Jeff Fenholt

Last updated
Jeff Fenholt
Birth nameJeffrey Craig Fenholt
Born1951 (age 6768)
United States
Genres CCM, Christian rock/metal, hard rock, heavy metal
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, musician,
Instruments Vocals Guitar Piano
Years active1970–present
Associated acts Bible Black, Black Sabbath, Joshua, Tony Iommi, Driver, Geezer Butler Band, Craig Goldy

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.

Singing act of producing musical sounds with the voice

Singing is the act of producing musical sounds with the voice and augments regular speech by the use of sustained tonality, rhythm, and a variety of vocal techniques. A person who sings is called a singer or vocalist. Singers perform music that can be sung with or without accompaniment by musical instruments. Singing is often done in an ensemble of musicians, such as a choir of singers or a band of instrumentalists. Singers may perform as soloists or accompanied by anything from a single instrument up to a symphony orchestra or big band. Different singing styles include art music such as opera and Chinese opera, Indian music and religious music styles such as gospel, traditional music styles, world music, jazz, blues, gazal and popular music styles such as pop, rock, electronic dance music and filmi.

Broadway theatre class of professional theater presented in New York City, New York, USA

Broadway theatre, commonly known as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.

<i>Jesus Christ Superstar</i> Rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice

Jesus Christ Superstar is a 1970 rock opera with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. The musical started as a rock opera concept album before its Broadway debut in 1971. The musical is mostly sung-through, with little spoken dialogue. The story is loosely based on the Gospels' accounts of the last week of Jesus's life, beginning with the preparation for the arrival of Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem and ending with the crucifixion. It depicts political and interpersonal struggles between Judas Iscariot and Jesus that are not present in the Bible.


Background and early years

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.

Ohio State of the United States of America

Ohio is a Midwestern state in the Great Lakes region of the United States. Of the fifty states, it is the 34th largest by area, the seventh most populous, and the tenth most densely populated. The state's capital and largest city is Columbus.

Columbus, Ohio Capital of Ohio

Columbus is the state capital of and the most populous city in the U.S. state of Ohio. With a population of 879,170 as of 2017 estimates, it is the 14th-most populous city in the United States and one of the fastest growing large cities in the nation. This makes Columbus the third-most populous state capital in the US and the second-most populous city in the Midwest. It is the core city of the Columbus, OH Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses ten counties. With a population of 2,078,725, it is Ohio's second-largest metropolitan area.

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".

Graham Nash English musician, singer, songwriter, recording artist

Graham William Nash is an English singer-songwriter and musician. Nash is known for his light tenor voice and for his songwriting contributions as a member of the English pop/rock group the Hollies and the folk-rock supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash. Nash became an American citizen on 14 August 1978 and holds dual citizenship of the United Kingdom and the United States.

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 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.

Autobiography biography written by the subject

An autobiography is a self-written account of the life of oneself. The word "autobiography" was first used deprecatingly by William Taylor in 1797 in the English periodical The Monthly Review, when he suggested the word as a hybrid, but condemned it as "pedantic". However, its next recorded use was in its present sense, by Robert Southey in 1809. Despite only being named early in the nineteenth century, first-person autobiographical writing originates in antiquity. Roy Pascal differentiates autobiography from the periodic self-reflective mode of journal or diary writing by noting that "[autobiography] is a review of a life from a particular moment in time, while the diary, however reflective it may be, moves through a series of moments in time". Autobiography thus takes stock of the autobiographer's life from the moment of composition. While biographers generally rely on a wide variety of documents and viewpoints, autobiography may be based entirely on the writer's memory. The memoir form is closely associated with autobiography but it tends, as Pascal claims, to focus less on the self and more on others during the autobiographer's review of his or her life.

Trinity Broadcasting Network non-profit organisation in the USA

The Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) is an international Christian-based broadcast television network and the world's largest religious television network. TBN was headquartered in Costa Mesa, California until March 3, 2017 when it sold its highly visible office park. The broadcaster will retain its Tustin, California facilities. Auxiliary studio facilities are located in Irving, Texas; Hendersonville, Tennessee; Gadsden, Alabama; Decatur, Georgia; Miami, Florida; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Orlando, Florida; and New York City. TBN broadcasts programs hosted by a diverse group of ministries from Evangelical, traditional Protestant and Catholic denominations, non-profit charities, Messianic Jewish and Christian media personalities. TBN also offers a wide range of original programming, and faith-based films from various distributors.

Conversion to Christianity

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 Sabbath

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.

Black Sabbath British heavy metal band

Black Sabbath were an English rock band, formed in Birmingham in 1968, by guitarist and main songwriter Tony Iommi, drummer Bill Ward, bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler and singer Ozzy Osbourne. Black Sabbath are often cited as pioneers of heavy metal music. The band helped define the genre with releases such as Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970), and Master of Reality (1971). The band had multiple line-up changes, with Iommi being the only constant member throughout its history.

Don Arden English producer

Don Arden was an English music manager, agent, and businessman. He managed the careers of rock acts such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Air Supply, Small Faces, The Move, Black Sabbath and Electric Light Orchestra.

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.

"Jeff Fenholt sang on some recordings for Tony Iommi in (19)85 in (Los Angeles). Tony was looking for a singer for what was supposed to be his "solo" album. Jeff came down and worked in the studio from Jan-May. That project became the "Seventh Star", "Black Sabbath" album with Glenn Hughes on vocals, and my first album. That's pretty much all there is to the story. Jeff had an awesome voice but it just didn't work out."

 Eric Singer

[1] "We then tried this guy called Jeff Fenholt. He was another one who had played the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar, in the Broadway version of that musical. So we had Ian Gillan, who was the original Jesus Christ Superstar, and here we had the Broadway Jesus wanting to join Black Sabbath. We tried Jeff out and he had a good voice. I cut a couple of demos with him in Los Angeles. One of the tracks was ‘Star Of India’, which later turned into ‘Seventh Star’. Another one was ‘Eye Of The Storm’, which ended up on the album as ‘Turn To Stone’. And we had a track that eventually turned into ‘Danger Zone’. Of course these demos got out and found their way on to a bootleg album. Again. They called it Eighth Star or something like that. Jeff seemed a nice enough guy. It might have worked with him, even though I wasn’t 100 per cent convinced that he’d be able to do our older stuff. But then Jeff Glixman came in to produce the album and he didn’t think Fenholt was working out, recording-wise. And that was that. A little later Jeff Fenholt suddenly became this big TV evangelist. I couldn’t believe it, because when we met him he was saying things like: ‘Oh yeah, I fucked that chick.’ The New York Times did a thing about him being with Black Sabbath and they wrote that he saw the light, rejected evil and all this bollocks. We were right back in the satanism thing because Fenholt was going on about it. I was getting phone calls to do Larry King Live about him. I thought, I’m not getting involved in that! You try and talk religion on TV in America and you have no chance. Especially him being an evangelist now; they’re all going to side with him and I won’t have a leg to stand on!"

 Tony Iommi

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.


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 1 Platinum and 2 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.

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  1. "Iron Man: My Journey through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath" by Tony Iommi ISBN   978-0306821455