By Robin GOLDSWORTHY
It was the late 1960s and the Jesus Movement, which began in Southern California, was gaining traction around the nation. The movement gravitated to a return to the teachings of Jesus Christ and to the life of early Christians and spawned creative ways to deliver those messages. Among those creative ways was opening coffeehouses that provided informal places where believers, hippies or just the curious could come and hang out.
Don Williams, a college pastor at Hollywood First Presbyterian Church, opened one of those coffeehouses in 1968 and christened it Salt Company Coffee House. Williams also felt that music was a good way to reach that generation and a band of musicians was formed named, appropriately, Salt Company.
“We reached thousands with the message of Christ,” said Bob Marlowe, member of the band Salt Company and organizer of a reunion concert taking place on Saturday night at 6 p.m. at La Cañada Presbyterian Church. “The message was impactful.”
Marlowe said the Salt Company wrote their own music with a goal of singing a Christian message.
“The Jesus Movement was the antithesis to the hippie counterculture,” he said. “I think that the music that came out of that period and the artists who started writing their own songs wanted to share their Christian [experience].”
He added that there is a similar need in every generation and it just depends on how God is going to ignite that generation.
“In 1968 that was our time,” he said.
The Salt Company Coffee House held 75 guests and was typically packed for both shows on Friday and Saturday nights. As the popularity of the coffeehouse and of the artists grew, a big concert was held in the Hollywood Presbyterian sanctuary three times a year.
The importance of the Salt Company’s influence was shaken – literally – by the Sylmar Earthquake in 1971.
“The building was condemned after the earthquake,” Marlowe said, “but the Hollywood First Presbyterian Church decided that the ministry was valuable enough to continue, so they found a new place. They were very supportive.”
While Marlowe acknowledged that Salt Company delivered welcome messages wrapped in music, the band also received positive energy in return.
“We were spiritually nourished,” he said.
In 1974 the Salt Company Coffee House closed and the band played “sparingly” the last several years. Marlowe said it surprises him when, on those rare occasions, he is recognized as a member of Salt Company.
A 20-year reunion was held in 1988 that was quite large, but subsequent reunions weren’t as well attended. Marlowe was playing with the idea of having another when he learned that a big name in Christian entertainment had a soft spot for Salt Company.
“It was in my mind to organize another reunion. Then I learned that Dennis Agajanian said that he started at the Salt Company Coffee House,” Marlowe said.
Agajanian is huge in the world of Christian music. He’s recorded over 20 albums and played at churches around the world in 120 countries. He is an eight-time musician of the year, and a three-time entertainer of the year Christian Country Music Award winner. Marlowe said that Agajanian will be performing at La Cañada Presbyterian Church on Saturday.
“He’s the ‘A’ act,” Marlowe said.
For the Salt Company, taking the stage will be Bob Marlowe, David Covington, Pamela Brownlee and on the bass Scott Brownlee.
Marlowe said he is “excited and nervous” about performing but is hopeful about what the music can bring to the audience.
“I hope that their Christian life is encouraged and strengthened,” he said. “Music can do that.”
He added that he was not unaware of how special that period was in the life of Salt Company.
“That time of our lives was a magical and powerful time and I think that people are coming back to recapture or revisit,” said Marlowe. “One of the reasons I wanted to [have the concert was] to recapture some of that magic.”
There is no charge to attend the concert but an offering to cover expenses might be collected.
The La Cañada Presbyterian Church is located at 626 Foothill Blvd. in La Cañada.