I was in the studio with Rod Stewart, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, and people like that. We recorded with Capitol Records and had some songs that made it big in the United States and in England. While in the studio with Mick Jagger, they were all about recording “Brown Sugar.” Their minds were completely focused on that. There were only three people in the studio other than the band. That was Mick’s girlfriend, his bodyguard, and myself. I was always on a continuing search for happiness. I thought the answer was going to be popularity. We played colleges, opened for people like Cheech and Chong.
The club owner interrupts our set and says, “I want this little guy to sit in on drums.” I told my brothers, “Let’s play the hardest song we know so this will be the last time the club owner asks to let somebody sit in.” We played the song, and the drummer was tearing it up. When we finished the song, I asked the club owner, “Who is this little guy?” He said, “That was little Ricky from the I Love Lucy show.” So “Little Ricky” became my rock n’ roll drummer, and we traveled all over the United States, still looking for happiness.
He would tell us horror stories about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez. He told how unhappy they were and how they would fight and throw expensive dishes in their world of chaos. He told me he never really had a childhood, growing up on the TV set. When he left the I Love Lucy show he went to be on the Andy Griffith Show as Opie’s best friend, Johnny Paul Jason. He was never happy. He was always doing drugs and getting loaded (a cheap drunk).
One day he tells us, “We’re not playing this weekend. I heard my mother went off the deep end. I heard she was filled with the Holy Spirit.” He had been raised in a religion that was quite contrary to that. That was a big no-no. I said, “Man if she got off into something like that you need to go down there and help her out.” So he goes to Lafayette, Louisiana. When he returned he had a little green book in his pocket. I thought, “I hope this is not what I think it is. It looks like one of those little New Testament things I’ve seen some people carry around.” He said, “Look, man, y’all come over here and sit down. I want to talk to you.” I timidly said, “Okay.” So we all sat down, and I said, “What’s wrong?” He said, “Oh, there is nothing wrong. I want to tell you what happened in Lafayette.” He then related to us that he had also been filled with the Holy Spirit. Then he said, “We have to change the words to our songs.” I said, “What are we going to change them to?” He answered, “To Jesus.” I said, “Ain’t no way! We’re playing with *Styxx next week. Can you imagine getting up before all those people, singing something about Jesus? They would boo us off the stage.” He said, “Well, I quit the band right now.”
I was the most depressed I had ever been. I couldn’t explain it. I was just so low, because it was like everything I tried, even though I had success, the contracts, the band. Everybody saw us as rock stars, but still there was something missing. On the way back to Laurel, Mississippi, where we were living, this Little Ricky guy talks to me about Jesus Christ. I gave my life to God on that trip home in 1977.
We played a song called “Noah” and gave an altar call. A young girl that literally ran to the altar. I went down and prayed for her. She had a suicide note already written. She was going to take her life that night. It is stories like this that are so much more fulfilling. All the things I had attained do not compare to the worth of one soul.
*American rock band…from the late 1970s and early 1980s.