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October 17, 2000: Jon Linn dies at 46 age

Published on october 17th, 2015 | by Anthony Martínez

Jonny Dennis "Wonderfingers" Linn, born on August 1, 1954 in Los Angeles, California. He is best known for playing guitar in some albums of Larry Norman, Chuck Girard, Randy Stonehill, Mark Head and previously with Masson Proffit. Married twice, final divorce in 1992, was a key figure in the early Jesus music scene. Critics would describe his playing as "highly creative" and "genius" as well as "a wall of rock sludge." Jon was killed after being struck by a car near his California home in  October 17, 2000. 

In October 2014, Jon Linn was ranked at 84 of the 100 Greatest Christian rock guitarists of all time, a list made by "Classic Christian Rock".

Jon, San Jose 1978
In 1973, John met Mark Walker, and joined a band called "Branches" and they became in the "house" band at a Christian coffee house called Jonah's Place. Terry Talbot had disbanded the original Mason Proffit and moved out to Southern California, where he heard "Branches" and decided to re-form Mason Proffit as a Christian band with them.

They toured the Midwest  and where Jon consistently got rave reviews in the local papers.  One of their dates was in Vail, Colorado, Larry Norman was there on vacation and he heard Mason Proffit.

Larry Norman and Jon they became friends. Larry then asked Jon & Mark, and the other members of the band to help provide backup for his next album, "In Another Land". Jon would go on to be an intricate part of many albums by Larry and his stable of artists.

In 1976, Jon became the guitarist for the Chuck Girard Band, touring several countries, and participating in the first three albums of Chuck.

Jon played guitar on the albums:
Larry Norman - In Another Land (1975)
Randy Stonehill - Welcome to Paradise (1976)
Chuck Girard - Glow in the Dark (1976)
Chuck Girard ‎- Written On The Wind (1977)
Terry Talbot ‎– Cradle Of Love (1977)
Chuck Girard ‎– Take It Easy (1979)
Mark Heard - Appalachian Melody (1979)
Larry Norman - Roll Away The Stone (1980)
Randy Stonehill - The Sky Is Falling (1980)
Mark Heard - Fingerprint (1980)
Larry Norman - Something New Under The Sun (1981)
Randall Waller - Midnight Fire (1981)
Larry Norman - The Story Of The Tune (1983)
Larry Norman - Back To America (1985)

The song "Johnny's Blues" from the Album "Roll Away The Stone" of 1980 was written by Jon Linn. Also you can listen to Jon Linn play guitar in the song "Crossroads" from the album Strong Hand / 'Til Kingdom Come of 2005

Larry Norman wrote to e-group list dated  Tuesday October 24th, 2000:

" Hello everyone,
Yes, I'm sad to confirm that this is true.
Jon was crossing the street and was hit by a car. He is survived by his mother
Dorothy, who is 82. He has seven children. His youngest is Juliana. Another
shock to the family is that his brother Jimmy died just one week before, from cancer.
Jon always said that Jimmy was twice as good a guitar player as he was.
I am releasing some of Jon's unreleased music on the albums "Blarney Stone" and
"Sticks and Stones" which have been delayed for two more weeks due to Jon's

death. Many of the other songs on the album are of me singing with Jon playing guitar. This is a terrible shock for me. I had just tried to get Jon to join me on stage at Creation West but he was busy. I was hoping to include him on a studio album I was recording and have him appear in concert with me. Please pray for his children, especially Juliana. And for Jon's mother Dorothy, who has lost both of her sons. God bless you all.  "

Memorial CDs by Larry Norman
These CDs were dedicated to him and "his brother Jimmy."  Known as the Memorial CDs with the words "Jonny, we hardly knew ye" printed on the disc.

Larry Norman - Blarney Stone (2000)

1    Jimi Haze
2    I've Searched All Around
3    Watch What You're Doing
4    Soul On Fire
5    Let That Tape Keep Rolling
6    Woke Up (You Got The Blues)
7    Song For A Small Circle
8    Mumbling Man
9    Leaving The Past
10  Why Can't You Be Good?
11  Leida, Harjo
12  Center Of My Heart
13  The Troubles
14  Lugoj
15  I've Searched All Around
16  Feeling So Bad
17  Born To Be Unlucky
18  Delta Day Jam

This is the first of two 2 CDs that was released shortly after the passing of Jon Linn. These CDs were dedicated to him and "his brother Jimmy." The first CD is compiled mainly from different live bootleg recordings while the second CD gives an overview of Jon Linn's contributions to the Solid Rock sound. Excluded from the 2nd CD listing above are two songs by Randy Stonehill and one by Jon Linn. Taken from various live recordings in New Zealand and The Netherlands and off albums such as "Gathering Moments, "Rough Diamonds, Precious Jewels", "In Another Land" and "Something New Under The Son".

Larry Norman - Stick & Stones (2000)

1 Trinity (Intro)
2 Cornerstone Blues
3 My Feet Are On The Rock
4 More Than A dream
5 Raindrops
6 A Camel In A Needle's Eye
7 I Feel Like Dying
8 A Note From Mr. God
9 Everybody Work
10 Shake Your Rattle And Crawl
11 Trinity (Outtro)
12 Dear Malcolm, Dear Alwyn
13 That's What Love Is For
14 You Did it For Me
15 Bark
16 Watch What You're Doing
17 The Rock That Doesn't Roll
18 Eternal Struggle
19 Hard Luck Bad News
20 Looking For The Footprints

This is the second of two 2 CDs that was released shortly after the passing of Jon Linn. These CDs were dedicated to him and "his brother Jimmy."

Taken from various live recordings and off albums such as "The Best Of The Second Trilogy", "Home At Last", "Larry Norman And His Friends On Tour, "Stop This Flight", "Down



With Masson Proffit

With Larry Norman

With Chuck Girard Band




“Jon Linn was a good friend and a wonderful guitarist.  Larry Norman actually dubbed him”Wonderfingers’. He was a soft-spoken, humble guy, who never caused trouble, but was always at the table with a great idea to improve a recording or make a performance better.
It was a joy to work with him and know him as a friend. He played with many of the early Jesus Music artists, and contributed much to the music of that day. His absence is felt greatly by myself and others who knew and loved him.” Chuck Girard

Jon Linn was a sweet man, and easy to be around. Soft spoken, he was an AMAZING guitar player. My first encounters with him were with Terry Talbot's touring group in '77. It was on that tour that I met both Randy and Larry, and began working with them, along with Jon, not long afterwards. He was brilliant on stage and in the studio as well. Listen to Larry's "Watch What You're Doin''". RIP dear Jon.  Alex MacDougall 

I did not know Jon well but I knew him personally. I once had the Larry Norman Band over to my home for a taco dinner and then I took Jon into my studio to record some tracks. He played some very cool overdubs and was just so easy to work with. He was such a kind gentle guy and yet he could emote these fiery licks. It was a real pleasure to capture his talent on tape (and, yes, it was in the days of analog tape). Donnie Gossett

In 1981, I was at a low point. I was divorced and living in a tiny studio apartment in North Hollywood. I hadn't heard from Jon for awhile but one evening, he called me and asked to come over. He brought his guitar but we just sat and talked for hours. Then he said "Let's write some songs!" I had never written a song, so this came out of left field! The song I wrote was lousy, but the time spent with Jon was precious. He didn't have to take up his evening with me, but he did. That's Jon's heart. I will always love and miss him. Mark Walker

Jon Linn was my first guitar teacher back in '74 or '75. I was about 16 at the time & I think he was only about three years older than me. I was really into the Allman Brothers & Eric Clapton, so he taught me the basics of how to play blues & rock. He helped me buy a Strat & an old Fender amp, both of which I still have. I remember that Jon was playing a Les Paul Deluxe at the time - cherry sunburst. More than just a guitar teacher, he was a good friend. For a couple of years there, I hung out with him. We even jammed a couple of times. Sadly, we drifted apart, & I saw him maybe only once again. I went a different direction with my life, & knew nothing about what direction Jon went - only that he was playing Christian rock music. I never paid any attention to it. Several years ago, I started wondering what ever happened to Jon Linn. I learned through Larry Norman (whom I managed to contact via the Internet) that Jon had died tragically, but he couldn't bring himself to tell me how. Now, I'm beginning to learn more - not just about Jon's death, but more importantly about his life & his musical achievements. One of my great regrets in life is that I didn't sustain my friendship with Jon. He was very special both as a musician & a human being. I knew that to be true way back when I was taking lessons from him. Although I'll never see him again in this life, I will always cherish the fact that I took lessons from him for about 8 months back in the mid '70s. Jon Linn, my friend from long ago, rest in peace. And may the Lord's blessings be upon your surviving family. Amen!" Greg Morneau  (Aug 19, 2011)

I have nothing but fond memories of Jon, and miss him every time I think about him.  His passing came way too soon, and I remember being shellshocked when I heard the news.  We were in a few bands together - the John Fowler band, and the Jay Gabriel band, to name a couple, but mostly we worked in the studio together.  I was just starting out and learning my studio craft - but Jon was gracious and brilliant and made me sound much better than I actually was.
My most fond memories of Jon were his gentle spirit, his humility and his smile.  These are missed greatly and I can sense them still - even decades later.  
Over the course of a couple years, we spent a good bit of time in the studio together and amongst other things, I was always blown away by his ability to bend two notes of a chord different intervals (one a half step, another a whole step) to create the most fluid and unique “steel guitar” type of voicings and stylings I’d ever encountered from a guitarist.  I’ve never heard anyone do that before - nor since.  Jon was a player of unique melodic and textural brilliance.  He is missed….but with our loss, there’s no doubt God’s band is way better off. :-)
Bill (William) Pearson

"Jon Linn was a remarkable talent, whose gifts helped define the sound for my record called, 'Welcome to Paradise' which propelled my work to the international stage. I first heard him play in Pasadena, California at a club called The Ice House (around 1974). Larry Norman and I had gone to hear a band called 'Mason Prophet' that was fronted by John and Terry Talbot. Jon Linn was handling the lead guitar chores for the band and when Larry and I heard him, we knew immediately that he was the guitarist we'd been dreaming of for our studio work. 'Welcome to Paradise' came out in February of 1976 and its popularity began to open doors for me to do concert tours with a band. Early in 1977 I asked Jon to be the lead guitarist for my first band tour venture. It was a 12 city run up the west coast from San Diego to Vancouver. The tour was a joy and Jon's guitar work was one of the highlights of every concert. I'll always remember Jon's generosity. I don't remember what guitar I had planned to use, but during rehearsals he came to me with a 1972 Fender Telecaster. He said, 'Randy, you're primarily an acoustic player. Why don't you use this? It will be comfortable in your hands, and it's going to sound pretty darn good.' He was right and I took to the instrument immediately. When the tour was over and I went to return the guitar to him, he smiled and said, 'just keep it...it looks good on you, man.' The next year we embarked on a major musical odyssey all across the U.S and Canada. Forty cities in ten weeks...16,000 miles, in a Dodge Maxi Van. He was a real pro the whole time, but a bit of a quirky rebel as well. One of my favorite memories, that's funny and irritating at once, is that I asked each band member to break into high rhythmic kicks at the end of a song called 'Lung Cancer Lament'. I guess Jon thought it was corny, because he always refused to do it in sync with the other guys and would get close behind me and pretend he was kicking my rear! I just had to laugh....and the audience laughed too. I miss him. I'll always be in his debt for how he made my songs shine." Randy Stonehill

Credits: Alan Gibson, Allen Nancarrow, Bryce Alviso, Bill Pearson, Donnie Gossett, Jimi Royal, Kevin Rogers, Mark Adkinson, Mark Walker, Marty Brandt, Stephen Scott 
Special thanks to Alan Gibson for help us with this article

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