I’d never realized I wanted to be a roadie for a Christian rock band. That is, until I was one.
At the age of 12 going on 13 I started taking guitar lessons. It was something I’d wanted to do for at least three years prior. Well, I’d wanted a guitar, just not take lessons. You see, thanks to anxiousness and a general paranoia I was convinced any person I’d go to for lessons would be a child abductor or murderer and I’d never even get to “Every Good Boy Does Fine” before I was in a chest freezer. So until I would agree to take lessons there was no guitar in my future. But listening to Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits in the family car over and over again and hearing the searing groove of “Last Child” convinced me to take a chance on a creepy guy in an apartment over on Argonne Road. Turned out he wasn’t creepy at all. More of a folksy guy. He was an accountant named Jim by day and by night a divorced guy with a daughter living in another state. He wasn’t into AC/DC like me, but he loved the Beatles and bluegrass, so he taught me the basics for a couple years, until my freshman year when he told me he couldn’t show me anymore. He hooked me up with a redneck with a mullet named Terry that gave lessons in a small room at Loy’s Music Shop. Not sure how Jim knew Terry, but this was the creepy dude I’d feared back when I was 9. At the 2nd lesson I asked Terry if he played slide guitar and his response was “Yeah! With my dick! Ha!” This would be my last lesson with Terry(though before it was all said and done he did show me how to play “Tequila Sunrise”, so there’s that.) So it seemed I had hit a roadblock in my journey to be the next Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Perry, or Joe Satriani. Then, like the hand of the rock and roll God anointed me personally, my mom got a call from my uncle John. He asked if we were still looking for a guitar teacher, as he knew a guy named Tim taking on new students.
My uncle John was a local rock and roll legend around northeast Indiana. He was in a band back in the mid-70s called Magi. They were a 5-pc outfit that was out of Nappanee, Indiana(google it…Amish country.) My uncle was the lead singer and one of the songwriters. The band modeled themselves after Boston’s own Aerosmith, with touches of early Foghat and Steppenwolf thrown in. My future guitar teacher Tim knew my uncle through a Magi reunion that had transpired a few years earlier, as Tim himself was a local rock legend. He was in the Midwest metal outfit Rox Sedan(and Victrola before that.) Where Magi took their queues from early 70s cock rock, Tim was influenced by the NWOBHM, as well as grittier, early 70s blues bands and ZZ Top. Rox Sedan wore the metal gear; leather vests, studded wristbands, and used power chords effectively and efficiently. But in the mid-80s a friend of Tim’s was murdered in a drug deal gone bad(Tim may have been the one to find him), so while he’d always been a believer this incident convinced him to become a reborn Christian. He stopped rock and roll, stopped drugs, cut his hair, and pretty much crawled inside of a bible for a couple years. Eventually he eased up on the Christian restrictions and started listening to old Steely Dan and ZZ Top records again, grew his hair out, and picked up his guitar. He became even better of a player out of the rock band game, honing his skills to rival even those pinheaded guitar noodlers signed to various record labels. To make extra money while his wife worked full-time at a local grocery store, Tim began giving guitar lessons in the late 80s. Mainly to wannabe guitar noodlers with aspirations of being the next Jimmy Page, Steve Vai, or Eddie Van Winkle.
Enter my brother and I.
After it was established that we were in fact looking for a new guitar teacher a meeting was set at Tim’s rural rock and roll headquarters. It was a trailer in the middle of several acres surrounded by corn fields and woods. My uncle John picked up myself and my brother Chris on a cold winter Thursday night and drove us to what felt like a future murder scene as we took the secluded dirt drive to this dimly lit aluminum can in the middle of nowhere. All my trepidation melted away when Tim answered the door. Outgoing, welcoming, and funny as hell, Tim made the Hubner boys feel right at home. My uncle and Tim talked for a bit about “the old days”, which Tim had no problem talking about. He even pulled out an old cassette tape with his old band Rox Sedan playing live in some dive bar around 1987. They were covering Georgia Satellites’ hit song about telling lies and keep your hands to yourself. Tim was on guitar and singing and he reminded me of Axl Rose. Not long after we brought up Guns n Roses and Tim said he couldn’t stand Rose’s voice.
Anyways, after all the chit chat we headed back to Tim’s practice room so he could play a little for us(you know, so we knew he could really play.) Boy oh boy, could he play. From the moment he hit the strings on this white St. Blues electric guitar my jaw hit the floor. All I listened to at this point was guys playing at lightning speed, so I sorta knew when I heard good playing. Between the speed picking, hammer-ons, and whammy work I thought I’d walked into the practice room of a genius. With a great sense of humor and what seemed like a pretty intellectually bright guy I sort of wanted to be adopted by the guy.
After a few minutes of blowing our minds with a beat up Marshall and an off-brand electric, it was quickly decided that my brother and I would become Tim’s newest guitar students. Every Thursday night at 6:40pm we would show up at Tim’s place and for 25-30 minutes each we’d go back to the little practice room and learn about scales, modes, reading guitar transcriptions, and Tim would teach us songs we’d want to learn. We’d also laugh continuously as Tim was a funny, jovial guy. Religion would come up now and then, but I never felt like he was trying to push it on me. We’d record our lessons on cassette, and occasionally I’d ask Tim to play something and do some whammy bar work(I had a Fender Squier Strat with a fixed tremolo, where Tim had the Floyd Rose-licensed locking trem.) I loved dive bombs and the weird string abuse you could do with the locking trem, and Tim knew all the tricks. He’d comply and I’d go home and listen to the tape and be in awe that this guy was MY guitar teacher.
How I went from a guy that played his guitar with his penis to a dude that rivaled some of the guys signed to Shrapnel Records was beyond me. Within a year, one of my best friends began taking bass lessons from Tim. Friday night sleepovers in 10th grade would lead to Saturday morning drives to the wilds of Syracuse, Indiana for guitar lessons from Tim. Whatever we brought him he was eager to learn and teach us. He’d tell us about Steely Dan, 70s soul, the beauty of Billy Gibbons’ guitar tone, and the genius of early Woody Allen and Federico Fellini(Tim even gave us a copy of Fellini Satyricon and La Dolce Vita to borrow.) My younger cousin joined the ranks of the Tim student club as well and he began coming over(lessons had changed from Thursdays to Saturday mornings.) We’d gone from the tiny practice room in his trailer to Tim’s mom and dad’s basement(who lived right behind Tim on the other side of the woods)while Tim was renovating the trailer and adding a studio space, to an abandoned church down the road from him.
All through this Tim started writing songs again. His constant playing as a teacher had gotten him to a pretty stellar level as musician. His Christian belief put a fire in him that pushed him to want to talk about issues that meant a lot to his belief and to him as a human being. This led to Tim starting Lovewar, his first post-reborn band that would launch Tim into the upper echelon of Christian metal(he toured the world with Lovewar, so I guess that would be upper echelon.)
As time went on I became more like a friend/little brother to Tim. I can remember him coming by the house one summer night in his little beater hatchback with a demo tape of some songs he wanted to share with me. We sat out in the car and he played me these pretty rocking tunes he’d recorded on a 4-track cassette recorder with a drum machine, bass, and guitar. His voice got better, too. It was still a little gravelly, but it worked. He had better pitch control. And the guitar was stellar. He soon added a guy to play bass with him, which meant that he could take the songs on the road. As far as drums were concerned, he had those programmed into an Alesis drum machine, so for live settings they could run the Alesis right into the house PA and they were good to go. Tim had already recorded a cassette EP(which I had actually drawn and designed the cover for, thank you very much.) He was getting back into the game.
In the summer of 1990 myself and my pal Jason(who was the bass student of Tim’s) were hanging out playing badminton, watching Degrassi Junior High, and listening to lots of Rush, King’s X, and of course practicing our instruments diligently. One day I get a call from Tim asking if Jason and I would like to come along for one of Lovewar’s first shows and help set up and tear down equipment. This sounded like a completely awesome thing to do as there were no job prospects and no girlfriends at the time, so Jason and I said sure. I think there was a value meal thrown in to sweeten the deal as well.
We made our way to Fort Wayne in Tim’s beat up truck with amps, guitar, lighting, and God knows what else to a Christian rock club. Now, it’s been nearly 30 years so the name of this club eludes me, as does its exact location in the Fort. I can say there was a Sunbeam bread plant near its location, and a block away was a strip club called Deja vu. Behind it was a gay night club called The Other Side. The name of this club we went to was something like “Alternative” or “Alternatives”. So apparently the owner was trying to prove a point, save souls, or generally “make a difference” to the lost souls of Fort Wayne. We arrived and the owner met us outside. He had perfectly coiffed rock hair; long, curly, vainly messed with. He looked like Steve Perry trying to hang with the cool kids of the 80s hair metal scene. It all felt like he was trying too hard to relate to the rock and roll life. We quickly began to huff speakers, pedalboards, and light cans into this dark and dank club. I don’t remember when Tim’s bass player showed, but he eventually did. The setup was pretty simple, as the drummer came in a small box and ran on a power strip. Jason and I quickly took a backseat as the show began and the coiffed club owner ran the lights.
As far as the crowd went, I don’t recall there being a huge one. Tim and his bass player put on a great show. Messages of love and the Lord’s dominance were delivered in a slurry of funky riffs, thumping bass, and biker shorts and sweaty tees. By this point, though, I had begun to hear more about the Christian message and less about cool movie references and the greatness of Billy Gibbons. I was getting older and I was seeing a lot of hypocrisy in the message of the pro lifers who were also pro gunners and pro capital punishment. Even at 16 I knew some moralistic wires were being crossed, but Christ I was a roadie and there was the promise of a Quarter Pounder at stake here. I was in.
I don’t recall how long Lovewar played, but with only a 5 or 6 song cassette EP under their belt it must not have been that long. The show on the stage ended, the little crowd dispersed, it was time to hump some gear back out to Tim’s pick up. As we loaded stuff up and Tim was discussing something with the owner(payment maybe?), an African American man wandered into the club. He came from the gay club behind the Christian club. He was a bit drunk, a bit upset, and he was bleeding. He was asking the owner if he could help him. Tim walked away from the discussion and began helping Jason and I finish up the load up. The conversation between the bleeding man and the Steve Perry wannabe was getting more heated as the man asked the owner to call an ambulance or the police. The owner refused and told the man he couldn’t help him. You know, the Christian guy that opened a Christian club near a strip bar and a gay bar, couldn’t help the bleeding black man for whatever reason. The owner told the man to leave, which he did begrudgingly, wondering out loud why he couldn’t get someone to care about him.
As soon as the man walked out of the club the owner closed the door behind him and immediately locked the door. I was 16 and still a little wet behind the ears, but I knew a hypocrite when I saw one. What I didn’t see was my buddy Jason. Apparently he was at the truck loading stuff when the club door was locked. After I’d realized where he was I told the owner “My friend is still out there. Unlock the door.” He did and when we stepped out my friend Jason was sitting on the pick up truck gate with the bleeding man, talking to him like a human being. The man said something to Jason like “Thanks” and walked away when he saw us walk out. A 16-year old kid from nowhere could open his ears and heart up to talk to a stranger in distress, but the Christian club owner couldn’t and wouldn’t. We loaded in the pick up and drove away from the club. We stopped and got the as-promised Quarter Pounders and made our way back to home.
That was my only time as a roadie for a Christian rock band, but I did keep getting lessons from Tim for a couple more years. That is until one day Tim told me he couldn’t show me anything more. He said it had gotten to the point where his wife couldn’t tell who was playing what during our lessons. He was basically taking money from my parents so that we could just jam. I understood and we said our adieus.
I kept in touch with Tim for a few years afterwards. He became a big deal in the Christian rock world, like I said earlier. Lovewar played Cornerstone Festival, toured Europe and Brazil, and played with some of the best Christian musicians and bands around. Tim later went on to form the Channelsurfers, which was another successful band. He got out of the band game and became a full-time studio owner, which he still does today(as well as being head pastor at a local church.)
I don’t speak to Tim anymore. I’m happy that he’s happy in his life. He seems like he’s found his calling as a studio guru/Bible scholar, but my stance as a “non-believer” seems to get in the way of just a normal conversation. I think leaving things somewhere in the past is the best course of action. Despite our disagreements and diametrically opposite moral compasses, Tim still is a central figure in my formative years. He opened my brain up to new musical and cinematic avenues, as well as completely blowing my teenage mind with his stellar six-string skills. He taught me about tone, amps, classic guitar gear, and how to properly appreciate Steely Dan.
And he played slide guitar with a bottleneck.