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First Call is a Contemporary Christian music (CCM) group, originally consisting of Mel Tunney, Marty McCall, and Bonnie Keen. Mel's husband, Dick Tunney, acted as the arranger and producer for many of the group's early projects.
In the 1970s, McCall was a member of a band called Fireworks, while Keen was pursuing a career in musical theater. They met at a studio in Nashville, Tennessee, singing backup for other singers and recording commercial jingles. Dick Tunney met the two during such a session and struck up a friendship. He introduced them to his singer-wife, Melodie. The three saw a benefit in marketing themselves as a ready-made trio for backup vocals and other studio recordings. They were considered the "first call" by music producers—first choice for studio work. But the term also fit with their belief in making their Christian beliefs first in their lives.
None of the three initially foresaw a recording or touring career. As a side project to their backing vocal careers, they agreed to record an a cappella Christmas album called An Evening In December. The album sold very well on the Contemporary Christian market, and propelled the trio into their own music projects. Offers began to come in from high-profile CCM artists such as Amy Grant and Sandi Patty to join them on tour. Their first album of non-Christmas music, Undivided (1986), was followed by Something Takes Over (1987) and God Is Good (1989). The two Christmas music collections, An Evening in December Volume I (1985) and Volume II (1987), have long been bestsellers in the group's catalog. Many comparisons have been made to the group's style similarity to the recording group The Manhattan Transfer and the New York Voices.
Around 1989, Melodie expressed a desire to try different styles of music, and left the group in 1990, yet continued her friendship with Marty and Keen. Marabeth Jordan, another session singer, joined the group's ranks.
The new lineup saw two successful albums, Human Song (1992) and Sacred Journey (1993). Then in 1994 came news that Jordan was involved in an affair with fellow CCM artist Michael English, both of whom were married to other people at the time. The media attention surrounding the affair cost First Call their record deal and Marabeth left the group shortly thereafter.
After the incident, Melodie Tunney returned to the group for a short period to try to reduce damage to the group's image and complete their touring obligations. She also lent her vocals to several projects in which the group was currently involved. In late 1994, First Call acted as the backup group for David L. Cook's inspirational single, "When Heaven is My Home". The song was written and produced for Cook by Dick Tunney.
After signing with Warner Alliance, another Christmas album, 1995's Beyond December, and the eponymously titled album First Call of 1996 were recorded by Marty and Bonnie as a duo.
After reuniting the original group to record two songs for some compilation projects, music publishers Discovery House signed the members of the original lineup to record together again. Their new collection, entitled Rejoice, was released in 2007.
|Year||Album||Members Who Performed||Record Label|
|1985||Evening in December as "First Call & Friends"||Keen, McCall, Tunney||Word|
|1986||Undivided||Keen, McCall, Tunney||Word|
|1987||Something Takes Over||Keen, McCall, Tunney||Dayspring|
|1987||An Evening in December, Vol. 2||Keen, McCall, Tunney||Dayspring|
|1989||God Is Good||Keen, McCall, Tunney||Word|
|1992||Human Song||Keen, McCall, Jordon||Epic|
|1993||Sacred Journey||Keen, McCall, Jordon||Word/Epic|
|1994||La Razon de Cantar||Keen, McCall, Jordon||Myrrh|
|1995||Beyond December||Keen, McCall||Warner Alliance|
|1996||First Call||Keen, McCall||Warner Bros.|
|2007||Rejoice||Keen, McCall, Tunney||Discovery House|