A Young Person’s Guide to Whiteheart

I’ve come to release that a lot of my favorite bands from my college/high school years that were, sadly, confined to the CCM ghetto are quickly fading away. Many of my younger friends have no idea who these bands are or what they sound like, so I’m creating a series of posts to educate the young listener.

Who Are They?
Whiteheart is a rock band that combined strong vocal harmonies with a rock sound that became progressively more complex from album to album from 1982 to 1997. The main band members throughout the history of the band were Billy Smiley (guitars, vocals) and Mark Gersmehl (keyboards, vocals). Rick Florian (vocals) joined the band in 1986 and became a principal member of the band. The rest of the roles were filled by a revolving door of musicians on drums, bass, and electric guitar. While Whiteheart enjoyed quite a bit of success on their own, the band became a springboard for many of the members to go on to successful session musician careers.

Whiteheart’s music became progressively better with each album, delving deeper lyrically as they moved away from common Christianese lyrics to more thoughtful and questioning thoughts. The band also benefitted from more and more complex arrangements from the musicians that performed on each of their albums. The band perhaps peaked in 1992 or 1993 when rock music changed in response to grunge music. Whiteheart unsuccessfully tried to adapt the sound, but it never truly fit within their oeuvre.

Brief History
Whiteheart formed in 1982 from musicians performing for Bill Gaither. Smiley and Gersmehl were members of the original band along with vocalist Steve Green and brothers Dann (guitars) and David Huff (drums). Green left after the first self-titled album saying that rock was not his preferred music and went on to a successful CCM career. Vocalist Scott Douglas joined the band for the next two albums. Dann Huff left after next album Vital Signs and David Huff left after Hotline and the two brothers formed the band Giant, which enjoyed brief success in the 80’s.

Whiteheart was rocked by scandal in 1986 when Douglas was arrested as a sexual offender. Fortunately for the band, the members discovered that their roadie and bus driver, Rick Florian, was a more than capable replacement and he became the vocalist for the rest of the band’s duration. Florian became notable for spelling his first name differently on every album (Ric, Rickq, etc.) Florian’s first album Don’t Wait For the Movie featured Gordon Kennedy on guitar and Chris McHugh on drums. Tommy Simms joined the band on bass for Emergency Broadcast. The band experience a quantum leap in quality with their next album Freedom in 1989.

After Freedom, the band left their original label, Sparrow Records, and joined Starsong Records. McHugh, Simms, and Kennedy all left the band at this time to become session musicians. Whiteheart debuted a new lineup with Mark Nemer (drums), Anthony Sallee (bass), and Brian Wooten (guitar) on the album Powerhouse in 1991. McHugh returned to play drums on the next album Tales Of Wonder in 1992 and during the tour the band hired Jon Knox, formerly of Adam Again, to play drums. In 1993, the band released their last album on Starsong titled Highlands

The band released a couple of new songs on a couple of Best Of releases before ending their contract with Starsong. John Thorn joined the band on bass, replacing Sallee. The band joined Curb Records with anticipation of greater mainstream appeal, but when Inside was released in 1995, the musical climate had change for rock music and the album was a disappointment. The band underwent another upheaval as Wooten, Thorn, and Knox all departed the and. Gersmehl and Florian each also has personal crises as Gersmehl lost his father to death and Florian divorced his wife. Gersmehl, Florian, and Smiley hired session musicans to release one last album, Redemption before they announced they were entering a “dormant stage” for the band in 1997.

Where Are They Now?
Florian is a now a real-estate agent. Gersmehl and Smiley remain involved in the music business as Gersmehl still performs as a solo artist and Smiley works for a label called Devotion. Many of the other musicians remain in high demand as session musicans for Christian, country, and mainstream rock and pop albums and artists. Though the band has never officially broken up, there are no plans for any future touring and albums. The band did, however, reunite in 2006 for an awards show with a lineup of Gersmehl, Smiley, Florian, Knox, Simms, and Kennedy. The band performed two songs (Video of “Freedom” here on YouTube) for the show.

If You Bought Only One Album….
The real peak of Whiteheart’s music in terms of songwriting and musical quality are the albums between and including Freedom and Highlands. The albums before Freedom are mostly hit-and-miss with each one progressively becoming slightly more hit than miss, but are not essential and the albums afterwards lack some of the musical strength of the peak albums. Freedom would be a fine choice as it features some fantastic songs (“Sing Your Freedom”,”Over Me”,”Let The Kingdom Come”) but it is a little uneven. I would probably pick Tales of Wonder as just slightly above Freedom. Tales of Wonder is a rare album that I can listen to the entire way through without skipping a single track.

Get Thee to iTunes! Or Make Your Own Mix Tape for 10 bucks
Unfortunately, Highlands is not available on iTunes, which is criminal, so I had to leave two fantastic songs (“Heaven of My Heart” and “The Flame Passes On”) off the list, but if you can find them somewhere, add them to this list.

1. How Many Times (Seventy Times Seven) (Souvenirs)
2. Montana Sky (Souvenirs)
3. Sing Your Freedom (Freedom)
4. Let the Kingdom Come (Freedom)
5. Over Me (Freedom)
6. Powerhouse (Powerhouse)
7. Unchain (Tales of Wonder)
8. Who Owns You (Tales of Wonder)
9. Find A Way (Inside)
10. Fall On Me (Redemption)

A Young Person’s Guide to The Choir

I’ve come to realize that a lot of my favorite bands from my college/high school years that were, sadly, confined to the CCM ghetto are quickly fading away. Many of my younger friends have no idea who these bands are or what they sound like, so I’m creating a series of posts to educate the young listener.

Who Are They?
The Choir is a rock band originally based out of California known for atmospheric sounds and quirky lyrics that plumb deeper subjects than many Christian bands wanted to touch. Many times the lyrics were also self-referential, referring back to previous albums or songs on the album. The primary members of The Choir are Derri Daugherty (vocals, guitar), Steve Hindalong (drums, percussion, vocals) and Dan Micheals (saxophone, lyricon). Tim Chandler (bass) appears on many of the albums, though he entered and exited the band several times to tour with other bands and artists and his role was sometimes filled by other bass guitarists. The band has been joined by Marc Byrd (guitars) of Common Children during recent years.

Hindalong and Daugherty collaborated on a series of albums titled “City On A Hill” that is probably their most successful music commercially. Hindalong and Byrd penned “God of Wonders” which is now a popular worship song sung in many churches.

Brief History
The Choir formed in 1983 as the result of a friendship between Hindalong and Chandler. Chandler was playing bass for the pioneering Christian rock band, Daniel Amos, and introduced Hindalong to Daugherty, who would working as a roadie for DA at the time. Originally, the band was titled Youth Choir, but changed their name to The Choir when they released Diamonds and Rain in 1986. Chandler soon left the band to tour with DA and Hindalong and Daugherty produced a couple albums together, hiring Micheals to play saxophone. Micheals also introduced the lyricon into the sound of The Choir, a signature sound of the band, particularly at live concerts.

The Choir’s early albums bear heavy influence from 80’s new wave bands, particularly bands such as The Police and Psychedelic Furs. After recording Diamonds and Rain with producer Charlie Peacock, the band subsequently recorded and produced all the rest of their albums themselves. Self-production and recording proved to be highly beneficial to Daugherty and Hindalong as they have earned a living recording and producing albums for other bands and this allowed them to truly give The Choir its own unique sound.

Chase The Kangaroo was their first self-produced album, released in 1988 and was recorded with Tim Chandler. However, Chandler left after the recording of the album, and the band hired Robin Spurs. The Choir gained some attention as “the band with the female bass player” which may have helped put them on some music magazine covers. Spurs recorded Wide Eyed Wonder and parts of Circle Slide in 1990 with the band before leaving. Circle Slide signaled a bit of a transition bringing Hindalong’s percussion and drums to the forefront and is perhaps the bands’ best album.

During 1991, Hindalong and Daugherty collaborated on a acoustic worship album titled At the Foot of the Cross The album laid the foundation for much of their later work on the City on a Hill series and while it was critically acclaimed, the worship music fad had not emerged yet and it is even today virtually unknown. In 1993, Hindalong, Daugherty, and Micheals all moved to Nashville to be closer to many of the artists they were working with. Some of the struggles with the move are recounted in their independent release Kissers and Killers, much of which was repackaged and sold on a label as Speckled Bird

In 1996, the toils of touring took their toll on Hindalong and Daugherty, both now fathers, and they announced that the tour supporting their newest album Free Flying Soul would be their last one. The band went essentially dormant until 2000 when all four members recorded Flap Your Wings together and then released a boxed set of all their albums titled Never Say Never, a play on their declarations to not tour anymore, not record anymore, etc. which have all proved false. Hindalong and Daugherty then released the City On A Hill series in the following years. In 2005, the band recorded O, How The Mighty Have Fallen with Marc Byrd as the producer and followed with a short tour, their first since 1996.

Where Are They Now?
Steve Hindalong and Derri Daugherty are now members of Lost Dogs with Micheal Roe and Terry Taylor. They, along with Marc Byrd, still produce and record acts in Nashville, TN. Tim Chandler works as computer consultant while Dan Micheals works in public relations for a label in Nashville. There are no current plans to record or tour again, but as they say, “Never Say Never.”

If You Bought Only One Album…
Circle Slide is the creative peak of the band, in my opinion. It is a short album and there is relatively little filler. The sound is a little dated with heavy doses of reverb, but it seems like everything produced in the late 80’s and early 90’s has a lot of reverb. “Tear For Tear” and “About Love” are a combination of songs that perfectly combine the joy and ache of love that the Choir explored so much in their music. “Restore My Soul” is a fantastic groove, featuring some of Steve Hindalong’s best drumming.

Get Thee to iTunes! Or Make Your Own Mix Tape for 10 bucks
You can buy many of the bands’ albums and songs on iTunes, however I recommend purchasing them from The Choir Downloads where the money goes directly to the band and you can download the songs in DRM-free MP3 format.

1. Consider (Chase The Kangaroo)
2. To Bid Farwell (Wide Eyed Wonder)
3. Restore My Soul (Circle Slide)
4. Yellow Skies (Speckled Bird)
5. Love Your Mind (Speckled Bird)
6. The Ocean (Free Flying Soul)
7. Tear For Tear/About Love (Let It Fly)
8. Flowing Over Me (Flap Your Wings)
9. Beautiful Scandalous Night (Flap Your Wings)
10. To Rescue Me (O How The Mighty Have Fallen)

Andy Gullahorn and Jill Philips at Acoustic Jeremiah


Much like the previous concert Adriene and I went to a couple weeks ago, Andy Gullahorn and Jill Philips are a married couple that produce music individually. However, both sometimes come together in concert to combine strengths and deliver a show of enjoyable music. Their marriage is a context that permeates the show and you realize immediately these are two people who have known each other a long time and know how to draw the best out of each other.

The show was located at the wonderful Acoustic Jeremiah, a small church venue in Canton, Georgia. The intimate nature of venue and the remote location give you the feeling you are participating in something special. The welcoming attitude of the hosts gives you the feeling you are entering into a community. It really does enhance the show. I’m hoping there are many more shows to come at this location.

Philips and Gullahorn provide a perfect foil to each other. They performed “in the round” which Andrew Peterson has always said means “if you don’t like one artist, you have to endure a couple songs before you can listen to the next one.” Performing in the round means that Philips tender, sometimes heartbroken songs meshed with Gullahorn’s clever, wry, and sometimes flippant songs. Philips would silence the crowd with a reverant air with a song like “I Am” and Gullahorn would elicit guffaws with a song like “Green Hills Mall.” The two combined voices and guitars for many beautiful songs by each of the two, ending the night with acapella renditions of “All Hail The Name” and the “Doxology.”

Great shows are more that just performances, they are the gathering of a community and the Square Peg Alliance and Acoustic Jeremiah always seem to deliver in that way.

Photos of the show here!