Book Review: Rock & Roll Preacher by Chuck Girard
Though I bought Rock & Roll Preacher by Chuck Girard in January of 2022, I only now got a chance to sit down and read it, about six months after I placed this read on a shelf to read at a later date and time. I am a bit sad it took me so long to get to this book. Though once I started reading it, I finished this exciting book in just a day and a half, which undoubtedly is a witness to the encouraging and easy read this book is.
Chuck Girard truly was a pioneer in the early Southern California music scene. Despite a disadvantaged, and at times dysfunctional upbringing, it is undeniable that from a young age that Chuck found himself mesmerized by the beauty and power of music. Music was more than a capability or confidence he had in life; it was also his calling. This book follows his journey, a journey in which musical expression was also a companion for Chuck Girard as he journeyed towards finding himself, as well as finding his place amidst the pressures of societal polarization and upheaval, and music even became his companion on his journey of exploring curiosity about God (even if there was one), in an unforgettable era in which many musicians were breaking through cultural restraints and entering a similar journey for meaning and purpose.
Steadily rising to the Billboard charts with The Castells in the late 1950s, Chuck Girard also became an important and recognized studio musician and songwriting collaborator. Chuck worked alongside household names, including members of the Beach Boys and many other names that would easily be recognized by almost everyone in both the national and Southern California music scenes. Chuck’s growing notoriety and capacity as a musician, would also eventually land him a home in the 1960s, with a charting surf-rock group, The Hondells, and with several other talented and upcoming acts. Over the years, Chuck’s undeniable fingerprints and influence have been on many musicians, musical projects, and live events. Each chapter explores his personal story in great detail, exploring not only his musical endeavors and stories from his collaborations but also what he was thinking and wrestling with at the time.
Eventually, neither music nor flirting with mainstream success was satisfying enough for Chuck. As was common in the 1960s and 1970s, many individuals, especially in the musical sphere, began to search for greater meaning and purpose and ultimately for a different set of morals, ethics, and political understandings than they saw plaguing generations before. Like many of his counterparts, Chuck began to look for meaning and purpose anywhere it could be found, which led him on a spiritual search fueled especially by heavy drug and alcohol use, while experimenting with new cultural and sexual norms, and coinciding with an exploration of the teachings of various eastern religions, new age philosophies, and more. Chuck weaves his search for purpose and meaning throughout Rock and Roll Preacher, never missing important and interesting details.
Through hitchhikers and other unusual places and people, this doo-wop musician turned radical hippy begins to hear about a little country church in Southern California. That small country-style church was unusually welcoming to hippies and was emerging as a place where many people were beginning to say that they were finding greater purpose and meaning. In a quest for truth and out of general interest, Chuck Girard walks into a significant point of time, a time which will soon become the infamous intersection of the Jesus People movement and the church movement that would emerge from a little country church known as the Calvary Chapel.
This book follows Chuck as he encounters an unusual journey into Christianity, radically committing his life to Jesus, which was a countercultural move in such a time of civil unrest and sexual revolution. Neither full acceptance of Jesus nor the transformation of Chuck Girard happened overnight, but this read intriguingly introduces the way that the Holy Spirit began to plant seeds about God and a new way of living to Chuck, and honestly with many others who were around him at the time. I would say that this is an essential read for anyone who has had any level of interest or experience in the Jesus People movement, or interest or experience in the Calvary Chapel and Vineyard Church movements, two church movements that simultaneously emerged through similar synergy and through the influence of what God was doing at that moment.
Perhaps, for many, Chuck Girard is known most for his work with the iconic Jesus Movement band, Love Song, and this book will explore those musical endeavors (and all the backstories) as he explores the story of his band that carried a unique anointing from God, an anointing of proclamation, healing, and worship. These pages drip with evidence of the Spirit of God at work, and of the healing that was realized despite some very trying moments, but the book is raw, vulnerable, and transparent, keeping nothing from the reader. Among my favorite parts of this book were the stories of others in this era, that were involved in these scenes, including those who have indirectly influenced my sojourn journey, such as Lonnie Frisbee, Chuck Smith, Kenn Gulliksen, and many others. This book explores the way it was for Chuck and the Jesus People movement.
Personally, I connect with stories from individuals like this, because I was someone who went on a similar spiritual sojourn in my twenties, with my own musical endeavors as a companion, before I ended up finding transformative encounters with God in the Vineyard Church movement. I admit that I am always inspired by those who also sojourned in a similar way, a few generations before me, but I can still highly recommend reading this written journey. Sadly, I remember walking by Chuck Girard during a musical event, and never took the time to introduce myself. Perhaps our paths will cross once again on this side of eternity.