Features

Larry Norman's tragic post-mortem

Music | Allegations of infidelity, fathering a child out of wedlock, and manipulating fellow CCM artists mar in death what was a pioneering life of making music

Issue: "Home again," July 12, 2008

Most of the stories published following the death of the Christian music legend Larry Norman last February summarized his pioneering role in the launching of "Jesus rock" and the far-reaching influence of his music. Several cited his history of broken relationships (two ex-wives, ex-friends including Contemporary Christian Music [CCM] artists Randy Stonehill, Daniel Amos, Tom Howard, and Steve Scott), but none mentioned what may have been Norman's most severely broken relationship of all-because the woman at the center of it had remained silent for 18 years.

The silence was broken on May 10, when Christian journalist Mark Joseph posted an open letter (dated April 28) on his Bully Pulpit News website from an Australian woman calling herself "Jennifer McCallum." It read in part, "[O]ne of [my] children, Daniel Robinson, was fathered by Larry Norman. And, for the last few years . . . and in the immediate aftermath of his passing, I have fought a losing cause to get recognition for . . . Daniel, by either Larry or the Norman family." McCallum went on to say that she had become pregnant with Daniel during a "10-week tour of Russia in 1989."

McCallum was actually Jennifer Wallace. ("McCallum" had been her surname when she toured with Norman in 1988 and 1989). Her letter provoked a lengthy rejoinder from Norman's younger brother Charles, who with his wife Kristin currently oversees Norman's Solid Rock record label. He dismissed Wallace's allegations as "more than a bit suspicious," questioning her truthfulness and her timeline. "Any Larry Norman fan can tell you," he wrote, "that there never was a 10-week tour [or a tour of any length] in Russia in 1989." (The tour, it turns out, actually began in 1988.)

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A debate ensued on chat boards where the two letters were posted. It intensified when Sandi Stonehill-wife of CCM artist Randy Stonehill- joined: "Larry always said [Daniel] . . . was a horrible rumor started by someone who wanted to ruin his career," Sandi wrote in an April 30 posting. "Daniel is not a rumor."

In fact, for years the Stonehills themselves had heard only stories. Then, after a 2006 Randy Stonehill concert in Australia, Daniel introduced himself to them.

Sandi posted her letter, she told WORLD, because on the chat sites "people were bashing [Jennifer] . . . when I knew that she has been raising Larry's son with no help from him." Concert promoters and ministers in Australia "knew about this child," she said, "and they knew he was Larry's son."

One such promoter was David Smallbone, the father of the CCM performer Rebecca St. James. Now based in the United States, Smallbone organized Norman's Australian tours during the 1970s and 1980s and was the promoter whom Norman first approached about organizing the 1988-89 tour on which, according to Wallace, Daniel was conceived.

Smallbone told WORLD he refused Norman's offer because Norman had been performing in Australia so frequently that without a new album to promote the tour would "probably fail." It was then, according to Smallbone, that Norman turned to "his two biggest fans in Australia." "One was Jenny," he said, "and they put the tour together."

"I think the tour was a bit of mini-disaster," Smallbone said. "You had two incredibly supportive people being manipulated by Larry, and there was a history of Larry taking advantage of people who loved him."

Midway through the tour, which eventually encompassed Russia and other countries, Larry fired the other Australian "fan." Sometime afterward, Smallbone believes, "because there was now no longer any accountability, [Larry] slept with Jennifer, who was incredibly devoted to him and no doubt loved him. And out of that the baby arrived."

In an email to WORLD, Vic Campbell, another Australian Christian music promoter, wrote, "There is no doubt in my mind that Daniel is Larry's son. . . . The so-called CCM community here, especially those of us in Melbourne, acknowledged this from the start. . . . It has always been something of an 'open secret' here."

Wallace herself has never doubted that Norman was Daniel's father. "We were completely in one another's company every day for 10 weeks," she told WORLD. According to Wallace, Norman proposed to her in September 1988, a time, she said, that both he and she were separated, and anticipating divorces, from their respective spouses.

There would be no wedding. Shortly after his birth, Daniel was diagnosed with myoclonic epilepsy, and doctors requested his genetic history. But, according to Wallace, Norman had "gone AWOL" and could not be reached. Finally, she called Contemporary Christian Music magazine. "I knew that [then CCM editor] John Styll would know where he was," she said.

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