performed badly. It was apparent we had to shut down.

One of our Joyful Noise crew, a seventeen-year-old newcomer named Kenny Hopkins, stepped forward to sing and play “Jesus, Jesus, When I Hear that Golden Name.” It is a slow, quiet, meditative song, almost like a love song to Jesus, and when Kenny was finished he said a few words and stepped back. The time was gone, the bell for the second period was ringing, and I simply asked anyone who wanted to be a follower of Jesus to stand up. The entire place responded, teachers and students alike. No sound, no excitement. My few sentences lasted less than a minute. Even today it thrills me. At this point in my life I would not count all those who stood to have been converted. Yet, in the JPM the Spirit of God was poured out in unusual ways. Times of awakening are not like normal times.

Besides the assemblies at the Atlanta area high schools, Joyful Noise played at churches in the evenings and walked onto the campuses of prominent colleges such as Emory University, presenting our typical song and testimony formula. The results were mixed or unknown, but whenever we set up and started, crowds gathered.

Cora Vance had arranged for us to play somewhere south of Atlanta—Rome being the name of the city I think—at a Southern Baptist school whose focus happened to be music. We arrived mid-morning and walked around the campus. I recall taking advantage of extra time to do some running. At noon they invited us to lunch in the student cafeteria, where many students joined with us for conversation. They were curious to see the hippie-looking Christians, not the usual appearance on that campus. Taped to the walls in the cafeteria we found flyers about our arrival that showed a picture of our band playing at the Protestant Chapel in San Quentin Prison.

The”concert” was scheduled for 3 p.m. We began practice around 2 p.m. and were overwhelmed by the beautiful, old music hall we found ourselves in. At 3 p.m. we looked out to see the hall utterly packed with students and faculty. A bad case of nervousness overcame all of us, and Malcolm was so impacted he had intestinal problems and wouldn’t come out of the bathroom. Time was slipping away. With no lead guitar we decided to do a few easy choruses. I was rarely nervous at high school presentations, but here I was almost shaking. We tried to open with “There’s a Great Day Coming,” a tune written by David Hoyt in 1967, but on my very first downward stroke on the guitar, I broke the bottom E string. I handed the guitar down to Gary Bartholomew and said a few things while the broken string was replaced. Then, starting again, I broke the very same string first strike down on the D chord.

Fighting panic, I smiled and said something like, “I guess the Holy Spirit wants something else.” So it was testimony time as usual. I was not able to gauge the impact of our work, but ever since that day I have often imagined our little band playing some of our songs in that rarified atmosphere.

For four years requests for Joyful Noise came in. We turned down more invitations than we accepted, only because we lacked the time. We never charged for this ministry, but money for food, gas, and lodging had a way of showing up. Once we spent a week at the University of Texas in Austin for a student-led religious week, sponsored by the Southern Baptist Student Union there. Also there that week was Maranatha, the lead band from Calvary Chapel, led by Chuck Girard. They were musically very good, and we were not, but it did not matter, as we saw many conversions during that week.

Requests for Joyful Noise slowed and finally stopped altogether, so we disbanded. That was 1972.

Above photo: In Berkeley—July 4, 1971

Memoirs of a Jesus Freak: Part 7 in the series “My years as a tongue speaker”

A transition in title is now necessary, and in this blog I will explain why.

Prior to a winter night late in 1968, at Soul Inn, at 2 o’clock in the morning (the story of which is yet to come), I had consigned anything to do with Pentecostalism to the nether regions, meaning that I thought such was error or even outright demonic. After that night I was a tongue speaker from 1968 to 1975. When I ceased speaking in tongues I continued to hold to its validity, as well as all the other charismatic gifts. It is simply that I stopped speaking in tongues, a ceasing I cannot explain.

I am not a “cessationist,” the definition of which is someone who believes that the charismatic gifts as listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 – at least the “power gifts” like speaking in tongues, prophecy, and miracles – are no longer operative and are also unnecessary due to the publication of the Bible. I never bought that idea, because I did not clearly see it in Scripture. I was tempted to do so – yes – since distortions of the charismatic gifts, especially prophecy, became all too flagrant.

Early on in the Jesus Movement, which was a designation originating from where I do not know, we called ourselves “Street Christians.” Our fields of labor were the streets of the big cities. For me it was San Francisco, specifically the Haight-Ashbury District, where the young and restless, those looking to expand their minds and explore the esoteric spiritualities, and sex and dope, were to be found. Sex and dope went hand in hand and likely became the major motivators for the majority, but there were definitely those who wanted to find God and assumend He was not to be found in the American churches. The causes for this are beyond the scope of this piece, but to identify with a “church” was not the thing to do.

I was a Baptist but I didn’t tell anybody that. For a period of time I avoided the term “Christian” as well. “A follower of Jesus” is how I described myself. Eastern religions were big, Buddhism more than Hinduism, but there was the Hare Krishna thing, and the Beatles made TM (Transcendental Meditation) popular for a time. There were so many isms out there then, and all of them were foreign and new to me. During 1967 I received so many rejections, sometimes beatings and threatening, that I felt like giving up and concentrating my efforts in Byron, but I kept on figuring that God had called me and I was not going to discourage easily.

Sometime in 1968 there was news coverage of what was going on. Some reporter used the phrase “Jesus Freak,” a tag I did not appreciate and rejected in favor of Street Christian. A more friendly term, “Jesus People” was coined along the way and I adopted that one. Later on, the whole thing that was going on then across the country was termed the “Jesus People Movement” or JPM. This worked for almost everyone

It is not clear to me when I realized that what I had been involved in was unusual. During my seminary years the great revivals of religion were taught but I had no idea that the JPM was actually one of those. It was only in looking back at it that I realized that the JPM was an awakening like the great awakenings America had experienced, and this realization came primarily through reading the books of David Martin Lloyd-Jones and, above all, Iain Murray.

In my book, Awakenings in America and the Jesus People Movement, I attempt to demonstrate that the JPM meets the requirements for inclusion in America’s great awakenings. (see

Jesus freak was not a term of derision, as it turned out. Everyone who sought after more than could be found in main street USA was a freak of some sort, even if it did not involve sex, dope, or far out religion. Artist, poet, musician, writer, occultist, astrologer, psychic, Satanist, monk, wanderer – these and more were considered part of the freakiness that seemed to offer more. I was really not one of these, as I had already found what I had been looking for, and I had no sense I had ever been looking for anything at all, as I thought I had it all.

The writing of this very blog is the first time I have embraced the term Jesus freak.

My Years as a Tongues Speaker: Part 6 – in Byron, CA

Byron is still a small farming community, a bend in the road, off Highway 4 in Contra Costa County between Brentwood and Tracy. A large development went in called Discovery Bay, but that was long after I was gone. In fact, the Excelsior Baptist Church  long ago disappeared, though the old building that once housed the Excelsior School and then the church is yet standing.

Toward the end of my first year as a seminarian I had a strong urge to pastor a church. Pastoring was what we, the young lions, were constantly talking about. We were either going to be missionaries or pastors, one or the other for sure. I wanted to pastor.

In a way I do not recall I put out word that I was looking for a church and received a call from Joe Smith, the area missionary, who offered me the chance to preach at the Excelsior Baptist Church in Byron. Was I ever excited, and I went right to work on a sermon that I was sure would cinch the deal. I was right, and quickly they “called” me as pastor and gave me a salary of $20 per week. On October 2, 1966 the church ordained me, and my old pastor, Bob Lewis, then pastor of First Baptist Church of Fairfield, California, preached the ordination sermon. My dad made the trip but my mother did not. My mother, though a staunch Methodist, never was born again, and this is not a charge against her but something she proclaimed loud and long. I never did figure that out.

After a few weeks David Hoyt began to accompany me to Byron. My practice was to travel up on Saturdays and Sundays, 75 miles one way, meaning 300-plus miles per weekend. I had arranged for weekends off from JC Penney & Co. between Mondays and Fridays. As I think about it now, I had begun a pattern that would essentially take me away from my family way too much. Here were doors opening up to me, which seemed to me to be by the Hand of God, yet in walking through them I was also harming my family. It is something I have had to live with and about which I have never come to any clear understanding.

David and I began seeing what we could do in the Byron area. For one thing we made contact with the local juvenile hall. David had tantamount to grown up in state institutions; California had, in a real sense, been his father and mother. He was quite at home visiting there, and before long the entire boys’ home was coming to church every other Sunday; the other Sunday they went to the local Methodist Church, the only other church in town.

Oddly, this did not sit well with the deacons, maybe because it took my attention away from them, yet I still visited every single household in the church at least twice a month.

The situation deteriorated when David and I started walking though the local migrant workers’ camp on Hwy 4 between Byron and Brentwood. One particular family quickly responded to the Gospel, a family of seven, who lived in a one room shack in the migrant settlement, and I baptized all of them. Soon other Mexican people were coming as well, and the church got crowded. Soon after this the deacons cut my salary to $10 a week.

Perhaps they knew more than I did, because trouble followed almost immediately. One Saturday morning I arrived at the church building alone without David to find that almost all the windows had been broken. Tomatoes from the fields that surrounded the building on three sides had found their way into the chapel and school rooms. It was a huge mess. I put out a call for help and soon most of the church members were on hand cleaning up the splattered tomatoes.

The next week, a time when David was with me, we entered the migrant workers’ housing area when two large German Shepherd dogs rushed out to attack us. It was a fight for life; David and I defended ourselves and fought them off, and after a while the dogs were whimpering and whining.  David and I were a complete mess: dirty, bloody, and plenty scratched up. None of the occupants of the camp, including those who had been attending church, emerged to help us except one elderly man who told us that the priest at the Catholic Church in Brentwood had put the dogs on us.

We drove to the church, cleaned up, then headed to Brentwood and the Catholic Church. Both David and I had grown up having to fight and stand up for ourselves. Parking in front of the church, we loudly called the priest out, and when he emerged we verbally let him have it, and in no uncertain terms. He knew we could have made a lot of trouble for him if we had gone to the police.

That turned out to the last time we had any trouble, and the migrant workers continued to come to church while the harvesting was going on.


My years as a tongue speaker: Part 4 – Bible study in the temple

Timothy Wu was a young and very evangelistic student at the seminary. Since we both were intent on direct personal evangelism, we became friends. He readily agreed to come with me to a Bible study at the Hindu temple.

As was my agreement with the temple officiates, we had to sit through the Kirtan before we could file down into the basement with David. After a prayer, I introduced Timothy and asked him to give the teaching. He started with how he had become a Christian and moved right into a very fine account of the Gospel message. He was speaking rapidly and passionately.

After the meeting broke up I headed upstairs, and after talking to some of the devotees for a while, I looked around for Timothy but didn’t find him. I went back down the steps to the basement and saw Timothy and David engaged in animated conversation. They were both yelling, and it looked like it might be the prelude to a fist fight. Seeing me watching them, they calmed and backed away from each other. Timothy walked toward me, and we both turned and walked up the stairs and out of the temple.

On the ride home we did not talk about what happened back in the basement. It was almost three weeks before I found out what transpired between David and Timothy.

Much later there was another ride home, and this time it was David and I on our way back to the seminary. David was silent for most of the ride, but as we were crossing the Golden Gate Bridge he told me what had happened between him and Timothy that night after the Bible study. Timothy had given him a prophecy, a word of revelation, that within three weeks God would take David out of the temple.
All I did was listen. David said that night he had a dream. He saw himself in a very large open space and peoples of the world were all around him. All of a sudden he heard a trumpet blast, and looking up he saw Jesus in the clouds with a host of angels. People all around him were lifting up their arms to receive Jesus, and as they did they floated up and joined Jesus in the air. David said that he looked at his own feet and they were planted on the ground. A fear rushed through him and he woke up to find that his makeshift basement altar was on fire. He tried to put it out but it was already too large to extinguish. He grabbed what he could and raced up the stairs. He ran down again, picked up some paint cans and a brush – supplies he had used to paint out the basement for his use – and began writing in large letters those Christian slogans I saw on the walls of the temple. As the fire trucks started to arrive, he found a phone and called me.

Now his life was going to be very different.

As a kind of endnote: Timothy Wu and I remained friends. He was the youth pastor at a Chinese Church in San Francisco, and he invited me to preach to their rather large assembly from time to time – and this while he was at the seminary. I remember now the last time that we did evangelism together. Dr. Francis DuBose, professor of missions and evangelism at Golden Gate Seminary, had become a friend and mentor to me. Sometime in 1968 I asked him and Martin (Moishe) Rosen, who later founded Jews for Jesus, to be on the board of directors of Evangelical Concerns. This was a vital group made up mostly of American Baptist pastors. It was about at that time that Dr. DuBose asked me to conduct a tour and evangelist foray in the Haight-Ashbury. I did this several times, and on the first of these Timothy Wu came along.

Timothy and I met the students on the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets, divided up into teams of two, and agreed to return in two hours bringing any converts with us. At the appointed hour the students began to arrive. I had two with me, none of the students had any, but Timothy came walking down the street with a whole group of hippie kids, twelve being the number I recall. We held a prayer and discipleship meeting right there on the street. Timothy preached and taught and so did I. A larger crowd gathered and more professed faith in Jesus.

This was the Jesus People Movement. And this was not the last time I would see something similar happen on that very street. But the description of some of those events will come along when I talk about Lonnie Frisbee.

My years as a tongue speaker: Part 3 – Fire in the temple

Racing into the City, down 19th Avenue, left on Masonic, right on Stanyon, left on Fredrick, and right away I could see the fire trucks and smell the smoke. I parked just up the street next to old Kesar stadium (home of the 49ers pro football team), jumped out, and ran to the door of the Hindu temple.

Fire hoses snaked into the temple from the fire truck, and people were running in and out. The place was chaotic. I stepped back and saw, in foot-high letters painted on the walls, Christian phrases like “Jesus is the Way,” “Lord Jesus Christ,” and more.

As I began to move in the direction of the basement where most of the activity was happening, David suddenly appeared carrying bags of his personal belongings and shouted at me to take the bags he was carrying, so he could dart back down the stairs to the basement. In a moment he was back carrying more bags, then we ran out into the sidewalk and down the street to my car, into which we threw David’s few possessions. We hustled back to the temple, David disappeared again, and I simply stood in the middle of the room contemplating this place of the Kirtan rituals and studied once again the altar for the offerings to various Hindu gods.

Then I noticed a little cluster of Hare Krishna devotees huddled in the back behind and to the right of the altar near the kitchen, which had been the source of some really good Indian food I had eaten. The little group of former hippies turned Krishna worshipers moved toward me and began yelling at me. I was a young man, not big but not small, and I stood my ground and faced them. At that point David rushed by carrying more stuff. As I turned to follow him, two of the devotees grabbed me from behind and shoved me up against the door of the temple. One had his hands on my throat and was squeezing as hard as he could. I was about out of breath when a fireman came up behind them and swatted them away. I fell down gasping for breath, and saw the devotees lying around on the floor after their brief encounter with a San Francisco fire fighter. I quickly gathered myself up and headed out the door and up the street to the car. David was there inside, so I jumped in, wheeled down the street, and eventually made our arrival at Mill Valley and 10A Judson Lane, Golden Gate Seminary.

The adventure had only just begun.

My years as a tongue speaker: Part 2 – The call to the hippies

During my years at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (Southern Baptist), I was anti-Pentecostal and did not yet know what was meant by “charismatic.” As far as I was concerned speaking in tongues was of a demonic origin, and short of that it was at least wrong doctrine. We had little or no fellowship with Pentecostals. In Marin County that would have been limited to the Assembly of God churches or maybe a Black Pentecostal church of some kind.

One night in February of 1967, while I was driving home from my part time job as shoe salesman at the J.C. Penny store in Corte Madera and while listening to Scott McKenzie’s “When you come to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair,” it was as though God spoke directly and personally to me: “Go to the hippies in San Francisco.” That was it and that was all. The very next day, a rainy Thursday evening, I did just that and the adventure began.

That night, while peering through the window of Hamilton United Methodist Church on Waller Street, a young hippie approached me and wanted to know if I wanted to meet someone who knew a lot about religion. I jumped at the chance, thinking this is the hand of God and said yes. He brought me just a few doors away to an old Victorian house and introduced me to David Hoyt. David was living in a house full of lesbians; he was the token male and body guard for the ladies, and his room was under the stairs that climbed up to the second floor. It was really just a janitor’s closet, but David had made it into a bedroom, which was probably about the same size as the jail cell at Lompoc Prison from which he had just recently been released. David had entered prison at age 19 as a biker with a conviction of drug smuggling from Mexico. He had become a jail house guru of sorts and had decided on Hinduism as his religion of choice. By the time I met David that evening, he had risen in the eyes of Swami Baktivadanti to being one of the chief devotees at the Hare Krishna Temple on Frederick Street, just blocks away from where David was then living.

We began a Bible study under the stairs, just David and I, but in a few weeks David moved to the basement of the Hare Krishna Temple. To continue the studies, I had to get permission from the swami. After a couple of meetings with the elderly man, he gave me permission to do the studies on the condition that I first had to attend the Kirtans, or Hindu worship service, after which I could hold the study.

More people started attending the studies, which continued for some months, until a Saturday morning when I received a phone call from David asking me to rush to meet him at the temple. I jumped in the old Ford station wagon and did just that.