Half of Christian rock pioneers DeGarmo & Key dies in Tennessee

ONE OF the pioneers of Christian rock music, Dana James Key, died unexpectedly of a blood clot on 6th June in Collierville, Tennessee. Dana is best known for the series of albums he recorded with lifetime friend Eddie DeGarmo. The duo played together in a sixth grade band in Memphis, The Sound Corporation, before being offered a recording contract by Hi Records with their band Globe, though they never recorded with the label. In the early '70s Eddie DeGarmo was converted to Christianity at a Dallas Holm concert and the next day led his friend Key to accept Christ in a janitor's broom closet at school. Both friend subsequently worked with Youth For Christ before forming the pop rock band DeGarmo & Key in 1977. With the help of a demo made by producer Jim Dickenson, DeGarmo & Key signed with Lamb & Lion Records, owned by successful pop singer Pat Boone. The group's most successful album with the company was 'This Ain't Hollywood' which resulted in the duo being the first Christian rock group ever to be nominated for a Grammy Award.

Signing with Benson/Power Discs in 1983 DeGarmo & Key continued with a string of successful albums - 'Mission Of Mercy' (1983), 'Communication' (1984), 'Commander Sozo & The Charge Of The Light Brigade' (1985) and 'Streetlight' (1986). In 1987 DeGarmo & Key formed the label Forefront Records and continued to run the company until 1996 when it was bought by the EMI Christian Music Group in Nashville. DeGarmo & Key continued to release albums such as 'D&K' (1987) and 'Rock Solid: Absolutely Live' (1988) but decided to call it a day in 1994. After the split, Key, who had recorded a solo album 'The Journey: Walking With Jesus' for Forefront in 1990, released another solo project, 'Part Of The Mystery' in 1995. He also helped John Fry, owner of Memphis' Ardent Studios, where DeGarmo & Key had recorded most of their albums, to form the record label Ardent Records.

In recent years, Key was more focused on his faith. After running his own Sunday school class at Germantown Baptist Church for several years, in 2002 he founded The Love Of Christ Church, which meets at the Woodland Hills Event Center. Key reunited in 2007 with DeGarmo and bandmates Greg Morrow and Tommy Cathey when the group received the Vision Award at the 29th Annual ASCAP Christian Music Awards. Since then, DeGarmo & Key played a handful of times.

56 year old Key, who had a history of blood clots, was taken to the Baptist Memorial Hospital, Collierville after complaining of pain in his legs and died shortly afterwards. In addition to his parents, he is survived by his wife, Anita McDonald Key, and his children, Scottie, Andrew and Eli, all of Collierville. A memorial service was held at The Love Of Christ Church in Collierville. CR

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