Jeffrey Craig "Jeff" Fenholt (born 1951) is an American singer best known for his performance as the title character in the original Broadway theatre adaptation of Jesus Christ Superstar and for his appearance on the cover of Time magazine. In later years, Fenholt would gain notoriety as a Christian evangelist and singer, as well as controversy over his involvement with the English heavy metal band Black Sabbath.
|Birth name||Jeffrey Craig Fenholt|
|Born||1951 (age 67–68)|
|Genres||CCM, Christian rock/metal, hard rock, heavy metal|
|Instruments||Vocals Guitar Piano|
|Associated acts||Bible Black, Black Sabbath, Joshua, Tony Iommi, Driver, Geezer Butler Band, Craig Goldy|
Background and early yearsEdit
Fenholt grew up in Ohio and went to school in Columbus. He was involved with a number of rock bands and performed at various school functions. Fenholt got his first Top 40 hit, ("Billboard Top 100") recording, "Goin' Too Far", with the band The Fifth Order when he was 14. He toured extensively while he was in high school. By his own admission, he was a troubled youth with a juvenile delinquency record. Later, while in college, he worked at Jeffrey Mining Machinery Co. as a material mover in the motor winding and assembly department, and loading and unloading beef sides for a non-union roughneck truck dock, EC Jones, Trucking. Fenholt attended Ohio State University for two years on a music scholarship, and later earned his B.A. in music at The School of Bible Theology University in San Jacinto, California.
Fenholt was cast as Jesus in the title role in the Original Broadway Production of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Mark Hellinger Theatre. Jesus Christ Superstar sold in excess of 12 million albums. Future JCS legends Carl Anderson (singer) and Yvonne Elliman toured alongside Fenholt on the World Premier JCS World Tour as Judas and Mary Magdalene, respectively.
Fenholt released several solo recordings, including a successful cover of Graham Nash's "Simple Man".
Fenholt co-founded "Entertainment Capital Corporation" with Jeff Thornburg, former President of The Robert Stigwood Org, producing Andy Warhol's film, Bad. ECC also produced recordings for Fenholt. Thornburg and Fenholt amicably parted ways when Thornburg accepted the position of "Head Of Venture Capital" for Paramount Pictures.
In 1978, Fenholt recorded a Disco LP called Smile for CBS and was paid $300,000 dollars. Fenholt also recorded for Capitol Records, Universal, Paramount, Polygram, Polydor, Decca, RCA, and as a youth, Laurie, Diamond and Cameo Parkway. He is currently recording for Sony.
Fenholt's 1994 autobiography From Darkness To Light reveals that he was abused and mistreated as a youth and subjected to frequent beatings. In 1996, Fenholt's parents sued him, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), and the publisher of his autobiography for $12 million each for defamation of character. Fenholt's siblings claimed he made up the stories of abuse, but the lawsuit was subsequently dropped after Fenholt produced court documents from the Superior Court Of Franklin County, Ohio, confirming his claims. Fenholt later said that he has a "warm relationship" with his mother and family.
Conversion to ChristianityEdit
According to Fenholt's autobiography, he was heavily addicted to alcohol and drugs following the end of Jesus Christ Superstar's run on Broadway. Fenholt's often-repeated testimony (later published in his autobiography) details a visit from Christian construction workers (Nick Dissipio, owner, hired by his Christian wife to rebuild a wing of his house) who confronted him regarding his portrayal of Christ on stage. Fenholt was converted to Christ, beat his addictions, then spent the next several years struggling to balance his faith and his career, before becoming a high-profile personality on programming aired by TBN. Fenholt sported long hair, an unusual style in conservative evangelical circles. Fenholt would often appear with his wife Maureen (nicknamed "Reeni").
Involvement with Tony Iommi/Black SabbathEdit
Fenholt built his career as a TBN personality based mostly upon his involvement with Jesus Christ Superstar, and Black Sabbath. In the "Black Sabbath Biography" publication, Never Say Die, Fenholt said that Black Sabbath manager Don Arden informed him he was singing for Black Sabbath.
The Never Say Die book, authored by Garry Sharpe-Young and updated as Sabbath Bloody Sabbath - The Battle for Black Sabbath, states that a substantial number of recordings were made during Fenholt's time with the group. It is acknowledged that this was a confusing time in the band's history, as singer David Donato had left the band after six months only having recorded demos. Geezer Butler and Bill Ward had also left, leaving Tony Iommi as the sole original member.
Manager Don Arden suggested Iommi use Fenholt and tracks were written, in the main by Iommi and Nicholls, for a proposed new album. The book Never Say Die voices opinion from other band members that Fenholt might have been kept in the dark about plans to make an Iommi solo album. Geoff Nicholls has stated that after Fenholt's departure, Iommi wanted to use different singers, including David Coverdale, Steve Marriott, Glenn Hughes and Rob Halford.
Fenholt says several of his melodies were used in songs that appeared on Seventh Star (and subsequently did not receive credit for them). None of his lyrics were used, as confirmed by comparing the Fenholt demos with the album. Rumors suggesting he only left the project because of supposed personal conflicts with the lyrical material being written and his religious faith are suggested by Fenholt and Geoff Nicholls, who wrote the lyrics. Fenholt claims it was in fact a physical argument with Don Arden, along with Iommi's bad habits and Tony's proposed dark lyrics that caused his departure. However, Iommi has stated that Fenholt was never an official member of Black Sabbath. Iommi went on to say that he thought Fenholt had a great voice, but it didn't work, due to Fenholt having difficulty in singing "Sabbath" type lyrics and fitting in.
After his time with Iommi, Fenholt would briefly replace Jeff Scott Soto in Rudy Sarzo, of Ozzy and Whitesnake fame and Tommy Aldridge's, of Ozzy and Whitesnake new project, Driver. Upon recording several cuts with Driver (one of which is in common circulation amongst fans, "Rock the World") Fenholt left the project to do a solo tour of South America and was replaced by his successor in Joshua, Rob Rock. Following a legal dispute with another band of the same name, the Driver project would change its name to M.A.R.S., upon the recruitment of guitarist Tony MacAlpine. Only one album was released, 1986's Project: Driver, before the band officially disbanded. Fenholt continued as a solo Christian artist to perform numerous American and World Tours in Stadiums and Arenas, often drawing in excess of 100,000 in attendance.
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In 1993 Fenholt announced on the TV program The 700 Club that he planned to do a Halloween concert in an arena in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. Having advance notification from the Attorney General of Massachusetts of his arrival in Wisconsin, Wiccan Priest Selena Fox (Circle Sanctuary) got a restraining order from the local county court prohibiting not only his trespass onto private property but actually specifying that he stay a particular distance from the property line. Fenholt won in court.
In 1996, Fenholt was The Chairman of "Washington For Jesus" youth rally on The Nation's Capital Steps, drawing nearly 500,000 in attendance. Fenholt raised over $1.7 million to stage the event, donating over $300,000 of his own funds.
In the December 1997 issue, Vanity Fair detailed his past as a "boy toy" for Gala Dalí, wife of Salvador Dalí and that Fenholt had worked on the side as a representative for Salvador Dalí. The article was titled, "Gala, Dali's Demon Bride". Fenholt was outraged at the depiction of Gala, and wrote a scathing letter to the editor, stating they had no evidence to substantiate their smear campaign of Gala.
Fenholt was divorced in 1998 and left TBN, except for a few brief appearances, including one after the events of September 11, 2001, that featured a marked change in his demeanor and appearance, including short hair and a quick exit from the stage following his performance. His album of sacred music was TBN's promotion in December 2001. Fenholt recorded 5 solo albums for TBN, featuring many of his own compositions. They sold in excess of 3.3 million copies. Fenholt earned one Platinum and two Gold albums. He was also briefly seen doing a late-night timeslot for a half-hour program. Fenholt stated that after his divorce he had "lost his fire".
Fenholt returned to TBN on March 3, 2004, as a guest on the Behind the Scenes program, hosted by Paul Crouch. Fenholt mentioned Black Sabbath, citing the book Never Say Die, a "Black Sabbath" biography.
In 2008, Fenholt was hired as Executive Producer of The Beijing Olympic Concert Series.
He has been living with his wife, Kim, at his beach house in Newport Beach, California, and his Ranch in Colorado.