Some hard-partying, self-centered performers finally experience a metaphorical come-to-Jesus moment. Richie Furay had one quite literally. His first wake-up call occurred in 1971, in Paris with his country-rock combo Poco, when he combined Champagne and downers in an all-night revelry and nearly overdosed.
“All I can say is, when I woke up that next morning, I was very, very thankful to have woken up,” says Furay, who appears at Yoshi’s Thursday.
Then, in 1974, as his marriage was crumbling, he became a born-again Christian, then a pastor of the Calvary Chapel in Broomfield, Colo, where he still preaches to his 200-plus congregation every Sunday.
“It wasn’t anything that I planned,” says Furay, who patched things up with his wife Nancy; the couple recently celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary. But he was truly running amok back then.
“I was consumed with being a rock and roll star, like Stephen and Neil — you fill in the last names,” he says. “But I was neglecting my first responsibility, to my wife. I thought, ‘She’s driving a nice car, she’s got nice clothes, we live in a nice house, she’s got everything.’ But what she didn’t have was me.”
In the mid-‘70s, Furay had left Buffalo Springfield, then Poco after penning signature tunes like “Good Feelin’ to Know,” and – aided by David Geffen – formed the Souther Hillman Furay supergroup. But when Chris Hillman recommended a new side guitarist named Al Perkins, Furay said no.
“Because he had a fish sticker on his guitar that said ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and I wasn’t on a spiritual track at that time,” he says. “But Chris won out, and Al would invite me over to dinner, ask me to pray. No. Dinner? Pray? No. But one day, I woke up and thought, ‘Tonight you’re going to do it.’ And I accepted Christ into my life that night.”
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer started with a home Bible study in California, then assumed his own ministry in Colorado. And that was it, he thought. His musical career was over. Yet in 1996, he penned enough worship-oriented material for an entire solo album, “In My Father’s House.” Gradually, his songs grew more secular, leading to his latest twangfest “Hand in Hand,” featuring autobiographical Poco-era tales like “We Were the Dreamers.”
With his understanding that religion and country rock can peacefully coexist, it’s hard to resist asking if Pastor Richie blends them into a “Don’t take it to the limit with a witchy woman” sermon.
“Of course I do!” he replies, laughing. “One time I was rattling off lyrics to about three different songs. I can’t say it comes up every Sunday. But it comes up a lot!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakland
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 20
Tickets: $34 to $63
Contact: (510) 238-9200, www.ticketfly.com
Buffalo SpringfieldCalvary ChapelColoradoHand in HandPocoRichie Furay