I recently had the opportunity to interview Libbi Perry Stuffle, alto singer and a founding member of the Perrys.
Since I try hard to come up with insightful questions that I haven’t seen asked elsewhere, I typically prepare questions in advance, print them out, and bring them to the interview. For the first time, I completely forgot. So I had to wing it, making up questions as I went. And I think the interview might have been better for it. Perhaps I should make a point of forgetting more often.
DJM: The Perrys first sang together on December 25, 1970. Did you sing occasionally at first, and if so, how long was it before you began singing together regularly?
Libbi: It was probably within 2 or 3 weeks that word started getting around. The church where I was raised was close-knit with other local churches, and so word just kinda spread. Probably within a couple of weeks, things just started happening. Before we knew it, we were going within 100 miles of home, and then it just kept getting further and further.
DJM: But you didn’t record until 1973, I think?
DJM. OK. So were you just recording classic songs at first, or did you record new songs from the start?
Libbi: We did some original stuff. But we were big original Hinsons fans, and Goodmans, and Rambos, so a couple of songs on there were from those artists. It’s funny because several years down the road, Kenny Hinson produced a couple of our albums. The first one he produced, he called us over to the side during a break and he said, “Listen, y’all have great potential, but let me give you a word of advice. Get your own songs.”
He didn’t mean that in a mean way or anything like that, but he was like, “A group that can get their own songs from writers or can write their own songs, it will just take off.” And that’s the best advice that anyone has ever given us. We did just exactly what he said, and doors just started opening.
DJM: So how long had you been on the road when you signed with Eddie Crook?
Libbi: The first project that we did with Eddie was called Looking Back, and that was 1984, the year before Tracy came with us.
DJM: Before or after the Kenny Hinson projects?
Libbi: That was after. Kenny Hinson did produce two albums before that. Then we had done our very first album. So before we recorded with Eddie, we had already recorded three albums.
Back then, we recorded about every two years, ’cause it’d take us that long to save up enough money to do an album. Back then, the first album we did, we did all the tracks and singing in one day. And then with Kenny, we went in and did tracks one day and vocals the next. They were fun days, but they were hard.
DJM: So you were then with Eddie Crook until you signed with Daywind?
Libbi: Yes. We signed with them until 1997, and then we signed with Daywind in February of ’97.
DJM: So whose idea was it to start singing?
Libbi: The Christmas Day after my older brother passed away—July 30, 1970—that Christmas Day, my uncle came by to check on us, see how we were doing. We weren’t doing good at all. So he got on the phone, called the people from our church, from our community. Less than an hour later, our house was filled with people.
My mom had bought an old antique piano for my older brother and sister to learn to play on. And everybody just kinda gathered around the piano. The kids were running through, playing and stuff. They stopped us kids and said, “Hey, come on up here—let’s see if y’all can sing.” And so they got me and my older sister Debra and my older brother Randy together, and we sang our very first song, “Jesus is Coming Soon.” So that’s just kinda how it started.
DJM: I assume that on that first day, you didn’t know this was something you’d still be doing 35 or 40 years later. When did you hit that point? Was there a certain event that prompted you to know this was a life calling?
Libbi: That was in 1982, when my younger brother passed away. It was like God really showed us that we had a story to tell, and that we needed to share it in a broader channel. So we just started praying about it, and we were like, “Okay, God, if this is what You want us to do, then You open the doors. We’re not gonna try to open them ourselves. If You open them, we’ll walk through them.”
And from that point, things just started happening. When you let God open the doors, you know beyond the shadow of the doubt that that’s what He wants you to do.
DJM: This is an off-the-wall question. I’ve heard the original manager of Gold City came up with an unusual nickname for you. What’s the story behind that?
Libbi: Came up with a nickname for me! (pauses)
Well, when I was in high school, in my senior year, for Christmas my dad and mom helped me get a car. A bunch of us kids at school were into the Dukes of Hazard—crazy, but true—so we all named our cars after somebody on the TV show. My car was named Flash, which is the beagle dog that’s on there.
So Floyd Beck, who owned Gold City when they started the group, he would call us to come up there and listen. He was like, “Now I want y’all kids to sit and take notes, and pay attention, because if singing’s what you’re gonna do, you need to learn from the best.” Gold City was just starting.
So I would hang out with his daughter. We were walking through the house one day, and I said, “Well, I’d better go get Flash fired up.”
And he’s like “Flash?”
And I was like, “Yeah, that’s the name of my car.”
And so he said, “Well, that’s what I’m gonna start calling you.”
He had gold satin jackets made for the group members, that had Gold City in big letters on the back, and their names on the front. So he called me one day, and said, “Hey, I want you to come to the house—I’ve got something for you.”
So when I got there, he handed me a Gold City jacket. On the left lapel, he had Flash embroidered on it. I was like, “Oh my gosh!” And I still have the jacket to this day.
He started that and it just went like wildfire. After Gold City got bigger, with group changes, it kinda died out a little bit.
I don’t know where you heard about it… (laughs)
DJM: [keeps straight face]
Libbi: …but yeah, that’s where it came from.
DJM: Something I’ve been curious about: I’m not too familiar with the history of Daywind. I believe Dottie Leonard Miller started it, but how many years had it been going when you joined? And who was with Daywind at that point?
Libbi: I’m not sure what exactly the year was that they started. But Dottie worked for Calvary Records before she started what was New Day then.
Calvary was the Hinson’s label. I guess she got in the know of how things run, how things work and everything. But she started New Day for just soundtracks. She just advanced and advanced and ended up with the record company.
The groups that were there when we signed were Brian Free and Assurance, Bo Hinson and the New Hinsons, Jeff Steele and the Steeles, and I’m wanting to say the Cumberland Boys. They had some other groups, but they were on the smaller labels.
I’m not sure what exactly the year was, but that’s how it got started.
DJM: What are some highlights from the current project, Almost Morning? What are some special songs to you, or anything along those lines.
Libbi: Almost Morning has really caught us by surprise. We’d gone two years on Look No Further, so we were overdue for a new project.
When you release a project, you’ll get some good talk about it and everything. But the talk on this one really started in advance, because we got the songs out at a couple of camp meetings, and a couple of those were webcast. The songs were posted on the Internet, on YouTube and different places, and people were just responding to two of the main songs, “Did I Mention” and “If You Knew Him.”
“Did I Mention,” which Kyla Rowland wrote, is just a simple song that says, “You know what, I just love Him! He’s brought me so far, He’s been faithful to every promise He ever made, did I mention that I love him!”
It’s just so simple, and in this society, I think we go through our days and we forget to tell Him. But this song is a reminder that no matter what we’re going through, He’s faithful. He’s never forsaken us. And I just want to tell Him that I love Him!
Joseph [Habedank] wrote “If You Knew Him,” our new single. It’s an incredible song.
DJM: I was going to ask about that song in particular. How long ago did he write it, and when did he pitch it to you?
Libbi: Tracy asked him back in October or November, he said, “Joseph, I really want for our new album a really good resurrection song. I really feel that, in the day and age we live in, we need to let the people know where we stand as Christians, what we believe in.”
So Joseph went over to Morristown, Tennessee, over to Rodney Griffin’s house. He stayed a couple of days, and Rodney kinda took Joseph under his wings, showing him the art of the trade and stuff.
Now Joseph never says anything about his songs. He’ll just give us a CD, and he’s like, “Here’s some songs. Y’all can just listen to them, and if you like them, fine, and if you don’t no big deal.”
So we were headed to Florida and Tracy put the CD in. When that song came on, he immediately started weeping. He said, “Guys, I just want y’all to come up here.”
He said, “If I could have written a song from my heart, this would’ve been it. Joseph, you wrote exactly what I wanted to say.”
For probably 30 minutes, we listened to that song over and over, and every one of us was just in tears.
You never know how a song’s gonna turn out until you get it recorded. When we finished recording it, and Wayne Haun sent us the finished product, we were like, “Wow…” I mean, I sit back sometimes, and I say, “That’s not us. That’s just beyond our capability.” And it just has the touch of God on it.
DJM: I just love the title track “Almost Morning,” the lyrics and the tune. I saw a post online that there’s a neat story behind that song, too, and how the song impacted your family.
Libbi: Joseph wrote the song and wanted me to sing it. When he played it for me, I looked at him and said, “Joseph, there’s no way that I can convey this message like what you can.” You’d have to know the background of the way Joseph was raised, by a single mom with three kids, and a lot of stuff that they went through.
I have a niece, my next-to-the-oldest niece. She had gotten out on drugs and alcohol, and just was really in bad shape. She come to see us sing one night, and she said to me, “Mimi, I’ve gotta have some help. If I don’t something bad’s gonna happen.”
We said, “Well, go home, get enough clothes to stay a month, and we’ll help you every way we can. But you’ve gotta live by our rules, what we say.”
So she came and we would take her with us on the road and everything. The first three weeks were so hard. I said, “There’s just no way. If God changes her, it’s gonna be a miracle.” I knew deep down inside that she has a love for God, but the devil had just overtaken her.
So Joseph sang this song one night on the bus. He was playing it for us; they had just written it that week. The next night, we were in Calhoun, Georgia. Now I have a history of doing things that you just ordinarily wouldn’t do. Tracy just stays on pins and needles, because he never knows what’s next!
The service was going great, but God kept bringing this song to mind. So I just stopped everything and said, “Tracy, I know you’re probably gonna kill me, but God is just wantin’ this song sung.” I said, “It’s a brand new song—the guys just wrote it this week.”
Matthew (Holt) was with us then—he helped co-write the song, and I said, “They just sang it for us last night on the bus. But God wants it sung tonight for a reason, though I don’t know what it is.”
Well, my niece was sitting on the second row. He sang the first verse and got down to about the first line in the chorus, and she ran to the altar.
I was just like, “Oh, my gosh!” She stayed there for ten or fifteen minutes. When she came up, she totally surrendered her life back to Christ. It’s because of that song. She said, “That song made me realize that, yeah, I’ve strayed, and I’ve been in the dark places, but God loves me, and He’s gonna take care of me.”
So that song has had a special meaning for our family and for her. We actually dedicated that song and the album to her. We gave her the first CD, and when she read it, she started crying. She said, “I can’t believe y’all would do this for me—y’all have already helped me so much.”
I was like, “This is just a confirmation—we want to let you know that we’re so proud and thankful that you allowed God to do a work in your life.”
DJM: To wrap up, any other thoughts or comments, and how can people get in touch with you?
Libbi: This album, Almost Morning, has a variety of different songs. It’s still Perrys style, but we kind of stepped outside the box a little bit. Every song has a message. We don’t want just filler songs.
It’s kind of funny, but this is the first album that we’ve sung every song just about every night.
DJM: So there were songs from Look No Further that you didn’t regularly stage?
Libbi: Yeah, there were several, probably three or four that we sang maybe once or twice and that was it. But this album, just about every night, we’ll sing every song, with maybe an exception or two. But every weekend, we wind up getting those songs in.
So to me, it’s our favorite album. I can sit and listen to it. Now I never sit and listen to our stuff at all, I just don’t do that. But this album I listen to more than anything. It’s just an incredible album, full of the message of the Word. So we’re hoping that it’s going to change lives, all through God. If people will just listen to the words, there’s something for everybody. That’s what we’re hoping for the album,
People can get in touch with us through www.perrysministries.com. We’re on Facebook with the “Perrys Friends Club,” on twitter at www.twitter.com/theperrys70, and we have our individual ones, which you can find through the group accounts. So we’re just trying to stay in touch with our friends and our fans, just trying to let them know that if they need us, we’re here.
DJM: All right, and thank you very much!