His father was an angry, washed-up college football star, who had hopes of playing in the NFL, and he always pushed Bart into football as well. Bart had the size but didn’t have the interest, but he played football anyway to please his dad. Music was his only passion and he would earn money doing yardwork and then take the money to a music store to buy cassettes. He had his headset on everywhere he went.
One day while at football practice, his leg was injured, and he could no longer play football. His dad was livid. Practice took place during school hours, so he had to find another class to take and the only one open was choir. Bart was horrified. His father was a “man’s man” and he didn’t want to tell him he was in choir. He showed up for class in a wheelchair and told the instructor he couldn’t sing or dance, so they made him the sound engineer to where he could play the music during performances.
His father passed away during his freshman year in college, so he dropped out and took a job handling the multi-media and sound equipment at the church he belonged to. The choir director heard Bart singing one day while he was working on the sound equipment and she was in shock; he was amazing.
A couple of guys in his church who were in a band, talked Bart into being their lead singer and moving to Oklahoma City to see if they could find work as a Christian/Rock group. They didn’t have a name for the group and when Bart told his grandma what they were going to do she said: “Mercy me.” Which became the unusual name of the group.
They started off slowly trying to play anyplace that would allow them. Eventually they began getting traction and could fill up small venues; they even had some followers. Then one day a manager in the music business heard them and he thought they were great but that they needed a little refining. He told them they needed to sing more of their own music and not other peoples'. He wanted the crowds to feel something on a more spiritual level (praise and worship), and not just hear great music. He waited until he thought the group was ready and then got some record label executives to listen to them, but they didn’t think the group had what it took to sell enough records. Part of it was that Bart was a big guy and didn't have the looks/vibe of a lead singer.
They were heartbroken but decided to keep at it. Then one day Bart wrote a song for his father that everyone knew would be a huge hit. The song (and now movie), is called: “I Can Only Imagine.” Their manager also thought it had the potential to reach number one on the music charts but the problem was that no one knew the group Mercy Me, so very few people would hear it. So, Bart and the manager decided to see if Amy Grant would be willing to buy the song from them so she could perform and record it. She loved the song and listened to it repeatedly. She was moved by why Bart wrote the song for his father who he had reconciled with before he died. His father had asked God for forgiveness of his many sins, including what he did to his family, and was really turning his life around before he died of kidney failure.
When Amy was performing a large concert, she was getting ready to sing “I Can Only Imagine,” which no one had ever heard before (she was going to record it later), but something was bothering her about it. Out of the blue, she called Bart out of the audience and asked him to come on stage. He was in shock. She whispered to him that it was his song; his message from God and then she introduced Bart to the crowd and had him sing the song. The crowd went wild and gave him a standing ovation.
This became the real start of Mercy Me. Amy Grant gave them back the rights to the song so the band could record it and it went to number one on the Christian music charts but was such a great song that radio stations of other genres ended up playing it as well because fans of the song were asking for it. They went on to win several awards and become a huge concert success. If you go to You Tube and type in the bands name, I guarantee you that you'll absolutely love the song.
Do you remember when I mentioned Bart going to a church camp when he was around ten? He met a girl there who he ended up marrying and they live in the town he grew up in with five children.