Paul Davis: Author, producer, journalist and broadcaster

Wednesday 24th February 2010

Tony Cummings plots the decades-long involvement in Christian music ministry of PAUL DAVIS

Continued from page 1

NCM magazine continued on. Vol 3, number 4 featured Manchester rockers The Predators on the cover (but was let down by a terribly blurred pic) while 1985's NCM Vol 3, number 9 had full page ads for Roland Friday Keyboards, the Sheila Walsh/Steve Taylor Tour, Peter Pollard - Repairers & Restorers Of Full Brass And Woodwind, Fresh Ground '85 (with Heartbeat, Norman Barratt Band, Chris Bowater and Phil & John) and a Kingsway Music ad touting albums by Petra, Phil & John, Morgan Cryar, Farrell & Farrell and Heartbeat. But even such healthy advertising support couldn't save NCM and its final issue, with a dual front cover of Steve Taylor/Sheila Walsh and Birmingham musical man Roger Jones was the last with Paul at the helm. In the summer of 1985 the magazine was sold to MPS Media who, with Dave Roberts as editor, sought to reinvent itself once again, this time as a general media magazine. As it turned out New Christian Media magazine lasted less than a year before being absorbed into Buzz.

Paul Davis: Author, producer, journalist and broadcaster

The sterling behind-the-scenes work of Paul Davis continued on unabated. Paul began compiling a vast series of albums for Word Records under the series name Timeless Classics. Admitted Paul, "I compiled dozens of them - artists like Cliff Barrows, George Beverly Shea, Pat Boone, Dana, BJ Thomas, Marijohn Wilkin, Burl Ives, Glen Campbell and many, many more." Down through the decades Paul also kept his hand in the numerous radio programmes. He said, "I was on Capital Radio. I even did some reviews for a year or so on London Broadcasting, which was a talk station. The interesting aside there is that one of the other broadcasters was another Paul Davis and he and I used to get our mail mixed up! There was also Transworld Radio, I did stuff for them for several years. And when we moved up to Leighton Buzzard I was contacted by BBC 3 Counties Radio and asked to become their country deejay, which was a tremendous opportunity because they knew me from country music magazines. I did that for about 12 years. In addition to that, after about six months I managed to get going a gospel music programme, so I had four hours on 3 Counties Radio for all those years. Then there was a change in policy in central BBC government which moved away from programmes of a specialist nature, and mine, although it was very popular and my mailing list was very high, got dropped. Then somewhere down the line I worked with George Hamilton IV on his TV shows, and I managed to get on those secular TV shows people like The Samuelssons and Nutshell. I have developed good relations with George down through the years, and he's been a great encourager in a very fatherly sense in encouraging Christian music in the UK."

As well as broadcasting, and album compiling, Paul would occasionally venture into the recording studio to produce albums himself. He said, "I've produced half a dozen by George Hamilton IV which have come out on Word, and I have produced my son Wes Davies, who has had albums out on Word and Kingsway and on the old Marshall label. So I've kept my hand in with various artists down through the years."

Paul spoke some more about his singer/songwriter son. "Wesley has a great talent and a lot of people recognise that. I think it's unique for a Christian artist, he's had his songs recorded by about 15 different artists on both sides of the Atlantic and in Europe. Since he's been married he has been active in his local church. He leads worship at the Aylesbury Vineyard fellowship, and he has been putting albums out of an independent nature. He's been promoting via New Christian Music. He's had songs recorded by all sorts of people. Terry Warren who is a great artist from the States has recorded one of Wes's songs, 'Spirit Free Us In You'."

All through his long career Paul has continued to be deeply involved in local church ministry. He said, "When we went to Leighton Buzzard we formed a fellowship in our home. It's called Leighton Christian Fellowship and I've been the lead pastor for 25 years now. I share responsibility with others because I believe in corporate responsibility, when it comes to shared ownership and responsibility in leadership. I work at that."

Throughout his decades of Christian music involvement one of Paul's passions has been networking and down the years he's made numerous efforts to bring together record labels and artists, concert promoters and the media. His efforts go back to the early '80s when the prestigious Gospel Music Association (the Nashville-based organisation that had grown from a Southern Gospel awards outfit to become THE Christian music industry organisation in the USA) decided to establish a Gospel Music Association in the UK. Remembered Paul, "A couple of executives and a chairman flew over to the UK several times for talks. They wanted to use me as a frontman and they made me the first European Director of the GMA. That was a great privilege. So we formed the Christian Music Association of which I was the chairman and I brought all the record companies together and it looked like Britain was going to get a body that would really further the cause of Christian music in Britain. But when I joined Word UK as Commercial Manager I had to resign from the chairmanship of the CMA. Then, when CMA continued it changed its whole function and became CCLI, Christian Copyright Licensing International."

The move from an organisation genuinely seeking to further the growth of Christian music to one whose r'aison d'etre was to collect copyright fees from churches for using the emergent contemporary worship songs was a big disappointment to Paul. Paul still retained a vision to see all concerned in Christian music to put rivalry and the immediate pursuit of profit aside and work for Christian music's good. So a decade and a half after the demise of CMA a new organisation with those letters emerged. Said Paul, "There's still a need for networking, in the UK, of Christian music activity in some form of Christian music association. So two years ago we formed the Christian Music Alliance. We have as our Patron the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton. The idea is to bring together on a grassroots, national and international level, all those people who are involved in Christian music in any area. That includes artists, record companies, media, bookers, churches, the users in Social Services and in prison and so on and so forth, to bring all of that together so people can help each other. I'm keen to leave that as a legacy of a vibrant Christian Music Alliance here in the UK. It's even more important that we network because of the fact that more artists than ever before are going independent and one needs to develop a means of marketing and promoting these artists. One of the things we have done is put together promo discs of 20 or so Christian music tracks which are then sent to 500 enthusiasts who are interested in Christian music and who would be willing to play Christian music on the air."

The album samplers, released under the name NCM, feature a decidedly mixed bag of tracks. With over 70 volumes so far released, artists and sometimes record companies pay New Christian Music £195 for each track profiled. NCM 70 for instance features everything from a Latin-Messianic gospel track from Helen Shapiro, a track from X Factor finalist Beverley Trotman and a gospel blues number from veteran Jessy Dixon. There was a track featuring the Heal Our Land UK Singers showcasing the latest musical from Californian veterans Jimmy & Carol Owens which NCM is currently heavily promoting to get it established with UK performances. And NCM 70 even featured a classic oldie from the late, great Johnny Cash. But the majority of the sampler CD's tracks were from unknown independents both British and American which, to Cross Rhythms' ears at least, sound unlikely to get airplay on all but the most undemanding of radio stations. If the abundance of dated country music and poorly produced middle of the road on the NCM samples is somewhat disconcerting so are the "charts" which are compiled. Each of the 500 copies of the NCM samplers is sent out with a response sheet. And for the deejay, radio producer or industry person to continue to get the free albums they have to score a rating for each of the 20 odd tracks on the compilation. As Paul explained, "If, because of the nature of a programme or whole station they cannot use a track, they still score each song on a disc. Each score is then calculated and the aggregates become the basis for the chart. It's not just those tracks that are used on radio."

Such a "chart" is clearly not representative of album sales or even, in truth, airplay. Several times Cross Rhythms have fielded enquiries from American independent artists mistakenly believing they are "big in Europe" because a track of theirs was high on one of the NCM charts.

But such matters shouldn't diminish the many achievements Paul has clocked up down the years. In recent years Paul has become a prolific author. His books include Ambassador Of Country Music: George Hamilton IV (Zondervan Publications) and The Blackwood Brothers' Legacy (Ambassador Publications) in 2000, Pat Boone: The Authorised Biography (Zondervan) in 2001 and now his biography of George Beverly Shea. And if that wasn't enough to keep this author, broadcastor and pastor busy, Paul is also the main organiser of the NCM Radio Mike Awards event. This year's event was the fourth and was held last week at the Vandyke Theatre in Leighton Buzzard. Paul enthused, "You wouldn't believe what can be achieved from Christian artists and ministries getting together under one roof for a weekend. We have a system of awards for those who show merit in the promotion of Christian music within their genre. So we acknowledge that with a nice certificate and George Hamilton IV makes himself available at no cost to come and present those. So it's a photo opportunity with a legend and a bit of a thank you for what they're doing for the Gospel. It's an all day thing and on the Friday night we have a committee meeting of the UK Christian Music Alliance and it's an opportunity for people to have their say. We had people like Karen Lafferty there last year and various other things from organisations like Christian Gospel Outreach.

"Then starting on the Saturday morning through to the Sunday we have five concerts of about 40-50 artists who get 20 minutes each. The interesting thing is for the UK we have artists of mixed genre sitting on stage, very much Gaither style, where they will come up to the mic, do their thing, and then spontaneously people will come up and join them. It sends tingles up your spine to have that. And the anointing of the Lord is on some very special worship times. When the Holy Spirit comes down and we worship together there's a sense of unity, and it's wonderful to see so many different people getting up to sing. It puts a lump in my throat just thinking about it." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.

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Reader Comments

Posted by Vivienne Neville in Hartlepool UK @ 21:02 on Jul 15 2016

Paul Davies was a very important person in the UK Christian Music field throughout many decades. The work that he did was so commendable. He brought so many people together and had a knack of making every artist feel special. His encouragement I will never forget. The Radio Mic Award ceremonies were very special and i have great memories of those weekends gathering with other artists. A great ambassador of the UK Christian Music Scene never to be forgotten.

Posted by Andy in Wellingborough @ 22:11 on Nov 12 2015

Thanks Tony - I sat in with Dave Clemo about 10 years ago at your interview with him. Dave indirectly introduced me to Paul Davies and the L Buzzard concerts - happy days indeed, with a great man of God- RIP Paul

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