John Michael Talbot was living every guy’s dream as a member of a rock ‘n’ roll band. A guitarist for the country rock band Mason Proffit, he spent much of his teen years touring the country playing music and meeting his heroes.

Talbot said he never got to meet the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Jimi Hendrix or Bob Dylan.

“But start going down the list from there and we either played with them, toured with them, partied with them,” Talbot said in a telephone interview with your Catholic Herald.

Mason Proffit produced five records, three of them under contract with Warner Bros. Records, and executives there had high hopes for the band.

“They really thought we were going to be the next supergroup,” Talbot said. “Because our live experience was fairly phenomenal.”

As he continued playing in cities around the nation with famous musicians and groups, he noticed that the music and lifestyle wasn’t as fulfilling as he thought.

“It was at some university we had just done a big concert in a fieldhouse,” he said, thinking back. “Normally at the end of the evening you would look out, after the audience was gone, and you’d see the floor covered with drug paraphernalia and empty liquor bottles and passed out people that they would have to get out of the arenas … and I thought, ‘You know, this is not what I want to stand for.’”

Talbot, 59, said he never used drugs, but many of his bandmates did. He saw how drugs affected them.

Never was that more evident than one night on the tour bus.

“The time that struck me most is they thought they snorted cocaine and it was heroin,” he said. “We almost had to take a few of them to the hospital … I was on the bus watching my buddies get really sick.”

If you want to go

John Michael Talbot will perform Friday, Oct. 18

at St. Jerome Church, 995 S. Silver Lake Road,
Oconomowoc, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 each.
For information, call (262) 567-6420 or visit

During his time with Mason Proffit, Talbot would read about different religions and philosophers.

“I prayed. I prayed for a year and a half,” Talbot said. “I said, ‘God, who are you?’”

Talbot said it’s virtually impossible to practice a religion while touring. The band played 300 shows a year, sometimes traveling by plane, but mostly by bus.

In 1971, he decided to get involved in the “Jesus movement.”

“I didn’t want to be a Catholic,” Talbot said. “I wasn’t looking to be a Catholic. I didn’t even like Catholics.”

But Talbot said the “Lord gave me a word” and he felt compelled to follow Catholicism.

In 1978, he became a Catholic and began studying at a Franciscan center in Indianapolis. But the life of a Franciscan friar wasn’t the way for him to preach the Gospel.

Believing he’s “not a visionary,” he started his own community, the Brothers and Sisters in Charity, and moved to Arkansas where he now lives.

“We realized that we did not fit comfortably into any pre-existing category of communities in the church so we had to start our own,” he said.

Talbot said there are roughly 350 members in the community.

“It’s very difficult to make community work in the United States because we’re such an individualistic orientated people,” he said.

He continued to write and perform music and today is the biggest selling Catholic music artist with more than 50 albums and millions of record sales.

“I got into music because I thought music could share a message of meaning that could better people’s lives,” he said.

He’s been touring on and off for decades and will perform at St. Jerome Parish, Oconomowoc, on Friday, Oct. 18.

“My experience is that Catholics, especially Anglo Catholics of America, are really kind of discouraged,” Talbot said, adding that he tries to engage his audience in a way they might not be engaged at their own church. “I tell the congregation, ‘If you want shorter homilies, be better listeners. Then the priest won’t have to make his point three times.’”

Talbot said that in order to connect with audiences he uses music, humor and stories from his life.

“I came from a long line of Methodist preachers, singers, circuit riders,” he said. “I fell away from the faith when I got involved in music.”

He said he even talks about how his bandmates enjoyed his conversion.

“When I became a Christian, they actually liked it,” he said. “They would actually protect me from going off track.”

Today, while traveling across the country, Talbot said he tries to bring a message of hope and joy.

“We go high to take people higher,” he said. “We get them to sing, to smile, to laugh and then we go very deep in contemplative prayer and meditation and healing.”

Talbot said some people can get very emotional during his shows.

“A lot of folks will cry,” he said. “They’re tears of gratitude, tears of healing. Not bad tears.”

During his events, Talbot said he uses a lot of humor.

“A nun once told me … ‘Is Jesus in your heart?’” he said. “And I said ‘yes’ very sternly, and she said, ‘Please inform your face.’”

Talbot said he tries to use his talents to bring discouraged people back to the church and faith.

“We have an economic and political world that is sometimes very troubling and very polarized, and that upsets folks,” he said. “We’ve had scandals in the church and we have problems in the church. Only 17 percent of Catholics in America come to church … if it were a denomination, the second largest denomination in the United States is non-practicing Catholics.”

Talbot said his concerts and retreats are about engaging the audience.

“Nothing is impossible with God,” he said. “People are hungry for hope and people are hungry to be engaged. They don’t want to be entertained.”

One of his recent inspirations is Pope Francis and in the way the Holy Father speaks and acts.

“Almost every day I’m like, ‘Wow, he did it again. How cool is that!’” he said. “This guy is showing us how to do it. He’s not just saying it, he’s modeling it.”