Friday, February 27, 2009


Securing and keeping a tour position with New Hope or any of the other early CCM touring groups was more involved than just auditioning like the young people on American Idol or Nashville Star do today. It was a 24/7 week-in and week-out reality life before any of those TV shows were a gleam in their producers eye. I'd describe it as a combination of Making the Band, Survivor, and Dirty Jobs! We lived, rehearsed, performed, prayed, travelled, ate and grumbled as one. It was called paying your dues. I really believe that if success comes to you too easily you never really appreciate it for what it is. A reward for a lot of hard work. When it all comes together, personally and group-wise, you can see progress being made in your life and career.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


(with tongue planted firmly in cheek)

THEN…crawling slowly from the primitive Northwestern bogs of mashed fern ooze and slime…standing upright under massive pine trees…ever so careful so as to not lock the knees…developing arms to raise and feet to move...and then voices to project past the front row and faces to reflect joy…prehistoric Continentus Vocalis emerged. And Cam looked out on his creation and spoke the words “…the morning and the evening are two concert opportunities…this is good. I will form from dirt a companion, a super-being, and will call it Newhopeus Tambouris. It will multiply and explore the four nether regions of this water and land covered rock

NOW…fossilized, petrified bones, bodies broken and aged, scattered across the land. Anthropologists and musicologists are exploring…spending long hours piecing together the ancient history, bringing various species of Newhopeus, for it evolved past it’s first form, to re-create the beginnings of this primogenitor. Old geezers, with nothing better to do, are studying photos and scratchy marks on parchments (kept in air tight mayonnaise jars lo these many years under the Puget Sound deck of David Miser) with state-of-the-art microscopes, to affect a library of details about early performus…the combined Continentus/Newhopeus Tourem.

There are many unanswered questions. What purpose did them serve and why were they created? Where are the missing links (besides Darrell)? How long did they travel the earth? How tall is that one in the middle? Why and when did this species fade away? And most importantly… are there any descendants? Word has drifted back to journalistic circles pertaining to sightings of similar beings in many foreign countries.
Rumor has it that National Geographic is planning a full spread on the origin of Continentus. Color maps, photos, artifacts, bus itineraries, the works. A similar seminar is scheduled in Houston to study just the Newhopeus branch of the tree, bringing together descendants and rock fossil experts. Any information is welcome.


I love the ritual of boarding in the early morning light.
The sound of suitcases hitting the bins and the smell of coconut shampoo,
hand lotion and damp hair as fellow travelers move up and down the aisles, bumping those already seated with carry-on bags,
searching for friends and calling final goodbyes out bus windows to host families.
Find a seat, make it your own and soon you’re
telling tall tales born of last night’s experiences.
Morning people chatter while sleep deprived souls are already drifting back into slumber.
Each day the same…each day different…another day on tour.
Turn the page…as Bob Seger so aptly put it in a song by the same name.
There’s miles of yellow lines to follow and mystery lunches to eat
before we again showcase our God-given talents.
Pillow people settling in.
And looking around…you spy the greatest show on earth…people.
(cue the calliope)
On or off the bus, in the churches, homes, malls,
and streets of unfamiliar towns and cities,
people are the one thing you can’t anticipate…second-guess or prepare for.
They are the face on the body of touring.
The challenge is to capture their hearts…one person, one family, one church…at a time.
Continental tour…there’s just nothing to compare.

Wes Turner
Continentals/New Hope 1962-72

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I believe I am of the same mind set as my late father-in-law. You see…Benjamin Franklin Hennacy was a Marine. No, I don’t mean he had been a marine aviation navigator in World War II and Korea…he was a Marine. Year in year out…even at the age of 87…lying in his bed at Country View Care Facility he would relate secret missions with which he had been involved the night before. Not only was his service time the high point of his life…higher even than succeeding in business, raising four daughters and living four score and seven years…but it set the tone, mindset, for his life. How he handled life. The way he looked at things and carried himself. Thru good days and bad…’til his death, Frank was a Marine.
I was in the Army for three years. I am proud to be a veteran and am active with veteran things. But I have never considered myself an Army man for life.
I am a Continental…for life. If there is anything I took away from the 42 year Originals Reunion in Canby and the comments and photos of the recent Anaheim 40th Continental Reunion (which I regretfully missed) is that once a person is a Continental they are a Continental for life. Whether we have been in other music groups; taken our education to the highest level possible for our vocation; pastored churches and ministries; led music; taught young minds of mush; raised children; overseen the progress of grandchildren; succeeded and/or failed as we and faced spiritual, physical, business and personal challenges…we are a Continental…for life.
WE were the first ones to sit under Cam’s steady hand and steely eye. The first to the bus, so to speak. Our zeal and success fed his fire to take the concept and name of Continentals to the whole world. Our worship together in church back rooms and on platforms solidified and sharpened our witness and set the launching platform for an international ministry.
I looked up the word gratitude. The definition is: A feeling of profound appreciation toward an individual. I would like to express my gratitude to Cam. I’ve told him this before in private but just so you all know I credit Cam and his tutelage for my extended career in the music industry, both sacred and secular. I’ve blamed him for the foibles, and I’ve praised him for my successes. My road warrior attitude, my management style, my musical creativity, everything eventually point back to my days as an Original. I like the “Originals” tag as opposed to ex-Con, which I used for years. We have stood the test of time. Coke is an original. There are many pretenders under the Coke umbrella, i.e. Diet Coke, Cherry Coke, Caffeine Free Coke, etc) and of course other brands (let’s see…what is the name of that other big brand?) But there is only one Coke.
We were meant for our times. What we did would probably not work today. The new leadership in the Continental organization have realized the need to implement changes for the “New Beginning”. Where are the choir groups much less the giant rallies? We did it without flash pots, bright t-shirts, and extensive choreography. Who would buy our records? (just kidding) We are relics of the past. Sure they can stop, stare and take photos of the dinosaurs. “Look Mom, they can still get up on stage!” Like the mammoth beasts of old we left a big ol’ footprint. Hard to fill those shoes.
After all…we are the Originals. Each of us will always be a Continental.


Careening thru history,
our talent and life’s ambition bleeding from speakers,
while, joined at the hip, we put on our game face,
turn on our road charm
and meet the audience’ challenge.
Who were you not liking last week at this time? We ask.
Like a slow dog we get our share of kicks
and smile in return.
Our memories, like the poor, will be with us always.
The remembrances enable us to overcome where we’ve been and
blindly charge into the fray of another night,
content in selecting nuggets of gold
from among the rocks.
We become dependent on each other.
Backs to the wall, in our conversations and mannerisms,
we expose ourselves. Laid bare,
no room for the prattling or precocious,
we support our fellow travelers
like steel springs under life’s mattress.
We fall back…losing ground, regroup, recover, and press on.
And all of these experiences are fodder for our songs
as we careen thru history.
And so it goes.

Monday, February 16, 2009


(this piece is written about my bus time in NEW HOPE, CONTINENTALS, and LIFE)

There should be trophies presented, or at least merit badges handed out, for those of us who have spent any duration ensconced in a double seat of an old used and abused dog (Greyhound) or Double Eagle (Trailways). I’m not talking about the custom coaches, owned or rented, by the top names in entertainment. Most of them have more than made up for the comforts of home and feel like a hotel on wheels to the vagabond musicians inside. I’m discussing the vehicles of conveyance provided by the financially challenged companies whose acts make up the bottom part of the billing on any venue sign.

When they are running well, air or heat functioning correctly, and full of diesel, the entertainer can go to bed in Columbus OH after a show, and wake up in Atlanta GA and feel sort of refreshed and energy replenished. Granted, you will emerge for breakfast with clothes rumpled, hair tousled, and maybe smelling a bit ripe, but you will be there with your equipment, personnel, and luggage intact. That, however, is the best case scenario.

I’ve listed some of the possible problems with bus travel below:
Not enough seats
Seats too small (short)
Seats worn and cushions thin
Seat backs broken or unable to tilt
Armrests not retractable
Armrests broken
Not enough bin space
Windows un-shaded
Windows that don’t open
Windows shared with someone else who does not share your love of fresh air
Overhead bins limited in space
Overhead bins so stuffed that things fall out when bus turns corner
No hang up space inside
Limited hang up space inside
No electrical outlets inside
Air conditioning limited
Air conditioning broken
Heating limited
Heating broken
Diesel fumes invade inside of bus
Diesel fumes on every piece of clothing you own
Diesel fumes surround you in parking lot of truck stop
Truck stops
Eating at truck stops
God forbid…bathing at truck stops
Going to the bathroom at truck stops or crummy, rundown gas stations
Air bag problems make bus look like a drunken pirate while rolling down the highway
High cost of bus repairs and maintenance
Bus gears being ground to the nub by inexperienced driver
Said inexperienced driver driving like he was Mario Andretti
Name on bus
Name not on bus
Singers warming up on bus
Horn players warming up/practicing scales on bus
Bus not starting
Pushing the bus in summer/winter/fall/spring
Pushing the bus while in good clothes
Pushing the bus while in any clothes
Venue assuming that because you have a bus you can use it as dressing facility
Giving up bathroom so more can be stored inside
Finding someone to tow a bus
Getting quick, quality repairs

AND FINALLY…admitting that even though you have a gazillion problems with a bus it’s still better than cars, trailers, and vans.

I was on a choir/orchestra tour (Continental Singers & Orchestra) in 1965 that had too many personnel for our bus. We put seven folding chairs down the aisle and once we were all in place we stayed there ‘til the next stop. We also had a double cab truck traveling with us. One time when the bus broke down we had to move to a rented bus. They, of course, wouldn’t let us do that, so seven extra guys were assigned to the truck and ended up riding in the back all night.

The New Hope bus (circa 1969-72) had our name on the side, 14 double seats and a place for hang up bags and instruments in the rear. New Hope was the New Hope Singers for the first two years of its existence, and we couldn’t wait to get the “singers” part off the bus sign after we added brass. New Hope sounded more like a rock group. Nothing inside was customized though. Each person had a double seat and in time we were mapped out into neighborhoods. Drummer, Lynn Coulter, called the back couple of sets of seats, Garwood Heights, after the Garwood refuse trucks he worked on when he collected garbage for a parish in New Orleans. I, as road manager, sat in the very rear seat behind Lynn so I could survey my domain at all times. (the former manager had sat in front and never looked back except to glare) It was the high rent district of Garwood Heights. The seats where the two girl singers sat in 1971 was the called the red light district. The seats occupied by Craig Ware, and his wife Sharon, were called the warehouse. The seat of Bill Schenk, trombonist, was know as the neighborhood news stand because of all the magazines and books he kept around. And so on. We were indeed a silly bunch.

My very first New hope Singers tour (fall of 1969) our manager Will was married and the happy couple had just had a baby so….you guessed it, a set of seats was taken out and a baby named Tod came with us for the first four months of travel. Added to the normal strange smells that waft thru any bunch of people familiar with each other was the rancid and ripe smell of a diaper from time to time. One time the new Mom (Louise) was casually tossing a full diaper toward the garbage can in the front of the bus and it landed on the accelerator pedal foot of the driver, unfolding and dumping (pun intended) it’s load on his unsuspecting shoe.

My second year with the newly renamed New Hope (1970) our newly wed manager and his wife bought a puppy when we were in the Seattle area that fall. If you thought that baby poop was bad you obviously haven’t had the priviledge of being the first one to the bus in the morning, opening the bus and experiencing baby dog doo doo throughout the bus. In all reverence I must say that the dog died (distemper) within weeks…also on the bus…and we endured the total grief of the parents for days. Fortunately it was the catalyst that caused them to leave the road.

The bus of the group LIFE (1974) was a welcome sight after our inaugural year of traveling in a station wagon and cargo van. Painted with red, white, and blue stripes, and our name, we announced ourselves wherever we went. It already had something like 12 million miles on it from Greyhound and a charter company. We took out seats in the back and installed two bunks on the back right side (primarily for drivers) and clothes bars on the right. That and a bit of carpet made us happy for a while.

Once, while approaching a major intersection (where a busy road crosses a four lane state route) in northern Ohio in the LIFE bus, the drummer/driver Andy yelled “no brakes!” …and I, standing in the well, grabbed the bar and alerted the group “hang on”. We sailed thru and onto a small service road on the other side and felt pretty good about it until a trucker using his CB told us he had come with inches of slamming into us.

The “new” LIFE bus that came on the road as I was going off in 1977 was an ex-Trailways from Miami (also with millions of miles on it) and on the first trip west, after turning on the heat, the cockroaches came scurrying out of every crevasse and hole. The group ended up “bombing” it three times throughout the trip before being reasonably sure the legions of critters were dead. That bus was remodeled to have wall-to-wall carpet, twelve bunks, twelve closets, and twelve seats and some storage. Very comfortable and practical without spending a lot of money.

ALL fellow travelers of the road in the 70’s, the Spurrlows, Common Ground, Imperials, Renaissance, Continentals, Truth, Bridge or what’s-the-name-of-that- group from John Brown University…ALL had bus problems. But…we were traveling in our home. What did we expect? Think about how many things can go wrong in a home; leaky pipes, garbage disposal, roof, squeaky mattress, cracks in the basement floor, short-circuit on a lamp, T.V. blacks out, bugs and varmints, broken chair, whatever…

The bus was our home sweet home. It was our dining room, bedroom, recreation room, music and relaxing room, dressing room and closet, storage room…and it is where you received guests, whether it is family, friends, pastor, principal, agent, police officer, etc. The chances that the whole bus will be ship shape at any given time for a quick-look-see-tour are nil. Hence, when inviting anyone aboard you automatically offer a disclaimer that sounds like this…”please excuse the mess… we had an overnighter a week ago Wednesday and haven’t gotten things back into place.” Many romances were started and ended in bus seats. Tour can make fickle lovers…even more fickle. Nothing like a fighting tour couple to make people take sides. In the early days the motto of NO PDA (public display of affection) was the standard. But in the dark…on those long, dark overnight trips a guy can lose his sense of propriety.

Well, we of the brotherhood of the bus, will never forget our experiences, both tour related and bus related. Some of our greatest tour stories, growing wilder and bigger each year we are removed from the actual time we travelled, were bus stories. I personally wouldn’t trade a minute of the years I spent on a bus. Riding, gazing out the window watching signs and pavement slip by, creating, sleeping, fellowshipping, reading…and growing as a musician and person. I am better for the hardships.
Just a hint of diesel smell brings it all back. O.K. guys…where’s the next stop?


We are a group of players and singers but we are a dichotomy.
Caught between rockin’ out for Jesus and pleasing the saints,
the only time we can really be ourselves is when we’re rolling down the highway.
Yes sir…no, maam…whatever you say, pastor…we are all things to all people
thank you Paul.
On the west coast…the left coast, packed with crazies and weirdo’s and surfer dudes we are pleasantly surprised to find a Bible belt in the middle of California.
And in the middle of the Bible belt we find a drug culture and Satan worship. Thank God for church coffee houses.
Magnolia Mississippi pops into my mind. Great church, pleasant, normal everyday people, southern hospitality…and high school kids into drugs without the parents having a clue.
Mankato State College in Minnesota was the site of the first New Hope dance. Really. Our booker’s idea of a joke I guess. We worked up some jams and vocals to “California Dreaming” on the bus that day.
We survived only to find that after an overnighter we were headlining a rock concert at Kiel Opera House in St Louis! Then on to Fort Sill to rock a serviceman’s dance. Wow.
Bible thumpers, pew jumpers, Holy Ghost revelators and tongue speakers tried to put a mind trip on us in Washington one night. I think they prayed over one guy for hours trying to force him to speak languages not instructed to him.
This is, indeed, the Hallelujah Trail.