By Lorraine Walker
Dusty Wells is, officially, the Sales and Marketing Director for Word Entertainment/Warner Music Group. He is a singer/songwriter who traveled with The Rambos and Dottie Rambo for eighteen years. He has been singing all his life and recorded two projects in the 1980’s. Wells is an accomplished speaker, writer and mentor to aspiring artists. However, anyone whose life has been touched by Wells knows that his greatest gift is as a Balcony Encourager.
Music is a vital part of many people’s lives and most of us don’t have the privilege of being one of the performers like Dottie Rambo who share their talent and hearts with their audience. Some of us on the receiving end of the music, message and emotion clap politely or nod our heads. Others enthusiastically show their appreciation through their whoops and smiles, standing to their feet and applauding with all their might. As important as immediate response is to the performer, it is also important for people to be encouraged by those in the balcony, especially those who give of their lives to share Christ in a ministry. Balcony encouragers can share their particular ministry to anyone in need of affirmation or a positive word. The Bible often exhorts us to be an encouragement to those who need to be reminded of the joy to be found in Jesus.
Dusty Wells is the embodiment of a balcony encourager, cheering on artists and audience alike. He’s one of the most affirmative people you can find on social media. However, Wells’ journey to the upbeat, positive person he is today has not been an easy one and he has learned some hard lessons along the way. From a rough, abusive childhood that many might use as an excuse to take a wrong path, Wells emerged a strong, vibrant Christian through the grace of God and the help of some very special people.
“Growing up in the home that I did, I learned at a very young age that life is just plain old tough and I honestly had no idea that anything was different elsewhere until I got older,” Wells begins. “The people we associated with and the apartment complex-trailer park we lived in at times just seemed normal; so I think that old saying ‘you are who you surround yourself with’ truly was a part of my life. Now, as I look back, I know that my life was not the greatest, but there was so much worse going on and even today, my childhood abuse is nothing compared to what I have seen and heard.”
Wells continues, “Of course my mom was a product of her own environment and how she grew up, so she was just following that example. She was a hard worker and she always taught us to be survivors. Now she may have taught us in the wrong way with certain things, but she really did teach me to survive and make the best out of all that we had to deal with. I was not a Christian until I was 14, so I learned a lot of life’s lessons the hard way without Christ. But once He found me, I knew there was so much more to the life I had been living.”
Wells still had some lessons to learn in his growth as a Christian. “When I was 27 years old, I had a dear friend of mine who worked at a Christian Bookstore in Kansas City that I would call on. She totally got in my face and life, and absolutely ruined me – for good,” Wells continues. “She talked to me about the broken image and becoming the man of God that He intended me to be. She confronted me in love and truly helped love me back to life by showing me and sharing with me how much Jesus really loved and adored me.”
“Yes, I had been a Christian for 13 years at that time, but I had so much dysfunction of the past that she truly got in my face and helped me axe some ugly roots and start rebuilding. She was absolutely precious to me and I talked to her weekly for the next 25 years of my journey. She went home to be with Jesus last year and I miss her so; but she taught me the art and beauty of being real, sensitive, vulnerable and honest with my life.”
Dusty Wells has to be one of the most real people in the Christian music industry, never afraid to share his heart and always open to those around him. Sometimes it seems that he is always so positive that his present life must be a bed of roses. Not so, says Wells. “I deal with junk and crud just like everyone else. I have experienced so much in my life, that I honestly just strive to push aside the junk and try to trust that there is a reason for all that we have to walk thru. I do get quiet, I have to be alone and I get moody.” Wells laughs, “Yes, I sure do! Ask anyone who knows me well. But I usually will separate myself for a few hours, have my pity party, scream, yell and cry and then come back in full force ready to try to conquer the world. Or at least try to show others that I want to.”
One of the current challenges that Dusty Wells and his family of four children have to walk through currently is the ill health of his wife. Wells talks about this difficult trial. “This is a tough one. In fact, it is a question to God that I struggle with daily. My wife LaVonne, whom I have been married to for 31 years and is my backbone for so much, has recently been diagnosed with a rapid form of Parkinsons. LaVonne is the Godliest saint of a woman whom everyone loves. She is an incredible mother to our four children; she understands my call and mission, and has been so faithful.”
The questions swirling around this crisis have not yet found resolution for Wells. “I don’t understand ‘why her’?” Wells admits. “This is so new to us, that we are still a little in the shock and scared part of how to deal with it. She is showing signs of it daily, but she is a fighter and we are all walking with her, trusting and believing that God will heal her. Our kids have been incredible, yet I know they are scared just like me. But we also know that God will get glory in all of this. I don’t understand it, I hate it, but I have to believe He has a plan for it all.”
Wells’ faith has developed through other trying circumstances as he experienced God’s plan working throughout his life, beginning with a Christian couple who reached out to a poor, lonely, abused boy from the wrong side of town. They asked the fourteen-year-old if he wanted to go to church. He went and that led him to a belief in the Lord that changed his life. “This precious couple that led me to the Lord also really instilled in me such a love for Christian music. The very first concert I ever went to in Twin Falls, Idaho was either The Blackwood Brothers or 2nd Chapter of Acts. So diverse and different huh? They were so close together in concert, that I honestly cannot remember, but what I do remember is how the music of both different genres truly touched my heart and spoke to me. They brought music and songs about Jesus, who loved, loved, loved, me!” says Wells.
“Of course, The Rambos were truly my favorite artists due to this precious couple introducing me to their music when I got saved at 14,”says Wells. “I collected all of their music and finally met them when I was 24. The first time I saw them live was at a High School auditorium and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was that night at the concert in Portland, Oregon, back by the record table after the concert; we knew that we were supposed to all work together. A special bond took place and several years later I went to work for them full time. I spent nearly 18 years off and on with all of them, and to this day I am in touch with Reba, Dony, Buck and the rest of them as often as I can be. They truly are like family to me.”
Dusty Wells fondly remembers those years and the lady that made such a huge impact on his life. “My time with Dottie was so special, and I have so many memories. There is not a day goes by that I am not reminded of something she said or did that still impacts my life. Dottie taught me to love people right where they were at, to really look into their eyes and care for what they were dealing with and walking in. ‘Hate the sin, but love the sinner’. She taught me the value of our name, she always told me that at the end of our lives, all we really have is our name and the value it has for others who knew and remembered the name. ‘What do people think and say when your name is mentioned?’”
“Dottie taught me about the guarding of the heart and protecting the gift, which I preach and talk about all the time,” Wells continues. “I used to love it when we would be getting ready to travel; she would always grab my hands and say ‘Oh great angels put your hands in ours and your arms around us and protect us as we go about our Daddy’s business.’ I still say that when I am out on the road or in my own travels.”
“She was the real deal; a woman who lived in so much pain, but she pushed herself out of the pain to grab hold of that anointing,” Wells shares. “I feel very blessed and fortunate that God allowed me to help take care of her, just like her music took care of me when I was a young kid with so many questions. I so miss her.”
Dusty Wells not only learned a love for people from Dottie Rambo but she also nurtured the gift for words within him, both writing and speaking. “I love to write and share ‘heart’ as I always say and talk about,” says Wells. “I’ve always loved to write and tell stories when I was a kid; my brain was filled with all kinds of fairy tale dreams of a life. Once I became a Christian, for some reason I started writing and journaling and keeping diaries. Thank goodness that has always been a part of my life. I love writing out my feelings, my questions, my memories, my hopes and dreams. I am a huge instigator of telling others they need to do the same thing. So much of my own journey of forgiveness has been writing down my heart and feelings.”
Sharing what he has learned with others is a huge part of Wells’ balcony life. He mentors others and as the Bible encourages, he helps to ‘stir up the gift within’. “I am huge supporter and encourager of mentoring, especially in this crazy music world,” says Wells. “We have to have mentors and people who we are accountable to. I have been so fortunate and blessed through the years to have both mentors and accountability people in my face. I know and understand the importance of that.”
“So many times people think they can be the Lone Ranger and face all kinds of difficulties, struggles, temptations, etc. alone. They usually fall flat on their face!” Wells exclaims. “All of us need people who surround us and help us walk thru life! In regards to helping, encouraging and assisting artists and songwriters, I think the key for me is I have good ears and a heart that really does care. Also, I have 30 years of being in the business and I have worked along some of the most successful artists in the industry.”
“It’s my great passion to help those who are called to get the music out there. I take it very seriously and I am also careful to place balance in all of it. I have always been a big listener and I learned from some of the best; so I hope I can pass along some of that to other fellow listeners.”
As Wells listens and mentors artists and moves in the ‘crazy music world’, he sees and hears a lot of different singers. Some of his favorite artists whose music he enjoys are those he has had the opportunity to spend time with, those whose heart he has heard. “I have so many artists who I am friends with and I love so many types of music, but some of those that I just feel such a strong connection with are: of course Reba and Dony McGuire, Beyond the Ashes who are Anthony, Kellan and Dustin; The Nelons – I love Jason and Kelly; Wes Hampton – what a voice!” Wells continues, “ I love, love Ernie and The Signature Sound guys, they are such really fun guys. Also Stephanie Booshada, the Lanny Wolfe Trio, Ann Downing – I love The Downings; Karen Peck, The Hoppers, Taranda Green….” Wells laughs, “Okay, I am so going to get in trouble! I could go on and on; I have way too many that I enjoy.”
“I think the thing that I love and admire most about artists are the ones who are not afraid to be real, who want to truly share depth and heart with others, and who have gotten to that place where they know what they do is not just about awards, money, accolades, big crowds, etc; which is all important and okay, but they do it because they know they want to touch peoples’ lives right where they are.”
Many fans would love to be in Dusty Well’s place and have the opportunity to get to know artists one-on-one. Wells loves to enjoy the company of some of his friends in the industry. “I have so many that I love to hang out with, way too many to name,” says Wells. “I love going on the road with different ones when I can. For me the connection is that there is gypsy in so many of us! I love being able to visit with the fans and people who come to the concerts; I love hearing the music and watching the response. I love standing back at the product table and hearing their stories and watching their faces when they meet the artists. I love the camaraderie that I feel when I am out on the road with the different groups.”
As Wells travels the roads with artists and friends, there are often humorous incidents that they all remember for years. Wells shares, “I have so many funny stories! One of my favorites that I have not told in years, is this one time Dottie and I were at a large church in California, and a lady walked up to me in front of Dottie, and just went on and on about how good I looked since she had first seen us in the 60’s; how she liked my hair dyed brown instead of the white she had seen on the record covers and she thought I was shorter than what she had expected. Then she asked why I didn’t sing with Dottie any longer! Of course she thought I was Buck!” Wells laughs, “She just went on and on while Dottie sat there and laughed so hard. We were both crying and when I finally told her I was just a friend and worked for them, she then said, ‘Well I thought for sure you had had way too much plastic surgery!’ Oh, we used to laugh about that all the time.” Wells continues, “I play jokes all the time on the road; it is so much fun being on the road. Dottie and I used to pretend we would see famous people all the time!”
From working with the Rambos in the past to his present position with Word Entertainment, Wells is surrounded with all different types of Christian music. He is hard pressed to say what music he enjoys the most. “I have no particular favorite music honestly…except I love to listen to music that touches my heart. I want songs that say something and mean something to me. I love those artists who are not afraid of being real. I love those songs that move us to do more and challenge us.”
Wells himself performs occasionally and also sings with his church’s worship team. The local church is important to the Wells’ family. “I feel it is absolutely one of the most important things that we can do, to be involved in whatever we can at church, even if it is only a few times a month. “I feel like being involved in a local church is a absolute must for those on the road! You give so much of yourself that you have to receive back into yourself what God wants you to give out. Many singers will come up to me and tell me they want to go out full time and make a career out of music. My first question always is: ‘are you involved in your own home church?’ If they say no, I tell them to not ask my opinion until they are involved. Sounds harsh, but I am such a strong advocate for the church.”
As a balcony person, Wells has touched many lives and has a powerful ministry through his positive affirmation of artists and those in the music industry. None of us really know how we have affected the eternal souls of those we come into contact with, but Wells says he hopes that people remember him for his love. “I want people who have met me to remember that I absolutely love Jesus with all my heart, that my family is the most important part of my life and that I am crazy in love with them. I want people to know that I understand and embrace the truth of His word in our lives, that I have a heart and burning passion for music and what it can do for others who are so broken. I want them to see that if God can use me, He can use anyone! We just have to be willing, obedient and not be afraid of where we will go on the journey. We have to trust Him.”
For more information on Dusty Wells, visit him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/dusty.wells.50?fref=ts
Also see his page on Southern Ministry Agency at http://mannagospel.com/?page_id=10
First published December 2012 by SGM Radio website
For current features visit http://www.sgmradio.com/
For another feature on Dusty Wells about Marketing Gospel Music see the September issue of SGN Scoops here http://www.sgnscoops.com/2014/09/16/september-2014-sgnscoops-magazine/