Good News and Better News… May 29th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog


There is something of a phenomenon going on in our society. Yet it is not phenomenal. That would connote it possesses goodness.

Somewhere along the line–maybe fifty or sixty years ago–people began gauging history from the time of their birth.

It’s getting worse and worse. Matter of fact, many younger humans will pop off and tell you, “That was before my time”–as if it does not matter or it might not happen again.

This came to my mind Thursday night when I was at a music rehearsal. I introduced the participants to a song by Dottie Rambo. One of them said they didn’t know the song and another piped up, “Most people don’t know who Dottie Rambo is.”

It angered me–not just because this fine woman wrote hundreds of well-known gospel songs, but also because she was instrumental in integrating American gospel music.

In the early seventies, there was a complete segregation in the music field between what was known as Black gospel and Southern gospel. When a young man of color, Andrae Crouch, began his group, “The Disciples” out in Los Angeles, he introduced contemporary Christian music to the nation. It spread like wildfire.

Everywhere except the Southern gospel community.

Oh, yes, there were a couple of groups who recorded the songs, but there was strong resistance to inviting Andrae to the National Quartet Convention, which was more or less the Mecca of gospel music at the time.

It was Dottie Rambo who stood up for Andrae Crouch, traveled with him and even encouraged him to record one of her songs.

It took about one year.

At one convention Andrae was not welcome, and by the next convention he was invited and tore the house down.

You see, the good news is that things can change.

And the better news is that if we become involved and have a sense of history, we will learn that it is individuals who create the change.

Not committees.

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Musing City USA … November 20, 2012


Just about a third of my life.

Driving down I-65 South yesterday heading to Nashville, I realized I had spent twenty years–in two stints–living in the country music mecca. It gave me pause–because I am not a country music artist, nor really am I what you would call a conventional gospel picker. I am just kind of my own thing, which is often the best excuse for being truly erratic. So I had to ask myself, how did I end up spending so much of my life in this Tennessee capital?

Growing up in Central Ohio, I had a predilection for gospel music, so it did seem logical to me, when I graduated from high school, to at least take a stab at where such sounds were not only permissible, but promoted.

I remember the first time I drove into Nashville and went to Dickerson Pike–to Jimmy Snow’s church. Jimmy Snow is the son of Hank Snow, a legend in the business. I was a punky, inexperienced yokel–but you see, I had this new song, called Resurrection Day, and I decided to perform it with my nervous little green combo–and received a standing ovation from the audience.

I recall the first time I drove to Hendersonville, Tennessee, to record at the House of Cash, and during the session for our album, Johnny, himself, walked in, introduced himself, and struck up more than a polite conversation with us bunch of confirmed nobodies.

I had to laugh to myself when I considered the number of times I walked up and down Music Row, from one publisher to another, sharing my songs with bored office employees, who more often than not, found a bit of glee in dashing my hopes with negative comments.

Then I remembered meeting Dottie Rambo. Dottie was that beautiful combination of earthy, spiritual and humorous which rarely comes our way in the human family and should always be treasured. She loved me–plump bundle of insecurity that I was–and even graciously recorded one of my songs on her album. It’s quite an astonishing honor to have one of the greatest gospel songwriters cover your tune.

Then there was Marijohn Wilkin, who wrote One Day at a Time. She was my mentor and friend. She recorded an album for me that enabled me to chart on the religious radio stations.

Taking another trip up to Hendersonville, my van passed by the city park, where we took a 25-piece orchestra called the Sumner Pops, of our own founding, and in the presence of five thousand folks, put on a July 4th show, melding local talent and our ability at arranging and conducting.

There isn’t a school I pass on the way in that doesn’t conjure a memory of a performance, in which we took a very special show to the young humans, encouraging them to be creative and open-hearted to their fellow-man.

I had a house on Bayshore Drive, where I built a swimming pool, a couple of additions, a circular driveway and tossed in a gazebo. Of course in the long run, it was rather ludicrous, because nomads like myself make very poor landlords. We’re just better with sheep and goats.

Yet in that city, I wrote ten books, recorded fifteen Cd’s and penned thirteen movies. It was a strange sensation to return to Music City after all my touring this year. I’m coming back to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family, which is congregating like a bunch of misguided birds to a location where we can nest and fellowship for a few days.

But as I drove into town, I thought to myself, “I lived here for one-third of my life, but it was never my home.”

The realization did not sadden me. Nashville is a place where I built a house of faith. Sometimes that’s the best we can do, folks. We may not be able to change the world or even redecorate the rooms. The best we can do is leave clear evidence of what we thought was important, what we believed and how fruit was born through our lives.

Nashville was never my home. I saw too much of the underbelly of lingering prejudice and false piety for me to ever embrace the community and kiss it square on the mouth. I saw a false sense of security over Southern hospitality, which was often dished out in sparing helpings to those who had stood in line the longest. I experienced a reluctance to change, simply because the word connoted something other than the fraternity philosophy. I always loved the people, I just didn’t always buy in to the pills that were being swallowed.

It’s good to be back, though. It festers memories, good and bad, joyous and sad, but in all cases, earth-shaking and ultimately fulfilling.

I would like to have been closer to this town where I hung my hat for so many years but I always found it a bit difficult to join into “whistling Dixie”–and maybe it’s just not in my character … to “look away.”

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I Did Not Plan–November 3, 2011


I did not plan to be born. Apparently my mother and father found one another particularly attractive one evening and enjoyed each other’s company and in the process, planted and ultimately hatched the notion of my existence. Some people would choose to be more philosophical about their births. I have found that such musings tend to end up in the mystical realm or in vanity.

I didn’t plan to be fat. I was certainly genetically pre-disposed in that direction and it didn’t help that my mother allowed me to eat too much food instead of putting me in the back yard, exercising. Of course, after a while I didn’t require her insufficiency on the matter–I took the “glutton” of the responsibility on myself.

I didn’t plan to play music. My mother had me take piano lessons from my first grade teacher and she was so attractive that I got all warm and tingly every time she told me to practice my hammer action. I quit playing for a while and then started up again when I realized that it was something I could do and still be … well, still be me.

I did not plan to quit football. I liked it. I was pretty good at it. But I hated the exercise and the wind sprints and found that I only enjoyed the game, which unfortunately only happened once a week, while practice happened on six occasions. The proportions baffled me and left me aghast, so I chose to depart the locker room. Or did I?

I did not plan to get married. I had what you might call a high school affair, where I was experimenting with a young woman’s virtues and she with mine. Unfortunately, when you place something in a petri dish, it will occasionally sprout growth. So two lab partners ended up being husband and wife and have continued to do so for forty-one years. But I did not plan it.

I certainly did not plan to have children. Biologically, I had four of them and none of them were planned. I mean, they were planned in that I understood the techniques of what happened prior to their conception, but neither the lady or myself were ever adept at birth control, so children would just suddenly appear and wonder where they should put down their knapsacks.

I did not plan to start my first musical group, Soul Purpose. It was just four friends who wanted to do something together and have an answer to the question, “So what are you going to do with your life?” I never imagined it would blossom into anything it became or that in the process I would acquire the craft necessary to become a decent song writer. I didn’t plan that.

I didn’t plan to talk to Dottie Rambo that night in Columbus, Ohio.  Matter of fact, when my friend, Luann, suggested we walk up and speak to her about one of the songs we had written, I was scared out of my trousers. But because I did it anyway, lots of other things I didn’t plan and opportunities I didn’t put together came my way, which created quite a stack of blessings for me in the 1970’s.

I didn’t plan to ever write a symphony. But when Janet Clazzy came into my life and was willing to work with me, she was an oboist and required music to perform if she was going to be my partner. So I ended up taking my little dab of talent and spreading it across the spectrum of classical music, like peanut butter on hot toast. The result was eleven symphonies. But I didn’t plan it.

I didn’t plan to pen my first screenplay. My oldest son suggested I do it because he likes to make movies and I saw no particular reason to be stubborn. To date I have written seventeen of them and have thirteen movies to show for it. But you do understand … I didn’t plan it.

And honestly, I did not plan to go to Grace United Methodist Church in Columbia, South Carolina, last night. A couple of months ago, I didn’t know there was a Grace United Methodist Church in Columbia, South Carolina, and I am sure they were equally oblivious to my existence. Matter of fact, if I had planned my life, I’m not so sure we ever would have met–but I would have missed out on the blessing of meeting some of the sweetest folks ever to grace the great state of South Carolina. Maybe that’s why they call it Grace United Methodist.

As I look back at it, my friends, I realize that most of the things I’ve done in my life I haven’t really planned. Matter of fact, most of them have been contrary to conventional wisdom. We all should have gotten an inkling of that and maybe even a depth of understanding about how life really works by the way it ends up. Because none of us plan our deaths, do we? Not unless it’s a suicide, and that’s generally frowned on by the populace, both earthly and heavenly.

Yes, we should have caught on early that since there is an appointment for our deaths that is not revealed to us, why would we think that all the valleys and mountain tops would be charted out clearly by God–like some sort of Rand McNally map? Matter of fact, as I look back on the whole procedure I realize that I did not plan much of anything–except for one very important personal choice.

I did plan to be born again. And that particular selection has made all the unplanned activities fall into some sort of reasonable sense.


Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”

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