As Christians worldwide celebrate Easter, our thoughts go to Jesus rolling away the stone to offer hope to humankind. Christ means different things to different people. Most often, people seem to think of Him as a reflection of themselves. I see Jesus as a hippie, or at least I did when I first got into radio.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Jesus was part of the emerging youth culture. He was part of the contemporary music mix, appearing in popular songs like Day By Day by Godspell and Jesus Is Just Alright by the Doobie Brothers. When I was on the air, I recall following O Happy Day by the Edwin Hawkins Singers with Born to Be Wild by Steppenwolf. Talk about yin and yang.
My view of Jesus being a hippie was reinforced by a weekly syndicated show on our station: Silhouette, hosted by John Rydgren. For a half-hour Rydgren played the Top 40 hits mixed with short conversations with teens at a Silhouette Shack, a chain local coffeehouses that were part of Silhouette’s outreach.
To me, John Rydgren (sometimes called “Brother John”) was an inspiring role model.
He mixed the music I loved with word essays about the value of life, avoiding materialism and protesting against the Vietnam War.
I admired Rydgren because he stood for the things in life that matter and he produced radio that, at the time, meant something to me.
Many Rydren’s audio collages sound like a flashback to groovier times. Some of his modules are now funny because Rydgren’s style was so over the top.
Today, one of Rydgren’s audio creation that stands the test of time: Grooving on a Saturday Night in Vietnam. He used an instrumental version of the Rascal’s hit Groovin to tell the story. I edited Rydgren’s original piece and added video I found online to create this two-minute YouTube clip:
When Rydgren died in 1988, the Los Angeles Times said of him in his obit:
John Rydgren, who created one of the first Christian rock 'n' roll radio programs in the country died of heart failure at his home in Los Angeles. He was 56.
Rydgren was an ordained Lutheran minister who hosted a weekday midday program on KRTH (K-Earth) and a Sunday spiritual weekly show called Heaven Is in Your Mind.
Rydgren began his radio work in Minneapolis in the mid-1960s, when he began taping a Christian rock 'n' roll show called Silhouette from a church basement.
The show became so popular that it was nationally syndicated on over 650 stations. He moved to New York in 1969 to become the voice of ABC’s new national FM Love Format. Love did last long and Rydgren moved to Los Angeles.
In Southern California he worked on-air at KROQ, KMET, KRLA and KOST. In 1982, he suffered a debilitating stroke while on the air, and physicians predicted that he would never be able to talk again.
However, with therapy he overcame his physical impairment and began taping commercials in 1985. The following year joined K-Earth, where he worked until his death in 1988.