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All Saved Freak Band

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Biography

The roots of Jesus rock pioneers the All Saved Freak Band date back to 1963, when aspiring pianist Larry Hill met guitarist Joe Markko on a Chicago street corner while ministering for the Christian youth program Teen Challenge; a few years later, the duo began collaborating as songwriters, first enjoying success when their "There Is Still Hope in Jesus" was selected as the closing theme for the local radio program Time Is the Risen Christ. In 1966 Hill broke away from the Assembly of God to found his own independent church, the Church of the Risen Christ, claiming he was the recipient of visions that foretold of a war between Americans and Asians, communism in Australia, impending "enemy advancement," and God's plans to send America "into vast and destructive judgment for her sins." The CRC made its home on a five-acre plot of land in Orwell, OH, raising livestock, stockpiling weapons, and studying martial arts in advance of Communist attack; in the meantime, Hill and Markko continued writing and playing music, with the former convinced rock & roll would serve as the ideal vessel for his spiritual message. With the additions of Markko's brother Randy on bass and drummer Dana Vandernic, they began performing live as Preacher and the Witness, playing coffeehouses and street corners throughout northeast Ohio; eventually, Hill befriended Glenn Schwartz, a phenomenally gifted Cleveland-area guitarist who previously tasted secular success as a member of the James Gang and later Pacific Gas & Electric, only to denounce the mainstream after he discovered Christianity. With Schwartz's addition, the All Saved Freak Band officially launched in 1969. Hill assumed singing and preaching duties, backed by sister vocalists Pam and Kim Massman, while Schwartz shied from the spotlight, contributing poetic, expansive guitar leads to rival those of Jimi Hendrix (at whose final birthday party he once played). The group typically played sidewalks and parking lots outside of secular concerts and festivals. In 1973, the All Saved Freak Band issued its debut LP, My Poor Generation, which it sold at shows and advertised via the Freedom Bell, a free newspaper published and distributed by CRC faithful. Brainwashed followed in 1975, and a year later the group issued its third LP, For Christians, Elves and Lovers; however, music turned secondary as Hill's influence over his followers increased, and he began enforcing a rigid code of behavior on his flock. As Hill's control grew, Schwartz's family tracked him down, forced him into a car, and locked him in a room with a cult deprogrammer. After exiting a mental institution, Schwartz nevertheless returned to the CRC flock, resuming his duties in the All Saved Freak Band. (Guitarist Phil Keaggy filled in during his absence.) In 1973 Markko was zapped by 27,000 volts of electricity, losing his hands in the accident. He remained on board as the ASFB's primary writer and arranger before leaving the church in 1979, disillusioned with Hill's vision. Schwartz left the band and the flock a year later, concurrent with the release of the final All Saved Freak Band album, Sower (a project completed several years earlier); as of this writing, Hill and a few remaining Church of the Risen Christ members still live on the Orwell commune, while the ASFB's original LPs have all seen reissue on compact disc via the Hidden Vision label. ~ Jason Ankeny

Top Songs

Formed:

1969 in Orwell, OH

Genre
Years Active:

'60s, '70s

Contemporaries