Catching Up with. . . Jerry Blacklaw

You may not recognize his name, but if you went to club in the 1970s and 80s, odds are you sang Jerry Blacklaw’s songs. From “Walkin’ in the Light” to “It’s Just You” to “He’s Alive,” Jerry’s music has played at camps, clubs, Campaigners, church retreats and countless other places around the world.

Jerry always created this music in the context of Young Life ministry. From his summer staff days in the late 1960s through his nine years on staff, Jerry crafted tunes to help kids better connect with their Creator.

“One of the reasons I had success as a songwriter was through Young Life camp,” he said. “I worked summers at Silver Cliff and Frontier Rach. I’d be there all summer leading songs for 400 kids a week. So each year 5000 kids would go back to their hometowns and continue singing the songs they learned in camp.” 

While serving as a jeep driver, guitarist and program assistant at Frontier Ranch in the late sixties, Jerry soaked up the fine art of Young Life methodology. “In ’68 and ’69 I did program with Jay Grimstead, which was one of the great privileges I’ve ever had. He’s a tremendous theological scholar and comedian! I learned a lot about theology and program from him, which I’ve been able to carry around with me my entire career: Why you do the things you do. How you set up a room. These are things I continued to use as a Presbyterian minister for 30 years.”

 In 1970, Jerry came on full-time staff in Pasadena while enrolled in the inaugural Young Life/Fuller Seminary Master’s Program in Pasadena. He then served in New Orleans for four years and became the first area director in Raleigh, North Carolina, for the next five. During this time, he traveled around the country and became one of the mission’s first banquet “troubadours.” 
“My name became known because of the music played at camp,” he said. “Suddenly people are calling and requesting I come out and speak and play to different areas. In those days, for $250 a month, you could travel all you wanted on Delta Airlines. I sent out a letter to areas and regional directors saying, ‘I’m available!’ I did camps, clubs, committee meetings, banquets, concerts and retreats – both church and Young Life.”

Jerry also served mission leadership with his gifts. “I was the entertainer, if you will, for Bob Mitchell when he was Young Life’s president. We did several fundraisers across the country together. I did the music and humor and Bob spoke and raised the money. Another man I learned greatly from. It was an honor.”

All these experiences led Jerry into pursuing a career in the contemporary Christian music scene in the early eighties. “I had three albums of my own music and traveled all over the country, but the lifestyle of a traveling musician can be a killer. It’s just exhausting. I never got to the place where someone else carries your equipment and sets it up! I decided I would go back and get my doctorate from Columbia Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.”

For the next three decades Jerry served as a Presbyterian minister. Recently retired, Jerry has published a novel, Hot Coffee, Mississippi, and lives in Fairhope, Alabama with his wife, Cynthia. 

Thanks, Jerry, for the many gifts you’ve given to the mission…and beyond! We’re proud to call you an alum!