Friday Night Lights

No, not football.

I’m talking about a concert.

Last Friday I went to see my buddies on the Michael W. Smith / Steven Curtis Chapman tour that was in town.

It actually goes back 9 years, the summer Jennie and I got married. I did merch on Michael W.’s summer tour. I was working for a company called Company X, a merchandise company that specialized in Christian music artists. There were 3 distinct areas to the company – creation, vending and storage/mail order.

First of all, we designed the merchandise (T-shirts, hats, posters, stickers, keychains, etc.), then we also vended the merch on the artists’ tours, and finally we stored their stock and fulfilled mail order requests for their stuff.

Now keep in mind, this was in the mid-1990’s – THE pinnacle of contemporary Christian music. And our clients were just about EVERY ARTIST in Christian music at the time – except DC Talk. That means we had accounts for and had people on tour with just about every big CCM artist from the time – Jars of Clay, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Third Day, Delirious, Newsboys, etc…

I personally toured doing merch with Michael W. Smith, CeCe Winans / Kirk Franklin, Chonda Pierce, Jars of Clay, and, yes, Carman (yep, you guessed it – The Champion himself…). You add the big festivals around the country, and the number of artists we represented easily quadruples…

That said, it was a great time to make a ton of friendships, and even establish some infamous stories (getting stuck ing toll booths, crashing dirt bikes, almost getting killed by bootleggers – you name it…).

So it was a great chance to not only visit and tell stories with some old friends, but also a chance to see my brother-in-law Michael Olson in a realm I don’t get to witness often. I usually see him leading worship from an acoustic guitar or eating leftovers late at night on my couch. So it was really cool to see him drumming for the Smith / Chapman house band. He’s played with Michael W. Smith for a while now, and to see him also playing for Steven Curtis Chapman was really cool.

And to do that while sitting beside my little sister Ashley (his wife) made it all the more special. She drove down from Nashville and stayed over with us for the weekend (meaning she and Jennie got to go do a bunch of shopping together!!).

The pics are a little lame – the stage lights don’t necessarily agree with the iPhone camera. But you’ll get the idea… The way the camera picks up MWS and SCC makes them look like angels!! Ooohhh!!

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The best man from my wedding, Jon Ludlow, has since started his own tour vending company. Company X fizzled in the late 90’s and Jon seized the vacuum it left in the industry and now has several guys out on several tours under his company. He still vends the fun / big tours himself, so it was fun to hang with him and to relive my old merch days.

Even staying late to help him settle the venue’s percentage flooded me with memories of being the last guy in the building with a mitt full of cash. Of course, now days the bulk of the sales are credit and debit cards, but there’s still a whole lot of green to be counted….

Certainly NOT a job for the easily tempted!

Here’s a pic of Jon prepping the Compassion International table volunteers. The crowd sponsored over 100 kids that night!


Ahh, what you can do with pipe, drape, speaker stands, body forms and coat hangers…


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What MWS / SCC memories do YOU have?

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3 thoughts on “Friday Night Lights

  1. 20+ years ago we sent away for Amy Grant and Michael Smith (before the W)by postcard, and ended up with front row seats at the Great Western Forum…where the Laker’s used to play.

    fast forward, I met SCC at The Pond in Anaheim when he was promoting Signs of Life. Working for the guitar company, we had great seats, and a meet and greet that turned to much more. we ventured back into the guitar room and play a little….also got to visit with Carolyn Arends.

    a few years later MJS gave us the cold shoulder at the Sports arena in SD…it happens.

  2. Many, many memories…A few…
    – Smitty actually opened for us (Broken Heart) when his 2nd album came out. He had twirling argyle diamonds for his backdrop. Very groovy…matched the original album cover.
    – We played “Gospel Ship” at a Word Records showcase at GMA…my first GMA event and first gig in Nashville. We got to the Little Richard-esque piano solo in the middle, and Smitty jumped up on the riser next to me. I thought “Okay, here goes a piano solo with Michael W. Smith looking over my shoulder. No pressure”. I royally screwed it up. Played like I was wearing boxing gloves.
    – We headlined a gig at an amusement park in 1986 with Allies. SCC was playing in another part of the park…just him and an acoustic guitar. He had less than 100 people sitting there, and I was watching from backstage. I’ll never forget how gracious he was in thanking me profusely for coming over and listening.
    – And every time since then that I’ve been able to talk to SCC (of course, the farther removed I am from the years I was in CCM, the harder it is to GET to talk to him), he always remembers me and is always gracious and kind.

  3. Smitty’s “Live The Life” tour was the first real concert I ever attended. I saw the first concert on his tour at Liberty University, and from then on, I was hooked. I was so inspired, and that’s a big part of the reason I’m doing what I do now.

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