Testimony of Bob Morrissey
The best place to start would be early July of 1982. At that time I was on a vacation in Panama City Beach, FL. I was staying in one of the most exclusive Tower Condominiums in town with private beaches and everything else. It was time-leased to a lady who was retired from a major record label. She had been very high up in the label, and retired very well off, according to the ways and means of this world. Her son, some friends, and I went there as she and her husband didn’t go that year. What would she have to do with me? Well, you see, just maybe a little less than a year before that, someone had given her some lyrics I had written. Especially upon hearing that I had a habit of putting my own words to songs that I didn’t like, and singing them to myself, a friend had actually gotten me to write a few of them down and had given them to her. She took interest in them and was trying, in her own way, to straighten out my life so that I could be a lyricist that she would come out of retirement and manage. The problem with that was that I had no intention of straightening up. I was an alcoholic and had no desire to ever be sober again.
I, at the time, made a moderately successful living in the car repossession business. A friend and I had a house (3 bedroom, big garage, big yard) in an upper middle class neighborhood. The house was maybe a couple years old. The cops knew the address well. All this, while I came from a very dysfunctional childhood in a very dysfunctional family. By the time I left home, I was a heavy drinker, and an extremely bitter and violent individual, especially when I was drunk, which I strove to stay drunk. I had been rejected by most of my family and relatives for years already, and was definitely the black sheep of the family. I had even gotten a reputation in my small Texas backwoods, redneck hometown as one of their biggest redneck problems. I was not a big person at all, but I always had a bunch of big boys willing to back me up, and all of us together were nothing but trouble for the local law enforcement.
In my early high school years I had been approached by various church groups. I had built my own little world and surrounded myself with music in my miserable existence. Once, in looking for some kind of truth, I tried one of these churches. I immediately saw the hypocrisy and phoniness, and I made up my mind to never set foot in any church ever again. If that was God—that hypocrisy—then God did not exist. I was around 15 when that happened. For the next 6 years, all these things just escalated worse and worse.
So, back to July of 1982. There I was on vacation in Florida nearly 22 years old, and everything was going great. The repo business was doing better than ever. We were in high demand, and had a good track record for the last 2 1/2 years I had been there. The music scene was going to take off any time now (so they were telling me). And even though, according to the world, everything was going great, I was more and more of a miserable drunk.
One night I stayed back from running all the bars that night. The night before I had gotten way out of control and into brushes with the law. My buddies convinced them they would take me straight home if the cops would turn me loose, so they did. At some time the night that I stayed back, I went out on the balcony (we were 4 floors up), and I just sat there watching the ocean. All of a sudden that ocean got deeper, darker, blacker, and emptier than anything I had ever seen. At that time I didn’t know where it came from, but there was a knowledge that the ocean was my life, deep, dark, black, and empty. Not only that, but all the answers and truths I thought I had, all the philosophies, theories, everything I had or believed was in that ocean. Also, everything I had tried or thought of trying was one deep, dark, black, and empty void. And whatever it took to fill that void was something I hadn’t even thought of. That just totally wrecked my vacation.
I went back to Texas. Nothing could get rid of that. I drank heavier than ever before. I was real close to drinking myself to death. I didn’t get it. What was missing? More and more, I drank trying to just forget about it. I had lost all interest in work, in music, in just about everything. This went on for about 2 weeks. I decided, I have to get out of here, get away from here, go someplace else. But where?
A friend had told me once that I should take my lyrics to Nashville, TN. I told him he was crazy. I wanted to be a part of the Texas barroom and outlaw music scene, not Nashville. Now, all of a sudden, I had to get to Nashville. I was convinced. I didn’t know why or what, I just knew there was something there I had to see. I threw some things together, clothes, money, etc., and just took off hitchhiking to Nashville. I hadn’t been there long at all when I stepped out of a Shoney’s restaurant on Music Row, and I saw a piece of paper on the ground. On the header I saw the word “Christian.” It was from Tony Alamo Christian Church, and I was immediately offended that someone would be out here around the Music Row area passing these out. The sidewalks were packed with tourists. It was July 25, a Sunday. I thought to myself, “Somebody should tell these people to leave us alone.” I can’t explain how it happened, but all of a sudden the crowd had parted and from the bottom of the block I could see Dennis Hagan passing them out. Not even considering what had just happened to that crowd, I decided it might as well be me. I went right through that still parted crowd and proceeded to just really let him have it. As I turned to walk away, he said, “Hey, did you know the Lord is coming back to earth?” I turned and said, “So what!” Dennis then said, “Did you know you are going to burn in Hell if you don’t get right with God?” That began 30 minutes of trying to put him in his place. I couldn’t; he stayed on the Bible, and I knew nothing about the Bible. Finally I agreed to come by the 8 o’clock service that night.
As I sat through the service, I realized they were going to have an altar call, and I wasn’t going to have anything to do with that. After about 5 minutes of the altar call song, and running out of excuses, I went down to the altar, but I wasn’t going to move into this church or anything like that. At 1 A.M. or so, I moved in. Only for a few days, I told myself. Those few days have been over 30 years now. It was the best decision I ever made. I wouldn’t trade one second of it for anything this world has to offer. After all, it’s nothing but deep, dark, empty blackness. Praise the Lord.
I thank God that I moved in that night, and that the brothers and sisters have been more than family. Tony Alamo has been better to me than any dad. He very patiently taught me how to live a Christian life, and how to stay on the way to Heaven and escape Hell. And even after 30 years I can still see that there is nothing but deep, dark, empty blackness out there, and I thank God that I’m not a part of it.