Groovin' With God

One of the oddest albums you’re likely to hear contains the psychedelic sermons of Pastor John V. Rydgren.

Born February 14, 1932 Rydgren – also known as Brother John - was the head of the TV, Radio and Film Department of the American Lutheran Church. He came to prominence in the mid 60s when his syndicated radio show, a half hour of rock ‘n’ roll and religion called Silhouettes, could be heard broadcast across the U.S.

An attempt to make the church seem relevant to teenagers of the day, American Armed Forces Radio picked up Silhouettes and broadcast it daily to troops in Vietnam until at least 1970. Positioning himself as a hip and trendy preacher, Rydgren wrote, announced and programmed Silhouette, taking his musical and cultural cues from the emerging psychedelic rock scene and the summer of love. Rydgren delivered his sonorous sermons over the top of current pop hits (such as Music To Watch Girls By) and treated listeners to his thoughts on spirituality and the changing times in his deep baritone voice. The American Lutheran Church released several LPs of his thoughts and musings – featuring a mishmash of fuzz guitars, Hammond organ, choirs, sitars and more – including Silhouette Segments (1968).

As the church saw it, Rydgren was an obvious choice as host: ‘I like music,’ he told Billboard magazine’s Claude Hall in 1967. ‘I worked my way through part of seminary at the turntables of a rock station in Columbus, Ohio. (We’re) following Christ’s pattern. He went where the action was… where the people were’. 

Married twice with two sons and a daughter, Brother John suffered a stroke whilst on air in 1982 and, sadly, died from a heart attack on December 26, 1988, at the age of just 56. DJ Food, who has sampled Brother John, is an avid collector and you can read more about John Rydgren and his work here.

Omni Records reissued remastered versions of Rydgren's three LPs, along with bonus tracks and an additional LP, They Say, in a two-disc set in 2012.

Rydgren's Silhouette segments are simply stunning, and you can find 19 of them (if you really want to) here.

Enjoy!

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