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Archive for the ‘Dave Bixby’ Category

Sunday Service: Ode to Quetzalcoatl redux

Monday, January 18th, 2010

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Dave Bixby’s moody and fascinating Jesus folk album, Ode to Quetzalcoatl, which I wrote about here, is now available on CD via the Guerssen label in Spain. The record continues to generate a good bit of online chatter, and I’ve since gathered a few more tidbits about it along with the cult group that spawned it thanks to the reissue itself, an email conversation with a former movement member named Dave Henrickson (who commented on that earlier post), and a reading of Al Perrin’s Many False Prophets Shall Rise:

— The cult Bixby belonged to originated in Grand Rapids, Michigan and was simply called “The Movement” or “The Group,” led by an extraordinarily charismatic and manipulative guy named Don DeGraaf. Any Don or Donald DeGraafs you dig up on Google are probably not him. Henrickson had heard that the real one died in a helicopter accident.

— The movement arose out of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ, a Mormon offshoot, and Bixby’s title reference has to do with Mormon beliefs that Quetzalcoatl is a manifestation, through legend, of Jesus Christ’s Book of Mormon visit to the Americas.

— Bixby is still making music, and currently stages war reenactments in Arizona. This makes sense after reading Perrin’s book, which depicts Bixby not as the docile and depressed introvert we hear in Ode to Quetzalcoatl, but a lively, war game dynamo dressed in Army fatigues who served as one of the group’s higher-ups. The group’s most ardent members, it turns out, engaged in militaristic “campouts” as part of the brainwashing process.

— The group, which believed DeGraaf to be an onmiscient, modern incarnation of the Biblical prophet Elijah, initially raised money by selling combs for a dollar a pop for the sake of their “youth group fighting drugs.”

— Probably because group maintenance became too much of a chore for DeGraaf, the group devolved, circa the mid-seventies, into an Amway-selling army that traded in Jesus for est (Erhard Seminars Training). This likely jibed more cozily with DeGraaf’s private-airplane lifestyle, and it’s also the point where Bixby, to his credit, finally bailed.

— As Dave Henrickson said in his comment from the previous post, the album was definitely out by May 1970, when he remembers trying to sell copies at a Grand Valley State University flea market. He also remembers hearing Bixby sing those songs at meetings as far back as early summer ’69. His memory is that while none sold at the fleamarket, he was able to sell one to his uncle, an elder in the RLDS church.

— I like Al Perrin’s assessment regarding the positive appeal Bixby and his music had on the group: he sounded “like Burl Ives.”

 

Sunday Service/Album ID: Dave Bixby

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

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As you listen to this ultra-rare acoustic guitar/vocal LP which has been making the rounds on record-freak websites lately, you’ll at first feel touched by the enigmatic Bixby’s childlike, confessional lyrics and guileless delivery. He was once enslaved by drugs, he sings in the opener, but now Jesus has set him free. He should have listened to his mother, Bixby later tells us. She had tried to teach him about Jesus while he laughed at her, but she died before she could see him turn his life around and at once thank her for her efforts. But halfway through the record, your feelings of fondness morph into a certain kind of pity as its childlike qualities start to ring like submissiveness. And after you’ve listened to the whole thing straight through, having been hopelessly hypnotized by it, you’ll feel mostly unsettled. Then you’ll google him and discover that the record was likely midwifed by an intense Jesus cult he was involved in and you’ll start feeling outright scared of (and for) the guy.

The record has no year on it and no one seems to know for certain what it is. I’m guessing 1971, the year after the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album helped ease such earthy, nakedly confessional sounds into the pop music vernacular. (By the time the record’s lonely reverb and tape delay sink into your system, in fact, the JL/POB comparison is inescapable, as are thoughts of early Elvis sides like “Blue Moon.”) The year 1971 would also place it squarely in the middle of the all-pervasive Jesus-pop trend. Whatever the year, it’s a treasure in my book. (Absolutely no clue what the title’s misleading reference to Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god, is all about.)

[See this update for more info on Bixby and the album: Ode to Quetzalcoatl redux.]

Dave Bixby – “666”

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