Who would have believed when Bob Spencer was sadly unable to be there that night, that his misfortune would lead to the phenomenal blessings we now enjoy. For One was sent on to the stage as his replacement, whose name was John, John Daker. A man whose singing performance would change the world, and make the non-appearance of Bob, not to mention Michelle Casey-Nye, a mere footnote.
Come with us back to a mysteriously unspecific time somewhere in the gap between the late seventies and early nineties – a lost decade we call the the middle neventies
And a lowly Mefdiss church in a lowly city called Peoria, Illinois, about three days hitch-hiking from Chicago. Reva Unsicker had been teaching in this town for fifty-five years, and ministering and playing the piano faithfully in the Firsh Unay Methduss church. On a regular basis she would gather her disciples and put on some kind of a variety show for bewildered locals. Although from the surviving videos it’s not clear whether there was any audience at all, as we hear no cheers or applause at any time.
Among the performers were the heroes of charming ineptitude such as George Stanton and Pearl Gross. All delightfully eccentric and worth watching in their own right. Sometimes they sang as individuals, sometimes in a group, always showing the subtle misremembering of lyrics, timing and tune that had been the core of the tradition for as long as anyone could remember.
And then he came, the One. Fate had it that someone was there to film it on VHS video, an ancient recording method that through its very faults conveyed perfectly the essence of the occasion. For it is through crap-ness that quality shines.
The Rev Unsicker said “John, John Daker is here…” and so he was. He did not walk onto the stage like a mere mortal, he was simply there, standing a bit like that robot who was sent from another world, gazing into the middle distance while Unsicker launched frantically into the tune on the piano. His suit and tie were creaselessly black, his shirt flawless white, his expression implacable in that first bar of melody.
He didn’t panic. He didn’t rush the first words, nor did he turn to chide the impatient pianist. No, he simply asserted his identity with dignity and graciousness, authority mixed with humility. Certainty blended with puzzlement, as if he was himself very slightly surprised to be who he was.
“My name is John Daker.”
Unsicker stopped and started the piece again, even more quickly, and the John Daker had to start his singing a few words in to the lyrics. Yet he didn’t fluster or gabble – instead, miraculously began half way through a single syllable word. This was the first sign that he was the Master. Starting half way through a polysyllabic word would have been impressive, but John with an almost Zen-like precision split the word “Lord” by slicing off the “L”. Perhaps this was an ironic clue as to his future status.
“Ord is risen today!” His voice was a richly-hued baritone, perfectly tuned, complex in character, with a smooth finish. And by taking the L out of Lord he somehow humanised it.
The period between then and 2005 are known as the Daker’s Lost Years. Some say he travelled o’er land and sea, perhaps even as far as Glastonbury where he founded a music festival of some kind. Others say he journeyed to the mystical East and taught Ancient Gibberish. All we know for sure is that in the New Millenium the original tape miraculously resurfaced like some forgotten creature from a muddy music-lagoon.
In about 2005 AD (After Daker) Apostle Kris Hall was working for Google prior to them buying Youtube. Just to test the features of Google Video, he uploaded onto his website a two and half minute public access VHS video clip of some accompanied singing, and thought no more about it. After Ebaumsworld used it he took it down for fear of the Lawyers, but Youtube user brebre011 posted it and so later Apostle Kris also reinstated his original.
Some online comments were derisory and ignorant, but others hinted at the affectionate cult following that was to come. One said “videos like this will bring world peace”.
When to Kris’s amazement it got half a million views he created The John Daker Experience on Facebook. The rest is history and T-shirts, printed coffee-mugs and church hall re-anactments. Now the clips have had literally millions of views, and the subtitles version has brought the message alive to those interweb surfers who can read.
Despite a frenetic piano accompaniment and only a vague knowledge of the words, the singer on stage struggles on to finish two songs, and the clip ends. At first glance just another inept performance by someone long forgotten. Yet something about this particular man is unforgettable. At first you don’t know what it is. Is it the enigmatic facial tics and head movements? Is it the zen-like calm he maintains thorough the whole lyrical wreckage? Or is it the way he starts, cutting through all the confusion with a simple, gentle assertion of his identity?
“My name is John Daker.”
The subtitles are not of what the words were meant to be, because the songs are well known – but literally what the very words actually were. Including the introductory speech by the late Reverend Reva Cooper Unsicker, which sets the tone for the holy hilarity to follow.
Typical comments on The John Daker Experience were “I wonder if he’s still around?”
“He’s dead sadly!”
But he wasn’t dead.
About eighteen months ago, after a few unsubstantiated sightings, he was finally tracked down. He lives, and he has sent a message of gratitude to us.
The Facebook group now has over a thousand members, the vast majority of whom hold Lord Daker in high esteem and great affection. The Rev Unsicker being, if you like, the one who paved the way, making his way smooth, or actually quite rough to be honest. She seemed to play the piano as a puppy-dog chases a duck on a frozen pond. Although it made keeping up impossible, it served to bring the best out of John and may it bring out the best in us too.
In a very real way, JD demonstrates what human qualities it will take for mankind to survive. Embrace the incompetence, keep calm and sing along, keep those eyebrows moving, be gentle with a slight hint of menace.
We are all Firsh Unay Methdisss
WE are all John Daker.