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Jon came to learn that there was more to Amy Grant than what was apparent at Caribou. “Although I worked with Amy several times in the studio, it was on the tour that I could really see how incredibly well she connected with the audience. Their roar of applause and the appreciation shown toward Amy made us all feel at home and welcome, ready to perform.”
The concert venues were at Christian universities and colleges, where the audience was favorably disposed not only to Amy’s music but also to her message of hope and life. The concerts became a blend of family reunion and spiritual revival. “She was a sincere, kind-hearted, intelligent woman who really knew how to communicate her love for life and God to her audience. It inspired not only them but also us in the band. This reciprocating energy of love and celebration prompted us to play our best. As a result, the stage was electric with energy,” said Jon.
One unforgettable artist Jon worked with was Reba McEntire, a Country icon devoid of diva attitude. “Reba is as real as it gets,” said Jon. His work on a couple of her albums represented some of his first experiences with pure Country music; before then his genres had been pop, R&B, and rock.
“Reba was at once down-home and funny,” said Jon. “There was no sense of pretense, and she showed up for the sessions dressed in casual clothes. She was full of country wit and wisdom and always had a one-liner for every occasion, which cracked everybody up. Knowing her spunky personality, I still get a chuckle when I see her on TV.”
But when it was time to turn on the recording light, Reba was all business. She sang with great professionalism and really put her heart into it. Reba would always sing along on each take to give the band the feel and mood of the song. Consequently, they would generally get it right on the first take, and it was common to record all the rhythm tracks in one day.
There was another Country artist who had left an even bigger impression on him. “I only met Chet Atkins a couple of times,” said Jon, “but they were among the most memorable experiences of my Nashville career.” One occasion was during a recording session he produced, the other took place in his home. On the latter occasion Atkins told stories about entertainers and the business. “They were so funny that we almost fell out of our chairs with laughter,” said Jon.
“Chet was a man of few words, but with great wisdom, talent, and humor. One side of him I hadn’t heard about before was his deep perspective on life. I admired his guitar playing when I was a child, and to actually get the opportunity to meet him and work with him was a real honor. After having met him I could see that his reflective nature, and his focus and discipline, helped create his unique style of playing. Getting to know him, I could better appreciate the many years he spent cultivating his craft and the incredibly unique style of playing he mastered.”
“Listening to Chet play was like listening to an entire band,” Jon continued. “He played bass, rhythm, and lead all at once. The reason he developed that style was that, after listening to music on the radio, he wanted to reproduce all the parts himself.”
After a moment of introspection, Jon added, “One of the last things I heard Chet say was that he wished that he’d set more goals for his life because he had already accomplished all of them.” That had given Jon food for thought. It encouraged him to set goals to give him something to reach for at the time, but also to always look to the horizon in order to keep growing.
Jon was also delighted to record with The Crusaders, artists he had admired for years. There was “Stix” Hooper on drums, Joe Sample on keyboards, and Wilton Felder on Saxophone. “The creativity and masterful playing was just pouring out of everyone,” said Jon. “For example, Wilton would call out, ‘Hey Joe, give us an intro,’ and Joe would immediately come up with half a dozen options for chord progressions—and they were all tasteful. Wilton just picked one. I never worked with a group before that was so spontaneous. Everything was in the moment, inspired, exciting. It was absolutely thrilling to work with such great talent.”
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