Prodigal son goes from rock ‘n’ roll to spreading the Word

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 14, 2003

For 20 years Kevin Derryberry was living what for many young people, especially, has become the American Dream. And it nearly killed him.

Today, in a twist on the biblical story of the prodigal son, Derryberry has returned to his father and his faith following a lengthy wilderness experience.

Derryberry is a Christian music recording artist and native Selmian who now resides in Alabaster.

He was in town last Wednesday to work with his father, Ralph Derryberry, president of the board of Selma Christian Ministries, and a host of other volunteers at the all-day RadioThon held at Radio Station WDXX 100.1 FM/WHBB 1490 AM. The event raised more than $31,000 for SCM, a multifaceted program that has been providing Christian outreach to residents of the Craig Field area for the past 10 years.

After graduation from Selma High School, the younger Derryberry joined up with the rock band &uot;Telluride&uot; and toured from coast to coast with the group for 20 years, singing in concert settings as well as bars, fraternities and other such places on the secular music circuit.

The band was a great experience, Derryberry says, but life on the road took him far away from his Christian roots, which had been nurtured in his home and amid the congregation of First Baptist Church.

He ended up, by his own admission, as an alcoholic. At one point he was told that he had six months to live if he did not stop drinking.

Derryberry vividly remembers the night when he pulled his car to the side of the road and stopped. Thinking about the grim prognosis, he had what he calls a &uot;Damascus Road&uot; experience.

That was six years ago.

After drying himself out, Derryberry took his newfound faith and considerable music skills on the road as a one-man show. A self-described &uot;ordained music evangelist,&uot; he travels and publishes his music under the banner of &uot;Kevin Derryberry Ministries Inc,&uot; a nonprofit entity.

He and his wife, Connie, and three children Cassy, 16, Marky, 9, and Cameron 2, belong to the Church at Brook Hills, a Southern Baptist Convention congregation located in a suburb of Birmingham.

The church, according to Derryberry, supports him strongly with prayer but not financially. &uot;I’m one of their ‘road warriors,’&uot; he said.

Derryberry describes his shows as a combination of Christian music, testimony and prayer.

He performs concerts at churches affiliated with a number of denominations as well as non-denominational congregations, along with camps, conferences, festivals, crusades and even prisons.

He has worked in at least a dozen states in the Southeast – including Alabama, North Carolina, Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia.

Most engagements are one-nighters, together with some weekends and a few that last three to four days.

Publicity is by word of mouth, according to Derryberry. There haven’t been any fancy promotions. But for six years the phone has rung, each message representing what for Derryberry is a call from God.

Derryberry says he’s been on the road an average of two days a week for the past six years.

For the past year Derryberry has been recording in a studio constructed in his home in Alabaster.

He uses keyboards and soundtracks in his performances and recordings. In the past six years he has produced six CDs, totaling 50-60,000 copies. His first five CDs were produced by other recording companies. But now he’s producing his own, together with recording other Christian artists.

Of the new studio, Derryberry says, &uot;God is using that place in a wonderful way. God gets all the glory.&uot;

He expresses an overwhelming sense of gratitude for his new life – which he credits not only to Jesus Christ but to his parents and his extended church family.

Turning to his father, he asks, &uot;Your Sunday school class kept praying for me all those years, didn’t it?&uot;

Summing up his own experience as a prodigal who returned home to the welcoming arms of his loving father and family, Derryberry says, with tears in his eyes, &uot;God has met my every need. God can bless you if you put yourself in a position to receive his blessing. God allowed me to experience the results of my decisions, but when I chose to follow Jesus my life became so much better.

For further information go to www.kevinderryberry.com (205-663-4968) or write: Kevin Derryberry Ministries Inc., P.O. Box 1709, Alabaster, AL 35007.