THE CHRISTIAN TROUBADOURS STORY
Hello. My name is Wayne Walters, and I’m manager for the CHRISTIAN TROUBADOURS. I’d like to tell you about them. Anything that amounts to something for the Lord always starts with prayer by someone. In the case of the CHRISTIAN TROUBADOURS, there were several men, in different places, looking to God for an answer concerning their work for Him. There is much to the story, but due to space I must not go into too much detail.
First of all, I sang alone with my guitar until I met a young man by the name of Mel Crews, who played a steel guitar. So now you can picture two fellows going from church to church, me playing rhythm guitar and singing, with Mel Crews helping on steel. Then a little short fellow with curly hair walked up one evening and asked us if we wanted some more music. We said yes, so at a practice session we called, we had Mel, Frank Norman and myself. Frank played an electric guitar and also sang. Now we had two singing and three instruments, This is the way in which we started, and one by one we were able to meet people that were interested in our work and, as the Lord blessed we were able to grow.
After Frank, came Richard Needham, then Al Turner who played bass, Al had a friend named Harvey Yoeman who played mandolin and preached. This made up the first CHRISTIAN TROUBADOURS. These were our forming days in 1954 and 1955. This group of six stayed together about eight months. We knew almost nothing about arrangements of music, and I am sure, as I look back, that we must have sounded pretty bad. Harvey preached so well though that churches always wanted us, and all of these men loved the Lord so well, He honored our efforts because people were being saved. As I recall those first weeks and months, it brings tender memories, for this work was an answer to prayer in the making. In our music, we did fairly well about the middle of the song, but we didn’t know how to start together or end together. I suppose there were other good friends praying, as we were, that we would get better.
It was about this time we made a change, for the Lord brought us together with a man who had the know-how about our type of music. He was from Nashville, Tennessee and had been in country music all his life, but now was Evangelist Jack Boles. Jack was very busy, but we asked him if he would help us. So every Saturday morning we went to Los Angeles, California and were instructed. Mel Crews moved to northern California and Richard Needham, who was our manager, also moved. For the next few years we worked at our jobs during the day and sang at night. Some of the time we worked in meetings with Jack, but mostly it was Wayne, Harvey, Frank and Al.
In 1959 we reached that place of our biggest decision. We were singing somewhere every night and on the weekend we were singing out of town, often getting back just in time for work. We knew we must enter the ministry full time, or cut down a lot. In the beginning we had no intention of full time service, but the Lord led us along, often performing miracles on our behalf.
After much prayer, we set a date to terminate our jobs. By this time we had been traveling in a Chrysler Limousine, and Frank Norman made it possible for us to get a bus, which we used for six years. We had been full time for a while when, in a revival in Stockton, California, we ran into Richard Needham again. He lived there and had a friend who was a DJ and country and western singer in some local night clubs. Richard told us he felt sure this DJ would talk about the meeting and help advertise, so we went to the radio station to meet Bill Carter. Bill did talk about the revival, played our albums and after his show we went out for coffee. The Holy Spirit began to deal with Bill that day, and for the next week we spent a good deal of time with him, as he came over every day. In those meetings we had a service in the morning also. At the end of the week, Bill was converted. That caused quite a stir in that area, and many others were saved there.
Al Turner, being of a quiet nature and meek spirit, told us, after that meeting, that he had been praying for the Lord to send someone to take his place, and he knew it was Bill. Three months later Bill took his place with the CHRISTIAN TROUBADOURS, playing bass and singing tenor. Along about this time also, one might when we were in the Redwoods of California, we met a tall, handsome fiddle player by the name of Frank Petty. Along with logging, he also preached and sang. After about another year, Harvey Yoeman left and we called Frank Petty. He moved down south to join us.
The Devil was always after us it seemed and many problems came our way. First, Frank Norman got hepatitis and was very sick. Then Al got his arm broken, Harvey fell and hurt his back and was operated on, then Frank Petty came, and while we were in Idaho in some meetings, I got hepatitis, which put me in the hospital for three months. After I had been there a week, I looked down the hall, and I saw them wheeling Frank Petty in. He was there six weeks with hepatitis also.
Harvey rejoined the TROUBADOURS and as we were booked several months in advance, Bill, Frank Norman and Harvey carried on. I can’t tell you how wonderful the Lord was to us in that time of extreme testing. He supplies our needs in strange ways. Frank and I weren’t allowed to see our children, and that was hard, but the “boys” would call me often and give me a report. When Frank Petty got out of the hospital, he moved back to the Redwoods. In the mean time , on a stormy night in Oregon, the Troubadours turned the bus over in a canyon, resulting in some minor cuts to Bill and Frank Norman. On my release from the hospital, I rejoined the boys, and once again it was Wayne, Harvey, Bill and Frank.
The next to leave us was little Frank Norman, so we were three again. At this time we met a young man who had just been a Christian six months. He was a five-string banjo player. His name was Philip Price. We listened to Phil and had him work with us a couple of times, then asked him to join us, which he did. Phil and his wife were expecting a baby, so she had to stay in Sacramento while Phil worked with us out of Lakewood. That was a hard time for them. About the only time they saw each other was when we went through town. Harvey, Bill and I would go to a restaurant and eat, While Phil and his wife cried together. Phil was praying that the Lord would let him be home when his baby was born. One night in Los Angeles we got the call. We put Phil on a plane , and the race was on. From the plane to the bus, to a cab. Phil beat the stork by fifteen minutes. Then, when he was sure mother and baby were fine, he fainted. That was on a Friday night. On the next night we were to be in the biggest concert of our career, in the famed Hollywood Bowl. On that big stage in the Hollywood Hills, I introduced the new daddy, and Phil played his now famous arrangement of “Joy Bells” as the crowd thundered their approval.
Harvey once again left the road, and Frank Petty returned. Then we moved our headquarters to Modesto, California. We received an invitation from the government at this time to go to the Far East and entertain the Armed Forces, which we accepted. In the weeks prior to our leaving, there were 16 shots we had to receive. One of the series of shots we took before leaving for a tour of Oregon and we all got sick, but we never missed a meeting. For six weeks we toured the Far East, visiting Alaska, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Okinawa, Guam, and Hawaii. In the two years in which we worked out of Modesto, it was necessary for us to travel often in the Midwest and eastern states. In 1965 we traveled to the East seven times, so we felt the need of being more centrally located. First we moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and after six months, we came to “Music City” Nashville, Tennessee. On our move from California, Bill Carter left the TROUBADOURS and Jack Boles came back to help us out. Then Larry King joined us, and was with us a year and a half. While Larry was with us, Frank Petty moved back to California, then we traveled as three for a year. When Larry left, Bill Carter joined us again in January, 1968. Then in September of 68’, Leroy Blankenship joined us. Leroy is a powerful singer and a great preacher, playing guitar and piano. We met Leroy in 1962 in Washington State, and always thought he would be a fine CHRISTIAN TROUBADOUR.
In the years and work of the CHRISTIAN TROUBADOURS, let no man receive honor, nor think that it was anyone’s wisdom, other than the blessings of our God who ordained, and by His love, has kept this ministry. Years ago I knew that the Lord was going to use this means to reach people who couldn’t be touched any other way, and I ask Him if I could come along. So He made me Foreman. The talent and dedication of all these men has been, and is still today, a thrill to me! I am so glad to have the privilege of knowing and working with them. I have learned a lot from their lives.
To the wives of the CHRISTIAN TROUBADOURS, I humbly bow, for their sacrifice and love for the Lord. Many times we have asked the Lord to thank people for us, for we knew not how. Like K. T. who bought a bus, or Mel and Jess May who gave us motors, Burt Stevens who was saved in our meetings and has always stuck by us, the Churchills who helped us just in time. Also the Wheelers, Knoezers, Culliphers, Bumpus’, Crabtrees and hundreds of others.
I know there are a lot of skeptics who don’t believe the way God cares for and helps His people. Like one Christmas a large check came with a note that read, “The Lord said you have a need.” We never knew who sent it. It is our prayer that, in this very small part of the CHRISTIAN TROUBADOURS story, we can show how the Lord helps guide anyone who will serve Him. Our greatest pride is in the hundreds of converts of this work, who are now serving the Lord. There is no way to end this, for tomorrow there will be more, and on and on until Jesus comes, for our belief is Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
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