CCM Classic Blog

Do You Remember Lanny Wolf? By Philip Mayaab

There have been many albums released over the years that fall into the category of "contemporary Christian music," and there are also a lot of albums that fans know by name...Age To Age, The Great Adventure, Morning Like This, Jesus Freak, The Big Picture, etc.  Then you have the fans who might know the complete roster of their favorite artist's albums by name, but this week on Vinyl Revival, we're going to play an album that is one of the best albums that you have probably never heard, the album is titled "Have A Nice Day," and it is performed by the Lanny Wolfe Trio.

When we played the Wolfes on Vinyl Revival last Christmas, I made it a point to go into detail about the songwriting talent that is Lanny Wolfe.  He wrote many classic songs in the 1970s, and most of the decade, was in the running for songwriter of the year annually at the Dove Awards.  Even after his trio disbanded in the mid  80s, Lanny Wolfe continued to write for other artists ("More Than Wonderful" was one of the biggest hits of Sandi Patti's career), and might still be a major force in the songwriting industry today, had it not been for an unfortunate slip up in his personal life (you can Google it, I won't go any further than that).  So since I have made my opinion on Lanny's legendary writing skills and prowess, we won't go back into that this week.  In addition to being a songwriter, Lanny Wolfe also led a trio that bore his name, and they were one of the early pioneering groups in CCM (whether they liked it or not).  There probably were some CCM radio stations that were reluctant to play the group's music, due to their affiliation with the United Pentecostal Church (UPC), but that did not stop the Lanny Wolfe Trio from being successful in both the contemporary and southern gospel worlds.  Their success was due in large part to A: their songs, and B: their harmonies.  The group landed several songs on both the Singing News Top 40 chart, as well as the CCM Magazine Chart as well, one of a handful of artists to do so.

The album that we are featuring this week is, in my humble opinion, the finest studio album ever released by the Lanny Wolfe Trio, and even if you have never heard this album, I would venture to say that you have probably heard, and might even be familiar with at least three of the songs on it, because chances are that you have heard them performed at your home church at some point in time.  Among the many classics that have been penned by Lanny Wolfe, three of his biggest are "Surely The Presence Of The Lord Is In This Place," "My House Is Full (But My Field Is Empty)," and "The Wind Is Blowin' Again,"  and they were all recorded on this album.  Just those three tracks are worth listening to this LP, but the fact of the matter is that there is not a bad track on this entire LP, and even 40 plus years after its initial release, "Have A Nice Day" is still one of my all time favorite CCM albums, and I think you will hear why when you listen this week.

Released in 1977, "Have A Nice Day" featured the Wolfe's finest vocal work to date, and is the best single collection of songs on any of their studio albums (I specify "studio" because they also released three live albums that pretty awesome too).  They certainly showed that they had the chops to succeed in both branches of Christian music, and I believe that most of the songs that were recorded on this album could have been hits for a group with more deficient vocal abilities, but with Lanny's wife Marietta singing lead on a large portion of the songs, they put their best foot forward on this album, and it shows in the finished product.  The opening song, "Have A Nice Day With Jesus," is a sweet little opening track, even if the title sounds a bit hokey. I'm pretty sure the phrase "have a nice day" wasn't being used as much in 1977 as it had been a few years earlier, but it still put to good use for this song.  "Lord, I Want To Go Home," the second track on the LP, starts off with a majestic fade in, courtesy of the London Symphony Orchestra (they also did the soundtrack for Star Wars that same year), who provided the orchestration for the entire project.  The lyrics are tailor made for southern gospel fans, while the music fits in perfectly for those who preferred CCM.  "I've Been Takin' A Look" is next, and this could actually be a song that was performed in some churches in the late 70s, in fact, I seem to remember hearing it a couple of times in church myself around that time.  With fairly simplistic lyrics, and a great brass section in the background, this short song bounces along, and is the type of tune you would tap your feet to.  The next two songs have both been mentioned already, with track 4 being "Surely The "Surely The Presence," and even though it was written long before the worship explosion, that has since taken over modern CCM radio, this song is a perfect selection for the modern contemporary worship service of today, and that may be one of the reasons why it is still so well known.  We go from there to "The Wind Is Blowin' Again," which is one of those hallelujah, get on down to town type songs.  During my years of childhood in church, I could not even begin to tell you how many times I have heard this song during a service, it's one of those type of songs.

Side two kicks off with "It Feels So Good (Just Being Here Again)," which musically is in pretty much the same vein as the title track, which led off side one.  In all honesty, they could not have chosen a better name for the album, because songs like these two make you want to smile, as you will see this week.  Back to the ballads, "I'm Gonna Love Him" is up next, and it is really the tale of two songs, while the music is quiet and reflective to start the track, it is in full gear by the time the final verse rolls around, with the orchestra adding multiple musical layers behind the band and the vocals.  Next we have "My House Is Full," which we have already mentioned.  This beautiful song calls all of us to work for the Lord, in whatever capacity we can, and it is one of those "straight to the heart" type songs. I've sang it many times in church myself, and it's one of my all time favorites. Now the next track, "Look Out Satan, Look Out," seems to be more of a kids song, but it packs a lot of fun. The lyrics are simple again, similar to what we all sang in Sunday School during our childhood days, but when you sing them (and I have a good feeling you might before the song is through), they give you a feeling of empowerment, by telling the devil to take a hike.

The next to last song on "Have A Nice Day" is called "In Everything Give Thanks," and this is another one of those songs which contains lyrics that will be pertinent until the Lord returns..."In everything give Him thanks, In everything give Him thanks, In the good times praise His name, in the bad times do the same, in everything give the King Of Kings all the thanks." How many times do we, as children of Almighty God, need to be reminded of that message?  Well that's exactly what this song does, and it does it well. To close out the album, there is a short reprise of "Have A Nice Day With Jesus," which is just the opening chorus.  It serves as a nice little way to wrap up an awesome project.  

In closing, I'll say that producer Phil Johnson (Dallas Holm & Praise, The Imperials, Andrus, Blackwood & Co.) did a phenomenal job on this record.  The vocal arrangements are as tight as can be, the music arrangements are as good as any other Christian album released that year, and the choice of material from top to bottom is unbeatable.  So this really might be one of the best CCM albums that most folks have never heard, but for a lot of you, we aim to fix that problem this week, as feature a sadly overlooked album from one of the most underrated CCM groups of all time.  So take a listen this week, as we all "Have A Nice Day" with the Lanny Wolfe Trio.


Side 1

1. Have A Nice Day With Jesus (Lanny Wolfe)

2. Lord, I Want To Go Home (Lanny & Marietta Wolfe)

3. I've Been Takin' A Look (Lanny Wolfe)

4. Surely The Presence Of The Lord Is In This Place (Lanny Wolfe)

5. The Wind Is Blowin' Again (Lanny Wolfe)

Side 2

1. It Feels So Good (Just Being Here Again) (Lanny Wolfe)

2. I'm Gonna Love Him (Lanny Wolfe)

3. My House Is Full (But My Field Is Empty) (Lanny Wolfe)

4. Look Out Satan, Look Out (Lanny & Marietta Wolfe)

5.In Everything Give Thanks (Lanny Wolfe)

6. Have A Nice Day With Jesus (Reprise) (Lanny Wolfe)

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