The Jacob's Trouble Video Archives

Thursday, February 08, 2007

How the Band Got Started

It's time to peel back that dusty layer of time and get a glimpse into the early beginnings of JT. Many have asked us through the years how we got started. So here from my personal journal is the beginning of JT the best I remember it...

About a year and a half after quitting Transit (my band prior to JT) I began to crave playing again. My wife and I were talking one night and she said, “I really it miss it when you used to play. Why don’t you find some guys to play music with again?” Now I’m sure that she only meant that I should play again “for fun.” And to be honest that’s all I wanted out of it. When I left Transit, I packed my drums up in a closet and there they had stayed for the last several months. I had surrendered my lifelong dream of playing in a band and left it in God’s hands. If it ever happens, I thought, it would have to be a God thing. For now, if I could play “for fun” that would be cool.

I looked in the Musician’s Exchange section of a local entertainment paper called Creative Loafing. For the next several weeks I answered a few ads, even tried out with one or two bands, but nothing seemed to fit. So I decided to take out my own ad to find musicians who were into the same things I was into.

I had come up with this idea, which is still a pretty cool idea, I think. I advertised for musicians to form a faux 60’s band. The idea was to become a fictional band from the sixties, dress the part, play the hits on vintage instruments, dress the stage up with memorabilia from the period, Even adopt fictitious names and personalities. Then we take the show on the road, renting ourselves out to private parties, dances, corporate functions, etc. I guess it really was a good idea because the response to my ad was phenomenal.

Among the callers was one Mark Blackburn. Mark was a guitar player, a Rickenbacker player, to be more specific. And he was a big Monkees fan! The more we talked, the more we had in common. He had played in the college frat circuit also. He loved sixties music, especially the Byrds and he had a 12-string Rick he played through a Vox amp. Wow, how cool was that!

Then a neat thing happened. A God thing. Mark and I started talking about Jesus. We discovered that we were both Christians. In fact, we were trying to witness to each other! Not only that, but we discovered that we each really knew who the other was. I was that guy who sang and played the drums for Transit, and Mark was that wild, whirling, windmilling Rickenbacker playing guitarist from Ron’s (Cochran) band, N3D.

It was at that moment that the whole faux sixties band thing went right out the window. I suggested that we get together with a certain bass player I knew and see what kind of noise we could make. Steve (Atwell) had told me if I ever got anything going to call him. So I called Steve and within a week the three original Jacob’s Trouble members held our first rehearsal in the basement of my mom’s house. It consisted almost entirely of talking, about ourselves, about music, especially about our relationship with Christ. In fact, most of those early rehearsals were just the three of us talking about the Bible, where we were in our walk with the Lord, and praying.

We did play a little. We played a couple of Byrds' tunes, “Turn, Turn, Turn” and “Feel A Whole Lot Better.” We played the Monkees’ “Door Into Summer.” I can’t remember anything else we played but it wasn’t much and it was only covers. We didn’t start writing until later. It was late December 1987 so we decided to reconvene after the New Year and start rehearsing in earnest.

We returned to mom’s basement in January 1988 and hashed out respectable versions of the same covers we had played at our first meeting. We had absolutely no P.A. equipment so you couldn’t even hear us singing. It was noisy but it was a beautiful noise!

It was just me with my 4-piece black Slingerland drums and a hodge-podge of cymbals, Steve with his Peavey T-40 bass and some rig I can’t remember, and Mark with his blond 12-string Rick running through a Vox AC30 amp on that cool little chrome stand with squeaky wheels. He also had a black 6-string but that day he only brought the 12 if I remember correctly. I was doing all the singing at first. Mark had a cool voice but he was initially reluctant to take any lead vocals. Fortunately for us and our fans, Steve and I persuaded Mark to sing.

We spent a long time talking that night. We agreed to stick together and give it a whirl, so next week we were back at mom’s again. A funny story about Mark and my mom: Mark had arrived early and came in to set his rig up. I went upstairs to the kitchen to fix Mark and I a glass of sweet tea. Mom was there and she motioned for me to bend down so she could whisper something to me (she is only about 5 feet tall!). I leaned down and she whispered, “Mark has an earring!” Pretty shocking stuff for my mom at that time. “I whispered back, 'I know!' She shook her head with a disapproving frown and said, “That’s worldly.” I gave her a little hug and said, ”No, mom, judging somebody because they look different is worldly!” She just shook her head and I laughed. That’s one reason I have never gotten my ears pierced, because I know my mom would be disappointed. Right or wrong, I love my mommy!

After a month or so of meeting at my parent’s house, I really began to feel that we should commit ourselves to being an openly evangelical Christian band. Up to that point we were just getting together and making music with no intention of being a Christian band, even though we were all believers. I decided to share my thoughts at the next rehearsal. But before I could open my mouth, one of the other guys, I can’t remember which, said, “You know, I believe we should be a Christian band.” The other said, “Wow! That’s amazing! I was going to suggest the same thing tonight. I’ve been thinking about it all week.” I added my two cents, “You’re not gonna believe this, but I had come here tonight prepared to say the same thing!” It was clear we were experiencing a God moment. One that would define Jacob’s Trouble for the next six years.

I want to take a minute here and clarify this distinction between being an evangelical Christian band as opposed to just a Christian band. One may think that to be a Christian band at all would be evangelical, and to an extent that may be true. However, there is definitely a difference in emphasis and approach between those artists whose first priority is to see people come to Christ and be saved and those artists whose first priority it is to make really good music that honors Christ and draws people to Him. There is no right or wrong. Both schools of thought are legitimate. The problem arises when one side maligns the other: “You’re too cheesy” over here, and “You’re too vague” over there.

Our hope in JT was to be the middle ground. I think we managed to strike that balance fairly well. Too well, it would seem, as we were never fully embraced by either side! To the artsy types we were a little too bright and happy and used the J-word too freely. To the preachy types we were too artsy and alternative. As a result, we never really caught on, even though we were a crowd favorite at festivals and a kind of critics’ darling in the Christian rock press. The inevitable result: poverty!

From that night on, we dedicated ourselves to being an evangelical Christian band. We committed ourselves to begin every practice with prayer. The prayer usually took up most of our time! But when we would play it would be so much more productive and creative than it had ever been. I remember one of us praying that night, saying, “God, we want to give ourselves and our music to You. If we never leave this basement, that’s fine with us as long as You get the glory.” Man, let me tell you, God honored that sincere prayer.


jeremy said...

I love this Behind the Music stuff - I totally wish there was some video of these times to edit together, that would be a fun thing to watch!

Jerry Davison said...

There is quite a bit of video dating all the way back to before we were signed. One day I would love to put together a documentary but I think even less people would buy it than bought our records. :-)

jeremy said...

Just throw a Third Day logo on it, people will buy it then. ;)

Sean said...

I just wanted to say that I've loved JT's music since Door Into Summer... in fact we were somewhat of a JT cover band in the early 90's doing a lot of your songs until we started writing more of our own. Favorite songs-Chuch of Do What You Want, Wind and Wave, and Little Red Words. You guys had to cancel a gig one night at the Fire Escape in Va Beach and we got the call to fill in (because we knew your songs) with Harry Gore and the Measels. It was our biggest claim to fame. But when you guys came back I was up front and enjoyed probably one of the best concerts I've ever seen.... Hope to see you in Atlanta this summer if you guys play in June.