For many years I've been mystified by the rich tapestry of American culture that can be found by trawling private press records, home recordings, and the like. My first exposure to these was WFMU's 365 days project, which brought so many fascinating nuggets of gold within them. So, of course, when I saw the book "Enjoy the Experience: Homemade Records 1958–1992", I thought it was fascinating. I never ended up buying it while it was in print - a shame - but I did listen to Sinecure Books' samples on their YouTube channel, and they were wonderful, strange, Out There things that delighted me. But one of them rose above the rest - a Reverend O.L. Jaggers, who sang a cover of Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon's song "That's Life", accompanied by this vigorous, intense organist with him. I loved it, but there was a problem: the video was 6 minutes long, but it seemed as though their recording of the vinyl cut off about halfway through, leaving 3 minutes of silence. When I asked Sinecure Books about this via YouTube comments they...deleted the video, never to be seen again. It was at that moment that a quest built up within me to track down this record (which they helpfully provided the cover to in that video, at least), and finally listen to the full version, along with any further work of the Reverend and this wonderful mystery organist.
Sure enough, many years after I first encountered this song, someone put it up on Discogs and I snapped it up since I knew it would likely never be seen again. (It has popped up for sale twice since then, at least.)
So now that the record is in our hands, who exactly is the Reverend Dr. O.L. Jaggers? Well, the back cover of the record helps us here, displaying his title:
The Reverend, Dr. O.L. Jaggers --- Arch Elder --- The World Church
The World Church here refers to the Universal World Church, which began operation in 1952 and still exists in one form or another today - at the very least, they still operate a website mostly dedicated to the memory of the Reverend and his wife, Miss Velma, along with a backup of their incredible "vintage" site from the 90s which shows the Reverend and Miss Velma in their later years. I won't mince words here - the Universal World Church is one of many Christian "healing revival" sects that appeared in America after World War II with bombastic rhetoric that promised miracles, all while asking for large monetary donations - the televangelists (and their radio equivalents) that are the predecessors of today's megachurches and their pastors.
The Reverend Dr. himself was known to give sermons about UFOs, with flashy theatrics alongside them. He even had a vision of a planned "World Church City" in Dos Vientos, CA. In 1956, he put down $839,000 on a $2.9 million ranch using money from his church patrons, and the project quickly became embroiled in lawsuits for years from those same patrons. The ranch ultimately ended up being sold to a real estate developer for $2 million in 1965, which turned it into what is now Rancho Dos Vientos. For more details, see the details on this file photo.
Even reading articles on the Universal World Church's own website gives a clear idea of the kind of operation the Reverend ran, and it lines up well with that of many of these kinds of churches. This blog makes no endorsement of the Church and invites readers to draw their own conclusions about their operations based on the information presented both here and in well-researched online biographies. The Reverend passed in 2004, as did Miss Velma, a few years after the Church announced it was performing a move to a new site after spending nearly 50 years at 123 N Lake Street in Los Angeles, CA. The church building was demolished in 2003, and the move never occurred, with the field sitting empty for a few years before being turned into a primary school.
Whatever the moral character of the Reverend, what is clear is that this record of his musical prowess is a clear demonstration of religious American culture of the time period, and offers an interesting view into what might have been part of his sermons all those decades ago.
The record is split in two - the first track of Side A and Side B feature accompaniment on the organ, and on all other tracks the Reverend accompanies himself on the piano. The real gems here are the organ tracks, with a stunning, passionate performance that almost sounds like Ms. Perry is striking the instrument with all her strength, putting her entire body into every moment. It's truly something that needs to be heard to be believed, and the second half of the song that Sinecure Books was not able to provide on their YouTube channel certainly lives up to the ideal concept I had in my head all those years that I was trying to find it.
It's a shame that there is very little information about Ms. Perry outside of a tiny mention on the Universal World Church website, from "The Christian Century" magazine, 1966:
Singing at the World Church is usually a jazzed-up version of hymns. Jaggers considers Rose Perry, the choir director, "the world's greatest musician." Miss Perry shouts out a hymn like a torch singer, unmercifully distorting the tempo of such old favorites as "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." Holding tones, giving them whole and half-note values in an artless manner, she is accompanied by an organist whose ascending and descending passages remind one of what he heard from the theater organs in the days of the silent film. Jaggers himself plays the electric guitar,"talking" the lyrics.
So not only was she the church organist, she was also the choir director, and the Reverend himself called her "the world's greatest musician". Perhaps a bit grandiose, but I certainly think her skill is on full display here, and I wish we had more than these two tracks to remember her by. I have tried to no avail to find more information on Ms. Perry - if you know anything about her, please contact us by way of the links in the About page. I have contacted the Universal World Church to try and get any information on her, to no avail.
[Editor's note: There is very little here in terms of traditional liner notes, other than an address and the title of the Reverend. That said, lyrics are provided for A1 and B1, and therefore I have diligently copied them on here.]
A Ministry of Music And Songs
The Reverend, Dr. O.L. Jaggers --- Arch Elder --- The World Church
- That's Life
That's what Jesus said
Preach The Word, Heal the sick
Raise up the dead!
Jesus gave his mighty Resurrection power
And this is the message of the hour!
This is Immortality!
Some think that they have power
But their spirit isn't free!
But you need not let it-let it-get you down
Cause The World Church just keeps on going around!
I've been a preacher, a teacher, a singer, a healer-
But now I'm king!
I've been hot and cold and froze and dry
But I know one thing!
When I was without power, and no spirit left in me
At The mighty Golden Altar
God's Spirit set me free!
Oh this is Resurrection Power!
Eternal Life is here - at his Altar this hour!
He's in the Temple and his Altar here below
He comes down here where he dwells forever more!
- Born Free!
I'm born of his great Love!
Born again from above
Born Free to follow The Lord!
God's Life is worth living
Life freely is given
When you are Born from above!
Of water and Spirit!
The New Birth is won
And now you are God's Son!
At God's Golden Altar!
You'e Born of the Water!
And you're Born Free!
Track List and Rip
I will be frank here - while I enjoyed the organ tracks (A1, B1) a lot and am very excited to share them with you all, enough to have gotten the blog working again purely to do so, I am not remotely as enthusiastic about the Reverend's piano pieces. The process of ripping this album was kind of a slog, and it took me a long time to actually split it all up into FLAC files because of how much of a slog it was. For this reason, I am only uploading the organ tracks to YouTube, and the rest will remain in the ZIP file only. I can't bear the thought of inflicting the rest of the album on unsuspecting subscribers of my channel...
Also, a point to note - it's unclear whether the title of this record is "Life" as on the cover, or "Life!" as on the record itself. I've gone with the cover for all tagging purposes.
A1 - That's Life (Dean Kay, Kelly Gordon, with new lyrics by the Reverend Dr. O.L. Jaggers)
A2 - Holy -- What the Angels Sing
A3 - What A Friend
A4 - The Peace That Jesus Gives
B1 - Born Free!
B2 - It Took A Miracle And Amazing Grace
B3 - It Is No Secret
B4 - Victory in Jesus
Get the album: HERE