Open Letter From Michael Disston
Michael shares his experiences from joining
the band, to when he left and what direction his journey in life
has taken him
April 4th, 2007
It is good to be in contact with Witness again. As some of you know, I was
a member of Witness from 1978 to 1982. I remember the first audition, when
Steelman and I went to Ted's house to answer an ad in the paper for a
guitar player. Originally, I went just to support my brother, but one
thing led to another, and eventually, we were together again in the same
band! Steelman, Joe, Billy B., Timmy and I, along with Snake as sound/lightman
and Ted as manager. It was a really neat thing to be in a professional
band with my brother, and also to be able to play at the
Jersey shore, a goal that we both had.
This was a time of building for all of us; becoming a team,
and learning how to get along with each other! I think we all were
working full time
jobs, and Billy B. had to come from New Jersey. So it wasn't always easy
packing up and going to practice. I have come to realize that our original
group did more for me than I gave credit. Pride and ambition tend to cloud
over things that other people do for you.
Changes came. Joe left and was replaced by Michael, who
quickly earned a spot when he played "Foreplay/Longtime" by
Boston. I think that I can speak for the rest of the original members that
we were all taken back, (Steelman says he was stunned!!) by this young guy
who could play so well. It didn't take much to agree that we wanted
to have him in the band.
Then, sometime later, Billy B. said that he had this friend
who could sing really well. So we told Billy to bring his friend to a
friend was another young guy, full of desire and ambition. When we asked
him to sing a Kansas song, (I think it was "Portrait") he rose
to the occasion and did it, even though he may have stretched a few vocal
cord muscles in the process! But that was Billy! He was going to do it no
matter what!! Then we discovered that just like Joe, Billy could
sing Billy Joel, and even add a little show to it. Well, as we know, Billy
Spence's wonderful "raw" talent began to develop and flourish as
the band's repertoire started to expand. This broad base of new music
potential, along with Timmy's Bob Seeger/Jackson Browne/Bruce Springsteen/and
Cars songs, Billy B.'s 4th set Southern Rock interludes, and
the growing Tull Show, began to give us many more
John Brooks came on to help, and I'm not sure I have
all of my chronology right but eventually JD, friend of Snake's and
Ted's, came on
the scene with his highly creative and extra-ordinary light show
that brought even greater opportunities for us. Snake was eventually
John Higgins who added his powerful "North Jersey" sound, (with
lots of bottom end!). I feel bad right now for Snake and what
he is going through. I believe that without the Grace of God, any of us
could be in his position.
It seemed like the crew changes came out of nowhere and
eventually a crew team came together that seemed to stick, and we were
moving quickly ahead. I often tended to take the crew for granted, but as
I look back again, what a great job they did. There was a lot of teamwork.
We couldn't have asked for much more than JD and John, John B. and Pur.
Other helpers included Toni and Nick, Ted M. and don't forget about Jill,
who was hired on to run a Trooper! They all gave their effort for the
common cause. The schedule was often quite demanding, especially for the
crew. Meanwhile, Ted was pounding the pavement looking for work! It was a
lot of effort and an enjoyable time for
The years went on as we not only played full time in many
different clubs around the Delaware Valley but also did some recording at
Alpha Studios in Philadelphia. Along the way, Roy came in as our bass
player to take Billy B.'s spot. Billy B. had been with us since the start.
He had a special compassion about him that I admire now. Personnel changes
are often awkward. However, we learned that as one would take his talents
and gifts with him, another would come with different talents and skills
as a replacement.
In 1982, after being together as a band for about four
years, around this same time of year, Witness was involved in a lawsuit.
It seemed like it was the worst thing that could have happened to us.
It was certainly a stressful time for all. But then, amidst the very
difficult times, something happened to me that changed my life around.
I had an encounter with Jesus and decided to give my life to Him, as He
had given His life for
me. I became born again and eventually learned that I was living in
immorality and sin, overcome with pride, and trying to serve myself
of God. As I look back, I realize that God had to allow these hard
times in my life in order to get my attention.
It is ironic that some of the Tull songs I was singing back
in those days, were about Jesus!! Through even Witness, it seemed as if
preparing me to sing His Name! I have a lot to sing about now! God has
delivered me through many tough times. As I continue to praise Him in
songs and hymns and spiritual songs, God is also blessing our church group
with about 60 or so children that come to our building to learn
about God, His will, and His character. I am now trying to devote as
much of my time, effort, and money, to the Lord and the children in
Reading. It is a
wonderful opportunity for me and I am so thankful for the Grace of God to
bring me here and to help me with it.
I look back on my life and see how the Lord was preparing me
all of these years for this mission. I can still jump around a little bit,
(and make set
lists!), but now for God's glory and not my own!! I am trying to live out
the Bible verse that says to do all things to the glory of God.
I am grateful for the opportunity to share with you. I wish
you, too, would have a relationship with God through Jesus. Maybe you do!
I regret the
sin and shame of a life that was not being lived for God, but I don't
regret my time with Witness. I appreciate the support, patience, and
forbearance that everyone showed to me during the later part of my
involvement. It was a very awkward time for me as many of you know,
sincerely ask for forgiveness from the many who I offended along the way. Anyway,
I thank JD so much for his initiative in gathering us together like
this. In fact, I thank all those that were a part of my life during my
years with Witness. God's best to you.