Billboard Radio Monitor Report
April 08, 2005
Christian acts face many challenges in getting on secular radio, but what about the reverse?
Tommy James, best-known for hits "Crimson and Clover," "Mony Mony" (recorded with his band the Shondells) and "Draggin' the Line," recently received his first Christian and gospel airplay, thanks to a cover of his 1969 hit "Sweet Cherry Wine."
"I've been a Christian since the '60s," James says. "A lot ofour songs were bent in that direction, but we didn't think that much about it.Also, there wasn't a 'Christian contemporary' genre back then. I did a solo albumback in 1970 called 'Christian of the World.' I suppose you would call it Christiancontemporary today, but back then, there was no particular genre for it. It'swhere 'Draggin' the Line' came from.
"Records like 'Crystal Blue Persuasion,' 'Sweet Cherry Wine' and 'Ball ofFire' just seemed very natural to do," James continues. "The wordsto 'Sweet Cherry Wine' always meant a little something more to me. Back in the'60s, it was as close as we probably got to a direct protest song or a semi-religioussong."
James recently had his first airplay in some time with a Christmas song called, appropriately enough, "I Love Christmas." "The record was played in multiple formats all over the country," James says. "We got oldies play, AC and even some top 40. Through our promotion man, John Black, we made a lot of new contacts and friends."
James was working on a new record when his engineer, Glen Taylor, approached him and asked if he would sing on a remake of "Sweet Cherry Wine" by his band, the Kootz. "When he played me the record, my jaw hit the board," James says. "It was a beautiful track, done in a very gospel sort of way. I heard it, and it blew me away. It sounded very church-y and much like I always wanted to make the record. And the lyrics are just as applicable as they were 36 years ago. Never in a million years did I think we'd be doing a remake of 'Sweet Cherry Wine,' but here it is." (Coincidentally, the remake was released 36 years to the day after the original.)
James is thrilled about his Christian radio airplay. "It's great that we're able to move to gospel and contemporary Christian radio as easy as we're able to move to AC," he says. "I love the fact that we can truly straddle the fence with this. I'm a fan of Christian radio, and I love listening to Christian radio, but it has never been something we've actively pursued before. Their reaction to this record is wonderful."
The response from Christian radio has spurred James' interest in possibly recording a whole gospel album. "To me, this feels like a very natural thing to do," he says. "And it's the way I feel, and being a Christian myself, it feels wonderful to be on Christian radio." –Bram Teitelman