Many people will forever remember Mitch McVicker as the man who was in the Jeep with Rich Mullins (author of such popular songs as "Awesome God" and "Sing Your Praise to the Lord") when he was tragically killed in September 1997. McVicker lay in a comma in the hospital for many days with substantial internal injuries, including a collapsed lung, crushed eye socket, and bleeding in the skull. It was a tough time for several months and on several occasions, we thought McVicker might die also. But McVicker has gone against all odds and is healing much faster than the doctors thought he would. This summer, less than one year since the accident, This Train (a group who also toured with Mullins) invited McVicker to join their tour. Like Mullins, This Train is sponsored by Compassion USA. I jumped at the opportunity to work at the Compassion booth, knowing this would also give me ample time to spend with the musicians whom I'd met at earlier shows. I had previously asked McVicker if I could interview him, so I made their four-day stay in my area one long interview. McVicker was very open with every question I fired at him.
When McVicker attempted to
describe who the Kid Brothers of Saint Frank actually are, he got quite
tied up. It was easier to tell how he met up with the other Kid Brothers.
McVicker, Mullins, and Michael Aukofer met while attending Friends University.
After graduation, McVicker had nothing to do so, "Rich asked me if I wanted
to help him on the (New Mexico Indian) reservation. I told him yes, not
having any idea what I'd be doing. I had no idea I'd be singing." A year
later, Aukofer graduated and joined them. Aukofer did not play much music,
but Mullins quickly taught him to play the bongos, hammer dulcimer, and
to "kick a can." (On one song, Mike's job is to sit with a washboard in
his hands, a big popcorn can at his feet and
play them both while Mitch is busy playing the harmonica, guitar and singing.)
Keith Bordeaux (now with Compassion USA) was the next one to "join" the Kid Brothers. Bordeaux was working with the William Morris Agency booking their summer tour. McVicker explained how he met Eric Hauck, guitarist, cello player, and all around talented musician. Eric had just finished college and was taking a year off to travel across the country on his motorcycle. "We met at a gas station when he was refueling," said McVicker, still a bit amazed by the story. Hauck recognized McVicker and Mullins from photos he had seen, and they began to talk. One thing led to another and Hauck decided to join the group, although up to that point, they were not officially a group. Gradually, the Kid Brothers emerged.
As I quickly found out, Kid Brothers is a hard concept to describe. The term "club" does not fit because it is not an institution; it is more of a way of life. The Kid Brothers of Saint Frank is a a group of people living their lives in complete submission to God's will, inspired by the life of St. Francis of Assisi. During the summer of '97, the men even wrote up a bit of an outline, a blueprint, of the Christian values they clung to the most, although the untimely death of Mullins has left them still deciding what they ultimately want to do. They all wish to continue their work with Compassion USA, and McVicker was very quick to point out that he hopes to continue to work with Hauck and Aukofer as a band. "We may even relocate to Nashville," McVicker quietly shared.
McVicker describes his writing
as taking a while. He has to get the rough draft in his head and make sure
he doesn't hate it before he shares the song. He recalls never taking music
and his musical talents very seriously. His only voice lessons have been
since the Jeep accident just to strengthen his voice, which was damaged
by the accident, not to build his singing skills. McVicker's assessment
of his voice is, "It's not how I want it to be. But, if it's God's will,
my voice will come back in His time." I think his voice is coming along
wonderfully, although I've noticed that McVicker does talk some of his
songs instead of singing, something that could be
attributed to his personality, not damaged vocal cords.
I asked McVicker who influenced his singing/writing styles, something I don't think he has thought about very much. It took him a few seconds to reply that as a teen in Topeka, Kansas, he listened to a lot of 80's top 40 radio, but didn't own many albums. Bob Dylan was also a favorite, but Rich Mullins by far had the greatest influence on him. Mullins is the person who got McVicker singing, and Mullins's style had a lasting effect on McVicker. Mullins co-produced his debut CD along with Mark Robertson of This Train.
Wrapping up our conversation,
I asked McVicker if there was anything he wanted to make certain I told
people. He quickly said, "Yes! Definitely tell them thank you for the prayers."
Surpassing all the doctors's prognoses, McVicker's health has made huge
strides in the right direction. McVicker's parents and girlfriend, Shelli,
have been a huge help. But, the prayers and constant words of encouragement
of fans have been great. So, on behalf of Mitch McVicker, "Thank you!"