“Jesus Jumps Johnny”



Things at the station were picking up and I was confident that listenership was climbing once again. The new format sounded dead-nuts-on and the nightly WTAC “Underground” was giving us an important edge over CKLW in ambiance and texture. Unfortunately, new ratings would not be taken until the autumn and released in January. Continuous measurement surveying was still years away.

Two more twelve hour “Michigan Monsters” were lined up for Sherwood Forest in July and August. Wednesday and Friday night concerts continued at Mt. Holly with pronounced attrition. Even with a dozen strong Michigan-based “headliners” and new national groups becoming available such as “The James Gang” out of Cleveland, “REO Speedwagon” from Champagne, Illinois; “Blue Cheer” from San Francisco, the “Guess Who” of Canada and Chicago’s “Ides of March”, we were starting to regularly compete with ourselves. Still, better that than with others. I was enjoying life to the fullest, but John Irons was not. There were too many hours. Too many shows. Too many late nights. It was getting to him. He desperately needed time-off. He left on a two week vacation the first of August. He returned to work on Monday, August 16th. He stormed into my office at 10 a.m. with unaccountable hypnotic intensity.

“Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior!”

He kicked at a dozen albums with rock artist covers stacked against the wall.

“I am through with Satan’s disciples!”

Was he joking? On drugs? Stoned? Fried? Drunk? Fevered? Crazy?

He was saved, Children. He was SAVED! BIG TIME SAVED!!

John had completely snapped. He was Heaven-Bound on the Road to Glory.

John had been continually drunk the first few days of his vacation. His wife had brought in a Preacher Man. John was ready.

John had been shaken awake in the agonizing vise-like grip of the most massive, universe-class, better-off-dead, “I’m-the-most-useless-piece-of-shit-in-the-history-of-the-whole-wide-world” hangover he had ever experienced. It was a giant black, swirling whirlpool of deep, dark, depressing despair. It sucked him ever-downward, even lower than the portals of Hell. His body ached, his head was pounding and his stomach heaved like he’d swallowed six jack-hammers set to maximum-pound. “Oh, Jesus”, moaned John. It was his lucky day. Jesus was right there!

Jesus, through the Preacher Man, told John that he was suffering from SIN! The tortured pain that tore through John’s very being was called the Wages of Sin! John would keep paying those wages until he stopped sinning!

I had often suspected why men of the cloth saved their preaching for Sunday morning. I theorized that Sunday was “The Lord’s Day” because Saturday was “The Devil’s Night”. More men have been brought to their knees by Jack Daniels, Johnny Walker and Jim Beam than all the twelve apostles combined. John Irons now joined the ranks of thirst-conquered quenchers.

As soon as I became completely convinced that John was absolutely, irrevocably, undeniably serious; I asked him his intentions.

The Preacher Man had explained that the reason John did all the bad things he did; like drinking, swearing, working at the radio station and hanging out with “hippy-queers” at “rock concerts”, was because of Satan. Satan was the cause of all Evil. It was Satan who made John also do those other things that he did, so that he was worried all the time about picking up diseases or getting caught and having his pecker shot-off.

Guilt is the Vaseline of Salvation.

The nice part was that all of John’s troubles and woes were the fault of Satan! All those terrible sins weren’t really John’s responsibility after all! No! Blame was really on Satan. John could escape the influence of Satan and be forgiven of everything and not have that godda– that darned hangover ever again if he would only reject Satan and accept Jesus Christ as his Personal Lord and Savior. This meant:

(1) Leaving WTAC
(2) Joining the Church (10% Tithing)
(3) Abandoning Rock Concerts
(4) Bringing others to Jesus (10% Tithing) and
(5) Testifying against the Evils of Rock ‘n Roll (100% personal income).

Praise the Lord! Jesus was looking for someone just like JOHN!

John would be traveling all over Detroit and the Midwest doing the Lord’s Work. He would be accepting small honorariums of two or three hundred dollars a “witness” to talk about his experiences as a Rock ‘n Roll Disc-Jockey promoting Rock ‘n Roll concerts and doing heavy-duty Rock ‘n Roll SINNING until he found the Truth and the Way and the Light. Christian teenagers would hear the REAL STORY of SATAN’S SONGS!!

Make that five hundred dollars.

Obviously, he could also pick his own shift.

I voiced a certain amount of healthy Irish cynicism about the “witnessing” John would be doing and was verbally-thrashed and soundly chastised.

It seemed that the Preacher Man had a few unkind things to say about Catholics too.

Catholics, explained John, were not “personally saved”. I worshipped under and was governed by “Papist Power”. It was impossible for me to know The Lord, let alone understand John’s conversion and commitment. His eyes started to tear.

Peter C. Cavanaugh. The Lord is calling you now! Take my hand and kneel down with me to pray!”

“John, get off the floor.”

I could hear voices. Half the WTAC Sales Office was gathering outside my closed door, attracted by John’s rising supplications.

Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! My friend Peter is a Catholic Sinner!”


I reached over John and opened my office door. That didn’t break the spell. Moreover, John’s passionate performance had already drawn a crowd.

“Jesus! Jesus! I am surrounded by Sinners!”

I gently asked the sales personnel, secretaries, announcers and several total strangers who were hovering in hushed disbelief to provide John and I with a bit of privacy. Compliance was immediate. I again shut the door.

I quietly told John that unless I spoke honestly, I would feel guilty of abject betrayal.

I suggested that we had known each other for a half-dozen years and he was certainly not being himself. I told him that it would absolutely be no problem in getting another week or two off. This seemed like an advisable idea. I expressed my opinion that he was making important decisions without full and proper consideration and that he should spend more time in personal reflection before making anything final.

He spit on my framed, autographed picture of Alice Cooper.


He said he still wanted to be my friend and would like to get together for some “Bible Study” in the not too distant future.

Couldn’t wait.

He said he wanted no “settlement” on our partnership. It was “The Devil’s Dollars”.

No problem.

We shook hands and he left. He would become a major “Christian Witness” for the next year and even address a crowd of ten thousand gathered at Cobo Hall in Detroit with fire and fury. John was a pretty good Preacher Man himself. He would return.

If the truth be told, John’s departure made things easier. I resolved to avoid partnerships in the future.

On September 4th, our third little girl was born at McClaren Hospital in Flint. We named her Candace Elizabeth Cavanaugh. She instigated false labor several times, then kicked right into gear and was screaming her little lungs out in less than twenty minutes. I should have known she would study for the bar.


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