Dan Peek: An American Tale
By Stephen Hubbard and Scott Ross
The 700 Club
I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name…
Scott Ross [reporting]: The band with the name “America” actually got its start in London. Dan Peek’s dad was stationed in the UK as were the fathers of his classmates who would soon become his bandmates.
Scott: Did you know you had something when you got together and began to play and sing?
Dan Peek: We were sitting around one acoustic guitar and as we began to sing, our voices combined in this little space. I think all of us looked at each other and went, “We’ve got something special here.”
Scott [reporting]: Dan Peek recorded his breakthrough album with America shortly after graduating high school.
Scott: When “A Horse with No Name” hit and it hit big, what did it do to you mentally?
Dan: The rocket took off so quick and was followed by hit after hit after hit that we were running so hard to keep up with the success. It’s like being a kid in a candy story with a sweet tooth. We went from not having anything we wanted materially to suddenly having whatever we wanted. I think in some ways it was too much.
Scott: At what point did America go to America?
Dan: We came back to the States and made our second album Homecoming that had “Ventura Highway.”
Ventura Highway in the sunshine / Where the days are longer / The nights are stronger than moonshine…
Scott [reporting]: America took home the Grammy for Best New artist in 1972. By then Dan Peek was fully immersed in the rock’n’roll lifestyle.
Dan: People you know sending limos, flying here, doing this or that. It’s overwhelming. I gotta admit, I tried everything. I tasted every possible thing. I had a spiritual compass but I abandoned it completely. I decided to just taste all the fruits that the world had to offer.
Scott: You took another road at that point?
Dan: Absolutely, I did a 180. I became the biggest rebel in the band. I became the bad boy. I did everything
Dan: Drugs, rock’n’roll, you name it. It was all there.
Scott: Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll?
Dan: Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. It was the whole cornucopia of fleshly material, carnal stuff. I tried to fill what was now just an empty hole because I had really walked away from my relationship with the Lord.
Scott: What did all of this success, the attainment of great fame, and notoriety do among the other members of the group?
Dan: It became way too competitive. I remember one time George Martin who produced five of our albums -- Beatles producer, legendary talented guy -- used to talk about [competition] with the Beatles. He thought it was a very healthy competition between John and Paul and George and Ringo as well. I think competition sometimes is not healthy.
Scott: It built up for you. At what juncture [did] you say, “This is it. I’ve had it. I don’t even want to do this any more”?
Dan: I would come back after an eight-week tour where we’d only had two nights off out, and I would want to destroy my musical stuff. I didn’t want to look at anything that had to do with music. I didn’t want to hear music. I wanted to take all my guitars and smash ‘em. I got to the point where I really wanted to change. It was very unhealthy, and I realized I couldn’t do it within the context of the band. I got right with God. I reached the point where I was so strung out on cocaine, smoking dope, Quaalude, whatever. I was just a total trash dump of chemicals.
Scott: So was there a moment where you’re in a hotel room somewhere and [you] make a commitment?
Dan: It was actually at home. I was in my million-dollar house overlooking the sea in Malibu on a 200-knot weave Persian rug, and I [said], "I am empty. I am at the end of my rope, God. I have done everything I can think of to try to make myself satisfied. I’ve got everything that’s supposed to make me happy, and I’m miserable." I got on my knees, and I repented. I said, “Lord, all I need is You. I don’t need any of this stuff. This is not doing it. It’s not filling the bill. All I need is You.” And He took me at my word.
Scott: And didn’t He take all that stuff?
Dan: Within about two months, pretty much everything was gone. The house was destroyed in a forest fire. I left the band. It was like a divorce. Everything was just sort of ripped out of all our hands for awhile. It was just the greatest debacle that I’ve lived through in my life. I didn’t think I was going to make it. But God on a day by day by day basis brought me through it.
Scott: You walked away from the whole deal?
Dan: The whole deal. All of it.
Scott: Didn’t you even leave the United States for a period of time?
Dan: My wife and I moved to the Caribbean for 15 years, and I began being basically a carpenter and started [redoing] an old house. It was a labor of love, and I spent about four or five hours a day reading the Bible, and I got closer to the Lord during that period.
Scott [reporting]: Dan Peek went on to record several Christian albums… and most recently… he set out to tell the America Story in a unique way.
Dan: It gave me the opportunity to not only tell the story of the band -- the incredible and crazy and wild and wacky things that happened but also to present in a clear way the Gospel. To be able to just sit down and write how God met me, found me, picked me up, cleaned me off and made me whole again. He doesn’t just fix the broken things. He makes you new.
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