One year ago, today I ran sound at church for the last time. I decided it was time to retire after running sound as a volunteer for 50 years. I started running sound when I was 11 years old and a year ago at 61, I put my headphones down for the last time. The technology shifted from analog to digital, so it became a young man's game. Us old analog guys had a tough learning curve to work with. I stepped down so the younger folks can step up and serve.

In 1970 my brother Johnny and his friends formed a band. They called themselves “Solid Rock”. Johnny played keyboard, Malcolm Johnson on drums, Tom Brewer was bass guitar, Bill Coors on lead guitar and Ray Mapes was lead singer. This was at the time of the Jesus Revival that swept across the United States. I wanted to be a part of the band but since I was only 11 years old, they showed me how to “run sound”. Basically, my only job was if there was feedback, I was to turn down the Master on the Shure Mixer/Amplifier. As time and many performances went by, I figured out how to mix the inputs to where the band sounded more blended instead of one or two instruments dominating.

On Sunday mornings, that same sound system was used for morning church service and since I knew how to operate it, I became the Sound Guy. I took my job seriously and was at all the services that required the sound system. Before long a room at the back of the auditorium was converted to become the Sound Room. What they did to convert it was to cut a hole in the wall so I could sit in that room and operate the board. The problem was the hole in the wall, or window was at ground level so when people stood up, I could not see a thing on stage.

After a few years the Solid Rock broke up since everyone sort of went on with their life. That sound system became a permanent part of the church. The system was upgraded from time to time with a new mixer, new amps, mics and speakers. I was dedicated to operating it until I went off to college. I showed someone else how to run the system and when I was back in town, we would tag team on who operated the sound.

Later I was on staff for a large church in Houston as their Television Engineer/Editor for 15 years. I was devoted to video for TV, so I was not able to run live sound for church during that time.

Over the years, whatever church I became a member of, I would volunteer to run the sound system. Some churches had a good system of rotating the operators; others had no one in charge of the sound. The churches where there was no one in charge, I ended up running sound most every service until it became a job, and not a time of worship. Most churches showed their appreciation; others expected those of us who volunteered to be there like as if we were on staff. Those particular churches really seem to burn us out and we ended up moving on. I recall one time after leaving a church (for many different reasons) someone asked me why I continue to go to church when they end up abusing my talent? I responded that I serve God, not man.

As I ran sound for the last time a year ago, it was a worshipful time for me. When I switched off the power to the mixer for the last time, it was sort of anti-climactic. I had done this for 50 years but there was no recognition or congratulations for a job well done. I had grown used to the fact that volunteering to run sound was a thankless job. As an operator you were blamed for anything that went wrong but when things went perfectly no one notices, only those on stage were recognized. But that is the way with any true servant's job. I do have a lot of fond memories from over the years. The ones that stand out the most are the times when few things went right, but God moved in a mighty way. That is why I spent so many years as a volunteer running audio for church services, to Glorify God.