SPRING HILL — In the early 1950s, still in his teens, Joey Stevens was well on his way to becoming a star.
Crooning the popular songs of the day, he opened shows that featured performers like Frank Sinatra and Milton Berle. He performed and served as master of ceremonies at the prestigious 500 Club in Atlantic City. At 20, after a glowing introduction by actress Faye Emerson, he sang Ebb Tide on television's Today show.
He was living his dream.
But Joey Stevens was just a stage name. The young, sought-after singer with the velvety voice was really Dave Boyer — the youngest of six children born in Baltimore in 1935 to a minister and his wife — and he was headed toward self-destruction.
Boyer will share his life story Thursday evening at Northcliffe Baptist Church as part of an anniversary celebration for the church's Road to Recovery ministry. He will sing and talk about his own road to recovery.
"I'm so blessed to have that opportunity," he said in a recent interview. "I'm not a preacher. I just share the Lord and what he's taught me. One of the songs I'll be singing is called Try Again, which is a great song. I'll just be sharing the grace of God."
Boyer said that as a teenager living in York, Pa., he began to rebel against everything his parents represented.
It broke their hearts, he said, and they continued to pray for him.
Finding success, first in local supper clubs and later in Atlantic City, Boyer, by then known as Joey Stevens, began traveling the nightclub circuit. He found that with success came drinking.
By the time he was drafted into the Army in 1957, the crooner was already being called a lush by his friends at the clubs. During his tour in the service, he continued singing at a local club — and he continued drinking. He also met and married a young Christian woman named June.
"For some reason, there was an association between musicians and that lifestyle," Boyer said. "I somewhere crossed the line. I couldn't tell you when, but it got ahold of me."
Soon Boyer added pills to his drinking habit.
"I would take amphetamines — uppers they called them. So that combination was really messing me up, because I would just drink and not eat. My dear wife and our daughter had to leave me for a while."
Already distraught and lonely, Boyer received word that his father had died.
It was more than he could take. He was ready to take his own life, he said, when he felt God speaking to his heart. In desperation, he called his brother Eugene for help. The two drove to York, to the church their father had pastored, and knelt in prayer. A repentant Boyer called out to Jesus to save him.
"You don't have to go to an altar to find the Lord, but I'm glad it was there for me," Boyer said. "There with Gene praying with me. I just turned my life over to Christ."
From that day in 1965, he was no longer Joey Stevens.
With a new dream in place, Boyer began using his voice in service to God. Three years later, his wife and daughter returned. The couple will soon celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary.
Boyer said he supports programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery, the host program for Road to Recovery.
"I'm a strong supporter of the 12-step program, and I practice it," he said. "I don't cheapen God's grace or take advantage of it, and I live one day at a time knowing that God can keep me sober. His mercies are new every morning."
Boyer's success has continued, with numerous albums, a book and a film about his life, So Long Joey, released in 1973 by Gospel Films. Throughout the years, he has performed numerous concerts with a full orchestra and continues performing about 60 concerts each year, singing both standards and gospel songs, many with a big band flavor.
Soon, Boyer hopes to release a new CD.
"I might just do something soft with a trio," he said. "I just feel like doing that. A nice intimate album."
Boyer said he will continue to sing as long as he can.
"I love to sing," he said. "It's what I am. Like (the apostle) Paul says, whatever you do, do it to the glory of God, and that's what I try to do."