I will never forget the day when some hippies walked into Calvary Chapel, announced that they were musicians, and asked me if they could share their music on a Monday night Bible study. Since we had so many in those days who were coming and sharing their music, we would usually audition them before allowing them to share. And so they went out to their van, got their guitars, and came in and played a demo number for me—the song entitled, “Welcome Back.” It was so I began to weep. I asked them what they called their group and they answered, “Love Song.” When they played that night, their music had the same dynamic effect on the crowd of young people as it had on me. For many years God used them in a vital way in the great revival that the press called “The Jesus Movement.” – Pastor Chuck Smith
LOVE SONG’s roots go all the way back to a time in the mid to late 1960s when musician friends were gathering at Chuck Girard’s house in Pasadena. Jay Truax was among those friends living in the house with Chuck. Jay and Chuck first met while playing in separate bands at Gold Street, a club in Orange County California.
They also met fellow musicians Denny Correll, Bobby Guidotti and John Mehler. This connection would eventually form the nucleus of the pre-Christian group LOVE SONG. Burned out with the materialistic world, most of them were on a spiritual quest using drugs and embracing eastern religions. Their philosophy on the meaning of life and their search for truth led most of them to Hawaii where they thought the New Jerusalem written about in the Bible would be established.
After living off of the land and sleeping in caves, they grew tired of waiting for the new millennium, and Chuck, Jay, and Denny returned to the mainland. Jay then moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, and formed the group SPIRIT OF CREATION with drummer John Mehler. After a short but successful stint with SPIRIT OF CREATION, John and Jay returned to Southern California, and along with Chuck, Denny, Bobby Guidotti, Jesse Johnston, and Larry Brittain, formed LOVE SONG. For about a year in its beginning stages, LOVE SONG played clubs, preaching peace and love, and the use of LSD as a way of finding God. While this was going on, Tommy Coomes and Fred Field were in the army, Bob Wall was playing in his own local band, and Phil Keagg.
It wasn’t long before Fred and Tommy were discharged from the army, and through a series of events ended up living communally in Laguna Beach with Jay and Chuck. The whole Southern California area was alive and buzzing with spiritual awareness and rumors of hippies getting saved. Still on their search for truth, Chuck, Jay, Tommy, and Fred were endlessly discussing doctrines of the Bible. They had heard rumors of a “hippie” preacher at Calvary Chapel, about the Blue Top Christian commune, and of hitchhikers inviting people to church. Wanting their doctrines clarified and their curiosity satisfied, they visited the Blue Top commune where they were welcomed and invited to check out Calvary Chapel. Expecting to hear the hippie preacher Lonnie Frisbee, they said yes to the invitation. Instead, the more traditional appearing Pastor Chuck Smith presented the gospel of Jesus Christ. Chuck Girard’s search for God came to an end that evening as he gave his life to Jesus and made Him Lord of his life. Jay and Fred had previously taken a step toward Christianity through a gospel tract and the witness of a friend, but Calvary became home for them that night. This series of events transformed LOVE SONG’s direction and roster. In February 1970, a couple of weeks after their conversions, Chuck, Jay and Fred first played at Calvary Chapel, and LOVE SONG was reborn.
About a month later, LOVE SONG was scheduled to play at the Orange County Fairgrounds, ironically, at an anti-drug rally with Pastor Chuck Smith. They needed a guitar player for the event and called Tommy Coomes. He agreed, and it was while performing with the group that Tommy personally experienced the real love and power of God. “I realized during the last song of the evening, ‘Think About What Jesus Said,’ that I hadn’t given myself totally to the Lord. I hadn’t made a full and genuine commitment. During the song I broke down in tears, took off my guitar and made my decision for Jesus. I decided to quit my job and move back to Orange County so I could play full-time for the Lord.” “There were now four of us who were ready and willing to play completely for the Lord,” Jay remembers. Jay, Fred, Chuck, and Tommy started playing together in the spring of 1970. As they sang, it became evident that their music was speaking to the hearts of those who were there. “Thinking back on how our ministry really got going, I guess you could call it a natural progression,” says Tommy. “We’d been playing at Calvary Chapel on a regular basis. Then after the service, people would come up to us and ask if we would come and play at their church, coffeehouse, school or conference.” People of all ages were coming to know Jesus Christ in a personal way because of LOVE SONG’s message. “When we saw the good our music was doing,” Chuck states, “we came to realize more seriously the reality of our ministry and the awesome power of God, who touched lives totally independent of our efforts.” “It’s not us, it’s the Spirit that comes through to them and speaks to their hearts”, says Chuck.
The next year saw many changes including the addition of John Mehler, also a newly converted Christian. Fred Field left to form his own band, and Bob Wall joined LOVE SONG as the new lead guitarist. LOVE SONG became a vital part of the “Jesus People Revival” of the 1970s with tours of the US and the Philippines. Their ministry flourished amidst the swirl of national media attention from top record labels and interviews with magazines including Rolling Stone. In 1973, Bob Wall took a sabbatical to be with his family. Phil Keaggy, who was already in the nationally successful band GLASS HARP, joined LOVE SONG for the remainder of the tour before LOVE SONG disbanded in 1974. One of the highlights of that year was the second LOVE SONG Festival at Knott’s Berry Farm. The first festival at Knott’s the previous year set a park record for attendance. It was also the first festival of its kind for a Christian event in an amusement park. The second year, attendance doubled.
“In a world of imitators, Love Song has been an originator, the first domino that started the others going. And, although they had the privilege of being first in quite a number of things, Love Song has looked at their opportunities, not in a sense of pride, but with a sense of gratitude, gratitude for the way the Lord allowed them to pave the ground for other people. For Christians, as for Love Song, popularity is insignificant. What really counts is the message — an uncompromising communication of Christ’s love for a lost world.” Stan Jantz
Love Song is about Jesus and His message. Through music, they touched hearts, broke down traditional barriers, and helped start the Jesus revolution of the 1970s.
Chuck Smith and the Jesus Movement
Calvary Chapel in Februrary of 1970
Chuck Girard, Jay Traux, Tommy Coomes, Phil Keaggy, John Mehler, Bob Wall, Fred Field