Long before Christian growly-voiced Creed imitators were populating radio airwaves across the Bible belt and CCM was short-hand for a profitable industry in Nashville, there was a creepy puppet named Little Marcy singing Sunday School songs and hanging out with Smokey the Bear.
There were also Pentecostal preacher A.A. Allen recording what he claimed was an honest to goodness demon spirit speaking the words “I am Lucifer” through a possessed woman, Captain Hook and his Christian Pirate Puppets and dozens of singing groups clad in their Sunday best like the Crawford family were on their album “Aboard Heaven’s Choo-choo.”
Many of these religious records were in short supply to begin with and have been out of print for decades, but collectors who have salvaged them from dusty attics, yard sales and dirty thrift store record bins have preserved hundreds of vinyl from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s that, as an L.A. Times article previewing an art exhibit opening next month put it, wear “their religion on their record sleeves.”
Opening March 13 at the Synchronicity gallery in Los Angeles, the show entitled “Within Heaven’s Earshot,” will feature some 200 album covers in the vein of “Little Marcy Visits Smokey the Bear,” a record religious record collector Dan Bolles refers to as “one of the most twisted collaborations between fundamentalist Christians and a federal government fire prevention program (he’s) ever seen” in the L.A. Times piece.
Of course, no discussion or in this case art exhibit of bizarre religiously-themed vinyl would be complete without a song WFMU’s “Beware of the Blog” introduced me to several years ago – Lil Markie’s “Diary of an Unborn Child.”
It makes even a grown woman singing with a creepy puppet named Marcy seem fairly normal. One can only imagine some of the kitschy company these records will have at an exhibit that is sure to be a hit.