Jesus Solid Rock, hosted by Jerry Bryant, was one of the longest-running syndicated radio shows playing Jesus music. He began the show in 1972, and continued it until 1995, spanning the earliest years of the phenomenon of the Jesus Movement, through the formative years of what would later be called Contemporary Christian Music, and extending through its maturing and evolution into the current CCM industry.
Jerry Bryant was a “preacher’s kid” who met Jesus at a youth church camp when he was eight years old. He felt at that time he was called to some ministry. However, he tried running away from that calling as he got older, through high school and a stint in the Air Force. After his military time was up, he enrolled in Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois. While attending there, he became involved with the campus radio station (WGRN 89.5 FM) He enjoyed it so much that he transferred to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois to attend the school of radio and television.
During a portion of this time, however, Bryant was not living an enjoyable life. He went through a painful divorce when his wife left him for a friend. During those difficult days in 1971, he heard on the radio a replay of an episode of Kathryn Kuhlman’s television show, which featured the new group Love Song playing their song Welcome Back (see the video from this on YouTube). As he listened to the words of the song, he remembered the faith he had as a child, heard the Lord welcoming him back to the faith he once had, and turned his life back over to Jesus.
From the 1950s through the early 1970s, coffee houses were a common place for young people to meet and socialize, and many Christian versions of these sprang up around the country. They were often located on or near college campuses, and Southern Illinois University was no exception. The Upper Room opened in about 1971, having developed out of some student outreach from a local Baptist church. Jerry Bryant found his way into this group, and by the time the Upper Room was fully “open for business”, he was one of the leaders helping run things.
Using the skills he had learned in the School of Radio and TV, he managed to get some air time on a local country music station, WTAO-FM 105.1 in Murphysboro, Illinois. Starting in the spring of 1972, the station gave him the opportunity to air Jesus music from three or four albums, and talk about his beliefs. This was the start of what became the program Jesus Solid Rock. Groups that he played in the early days of the show included pioneers of Jesus music such as Marj Snyder, Sonrise, Armageddon Experience, Phoenix Sonshine, and Love Song. Church people who heard the program had the same opinion that many had at that time, that it just wasn’t right to be playing music about God with a rock beat. But Bryant found many kids were listening, and would ask him to come and speak at their church’s youth groups.
Although the management of WTAO said they liked his program, they were not satisfied with his comments about Jesus being the only way to God. His show was placed between a show that espoused New Age teachings and another show with guru Baba Ram Das. The station moved his show around to different slots (that would fit into their FCC requirement for religious programming), but nothing worked consistently. Eventually, Bryant was able to move his program to WCIL 101.5 FM in Carbondale. The program ran initially from 9 pm to 2 am Sunday nights, and then later went to 9 pm to midnight.
In 1976, Bryant met Lonnie Longmire of Windy Distributing, who offered to syndicate Jesus Solid Rock. This would aid Longmire in promoting records he sold, and provide a national audience for Bryant’s show. Like The Scott Ross Show and The Larry Black Show, this show was a perfect choice for top 40 radio stations around the country to fulfill their FCC requirements for religious programming.
Although far away from the likes of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California and the artists who recorded for Maranatha! Music, and similar activities on the east cost of the United States, he made it possible for the power and enthusiasm of Jesus music to reach the ears of audiences that may have otherwise never heard it. At its peak, Jesus Solid Rock was played on over one hundred stations.
In addition to making Jesus music available on the air through his radio show, Bryant also arranged for Jesus Solid Rock Concerts in Carbondale, starting in about 1972. At these concerts he was able to get some of the groups whose music he played to perform a full live concert for audiences that sometimes travelled long distances to hear them.
During these years he continued to be involved in the Upper Room coffee house, which eventually developed into a church group called the Word Of Life Fellowship. With three other elders, Bryant served as one of the elders of this new church.
A New Location
It was through one of the Jesus Solid Rock concerts that Bryant became acquainted with Keith Green. In addition to his music, Keith and his wife Melody had started a community of Christians back at his home in Woodland Hills, California. As this group continued to grow, Keith realized that the Last Days Community (as it was called) was in need of some grounded guidance. Keith invited Jerry Bryant to come to Last Days and be pastor for the group. In 1978 Bryant agreed to this request, and moved, radio show and all, to the west coast.
My personal exposure to Jesus Solid Rock was during 1978 and early 1979, after The Larry Black Show had ceased airing on WOW 590 AM in Omaha. The show ran, I believe, for an hour, and I enjoyed hearing Jerry Bryant’s soft spoken delivery and messages given with the songs. Here are airchecks taken from WOW during the show’s run in 1978:
This is a better quality but shorter aircheck of the show, also from 1978, as aired on a recent episode of Bryant’s current program (more about that later):
At Last Days Community
While working at Last Days, Bryant continue to produce and distribute Jesus Solid Rock, in a studio created out of an old chicken house in the back yard of one of the houses owned by Last Days. Later, when the ministry moved from Woodland Hills to Lindale, Texas, Bryant moved with them.
His time at Last Days also resulted in being introduced to a young woman named Cindy, who was the first person that Keith and Melody took into their home at the very beginning of the community. They all attended the first Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Reseda, California, and Jerry and Cindy eventually married.
In the late 1970s, the Last Days community moved to Lindale, Texas to participate in some discipleship training with Agape Force. Just before Last Days made that move, Bryant himself had moved on to attend the Agape Force discipleship school. Between 1981 and 1983 he was in Portsmouth, Virginia, helping to set up an Agape Force base there. During that time, Bryant started a contemporary Christian music radio show called Lifeline, on the Christian Broadcast Network radio station in the Tidewater, Virginia area. The format was much the same as with the Jesus Solid Rock radio show, which was then primarily in “re-runs” on the stations that carried it.
Return To Carbondale
By 1983, Bryant and his wife Cindy had returned to Carbondale, Illinois. He was able to return to the air with Jesus Solid Rock on WCIL on Sunday nights, now doing the show as a local broadcast, rather than for syndication. He made arrangements to offer The Larry Black Show to his former syndicated stations.
Around 1983, he started a Vineyard church in Carbondale. During his time there as pastor, he and Cindy also served as area overseers for the first Vineyard Midwest Region. They encouraged the growth of several other Vineyard fellowships in Illinois. After ten years with the church in Carbondale, they moved in 1993 to Tennessee to start Vineyard Nashville, the first Vineyard church in the state.
While in Nashville, Bryant continued doing Jesus Solid Rock (still being broadcast on WCIL) for another two years. Due to the sale of WCIL, and also to his work with church planting, he finally decided to bring that era to an end in 1995.
On The Air Again
In October 2005, Jerry Bryant and his friend Russell Baum attended a reunion concert performed by the group Petra. This concert, which brought together all of the performers who had been in the group from its start in the early 1970s. The concert was so memorable, that it planted a seed in Bryant, about how great it would be to have a radio show that played the Jesus music that he was playing back when he started Jesus Solid Rock, over thirty years earlier.
At a later date, while praying with some friends, Bryant was encouraged to pray about personally getting back into radio. He later met Dr. David Shibley from Christian mission organization Global Advance at a National Religious Broadcasters meeting. Dr. Shibley offered to sponsor and help syndicate a radio show for him, and so a new program was born. Bryant again returned to radio in 2007, after twelve years off the air, with this new show, Full Circle. Using the byline, “Taking you back to where it all began!” this new show differed from Jesus Solid Rock in that it did not feature new music by Contemporary Christian music artists, but rather drew upon his long experience with the music and artists that had started the genre, from the late 1960s and after. Supported by private donations and (initially) by Global Advance, Full Circle airs on Christian radio stations around the country. Additionally, Bryant has made the show available on the the Internet as a podcast. The podcast was originally is hosted on VideoRocket.com (until they merged with xxx in March 2010), and is currently available via Apple’s iTunes Store at this link.
In December 2008, Full Circle released its 100th program, and episode 137 was posted in March 2010. Global Advance fulfilled its sponsorship commitment with the 100th program, and Bryant is now depending on private donations to sponsor continued production and distribution of the program. ((images courtesy of Jerry Bryant from the Full Circle web site))