There was no central church to which they belonged, but several opened their doors to the Jesus people. Since most converted from the hippie lifestyle, music was central to their subculture. In fact, they wrote, produced, and distributed their own songs, and many groups were proud to wear the label. The most memorable of the early years was Love Song, a group that formed prior to participating in the movement. They toured heavily in the early 1970s, and due to their success, as well as that of others, the contemporary Christian music industry evolved, and this, in turn, changed the nature of worship and even liturgy. Since it eventually became more business than ministry, many bands ultimately broke up, including Love Song. Their first, self-titled release (1972) remained the best-selling gospel album in the country for over a year, and it is considered one of the seminal Christian records of all time. It was produced for Freddie Piro’s new label, Good News, at Gold Star Studios, famous as the site that both Phil Spector and the Beach Boys used.
This album set the standard, one they followed with a second release, “Final Touch” (1974). While less conceptual, each song told its own story, since some were remainders from the first record. After disbanding, Love Song reunited in 1994 and produced another album called, “Welcome Back.” The group’s music was unique, and no one could have imagined that these pioneers were forging the birth of a new era in gospel music. Central to the band was Chuck Girard (born August 27, 1943); he was raised in Los Angeles but his family settled in Santa Rosa, north of San Francisco. Since he was already involved in the music business, Chuck eventually adopted the hippie lifestyle. In 1969, he joined three other players from popular house bands and formed Love Song. They became an integral part of the Jesus Movement of the seventies and frequently headlined at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa; in many ways it was the iconic church to emulate. After disbanding, Chuck became a successful solo artist with several albums to follow.
I was a young enthusiast and espoused many of their causes; the only problem was they resided primarily in southern California and I lived in the Bay Area. Furthermore, I was a freshman in high school with no experience in the hippie culture; however, the church I attended occasionally played host to the most influential leaders of the movement. What made the greatest impact on me was the music produced at the beginning of the seventies; I was immediately drawn to Love Song, especially to the voice of Chuck Girard. Therefore, when they performed at the local university in 1976, I saw them in concert, together with half of the youth group. One of the earliest programs aired on “God Talk” (July 20, 2008) featured Chuck Girard. We met mid-week, the only time he was available, and I played the pre-taped recording as if live in the studio. I asked about the early years prior to conversion as well as the influence of the Beatles and others. We discussed both albums, the birth of contemporary Christian music, and the demise of Maranatha, the record company, as well as the group.