John Gaughan first came to Baton Rouge in 1973, an alcoholic singing rock and roll with Herman’s Hermits.
During a re-
visit, Gaughan, now an ordained minister, sang praises to God and told several audiences about hitting bottom before Jesus Christ radically changed his life.
“In the early ’70’s, I was at Madison Square Garden, but by 1985, I lost everything,” Gaughan said. “I ended up on the streets.”
“I was so ashamed. I had no hope. I had no peace,” Gaughan, 60, said at the Bethany World Prayer Center, South Campus, following a Wednesday Businessmen’s Lunch. “Just before Christmas 1985, I threw myself off a three-story-high building to kill myself.”
Instead of dying, he broke numerous bones and crushed multiple discs in his spine from the compression of landing on his feet, he said. “A doctor said it was a miracle I didn’t sever my spinal cord.”
Gaughan, an only child from a large extended family in Leeds, England, remembers going to church with his grandmother.
“My grandmother used to tell me, ‘You can’t hide from God, John. He sees everything that you do,’” he said. “The impression that I got from going to church, and the way my grandma spoke, was that God was looking for me just to do something wrong — to catch me out.”
When he was 10 years old, his mother bought him a guitar and his life began to change.
“I used to sing these songs and write them down, pop songs,” he said, telling how he began singing in local youth clubs with some other boys who were drinking alcohol.
When he left school, in 1967, he became an apprentice jukebox engineer, installing and repairing jukeboxes in area pubs. He and his boss would have a drink or two at each place, he said, then he’d drink again at night while playing pop music in the same pubs.
He was discovered at age 17 by pop producer Roger Cook, who had already written and produced several big hits and worked with such bands as Herman’s Hermits.
In 1972, Keith Hopwood, an original band member, quit and Gaughan replaced him, singing and playing guitar behind Peter Noone.
But the music faded, the hermits broke up and, after years of studio work, he found himself on the streets of Spain broke and drunk.
“People at the hospital told me I would die — the whites of my eyes were yellow,” Gaughan said. “That’s when my grandma’s words came back to me and I decided to look for God.”
He went to an Anglican church, “but nobody told me about Jesus. It was just a service.” Then about an hour after he got home, a complete stranger knocked on his door. “He told me you don’t have to live like that. God’s made a way out for you.”
Gaughan said he was drunk at the time and promised the man he’d sober up and attend his Pentecostal church across town the next week. “That Sunday I gave my heart to Jesus.”
“When I was young I felt secure, but for many, many years I had no security — only in drunkenness,” Gaughan said, “but that night I felt a peace. I didn’t understand it — I received it.”
For the next few years, he still battled alcohol and also attended church, sometimes with a bottle of vodka in a bag nearby to ease his shaking hands.
In September, 1991, Gaughan, wondering why he was still battling alcoholism, read in the Bible about Jesus praying on the Mount of Olives prior to the crucifixion.
“Jesus prayed, ‘Your will not mine,’ and it hit me,” Gaughan said, sitting back in his chair and slapping his forehead. “Father, I want your will for my life, not my own.”
A few days later a woman prayed over him to release what is often called a generational curse of alcoholism.
“In the name of Jesus, something left me immediately,” Gaughan said. “I have never needed or desired it ever since.”
In the 20 years since his conversion, Gaughan has spoken about his faith at services and meetings across Europe, Great Britain and the United States, and has written and produced two albums of his own praise music with a sound similar to that of the Hermits. His CD’s can be found at his church website at http://www.d-c-c.org.uk. Gaughan and his wife, Linda, have a daughter, Sarah Louise, 16.
Gaughan’s recent Baton Rouge visit was to see William McMahan, a longtime leader in local men’s ministries and a bishop in All Nations Christian Church International, a ministry in the Anglican tradition that enlists about 7,000 pastors and 700,000 congregants, including 18 churches in the United States.
McMahan said he met Gaughan last year on a trip to England to ordain Gaughan at the Driffield Congregational Church.
The new friends toured around the U.S. for several weeks trying to determine God’s will for Gaughan’s future, possibly here. Gaughan spoke at Episcopal High School and also at Meadows Chapel United Methodist Church in Prairieville.
“As John speaks of rampant alcoholism and hopelessness he weaves in a testimony of a loving God who still cares, and more importantly, who still saves,” said Meadows Chapel’s pastor, the Rev. Mark Lubbock.
Gaughan also briefly spoke at the Bethany Businessmen’s lunch, where regular attender, Mike Kavanaugh, remembered attending a Hermits concert at the Gordon Theater in Baton Rouge as a high school student.
“I appreciated him sharing his testimony with the group and I believe it touched a lot of men’s lives who have been through similar situations,” Kavanaugh said. “Through Jesus Christ there is hope.”