Yesterday, I had the great honor of sitting down with the Grammy Award winning former U.S. manager of the Beatles’ Apple Records and local author Ken Mansfield to discuss his extraordinary new book entitled "Philco."
On Jan. 30, 1969, Ken Mansfield was privileged to be among a handful of eyewitnesses as the Beatles performed their legendary final concert on the rooftop of Apple’s headquarters in London. Sitting beside Yoko Ono and Ringo Starr’s first wife, Maureen Starkey, Ken stands out in the iconic photographs taken on that day because he is the only one wearing a white coat.
In addition to working with the Beatles, Ken was a high-ranking executive at Capitol Records, MGM Records and Barnaby/CBS Records, working with such notable performers as James Taylor, Roy Orbison, Judy Garland, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, David Cassidy, Don Ho, Eric Burdon, Badfinger, Jessi Colter and Andy Williams.
As a record producer in the 1970s, he was instrumental in spearheading country music’s “outlaw” movement by producing Waylon Jennings’ No. 1 album "Are You Ready for the Country;" as well as overseeing the recording careers of The Beach Boys, Glen Campbell, Jimmy Buffet, The Band, Bobbie Gentry, Lou Rawls, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, The Steve Miller Band and Bob Seger.
In 1991, Ken produced the Gaither Vocal Band’s Grammy and Dove Award-winning album "Homecoming." In 2000, he penned his first book, "The Beatles, The Bible and Bodega Bay." Amazingly, this was the only book officially approved by the Beatles outside their own "Anthology."
I spoke with Ken about his incredible journey from being “on top of the world” with the Beatles to becoming a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. He told me that even at the height of his legendary career, he sensed, “Something was wrong. Something was missing.”
In 1984, the bottom dropped out on Ken’s life. Facing insurmountable debt, financially and spiritually broken, he moved to Nashville with three cardboard boxes and three suitcases. He became a roadie, and for a short period of time, homeless.
I asked Ken, “How did you discover that Jesus was not just 'a way' but 'The Way?'”
He smiled and answered, “My wife.”
While in Nashville, a beautiful, unwavering Christian woman with a charming Southern accent named Connie entered into Ken’s life and made it abundantly clear that she would not be “unequally yoked” in marriage and would readily choose Jesus over him.
Gobsmacked and smitten, Ken decided to part ways with his Indian guru (introduced to him by George Harrison) and started looking seriously into the Christian faith. “Connie, in a non-judgmental, non-preachy kind of way, simply and courageously lived out the Christian faith, and this was very attractive and compelling.”
In a similar way, the characters in "Philco" are a representation of how Jesus Christ would do things in day-to-day living. "Philco" is essentially a book about rediscovering core American values. It tells the story about a man who mysteriously wakes up on a scrubby, desolate country road, having no idea who he is, where he is or why he’s here. His identity is eventually revealed in the inspirational stories of each person he meets along the way. For example, the dirt-poor shoe shiner Old Blue Pete would tell him, “As soon as you have collected 10 pennies, inspect them closely because one of them (the best and the shiniest) belongs to God. God wants the best for us, so we should always give the best to him.”
At a time when it seems America has become untethered from its spiritual moorings, Mansfield’s "Philco" will help us rediscover our collective identity and will remind us that to be American is to be decent, kind, generous, God-fearing, thankful, loving, compassionate, hard-working, respectful, honest and united.
New York Times bestseller Andy Andrews said the following about "Philco," Mansfield's sixth published book: "This is a story that will stay with you forever."
Once, after speaking about his Christian faith to a large church, a woman surprised Ken with following comment: “In the '60s, when I was 15 years old, my youth pastor passed out a list of names of influential people to pray for. The minister told his youth group, ‘We are going to pray for the Beatles and the guys in their group.’ I was given the name Ken Mansfield. I didn’t know who you were, but I prayed for you all throughout junior high school, high school and college. When I saw that you were speaking here at this church, I wanted to come and see the answer to prayer.”
C.S. Lewis once said, “If in this life I find in me a hunger for something else that nothing in this world can satisfy, perhaps it shows me that I’m made for another world."
My friend Ken Mansfield and his fictional character, Philco, seems to have discovered this essential truth.
I wholeheartedly agree with Kerry Livgren (the songwriter of Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” and “Carry on Wayward Son): “I highly recommend 'Philco.' "
It is available now on Amazon.com.
Russ Whitten, former minister of Destin Church of Christ, now preaches every Sunday at the 9:30 a.m. Harbor Worship Service at Brotula’s Restaurant in Destin and then at the 11:30 a.m. service at The Downtown Church, meeting at Enlightened Studios, 144 Miracle Strip Parkway SE in Fort Walton Beach. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.