Rock ’n’ roll that’ll preach
Chuck Girard’s autobiography details his role in Jesus music’s beginnings
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Chuck Girard, a founding member of the seminal Christian rock band Love Song, wanted to call his 1975 solo debut Rock and Roll Preacher. But Word Records told him no Christian bookstore would touch anything labeled “rock and roll.” So it became simply Chuck Girard.
That anecdote and many others populate Girard’s recently published and eminently readable autobiography, the title of which should come as no surprise.
Rock & Roll Preacher: From Doo-Wop to Jesus Rock (Worldwide Publishing) chronicles Girard’s pre– and post–Jesus music ups and downs as well as the development of Jesus music itself. That its appearance dovetails with a soon-to-be-completed Love Song documentary and the upcoming 50th anniversary of Love Song’s eponymous debut is, according to Girard, a coincidence.
“None of the projects were coordinated,” Girard told me. “The documentary has been in the works since 2017. And I’ve been working on the book for 30 years.”
Girard “got really serious” about finishing Rock & Roll Preacher during the last five years, and initial feedback has been positive.
CHUCK GIRARD ON LOVE SONG: “Love Song was always about winning souls.”
Besides diving deep into the role Pastor Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel played in fostering what would eventually morph into Contemporary Christian Music, Rock & Roll Preacher details Girard’s upbringing and his pre-conversion brushes with stardom as a member of the Letterman-foreshadowing Castells and the Beach Boys post-shadowing Hondells.
It also details his quintessentially ’60s search for enlightenment, replete with gurus, eccentric diets, and enough drugs to have turned Girard into a zombie. That they didn’t was just one of the miracles leading up to his rebirth.
“I wasn’t hesitant to get into the drug topics,” says Girard, “but I was cautious about how far to go in revealing details. My wife and I went through that section carefully, as we didn’t want to stumble anybody.”
Girard also writes candidly about his two post-conversion bouts with alcoholism, each of which nearly derailed his marriage and his ministry. Now, with 20 consecutive years of sobriety under his belt, his marriage is stronger than ever.
COVID-19 has put a crimp in his rock ’n’ roll preaching. “When churches closed,” he says, “my invitations dried up.”
To take up the slack, he has experimented with podcasting. “But,” he admits, “live was a lot more fun.”
As for that looming Love Song 50th anniversary, Girard concedes that the group’s 2010 box set Book of Love, Disc 5 of which contains “pretty much all the unreleased material,” may have stolen the occasion’s thunder. But the group’s legacy rolls on.
“Evangelism motivated everything that we did,” he said of the group.
“And if we had the opportunity to go out again, it would still be that way today.”
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