Even to this day, I still get comments about the song He Leadeth Me. This song was the title track to an early hymns album by Acappella and friends. The album was out of print for quite a while, although I think it has been reprinted and is available once again. What strikes most people when they hear the album is the diversity of styles present and the joy that permeates throughout. What very few know is that this album grew from a funeral.
The year was 1989 and I had been in Acappella almost a year. We were on tour through Oklahoma, on the way to another extended run through Texas. That particular night we had stopped for an event in a town somewhere in southwest Oklahoma, I can’t remember the name now. Late in the afternoon at our host home, I received a phone call from my dear friend Craig Martin. Craig and I had grown up together in Lubbock and he was the CFO for Acappella Ministries at the time. I was surprised to hear his voice, but it changed quickly when his first words were, “Gary, are you sitting down? You need to sit down.” Those are never good words to begin a phone conversation.
He went on to tell me that my father, Orlando Moyers, had suffered a massive stroke and was in the hospital in Lubbock. I was still single at the time, although my reconnection with my future wife grew out of this event (another blog post coming up). Before I really knew what was happening, the youth minister at the church (I can’t remember his name, bless his heart) had given me the keys to his car and Keith had told me to get to Lubbock quickly. They would cover for me at the concert.
Six hours later I pulled into the hospital parking lot and walked into the ICU waiting room. It was filled with people from church and my mother was sitting in the middle of them. The next 24 hours were a blur of hospital, home and family. My father was in a coma, but I had time to speak to him and pray over him. He passed away the next night.
The funeral was set for 2 days later. At some point, Keith contacted me to let me know that all the guys were on their way, both Acappella and AVB. They offered their services to sing at the funeral and I gladly accepted. My father was an elder at Vandelia Church of Christ in Lubbock and the building was packed with people standing around the edges and in the back.
Thirty minutes or so before the funeral, I went to speak to the guys in the fellowship hall. It was the first time I had seen them since the phone call, but they were all there… Keith Lancaster, Rodney Britt, George Pendergrass, Wayburn Dean, Bret Testerman, Jay Smith, Danny Elliot, Terry Cheatham and Wes McKinzie. There may have been others there as well, but I can’t remember. I don’t even clearly remember what I said to them, but it was something along the lines of, “Thanks for coming guys. I really appreciate it. Listen, I don’t want this to be a sad day. Ya’ll go do what you always do. Don’t hold back.” I didn’t realize the ramifications of that statement. I should have. I’m glad I said it, because they certainly didn’t hold back.
Those guys went out and cut loose like we always did. With that combination of singers and the freedom to sing whatever they felt… well, it was amazing. They sang four or five songs at full throttle and the entire building was toe tapping and clapping along. This was no ordinary funeral. This was an all-out celebration of life here and life to come. I’ve been to several funerals since then that have come close, but nothing has matched that day. My dad went home in style. He had the best this world had to offer, even so I’m sure it paled in comparison with what he was experiencing at the time, at home with Jesus.
It was a unique experience for all of us. The spontaneity, the freedom, the joyful raw emotion… it was something that words really can’t describe. I truly believe it was a Holy Spirit moment.
Keith wanted to recapture this and record that feeling. We all wanted to share it with the world. We tried several approaches to get that feeling again, but it never worked. It was a moment that simply could not be recreated in the studio. In the end, we opted for a normal approach to recording, although we altered it and let each singer sort of represent himself and his style through whatever song they chose. I chose one of my father’s favorite songs, He Leadeth Me. And the rest is history.