In 1967, while living in New Jersey and working in accounting at a local firm as well as working part-time in a sporting goods department store, I met a man there who was the manager of a band. His son was the drummer. He had heard me humming and singing to music being played on a radio in the store and asked if I would be interested in auditioning for the band he was managing. The band, Eminent Domain, had been looking for a new lead-singer so I quickly agreed and went with him to visit the band while they were in rehearsal. I auditioned with them the following weekend with the song “Unchained Melody,” and they immediately signed me on.
While maintaining both my full-time job and a part-time job, I performed with this band on week-ends. Within a week we started singing professionally and began singing in schools, night clubs, radio guest spots, and Battle-Of-The-Bands, many of which we won.
Although I had become a Christian at age 19, I placed my spiritual life on hold. After all, I was the lead-singer of a successful rock band. The audiences loved my style, especially when I belted out renditions of “This Magic Moment,” “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” “Donna,” and other songs that had been made popular by other top singers in the 50s and early 60s. My popularity began to rise and my band was in demand in nightclubs around the United States and Canada, and it was during this time I cut several records. My first attempt did not make the grade. Then in 1968 I did a remake of “This Magic Moment,” originally recorded by The Drifters, which became my signature song, and in 1969 “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” a Platters original. My last recording was “She Cried.”
Somehow in the midst of all this stardom, there occurred a small, seemingly unimportant, moment in time which probably planted a seed for a spiritual renewal that came later. It happened while I was with my band at a motel in Las Vegas, Nevada, just before we were to go on stage at the Sahara Hotel. We had been practicing all day for our big event of being showcased that evening when I realized how hungry I was. When mentioning my hunger to the band, one of the band members threw an apple my way and said, “Here, eat!” For a moment or two I sat there holding that apple and, considering its beauty and completeness, realized that something was missing in my life.
In 1971 after some shocking mistreatment by the very agent who discovered us and made the Frankie Valens name, (no relation to Richie Valens, by the way) my career began a downward spiral. I fired the agent and he retaliated by pulling my records from the radio stations and canceling concerts before we could fulfill our obligations. By 1972 the Frankie Valens era had come to an end, and to this day I receive no royalties for any of my past successes. I went back into the accounting field and immersed myself in my work, later in my career finding time to be an extra in the movies “Ice Castles” and “Every Which Way But Loose.”
With a broken career and a broken marriage behind me, I moved to Colorado and started attending a local church. When the pastor spoke of forgiving, I knew that I had to ask the Lord to help me to forgive. It was there that I gave my heart back to Jesus and knew that I had to forgive my agent and ask for forgiveness for things that I done in the past. Forgiving was the hardest thing I ever had to learn, but since our Lord could forgive those who were killing Him, I certainly had to forgive those who had hurt me. When Phyllis (my present wife) came to direct the church choir, she, like me, was a preacher’s kid and had suffered many of the same traumas as myself. It was love at first sight! She is an accomplished concert pianist and song writer who had written for Standard Publishing’s Vacation Bible School courses for over twenty years, including the theme songs for 1979 and 1985. That year, 1985, we were married.It was only after we were married that I was able to deal with some of the deepest hurts of the past and reveal to Phyllis who I had been. Soon afterward, I felt led to serve the Lord in the music field, and we started ministering as a team in churches all across the nation. We traveled full-time for seven years before coming “off the road” in 1997 to assist various churches with their music programs. We are now again in full-time concert ministry.
We have ministered in many situations from churches to coffee houses, from outdoor concerts to “Valens-tine” banquets, and from Christian schools and colleges to large auditorium gatherings. It is our heartfelt desire that those who don’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives find that answer and that hope, and those who do know Him, be uplifted and strengthened and encouraged in their own personal walk with the Lord.