The 1990s represents a coming of age period for the Christian music industry. It was during these years which Christian music slowly left the fringes of its own little encapsulated world and started being introduced to audiences outside of Christian youth groups.
Modern Christian musicians are forever indebted to those who helped bridge the gap and made the genre commercially viable. This is a tribute to some of the best '90s Christian rock groups who helped make that happen.
Nine Pioneering Christian Rock Bands from the '90s
- Audio Adrenaline
- Dakoda Motor Company
- dc Talk
- Jars of Clay
- Poor Old Lu
- Pray for Rain (PFR)
1. Audio Adrenaline
This popular five-piece group started as A-180 in 1986 at a small Christian university in Kentucky. When Toby McKeehan of dc Talk heard one of their early demos, he brought the group to the attention of ForeFront Records.
From there, they changed their name to Audio Adrenaline and quickly became a staple in youth groups across the country. Their best known albums are Don't Censor Me and Bloom which both featured the masterful guitar work of Barry Blair.
The group called it quits a few years ago citing the voice problems of the lead singer, Mark Stuart, but they remain active with their outreach to The Hands and Feet Project.
2. Dakoda Motor Company
Dakoda Motor Company—sometimes affectionately called DMC by fans—started life in the early 90s. They were lead by vocalist and guitarist Peter King who was also a professional surfer and a host on MTV. They released three albums before calling it quits in 1997, but after a few years away from the action they got back together in 2006.
3. dc Talk
This was perhaps the most recognizable Christian rock group during the 90s. dc Talk started as a Christian rap and hip-hop group in the late 80s. The group won four Grammys over their fourteen years together and a number of Dove awards.
Their first rock album was Jesus Freak which catapulted them out of the Christian arena and onto the radars of mainstream music. The group is not technically dead, but each member of the group have gone on to other projects.
Toby McKeehan is better known as tobyMac. Michael Tait is now the lead vocalist for the Newsboys, and Kevin Max is a solo artist making what can best be described as experimental music.
From across the pond, Delirious? came storming onto the Christian music scene. They were sometimes compared to the Beatles and other popular British rock groups, but while they had that particular British feel to them, perhaps it was Martin Smith's accent, they were a delight to see in concert.
Much of their work became popular among Christian churches at a time when traditional hymns were displaced by contemporary music. But, it would be a mistake to label them simply as worship music. They were so much more.
5. Jars of Clay
Born in Illinois and raised in Tennessee, it should come of little surprise that their first album had a bit of a folksy feel to it. The unique blend of rock and folk which Jars of Clay brought to the music scene connected them with a large fanbase.
Their sound continued to evolve into a more unique rock sound which is found on their Grammy Award-winning album, Much Afraid. The group continues to rock the masses.
The Newsboys are perhaps the only group who could challenge dc Talk for King of Christian rock in the 90s. This Aussie-born group with their blend of rock and a touch of pop and dance started in the mid-80s. They were amazing to see live with their crazy rotating drums.
After 16 studio albums, they continue to go strong with a large and loyal fan base. Their best album of the 90s was definitely Step Up to the Microphone with their hit song, "Entertaining Angels."
7. Poor Old Lu
Poor Old Lu is one of those Christian rock groups who are easy to overlook. They were not as popular as some of the other acts, but they were the ones who brought the Northwest grunge to Christian music.
They were only active for six years in the '90s—and had a brief comeback stint in 2002—but from this group has come one of the best Christian producers ever, Aaron Sprinkle. If Sprinkle has touched it, it's all good.
8. Pray for Rain
This year marks 20 years since the trio Pray for Rain, later to be known simply by the initials PFR, released their first full length and self-titled album. The band never enjoyed large success compared to others, but they released some of the most original works in Christian music with their album Goldie's Last Days. The group has briefly returned to action at times over the years.
The most successful crossover group from Christian to mainstream music is Switchfoot. This quirky rock band started in the mid-'90s singing about chemistry class and a concrete girl.
The group originally consisted of Jon Foreman, his brother Tim, and Chad Butler. They have since grown to a five-piece band. Their third album, Learning to Breathe, was the one that brought them into the mainstream.
Guest on August 16, 2015:
What about Smalltown Poets?? Third Day??
PaigSr from State of Confusion on October 11, 2014:
First thanks there were a few groups that I had not heard of. Second on your poll it was hard to choose as there were several in the running for my favorite.
Tim on June 25, 2013:
No Prayer Chain?
Diane Minton from Evansville, Indiana on October 22, 2012:
Michael W Smith is my favorite in this genre. He was very popular and had lots of emotions in his voice as he sang.
J on October 22, 2012:
The Newsboys are no more, what we have now is DCtalk mark II minus the hip hop
Jonathan on September 16, 2012:
what about Creed and Live ?
sandonia (author) on May 31, 2012:
Who's in da house?
James Robertson from Texas on May 31, 2012:
Great article! I love all of those bands! I still listen to most of them today. Carman was one of my favorite christian singers though.
smithed on May 30, 2012:
I'm not that big of a fan of Christian Rock, but I've seen Switchfoot and Jars of Clay in concert and they were very good
sandonia (author) on May 29, 2012:
mwilliams66, Thanks for the uptick. I'm glad you found it informative.
mwilliams66 from Left Coast, USA on May 29, 2012:
I had not heard of any of these bands before reading your hub. Thank you for sharing them with us. I've listened to the videos you've included and am really excited to now have new musical interests.
This is a wonderfully informative and well thought out article. Voting up, awesome and interesting.
sandonia (author) on May 29, 2012:
Yep, I loved them all as well. I loved to see Delirious in concert. I still listen to every one of them from time to time too.
bockshiner from Dallas, TX on May 29, 2012:
I loved all these bands back in the day. Delirious is still one of my favorites.