Harmony Magazine: Interview With Phil Keaggy (March 1976)

Over the Easter weekend in 1975, my friend Bill Gray and I traveled to Ithaca, New York to interview guitarist/singer/songwriter Phil Keaggy. We had actually interviewed him over the phone earlier in the week, but due to a bit of technical incompetence on my part, the quality of the phone recording was indecipherable. Bill and I were both fans of the Scott Ross radio show (which aired Sunday mornings in Central Ohio on WNCI), and we had always been curious to see the church where Scott was a leader and Phil Keaggy and Ted Sandquist were involved in the music program. So we used the occasion of my technical bumbling to head to Ithaca, to visit and interview Phil at his home…with plans to attend Easter services on Sunday, before heading home.

The interview was a wonderful experience. Phil and his new wife, Bernadette, were extremely gracious…despite the fact that I was an awkward 17 years of age at the time. After the interview, Phil pulled out his guitar and shared with Bill and I the song he had just recorded for his Love Broke Thru album…As The Ruin Falls (a C.S. Lewis poem, set to Phil’s lovely composition…still a favorite to this day). Afterward, I shared with Phil that I had recently begun to write songs as well. He handed me his guitar and asked me to play one…so I played the most complex song I’d written to that point…which was Proverbs 4:20-23 set to a contemplative melody. I was pretty proud of the song, as I had used a lot of unfamiliar chords pulled from the back page of a book on guitar lessons…but after I was done and handed the guitar back to Phil, he ran thru all the chords effortlessly. Of course, I was stunned!

The next year, in 1976, I moved to the Pittsburgh, PA area for a few months to work in radio. First, at WPLW, a small and very conservative station. That didn’t last very long, as contemporary Christian music was a real stretch for them. But then I got a call from WPIT-FM (now WORD-FM) in Pittsburgh (you KNOW a station has been there for a long time when they have the first three letters of the city’s name in their call sign!), and they wanted to talk about adding some contemporary music to their very conservative format as well. So I began playing Christian music there in the afternoons…and apparently, with a few bumps along the way, that’s still the general format of the station today…35 years later!

I also was living with a family just north of Pittsburgh at the time…the Hanchericks (Lou, his wife Peggy, and their kids). Lou was the publisher of Harmony Magazine, which was one of the earliest publications dedicated exclusively to the emerging genre of Jesus Music (later known as Contemporary Christian Music (or CCM). I still had this Phil Keaggy interview, which had only aired once previously on local radio in central Ohio…so Lou decided to make it the cover story of the third issue of the magazine (spring 1976), and then the interview was completed in the following issue (I don’t have a copy of this one anymore).

I thought it might be fun to scan the cover, the table of contents and the 3-page interview and post them here (click on the thumbnails to see the full-size scans). I hope you enjoy it!

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