Vineyard Worship - The Early Years - Part 2

During the early years of what was then Calvary Chapel Yorba Linda, a meeting was rarely held that didn’t commence with worship. All of our small groups had worship leaders, so lots of people had to be trained. As a result, I began what I called “Worship Leader Fellowships.” Those who participated in these fellowships would bring their guitars and we would all play the songs together. Getting everyone in tune with each other was a trip.

In 1980 Cindy Rethmeier and I developed what we called “Worship Leader Training Tapes.”   Cindy and I recorded these tapes in bathroom at the Wagner’s house, where our church office was located. Jim Thomas, our sound guy, was in the other room with a reel-to-reel recorder. The recordings started with me plunking away at each guitar string so people could tune their guitars to the tapes and play along. They were not exactly the type of thing you would find on a Paul Baloche web site! To this day I will hear that someone has one, or both of these tapes we did, and honestly I'd hate to hear them, but for the time they were a useful tool and people devoured them. This was very consistent with everything we did in ministry; it was in our DNA to document everything so others could be equipped with our resources.

In 1982 two very significant events took place in our ministry: we left the Calvary Chapel Movement to become a Vineyard Christian Fellowship and Vineyard Music was launched. I am going to just discuss the latter and will save the departure from Calvary Chapel for another time. Vineyard Music emerged with the recording of our first two albums. I was blessed to have the title cuts on both projects---- He's Worthy To Be Praised and All The Earth Shall Worship. Ron Tutt, who was the drummer for Elvis, and has been the drummer for Neil Diamond from 1981 to present, produced these recording. He attended our church and would fill in on drums when Dick Heying couldn't make it. Both albums were produced over a two-week period of time using studio musicians and singers from our church. Eddie, John, or I wrote most of the songs; it was honestly pretty cool to be a part of something like that. I would have never imagined having my songs recorded and distributed around the world.

In May of 1983 I left for the Central Coast of California to join the staff of the San Luis Obispo Vineyard as worship leader and assistant pastor. The whole worship team thing was still in its infancy. I was considered one of the more experienced worship leaders, and played a role in its development. It was really ironic that I would go to San Luis Obispo rather than some other place because I followed of all people, Danny Daniels! Danny played a major role in the early Jesus Movement and its music. He was and still is a wonderful worship leader. He is a great guitar player and a real musician; following him as worship leader was like Pat Boone following Church Berry!

When I left what was then the Yorba Linda Vineyard, there were a lot of people who expressed concern about what would happen with the worship. I can tell you with absolute certainty that there was one that wasn't concerned, John! He was that way. If God was moving someone along, he let him or her go without any problem, so much so you could almost get the feeling that he was glad to see you go. But it wasn't that; it was his simple trust that this was God's thing and he would provide. Well, provide he did. When I left, Eddie Espinosa stepped in and led for the next seven years. Eddie is a much, much more talented and gifted musician that I am. There is no humility in this statement; it's just the truth. He was the perfect person at the perfect time to move this thing forward.

When I moved up to the Central Coast I met a guy named Randy Rigby. Randy’s extraordinary musicianship was well known throughout contemporary Christian music circles as he was a member of Bethlehem, a Christian band led by Danny Daniels. He also performed and toured with other Christians musicians such as Bob Ayala and Oden Fong. I introduced Randy to John in London while we were at Westminster Central Hall. I remember riding in a taxi with John and Randy when John asked Randy if he would move to Southern California and begin producing Vineyard Music. Randy couldn't pack his toothbrush fast enough.

The next two projects were produced by Randy and were titled Just Like You Promised and You Are Here. They were far superior in production values to our earlier recordings (which were crammed into a two week window) and were our first truly commercial worthy projects. Without a doubt things were progressing and developing and moving forward as Vineyard Music matured. Randy played such a key role in this development and I never feel as if he gets the credit he deserves.

It was exciting to have a part in these early projects. Looking back I can see what an impact that these early recordings had on the development of contemporary Christian worship music.