I had a friend ask about my “testimony” (a fancy word that means “how did you come to Christ, and how has he changed your life?”). She heard that the Christian singer Bryan Duncan was somehow involved. Well, that’d be an understatement. It’s been a while since I’ve had to put it into words, but here’s the Cliff’s Notes version (which is still kinda long).
I first gave my life to Christ when I was about thirteen years old – at least, that’s when I originally went forward at an altar call. It was after this rock seminar thing at a church a female friend took me to where they called all of my favorite bands evil. But I was kinda in puppy love with this girl, so I went up to the altar. Nothing happened with the girl, really… and the same was true with my “conversion”. Fast forward several years later, I’m about twenty years old and I’m dating a cute redhead who loves all of that nerdy Christian music. She’s into this stupid rap group that calls themselves DC-speaks, or something like that, and there’s also this guy named Bryan Duncan that she is listening to that she really likes. His music is quirky, fun, and if you HAD to listen to that religious crud you could probably do much worse. I went along with it because, well, I was into the girl.
Summer came and the local amusement park in Kansas City was having their annual “Christian Family Day” at the park where they had Christian bands and artists performing all day. Folks I’d never heard of before – and I couldn’t tell you who was there this year if my life depended on it, except that I know the main attraction was supposed to be Bryan Duncan. Before the show we’re sitting in the bleachers under the blaring sun, only about twenty people in the crowd because it’s still an hour before show time but my girlfriend wants to get good seats. We could be on the rollercoasters or the water rides, but we’re wasting our $25 tickets to the park sitting on hot metal bleachers waiting for some rock-star wannabee. Whatever.
During set up we did find enjoyment in one of the tech crew though. This guy had no idea of fashion. This was the late eighties, so really no one had an idea of fashion, but this guy took fashion ignorance to a whole new level. He had the backwards ball cap, a tie-dyed t-shirt, lime-green bicycle shorts (yowza!), and bright orange sneakers with no socks. He looked like an explosion in a pain factory. But hey, at least watching him and making jabs at his wardrobe helped kill time. He said, ‘check, check’ a couple of times in the mic and finally left the stage.
Twenty minutes later we hear a pastor preach for about ten minutes. Boring. Some local artist plays a couple of songs on her guitar. Boring. Then they introduce Bryan Duncan… and he’s dressed in a backwards ballcap, tie-dyed t-shirt, bicycle shorts, and orange sneakers. Yep. It was him. He came out with so much energy and kicked it off with his classic, “Holy Rollin’”. As a singer and performer myself, I was immediately mesmerized by this guy’s charisma on stage. He took the stage like it was his, and he (gasp) had FUN! Can Christians look like that, behave like that, and still be loved by God? At the end of the show I realized that yes, they could… and for the second time I stepped forward. This time, not for the girl, but for the God.
It wasn’t too long after that I had my first job in Christian radio. I got to see Bryan Duncan perform a couple of concerts (along with all of the big bands too, Petra, Whiteheart, DeGarmo & Key, Geoff Moore & The Distance, Idle Cure, etc.), and then about ten years into my career I had the opportunity to have Bryan Duncan as a guest on my radio show. He was funny, gracious, somewhat distant (as I heard he could be), and always hiding behind the laughter and punchlines (gee, no wonder I liked this guy – he was me!). I told him right there, live on the air, the story that I just told you. That I gave my life to Christ at one of his concerts. That same night I had the privilege of being the master of ceremonies for his concert at a local church. I was the one that got to go onstage and say, “ladies and gentlemen… Bryan Duncan!” But not before telling the audience what kind of an inspiration Bryan had been in my life.
The concert was amazing (as always), and after the encore I went up onstage to thank Bryan and everyone for coming… but Bryan had a surprise up his sleeve. He’d heard that I could sing. So he decided to do one more song… handed me a microphone… and together the two of us sang “Step By Step” from his LOVE TAKES TIME CD. We just played off of each other, and I saw him raise an eyebrow as if to say, “wow – you really CAN sing!” I will live on that moment for the rest of my life.
I continued singing and songwriting for about ten years after that. Did a little touring. Met Bryan a couple more times in passing… and about ten years ago God had me put down singing and songwriting. For good, I don’t know – but I’ve yet to pick it up again. My keyboard is in its case, and I doubt I could remember even a single song that I’ve written if I were to get in front of a piano. My voice is out of shape, I can’t hit the notes I was once able to. I’m still performing – but now it’s through a radio show, standup comedy, and the occasional acting opportunity. I’m not sure I’ll ever receive permission to sing again in front of a crowd as I once did. But if I ever want to get that feeling of it, all I have to do is pop in Bryan Duncan’s “Anonymous Confessions of a Lunatic Friend” and scream along with “Mr. Bailey’s Daughter”… and it all comes flooding back.